So that's what the -? means, thanks, that makes sense. :)
As for the blank.html thing.. well that is depressing. There are Wordpress plugins that seem work, problem is I don't use Wordpress. The redirect part is written and working fairly well according to local server tests (that alone took a week, I'm not a php coder). I just need a way to be able to tell if they are heading to/on a stand-alone image page.
You're right about forgetting that all 403's aren't evil. My first reaction was panic, thought the site was under attack or something. The warrior woman in me came out with swords gleaming... until the realization that they aren't all evil bots, many are just lost people trying to find their way home. :/
That site now has a very friendly 403 page, so some are finding their way back... doesn't help the mess in the logs, but at least if they get "up" an level they can navigate around. I'll do more with that later if I can't find a way to redirect stand-alone images, probably 301 them to the matching (real) page folder. Still though, even with many going "up", it seems far more are just hitting the back button (guessed from looking at the logs).
Quite off-topic, but it needs to be said...
Yesterday I got an angry email from a visitor saying my site "used to be easy" to use, but now they come in from google and "sometimes" get sent to "just a stupid picture that can't be printed because it has words on it and no help".
Yes, they could click "visit site" instead of "view original image" but many aren't. Some don't know the difference, and really why should they be expected to? The web should be simple to use. It's up to designers and developers to make it user-friendly. Visitors shouldn't have to think, they should just enjoy the content people have created for them.
The hotlinking is inexcusable, but sending people directly to a solitary image, with no page and no context make me red with anger. Making it difficult (perhaps impossible) to redirect visitors where they were (often) trying to go... polite words fail to describe.