How do cameras photograph ghosts?

Cameras can capture ghostly images. 

Hardly anyone sees an apparition and has a photo that shows it. That’s true, even when the figure is seen by the entire team, as plain as day.

More often, your photographs will show orbs and streaks of light. No one saw them when the picture was taken.  Usually, we have no idea why.  It just happens.

Learn exactly how your camera works.

Digital cameras capture images differently than film cameras do. Know the difference. Learn what can make your camera take “weird” (but normal) photos.

ghost orb at ft. george, ontario, canada
Orb at Ft. George, Ontario, Canada

I like digital cameras because I can take hundreds of photos during an investigation, and it costs nothing.

Also, they’re easy to analyze immediately, using my laptop.

(I usually wait to analyze pictures at home or at the hotel.)

I’ll take film photos, too, but far fewer. For every 50 digital photos, I’ll take five or so film photos.

Do digital cameras detect ghostly energy anomalies better than film cameras?  That’s a popular but controversial theory.

In my book, Ghost Photography 101, I recommend using a simple camera that you’re comfortable with.

Then, experiment.

breath, not a ghostSee how that camera responds to unusual weather and light conditions.

Do what you can to create false anomalies, like orbs. After that, you’ll know what to watch out for during investigations.

For example, the weird photo on the right shows my breath. I exhaled as I took the photo in a haunted cemetery on a winter night.

It’s a very strange-looking image. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe it was a ghost photo.

So, test every camera you use for ghost hunting. See what “fake” ghost photos would look like.

Then, go to a genuinely haunted place. (I recommend haunted cemeteries, because they can have more ghosts per square foot than any other location.)

101 Ghost Hunting Questions, AnsweredCompare your photos with the fake ones. That’s the very best way to learn to photograph ghostly anomalies.

You’ll be confident when you capture something truly eerie in a photo.

And, if you’re like most beginning ghost hunters, your first genuine ghost photo will be a thrill.

For even more answers and insights about ghost photos, and ghost hunting in general, read my book, 101 Ghost Hunting Questions, Answered.

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What are the most important ghost hunting tools?

The most important ghost hunting tools are your five senses, and possibly your sixth sense, if you believe in it.

Nothing is more important than personal observation.

Never rely on ghost hunting equipment that absorbs your attention.

They can prevent you from witnessing an important paranormal encounter.

In some cases, you’re at risk if you’re distracted by ghost hunting tools.

For example, you can trip and fall if footing is uneven at an outdoor setting.

Indoors, many haunted buildings have been abandoned, and the floors can be littered with rubble, or unexpected irregularities on stairs. (This is why I often include an ace bandage in my ghost hunting backpack. Accidents happen, and probably more often than we’d like.)

Start with a camera

My advice…? During your first few ghost hunts, take only a camera that you’re very comfortable with.

Your camera phone is fine, as long as it’s set to take flash photos in low-light conditions. (If it has an ISO setting, choose something around 400 or slightly higher.)

Even a camera can be a needless distraction. But, a great, ghostly photo confirms that something unusual was going on at the haunted location.

Generally, if a site is actively haunted, a lot can happen suddenly, and all at once.

As a beginning ghost hunter, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or even frightened.

(That’s true for experienced ghost hunters, too.  I was baffled by conflicting evidence at The Myrtles Plantation. Bizarre events at the Falstaff Experience – Tudor World – disoriented me, too.)

So yes, even the most stoic ghost hunter can become startled when unexpected physical phenomena occur.

Q. What’s worse that being startled by unexpected phenomena…?

A. When something dramatic happens, and you miss it.

Maybe you were too busy reviewing your photos or staring at your EMF meter.

That’s happened again & again, during ghost hunting events, and even at some professional investigations.

Don’t miss a thrill or a chill

Don’t miss the excitement of ghost hunting. I’ll say this repeatedly: Rely on your senses, not research tools.

– Look for lights and shadows and anything unusual. (Many visual anomalies are seen “out the corner of your eye.”)

– Listen carefully for quiet taps, whispers, and sounds you cannot explain.

– Use your hands to detect baffling areas of hot and cold.

– Some people are sensitive to ghostly odors.

– Others, especially psychics, mention odd, unexplained tastes.

So, your five senses are your best, first tools for ghost hunting.

