Note: This month's article does not reflect the results of the featured investigation.
Earlier this month, I posted a link to the SPIRITS offshoot Facebook and MySpace pages about something that I believe may be new phenomena in the paranormal world. This article described an Australian radio show where a paranormalist from the area was live on the air. A caller sent him a “ghost photograph” from a cell phone which, after it was viewed by the team photography expert, was declared genuine. Hours after the show, the caller revealed that the photograph had, in fact, been faked via a downloadable cell phone app. (For the details, read: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fparanormaldailynews.com%2F2010%2F02%2F12%2Fiphone-app-creates-ifake-ighost%2F&h=af657wLQqhDtCQ1f-PKBQ4lx4ug).
As June headed into the dog days of summer, I received an email from someone depicting a ghost image caught on cell phone. When I looked at the image, my gut instinct said that it was a faked photo. My reasoning fell to five parts:
The artistic eye: As an artist, I looked at the image and it seemed too inconsistent. The photograph, itself, was blurry, with the individual and room moderately out of focus. The rather artistic appearance of the ghost looked to be drawn or put through photoshop to get to its current state. It was also odd that most of the ghostly coloring was black and white while the photo image was, itself, in color. This also indicates a computerized filter which I, myself, have played with on my artistic photographs that I run through Photoshop 6.0. While this is, admittedly, a much older version of the program, as it is an expensive program to purchase, I would imagine that span of years since my version was created has only added to what the program can be utilized to do. (Note: I use this program rarely, and primarily to clarify the photos I take of my own art. My skills with PS are, at best, moderate).
Technical experience: The ghost was quite clear and viable, as if the phone focused on the ghost as the subject. I have used my own camera phone and even tried to focus on one subject while blurring out the rest. To date, I have not been able to do it.
Also note that in the article link above, the faked photograph was passed by an expert in paranormal photography as a “real” image. Though I am not an expert in photography, this tells me that these images are certainly strong enough to pass by a more professional eye.
The paranormalist experience: Out of thousands of photographs taken over 14 years via digital camera, IR camera, video, film camera, and, occasionally, cell phone cameras (done only on curiosity fact-finding missions of NON-SPIRITS investigations), I have never, personally, gotten this sort of image. The SPIRITS of St. Petersburg has captured odd images on film, but never anything this perfect. The best images we have tend to be video anomalies and mist images. We have yet to capture a full bodied apparition, much less anything like this.
Synchronicity: The typical black eyes and old dress seemed too convenient and possibly out of context with the location where the image was taken. Also, with so many serious teams out there attempting to find proof, what are the odds of an amateur capturing a photograph out of the blue?
Internet Research: I knew of the app for fake ghost photos via the article referenced above. I did some research on phone apps and ghost images and found a website touting faked ghost pictures, and two web apps that can create them. There may be more than these in existence, but these two were the first to come up after a little digging. I observed what the programs can do, which include taking a picture and adding the “ghost” or retrieving an older picture and modifying it to contain a “haunting”.
[See: Gallery of altered photos: http://www.ghostsdontexist.com/gde/gallery/
Info on one application which was used to publish a fake image in a newspaper:
Youtube video of one of the app programs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slsDqekMz6o
Another web page of “Ghost Capture”: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ghost-capture-free/id329775698?mt=8
Note that one version of this app is free, the other costs $.99, which makes it accessible to pretty much anyone interested in exploring this avenue of expression.]
This allows for a warning in the paranormal field: be careful in offering endorsements. There appears to be a new trend involved here. Not only can anyone go into the study of the paranormal and do ghost hunts ,now just as many can create trickery and attempt to defraud. Carefully study images to assess their viability. Though it may mean ruffling a few feathers, it is better to err on the side of caution than to risk exposure as an over-believer.
Wolpert, Lewis. Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origin of Belief. New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. Print.
Compiled investigator's reports:
What was your role in this investigation? (Please check one)
Investigator (general) 20.0%1
2. What equipment did you use on this investigation?
Digital camera 80.0%4
Film camera 40.0%2
IR video camera 40.0%2
Audio recording devices 20.0%1
Electro Magnetic Field Meter (EMF meter) 40.0%2
3. What phenomena did you experience on this investigation? (Please check all that apply)
Temperature related phenomena (hot or cold spots) 60.0%3
Sensation of energy 40.0%2
Physical contact 40.0%2
The detection of aromas (olfactory) 20.0%1
Other (please specify below) 40.0%2
Other (please specify)
1.Quick flash of dizziness
2. Pressure drop
4. In review of the footage, recording, or photographs taken at the location, which of the following did you find? (Please check all that apply)
Full apparition (film) 25.0%1
Nothing that cannot be explained naturally 25.0%1
No unusual occurrences at all 50.0%2
1.waiting to develop film
5. What technical observations did you note during the investigation? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
5. Brandy: EMF was very very low. The pressure drop that we sensed in the son's room was, I believe, proved to be related to the running refrigerator outside of his room. When we retested the area and unplugged it, I felt the same sensation.
7. What researched/historical information did you learn about this location? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
Brandy: Homeowners have been in the house for 4 years, and it was built in 1958. They call it the "money pit" because 30 days after they bought it, it started to have replacement issues. The family reports that lamps and bulbs burn out. The family did watch paranormal TV shows, and one homeowner is familiar with the pendulum and has used it before. They attempted to sage the house a weekend before we came and the pendulum responded. Primary activity as reported by homeowners includes unusual and lucid dreams, the husband waking up nightly at 1 a.m. and unable to sleep until 3 a.m., discomfort, sensation of being watched, the family pet would stare in the bedroom, seeing a shadow figure, peripheral vision manifestations, and full manifestation of an entity. They have had visual confirmation of objects moving, doors that open or close without assistance, unusual sounds in the house and the sound of banging pipes in the bathroom/knocking at the door. One night, they felt the bed move by an unseen force. The house has been remodeled inside and outside (small parts) for the past 4 years. Phenomenon/a is seen by the 11 year old son. He reported someone tugging at the back of his shirt two times while he was playing. The first year in the house, the female homeowner saw a man in black floating across the backyard sidewalk from her kitchen window in the middle of the day. A month later, the son said that he saw a man floating across the backyard in the middle of the day, when both were at the kitchen window. Mother and son heard footsteps at night around 9 p.m. two years ago. Mother has heard knocking at the side door, and no one knocked; this happened twice in the last two years around 8 p.m. The son senses and sees the same man "all of the time", mainly in the hallway and the original master bedroom, which has an ominous feeling. Activity started up heavily about 1 - 2 months ago and is primarily reported by the son.
8. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the haunting of this location? Note on scale: 1 represents "no haunting", 5 "moderate haunting" and 10 "extremely haunted"?
9. What issues does the review team need to address with the occupant (homeowner, business owner, resident)? What aspects of the investigation need to be re-addressed, retested, or clarified?
Comment TextResponse Date
1.The homeowners indicated that they have pictures prior to remodeling that may be valuable to see. Also since the entity has appeared on numerous occasions in the hall and original bedrooms, it would be recommended that if the activity persists, that we set up video cams and audio recorders in that area overnight
10. Is there any other information that you would like to add about this investigation? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
3.Brandy: The son is at the age just before puberty. It could be that he has more sensitivity at this stage; the family will have to work with him very carefully so as not to cause panic, but to also allow him more control over this. Meditation, relaxation, or martial arts may help.