Read an Excerpt
How To Photograph the Paranormal
By Leonore Sweet
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Leonore Sweet
All rights reserved.
Libby Lou's Demise
The death of a stray dog named Libby Lou changed the course of my life. My sister Ellen had found Libby wandering about, deserted and hungry, in 1987. Ellen adopted the waif and they spent thirteen years adoring each other. Libby's only goal was to please, and she never caused an ounce of trouble. She seemed to understand every word and obeyed any command.
In February of 2001, Ellen noticed Libby's lymph nodes were badly swollen. Her veterinarian diagnosed lymphoma and said she had around three weeks to live. Libby went blind shortly thereafter and stopped eating. Ellen called me on March 1 wailing, "I think it's time to put Libby down!"
I offered to go with Ellen and, as I left the house, I saw my 35mm camera sitting on the edge of the kitchen desk and grabbed it. Having always been interested in everything spiritual, I suspected animals have spirits and hoped to get a picture of Libby's. I had no reason to believe I would, but suddenly I was bound and determined to try. I brazenly asked the veterinarian if I could try to capture a picture of her spirit. He didn't reply. He just looked at me as if I were quite mad and started the procedure.
It didn't go well. Three injections and twenty horrible minutes later, sweet Libby took her last breath and I took the last two pictures out of five and then ran out of film. Figures 1 and 2 were taken on the same roll just minutes before Libby's passing, figure 3 shows Libby just after she passed, and figure 4 was taken around fifteen seconds later. The final two shots featured the same funnel-like cloud but with slightly different edges. (The duplication of this cloud eliminates the possibility of a light leak in the camera. Also, the mist did not extend past the frames of the pictures on the negatives.) No one was more surprised than I by these pictures. Ellen and I saw nothing in the room when Libby passed, and I had no intuitive feeling anything was in that room other than a lifeless dog and a veterinarian I hoped I would never see again.
To this day, I am not certain what that cloud and the black portion covering part of Ellen's face and sweatshirt represent. The mist seems to encircle Ellen and could be reaching towards her heart, as if comforting her. At first I was certain it was traveling upward. Now I wonder if it came down from above. Or both.
Libby's final pictures had a profound effect on members of my practical, down-to-earth family who had always tended to laugh at my spiritual leanings. They knew I was only capable of pushing the camera's shutter button and praying for the best. I am not known for my mechanical abilities. They also knew I could not and would not be inclined to alter the original photographs. It was a mystery. I thought it might even be the "proof" I had been seeking my entire life—proof, at the very least, there really are unknown forces at work on this planet.
Nearly two months later, my brother Peter shot a digital picture of his mother-in-law, Annabelle, seconds after she passed from cancer (see figures 5 and 6, center section). He expected another cloud and nearly missed the bubble above her body. (Later we found these bubbles are most commonly called orbs; the funnels like Libby's have been named vortexes; and the mist we were to capture later is most often labeled ectoplasm.) Our first orb brought to mind the twenty-one grams of weight humans reportedly lose the moment they pass on. The orb seemed a likely place for a little bit of Annabelle to go.
A few members of Annabelle's family objected to the use of her final picture, so I have obscured her face. I found it beautiful. Annabelle was a vibrant, lovely woman. It appears she left her cancer-ridden body and again became beautiful, colorful, and seemingly alive as an orb.
Since digital cameras don't waste film and money, frugal Peter began snapping pictures everywhere. He got pictures of orbs at the funeral home and in his family room. Figure 7 (center section) seems to be Annabelle's orb hiding behind her picture. The picture frame is casting a slight shadow on the orb. This picture appears grainy because it, like some others in this book, was lightened to make the orb and shadow more visible. Several times Peter spoke to the orb as if it were Annabelle, asking it where her friends were, and the next shot would be filled with fainter orbs. I didn't include those, however, lest skeptics call them pictures of dust. (We know, though, that Annabelle would not hang out with dusty friends!)
When Annabelle's brother-in-law, Chet, passed the next month, Peter found orbs in Chet's home, including one "sitting" in Chet's favorite chair where he spent most of his final days. This shot was our first clue that the orbs have a sense of humor. As Peter left the cemetery, orbs were posed at the entrance.
Now Peter, who feels discovery is what life is all about, was seriously hooked. I was delighted, because my big brother is the mechanical whiz of the family and I needed help with my new obsession. He led me into the world of digital cameras and processing my own pictures with my computer.
Most persons over forty years of age feel technology has left them in the dust. Digital cameras look and operate like normal cameras but require no film, and the pictures just taken, including any paranormal additions, appear instantly on the camera's view screen. The pictures are stored on a tiny disk (or some more recent invention) that can be placed in a device attached to the computer, or the camera itself can be connected to the computer to transfer the photos into a photo program.