If you’re a “sixth sense” person, pay attention to that, as well. In fact, that can be your most important sense, particularly if it warns you of danger.

Then, add something… maybe

As you gain experience, add new tools one at a time. Learn every nuance of each tool or device before you move on to another one.

Discover how each ghost hunting tool responds to paranormal phenomena. Run tests– multiple times in different settings — to see if it works well for you.  (Don’t waste your time with any tool that requires your full attention, all of the time.)

Many ghost hunters who get great results with one kind of tool are less successful with others.

For example, I’m great with ghost photos, but not as successful with EVP recordings.

Likewise, many researchers who are adept with EVP don’t have equal success photographing ghosts.

I’m not sure why that’s true, but I’ve observed it since the late 1990s.

It was a topic of discussion at one New England Ghost Conference where I was the keynote speaker.

Consistently, people at that conference reported one of two things:

      • During investigations, they captured great EVP but hardly any anomalous photos.
      • Or vice versa.

No exceptions. And no one had a plausible theory to explain this.

In other words, expect to specialize.

Try a few basic tools. See what works best for you. If certain tools don’t work well for you, you’re not incompetent or anything.

It’s normal to excel in one area of ghost hunting, but not in others.

But, no matter which tools you use as a ghost hunter, don’t let them distract you.

Your best discoveries will come from first-hand research using your own five (or six) senses.

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For more answers and insights about ghosts, haunted places, and ghost hunting, read my book, 101 Ghost Hunting Questions, Answered.

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Can ghosts hurt people?

Ghosts can hurt people, but probably not the way you’d expect.

Generally, you have a body but the ghost doesn’t. Most of the time, a ghost cannot hurt anyone physically. Not severely, anyway.

We’re not sure how – or why – some ghosts scratch people or leave red welts on an investigator.

In over a decade of research, I’ve never been scratched or slapped in any haunted location.

But, at the Myrtles Planation, unseen hands pushed me on a stairway, and I did fall a few steps.  (I still believe that was a mischievous ghost… nothing that intended to hurt me.)

I’m sure something is scratching and hitting some ghost hunters.

How or why it happens… that’s still baffling. Either way, I still insist that most ghosts do not harm people, physically.

If someone is injured during an investigation, or a client describes repeated, physical harm, I don’t think it’s a ghost.  (I don’t mean to scare anyone, but when serious injuries occur during ghost research, it might be something demonic.)

The exception is poltergeist phenomena which may be ghostly… but it might not.

Normal Explanations

In many cases, normal things explain or contribute to the problem.

First, make certain that you and your team are safe. That’s always the highest priority.

Then, see if you can debunk whatever seemed dangerous.

  • In a house, it could be something as simple as loose or uneven floorboards.
  • Outdoors – at a haunted cemetery or battlefield – it could be a depression in the ground, a vine that’s easy to trip over, or a low branch (or thorny plant) that’s practically invisible in the dark.
  • Also, I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but if you’re in an area with biting insects, spiders, or snakes, always examine the wound. See what the marks look like, in case first aid needs to be administered, quickly. (Some bites can result in disorientation, hallucinations, and worse. Take no chances.)

Once you’ve studied possible physical explanation, also look for one or more of the following. They can disorient people, and it can be so subtle, the person doesn’t even realize it.

– Elevated levels of EMF from something like exposed wiring.

– Infrasound. This includes underground streams and highways – especially bridges – within a quarter mile.

– Unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector. If you’re regularly investigating abandoned buildings, a portable carbon monoxide detector should be part of your investigation kit.

– Something else that might alter perceptions and behaviors at that location. (Environmental allergies, drug reactions, etc.) Check the correlation between ghost reports at that location or in that area, against spikes in pollen and other allergens.

Is it a Poltergeist?

The subject of poltergeists is very controversial, even among those who believe.

The word poltergeist, translated literally, means “a noisy ghost.”

Poltergeist reports have included unexplained voices, knocking on walls and tables, the sound of musical instruments, and so on.

Poltergeists have been blamed for stones raining on (or inside) a house, and people being pushed, slapped, or scratched.

Ghostly assaults are unusual. Even then, it’s very rare for someone to be seriously injured.

(However, if it happens around stairs, it can be dangerous. Stay away from stairways that have a history of falls or ghostly activity.)

What are Poltergeists?

