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Photos of Ghosts and Paranormal Activity

Updated on March 18, 2013

Since its creation in 1839, the camera has been capturing moments in peoples’ lives around the world. Some of the most coveted subjects of photography have always been pictures of UFOs, critters like Bigfoot and the ever illusive ghost. Although there are examples out there of the real thing, mistaken phenomena or purposely adulterated images are far more common.

Famous Hoaxter

One of William Hope's faked "Spiritual Photos". He was discovered when one of the spectral visitors was recognized as someone who was alive and well.
One of William Hope's faked "Spiritual Photos". He was discovered when one of the spectral visitors was recognized as someone who was alive and well. | Source

Hoaxes

There are a number of ways to look for hoaxes in photography. Although a professional would be able to spot more subtle signs of frauds, the rest of us can identify clues if we examine the picture closely enough.

  • Inconsistencies
    Take a look at the rest of the picture, and then observe the mysterious element. Do the edges blend well with the background? Are they consistent with the other subjects in the foreground? Look at any shadows cast by the subjects and at how the light plays off of everything in the scene. In the cases of UFOs and strange creatures, these elements should match with the rest of the picture.
  • Staging
    It’s relatively easy to stage many different types of paranormal phenomenon. For example, to fake a photo of a ghost, the photographer would set the shutter speed to a slower setting and have one of the subjects run out of the shot while the shutter is open. This will produce a blurred, ghostly image.
  • Double Exposure
    In the realm of faking ghostly photos, it’s simple to overlay a picture of an individual over a picture of a group, for example. This would result in a ghostly figure amongst the more solid looking subjects. Before the advent of computerized photo manipulation, this was one of the most common ways of altering images.

Not Really Orbs

This was taken during a tour at a fort in Washington State, which had a history of paranormal activity. There were camp fires, as evident in the picture, people smoking and light rain on and off while we were there.
This was taken during a tour at a fort in Washington State, which had a history of paranormal activity. There were camp fires, as evident in the picture, people smoking and light rain on and off while we were there. | Source

Mistaken Origin

Some natural phenomena can appear to be paranormal in photography as well.

  • Reflections
    In some surfaces, like marbled glass, picture frames or screens in front of windows, reflections can look like faces. Small, reflective things in the background can be overlooked at the time the picture was taken. When the flash goes off, it’s reflected off of the object and appears as a mysterious light. An examination of the surroundings and attempts to reproduce the phenomena can validate this theory.
  • Smoke, dust and insects
    Particulate matter in the air can cause what can be mistaken for spectral figures or orbs. Always keep in mind what the air was like when the photo was taken and if there happened to be someone smoking, mosquitos attacking or a campfire going at the time.
  • Weather
    Small rain droplets can have the same effect as dust and insects. If the water happens to get on the lens of the camera, it can cause distortions which may appear to be figures in the picture. In the case of UFO phenomena, there are certain cloud formations which are often mistaken for an unidentified flying object.

Possible Paranormal Action

In the lower left hand side of the picture, there's a strange mist which seems to be emitting its own light. The concentration of light at the top of the figure could indicate an entity trying to manifest into the physical world.
In the lower left hand side of the picture, there's a strange mist which seems to be emitting its own light. The concentration of light at the top of the figure could indicate an entity trying to manifest into the physical world. | Source

Same Area - No Figure

Same area, no mist. There is what could be an insect in the upper right hand corner which may be mistaken for an orb.
Same area, no mist. There is what could be an insect in the upper right hand corner which may be mistaken for an orb. | Source

The Real Thing

If all mundane causes have been dismissed, you’re most likely looking at the real thing. There are a few good ways to identify just what you’re looking at.

  • Light
    In the cases of orbs and some spectral figures, the subject will emit its own light. Sometimes, this light is strong enough to generate its own shadows.
  • Multiple Photos
    Check to see if the picture in question came from a series of photos. If so, it will usually only appear in one picture, but not the ones before or after it. In the case of UFOs, a series of photos is a good way to track movement and offer perspective on size and speed.
  • Corroboration
    If possible, talk to other people who were around when the picture was taken. They may have caught something similar on film or had experiences to back up what was captured in your photo.

There is no question that there are many things in the world that our rational minds can explain, but blind belief can be just as damaging as a rigid mind. To have physical evidence of something paranormal, the mundane causes must first be eliminated as alternative reasons. In the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Have you ever caught a ghost on film?

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    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      So sorry for the delayed response, Kenneth!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. The paranormal is such a fascinating topic. I've had strange experiences since childhood, so I suppose it follows that the interest would linger into adulthood.

      I should really get back to writing about it some more.

      I'll definitely check out your hubs!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      LOVED this hub. I voted up and all the way on this piece for how it was written and presented. Very intelligently and not with a tabloid nature. I have been interested in paranormal things since the mid-80's and I will tell you about a séance my brother-in-law, his buddy, and our daughter held on a Halloween night, but not room here.

      I cordially-invite you to read a couple of my hubs and then become one of my followers.

      I would love that.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth Avery/ from northwest Alabama

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Paradise7 - Happy you found it interesting. :)

      annerivendell - Sounds like an outstanding prank. Too funny!

    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Great hub! My partner and I played a hoax on our friends years ago when we were all staying in a very old castle. Using the method you described of a slow shutter speed, I walked across the picture, creating a ghostly white image. To this day they still talk about that picture and we've never told them!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Fascinating! And very informative regarding hoaxes.

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks much, everyone! So glad you enjoyed it!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Love your photo examples and this hub. It flows really well and has interesting info!

    • Written Up profile image

      Written Up 4 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      Pretty cool hub, well written and engaging.

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      I love the quote at the end of your hub, perfectly selected and placed. Your writing is very easy to read and I enjoyed your vivid descriptions and carefully chosen words.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Excellent interesting article.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Now this is an interesting subject! Great photos and written very well, this is a great hub.I always wondered how they made paranormal like photos appear as ghostly objects or people. Very informative and voted up!