Swallow your pride and ask one of your children or any neighbor kid how to do this. It is embarrassingly simple and getting easier all the time. Once you learn how to work with the software, you can edit and print your photos at home with no cost other than ink and paper.
Peter and I made the perfect investigative team for this endeavor. He flourishes in the worlds of science and science fiction. He is a tinkerer and builds everything— including his house, a television set, a cannon, and his furniture. On his tenth wedding anniversary, his wife commented he'd spent eight of those years in the garage.
I, on the other hand, enjoy writing and researching and studying anything religious or spiritual. Peter and I worked ten-hour days together in the family furniture business with our father and sister Ellen. We somehow found time nearly every evening to experiment with our orb photography and broke the monotony of our jobs by discussing our discoveries among ourselves and sometimes with open-minded customers. (My father was a well-known eccentric. They expected something like this from his children.) When I could no longer bear the boredom of the retail world, I retired to write my esoteric studies dissertation and this book.
Why were we getting pictures of things we could not see except for a brief moment in the flash of the camera? As I explain in more detail in chapter 3, certain films in regular (analog) cameras are more sensitive to infrared and ultraviolet spectrums of light than the human eye, where these light anomalies evidently reside. Digital cameras generally photograph further into these invisible spectra than film cameras, making them better tools for paranormal photography, in my opinion anyway. Ironically, science, in the form of digital technology, has seemingly invented a machine that sees into the world previously known only to psychics.
The invention of digital cameras seems to be responsible for this apparently new discovery and thousands of pictures of these light anomalies are appearing worldwide, but similar light forms have appeared since photography was invented. I feel digitals capture a greater number because people take many more digital photos (Peter and I took thousands) and because digitals record more things that the human eye cannot see.
I cannot imagine paying to develop roll after roll of regular film from an orb hunt when nearly all of the prints could be less-than-inspiring pictures of darkness. (Paranormal pictures are easier to capture at night.) Digital cameras save us that embarrassment. The display monitors of digitals provide instant feedback as to where the orbs are.
I soon found that these anomalies in pictures are not entirely new. A search through my old photo albums uncovered a dozen or so shots I totally discounted at the time as some sort of camera problem. These photos are as inexplicable as any I've taken recently. They were taken with several different film cameras before I bought two digitals in 2001. Digital camera technology was invented in 1951 by the television industry, and the cameras were first introduced to the consumer market in the mid-1990s. (All pictures in this book that were not taken with a digital were taken with a 35mm camera before I was seeking light pictures.)
Peter and I took thousands of photos and accumulated hundreds of paranormal photographs in one year. "The Orbs and Company" never failed to entertain us, and they consistently amazed us with their intelligence, ingenuity, and sense of humor.
I had been putting off writing about my photographs until I could give a definitive answer as to who or what they are. I have since realized I may never have that answer. So, instead, I have decided to investigate the theories, and there are many. The Internet is loaded with opinions, as are paranormal television shows, religious groups, spiritualists, UFO enthusiasts, ghost hunters, skeptics, crop circle watchers, and newly published books and videos.
The Internet has had some websites featuring one or two lonely, inexplicable pictures. There are also websites claiming that all of these shots are of camera straps, fingers, rain, snow, helium gas, light refractions, lens flare, spider silk, bugs, camera problems, airborne particles, or other natural phenomena.
I have been gathering information on light pictures for three years and regularly find new avenues of research. I remain convinced a great number, anywhere from 5 percent to 50 percent, of these photographs are unexplained mysteries. A growing number of persons around the world agree with me, but many of these same folks are at odds with each other. Some decided early on based on their own conclusions or were told (sometimes by supernatural sources) what these photographs were and cannot accept any other explanation. They believe all light anomalies can be attributed to any or all of the following:
Pictures of dust, moisture, lens flare, spiderwebs, pollen, mold, breath, insects, hair, ash, fingers, lens spots, camera flaws, developing flaws, or camera straps
Demons or the work of the Devil
Earth lights, ghost lights, will-o'-the-wisps, ball lightning, or one of their many other names throughout history
A product of electromagnetic energy
Aliens or UFOs
Angels, guardian angels, nature spirits, or spirit guides
Spiritual extensions or the higher selves of those existing on Earth
Ghosts, spirits, incoming souls, or earthbound souls
Crop circle creators bringing sacred geometry to raise human consciousness
A form of unknown biology
Thought-forms, elementals, or creations of the unconscious mind
There are seekers throughout the world attempting to explain these mysteries. Remember the old saying, "The mind is like an umbrella. It won't work unless it's open." We are trying on these different theories to see which ones fit. My hope is that scientists and theologians will eventually agree on what the Orbs and Company are. Albert Einstein, who became so spiritual near the end of his life that his last writings were discounted, wrote, "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." Perhaps another Einstein could solve this puzzle that many feel could finally unite science and religion, or at least science and spirituality. Maybe, as I will explain later, quantum physicists are on their way already. Traditional scientists would call most of my personally meaningful photos coincidences. I have come to believe there are no accidents, and coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous.