Some psychologists think that real poltergeist phenomena are self-generated. That is, the apparent victims are responsible.

aloneAccording to this theory, victims are individuals with extraordinary abilities. They can affect their own bodies, and remotely influence their environment.  (They’re grouped with people who receive stigmata.)

Other people, including me, suspect that two entities are involved.

– One is the person most consistently connected with the activity. He or she provides the energy, and – as a result – feels somewhat drained after a bout of activity. This person may not realize anything extraordinary is happening.

– The second “partner in crime” is an entity, perhaps unknown or paranormal, that makes the activity occur. That entity is, in a way, a parasite as well as the tormentor.

The two combine to manifest poltergeist activity.

How to Deal with a Poltergeist

Scientists and parapsychologists are still studying poltergeists phenomena. Patterns and answers are emerging.  No matter what your theory about poltergeists, the following  things may help.

– Treatment seems to help when it focuses on the living person most connected with the activity.

– At other times, it’s a matter of waiting for the poltergeist activity to diminish on its own.

Don’t treat the situation lightly. It’s not a “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” problem. If anyone is at risk, mentally, physically, or emotionally, take action immediately.

Analyze the situation from every possible angle, both normal and paranormal.

If the energy involves only one person, remove that person from the environment.  Don’t just escort the person outside.  He or she needs to be at least a dozen miles from the site.

Then, see if the alarming activity continues.

Test that several times.  If the activity always stops when the person is far from the site, that person is part of the activity.

You’re not likely to encounter dangerous poltergeist activity, ever.

Sure, you might witness an object flying across a room or a TV turning itself on or off, but even that is pretty rare.

What should you do if you can’t debunk the danger, and a poltergeist doesn’t seem to be the cause?

If an entity seems intent on causing deliberate physical harm – nothing playful – that might not be a ghost or a poltergeist. 

The Demon Issue

As I’ve said: generally, ghosts do not seriously injure people. They may be mischievous. Some of them might play pranks.

That’s very different from anything demonic.

If there’s any possibility that demons are involved, get professional, experienced help immediately.  That means talking with minister, priest, or other member of the clergy in real life, face-to-face.

Demonic issues are spiritual, and the clergy have spent years (often decades) studying spiritual matters, in depth.

Too many well-meaning amateurs (and a few trolls) are online, claiming to be exorcists. If someone’s life (or spiritual well-being) may be at risk, you cannot take chances.

I don’t want to scare you. Really, 99% of ghost hunters will never experience anything demonic. If I thought it was a genuine risk, I wouldn’t encourage others to get involved in paranormal research, and I wouldn’t be in this field myself.

But, if you want more information about protecting yourself from ghosts and other entities, this is the most complete guide I’ve ever read:  The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide: Protection Techniques for Encounters with the Paranormal, by Michelle Belanger.

Paranormal Parasites by Nick RedfernOn the other hand, if you’re fascinated by the idea of dangerous, supernatural entities, you may like Nick Redfern’s book, Paranormal Parasites.

He and I disagree heartily on many points. I don’t accept most UFO/conspiracy theories… but that’s just my view on this. I haven’t read this book, but – seeing comments left by some visitors – some people may enjoy this view of dangers in paranormal realms.

My Experiences

In over 30 years of investigating haunted locations, I have encountered some very scary, malicious entities. For example, I won’t go within 10 miles of Vale End Cemetery in Wilton, NH (USA).

I don’t think that was a ghost. I’m not sure what it was, but it didn’t fit the “ghost” profile.

Also, I’ve only been injured once. I don’t believe the injury was deliberate; it was simply a prank by a childlike spirit. And, I happened to be on a stairway when the spirit pushed me, and I lost my balance.

That happened at the Myrtles Plantation, and I believe it was a ghost.

During ghost investigations, keep this in mind: You have a more to worry about from the living than the dead.

But, that doesn’t mean ghost hunting is risk-free. You may still encounter some vicious, angry ghosts, and some of them can injure you.

Take reasonable precautions. If something alarming happens, see if you can debunk it.

But, if the physical dangers persist, leave the site immediately.

And then warn others about it, too.

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For more answers and insights about ghosts, haunted places, and ghost hunting, read my book, 101 Ghost Hunting Questions, Answered.

101 Ghost Hunting Questions, Answered

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