February 1st 2021
Have you seen me?
For some time now, this strange image of a young girl has been appearing all over Philadelphia without explanation, pasted on street signs, building exteriors, and even inside of an elevator. Who is this girl? Who's putting the pictures up, and perhaps most importantly, why?
It turns out, the strangest part wasn't her existence on the streets of the city, but her lack thereof on the internet. Numerous google searches of every inch of the web resulted to: nothing. The person behind this was as good at obscuring their sources as they were with their identity. What kind of a street artist goes to this length to have their work seen but doesn't claim it anywhere on the internet?
A helpful reddit user suggested that the image resembled that of an old missing persons report, and after scouting an entire archive of young missing girls in Pennsylvania, the first lead: an odd resemblance to Teresa Lynn Rhodes, a thirteen year old girl who went missing in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1975 and was never found. Of course, with the low quality and filter of the circulating picture, it is hard to tell, but it was a lead, and the only trace of this girl we could find.
So is this the anonymous confession of the guilty party in a young girl's kidnapping, forty years uncaught? Probably not. Though many theories could arise from this possibility, a chance breakthrough occurred during the hours of searching: the original photo before the gritty editing on a face recognition site. Finally, we found the girl we were looking for. Though access to the website required a premium subscription, with the new evidence, a reverse image google search led right to the source.
This mysterious girl's only home on the internet was an obscure NYC postcard archive. The picture made a brief appearance in an explanation of early 1900s photography techniques, once again, without explanation, without name, without reason. Nowhere else. With only a time frame of the early 20th century and a slightly higher resolution photograph, the trail ran dry. After digging through the entire website: nothing. Nothing when I reverse image searched it, nothing in 20th century photography archives, no identity, and as far as the one behind the girl's appearances all around Philadelphia? Not a shred of a clue. The case was as cold as if it were a 40 year old missing persons investigation.
A girl without a name, an artist without a trace: the possibilities are endless. Maybe this really is evidence for a decades old missing persons case, hidden in plain sight, or a test for keen eyes. The more we think we know, the stranger it all gets. Why would a Philadelphian print perhaps hundreds of copies of a heavily filtered 1900s postcard for an obscure NYC website and spread it all over the city? Why is there no trace of this photograph in any archives from its respective time period? Why is the internet completely devoid of evidence of this phenomenon's existence? And of course. Who really was this girl, and what happened to her?