Photo of Toronto bogeyman Joseph Bloor animated into video with terrifying results
The spookiest portrait in Toronto history just reached new levels of "NOPE" thanks to a novel AI-powered video rendering service from the online genealogy platform MyHeritage.
Called "Deep Nostalgia," the free tool essentially turns flat, 2D images of human faces into impressive deepfake video portraits. MyHeritage licenced the technology from D-ID to "animate the faces in historical photos" so that "you can see your ancestors smile, blink and turn their heads."
While fascinating from a technological standpoint, the now-viral platform is responsible for some seriously scary stuff floating around the internet right now.
"Some people love the Deep Nostalgia feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it. Indeed, the results can be controversial and it's hard to stay indifferent to this technology, " admits MyHeritage.
"This feature is intended for nostalgic use, that is, to bring beloved ancestors back to life."
Beloved ancestors, sure, and at least one famously intense-looking historical figure from early 19th century Upper Canada.
Joseph Bloor lives! The most handsome man in Toronto history brought to life by this wild new #DeepNostalgia animation tool from MyHeritage... https://t.co/cQOXjVjDqg pic.twitter.com/QBzdlwxNfV— Adam Bunch (@TODreamsProject) February 26, 2021
Joseph Bloor (sometimes spelled "Bloore") was a prominent early figure in the Town of York (now Toronto) after emigrating to the region from England.
The namesake of Bloor Street itself, Bloor has been described as a brewer, a land speculator, an inkeeper and the founder of Yorkville.
He died in 1862 at the age of 72 and is now buried in Toronto's Necropolis Cemetary, but his legend lives on in modern times thanks to one single old-timey photo.
Single most terrifying photo in Toronto history. https://t.co/GRsBwv8yK1— Robin Marwick (@electricland) August 13, 2017
Taken in 1850, said image is available via the Toronto Reference Library and shows Bloor... grimacing? smiling? sneering?
As The Globe and Mail wrote in 2012, "no explanation is given for Joseph Bloore's expression in this photograph."
You've likely seen it around over the years — it circulates every now and again on Twitter or Reddit after someone remembers how hilarifying (that's simultaneously hilarious and terrifying) the only known portrait of Joseph Bloor is.
How Toronto Twitter has never collectively decided to do the Joseph Bloor Selfie Challenge is beyond my understanding— jump for my love (lockdown) (@JodiesJumpsuit) February 14, 2019
Noted for its subject's chilling gaze, the portrait of Bloor has been described over the years as everything from terrifying and evil to full on nightmare fuel.
We have award-winning Toronto author and historian Adam Bunch to thank for making that fuel even more potent by running the creepy Bloor pic through MyHeritage's DeepNostalgia program.
"Joseph Bloor lives! The most handsome man in Toronto history brought to life by this wild new #DeepNostalgia animation tool from MyHeritage," wrote Bunch when sharing the video via his Toronto Dreams Project Twitter account on Friday.
It appears that I am being tapped. Sarah is reminding me to not let this go to my head.— Joseph Bloor, Esq., Toronto, C.W. (@e_bloor) February 27, 2021
Hundreds of people have now commented on the video between Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, most of them to express appreciation for how much scarier Bloor is in video form.
"I love that this photo of Joseph Bloor circulates every couple of years," wrote one. "This is the best/worst iteration yet."
Bloor himself (or rather, someone running an active Twitter account in his name and presumed voice) is loving the attention.
"Let me extend a gracious thank you to my new followers. I hope everyone slept soundly on the eve of the full moon," wrote Joseph Bloor, Esq. amid his latest viral turn. "Herewith a less celebrated picture from Toronto Library, my house at 121 Bloor St East, circa 1890, with some puzzling figures in attendance."
The account also responded to several tweets in an attempt to clarify the misconception that the photo was taken post-mortem with Bloor's eyes glued open.
"Yes, I was alive for this one — taken about 12 years before I entered the afterlife," the character replied. "Toronto Library has the original, signed by yours truly."
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