There are so many pictures of light anomalies floating about these days that, once other causes are ruled out, I don't feel a need to prove their authenticity. My goal is to teach others how to take their own paranormal photographs. When people actually interact with these intelligent beings, even the most stubborn skeptics will think twice before debunking them. I believe they are real and "alive" because I have had intelligent interactions with them. At times they seem to read my thoughts, but, so far, they haven't answered my questions. In fact, my list of questions is growing faster than definitive answers. Please join me in my search.CHAPTER 2
"I'll Be Orbing by Sunday"
As for having premature theories, I was as guilty as the next guy. When I first laid eyes on Libby's photo, I immediately concluded that I had captured Libby's ghost on film. Peter's pictures of Annabelle's and Chet's orbs reinforced this belief, even though it seemed odd that a dog's spirit would be more impressive looking than a human ghost. Libby fought death tooth and nail, though, while Annabelle and Chet simply ran out of energy after their long bouts with cancer and heart disease, respectively. In time, I came to believe the immense amount of emotion generated by the five beings present provided the energy for Libby's anomaly ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was motivated to buy a digital camera so I could take many pictures without the expense of developing them. Peter had read that Olympus digital cameras were the most operator friendly, so naturally he recommended an Olympus to his mechanically challenged sister. I purchased an Olympus C860L digital, a camera the salesman claimed was essentially identical to Peter's Olympus D349R.
I thought all signs pointed towards ghosts, so I started haunting local graveyards with my feeble old dog Max and my new camera. The orbs came in droves, solidifying my belief that orbs were the forms the deceased take in the afterlife (see figures 8–11, center section). When I didn't feel like venturing away from the house, I would simply snap a few shots from our deck. At first, both Peter and I got mostly single-orb shots. The orbs seemed determined to keep us interested and brought out their bags of tricks one by one, becoming increasingly impressive.
For three months, I could only print unaltered 8" × 10" pictures of the entire frame—ridiculously huge pictures of one or two orbs I wouldn't bother to save now. During that time I couldn't seem to get orbs on the very edges to show up on the printed picture. So where did nearly every orb place itself? On the edge. It seemed to be their idea of fun and games. One night, after getting either nothing or more edge shots off my deck, I acted as though I were going into the house, then spun around and sneaked a shot. Only then did I catch an orb in the center of the picture!
My first indoor orb picture was taken when I held a wedding reception for my stepdaughter and placed dozens of white balloons on the white ceiling of the living room and took a picture of them. I captured one white orb hanging on the ceiling with its "cousins." It is this type of interaction that led to my affection for the orbs and the obsessive behavior I found many orb photographers display. My existence came to revolve around my new hobby, and my printer put my husband to sleep each night with its electronic lullaby.
I live in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, once home to many slaughterhouses for family-raised pigs, cattle, sheep, rabbits, turkeys, and chickens. I tried to find a slaughterhouse nearby where Peter and I could see if these animals had photographable spirits. I learned most of the small slaughterhouses had been replaced by big business operations far away, yet I located one—a chicken processing plant just a mile from where Peter and I worked in our family's retail furniture store—so we planned a field trip there like a couple of eager kids. The owners, who dubbed me the "spirit lady," marveled at my pictures and cooperated, allowing us into their "killing fields" at A.M. on a Monday morning.
Peter and I could barely see Doug, the owner's son, cut off the chickens' heads and hang the birds upside down to bleed out. The room was physically filled with a dense fog, which I found later should have at least produced orb like pictures of the mist. We took about one hundred orb-free shots and I announced to the "killers" not to worry—the chickens evidently did not have spirits, at least none that could be photographed. (I was becoming concerned about the many animals my ex-husband had "murdered" and we had eaten for twenty years on our mini-farm and felt better then.) I suppose I will never know if our visit had anything to do with the picture of an angel that appeared in the slaughterhouse window a week or so later. Neither Peter nor I ever suggested taking another excursion to photograph dying animals.
Excerpted from How To Photograph the Paranormal by Leonore Sweet. Copyright © 2005 Leonore Sweet. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.