The most famous ghost photographs ever taken.

Ghosts, the paranormal and the supernatural have always been debated. Do they exist? Are the photos the proof?

Ghosts, the paranormal and the supernatural have always been debated. Do they exist?

Many people have reported sightings before, but without any real proof, they're usually disregarded as mere stories. Being able to take photos of spirits obviously helps the cause, but are all of them real or have some been doctored?

Here is a round-up of the most famous "ghost" photos of all-time. Some have been faked no doubt, but they look so good on first inspection they could definitely convert some non-believers.

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Catherine Howard - 1800s

This image purports to show Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII who was executed for adultery in 1542. She is said to haunt the Horn Room at Hampton Court Palace.

Naturally, these sorts of images are usually spoofed through double-exposure.

An unexpected guest - 1950s

Two boys sit happily on their mother's laps but a pretty terrifying and unexpected guest has also dropped in. Hanging disturbingly from the rafters.

The Ghost Pilot - 1987

In 1987, Mrs Sayer was visiting air airfield in England with her friend. She thought it would fun to take a photo of her sitting in the cockpit.

When the image was developed, there was a man sitting in the pilot's seat who hadn't been there when the photo was taken. A long lost pilot? No one is sure.

Boot Hill Ghost - 1996

Only Ike Canton's friend was seen when this photo was taken, The mysterious man wearing a hat behind him wasn't. Canton later looked more closely at the photo and decided the figure was in fact holding a knife, with the point ending just above his collar.

Goddard’s Squadron - Freddy Jackson - 1919

This image was taken by Sir Victor Goddard, of his squadron in 1919.

The ghostly image behind the fourth sailor from the left, at the top, is believed to be of Freddy Jackson. Jackson died a few days before the photo was taken by walking into a moving propeller.

Amityville Ghost - 1976

This photo, taken by Ed and Lorraine Warren, claims to show the ghost of 9-year-old John DeFeo.

DeFeo, along with his other brother, two sisters and parents, was killed by his older brother Ronald at their house in Amityville. Ed and Lorraine Warren were paranormal experts who entered the house and captured this image using a camera that consistently took infrared photos during the night.

The DeFeo murders were the inspiration for The Amityville Horror books and films .

Coventry Spectre - 1985

At first glance, you'd think there's nothing wrong with this photo. But look again, and you'll see a tall, dark figure wearing what could be a monk's frock, with a hood, in the top left.

This is a photo of the Coventry Freeman society showing everyone at the event, including the mysterious figure, bowing their heads. Nobody at the event was seen wearing that style of clothing.

Grandpa’s Ghost - August 1997

Somehow this lady's husband managed to appear in this photo despite passing away seven years before.

Denise Russell took this photo of her grandma, who lived alone at the time, on 17 August 1997.

Even though the photo had been developed, copied and given to other family members, nobody noticed the male figure standing over her until Christmas Day 2000. The Russell family say it's a spitting image of their grandpa who died in 1984.

Pawling Fire Department - 1988

The white figure in this photo is believed to be some sort of angel, overlooking Rose Benvenuto, who was involved in the car crash.

She said it could only have taken a miracle for her to survive the crash, and lo and behold, there's an angel-like figure in attending firefighter Sharon Boo's photo.

The Back Seat Ghost - March 1959

This photo was taken by Mabel Chinnery in 1959. It shows her husband in his car, but who is allegedly her dead mother-in-law on the back seat.

While paranormalists believe it to be real, others have debunked it as being a case of double exposure.

Mrs Andrews baby - 1947

This photo of a child appearing over a grave was taken by Mrs Andrews in 1947. She noticed the ghost when she had the film developed, but said it wasn't her daughter in the picture.

Despite there being some graves for children nearby, the child in the picture has never been identified.

The SS Watertown - 1924

This image taken from the SS Watertown shows the faces of two crewmen, James Courtney and Michael Meehan in the water. The two men died while onboard the ship and were given a burial at sea.

Other crew members on the ship saw the faces in the water but didn't initially take photos, they went back to a similar spot and saw them again. Five of the six photos showed nothing, but this was the sixth and clearly shows the faces of two men.

Newby Church - 1963

Some analysts think this photo taken at Newby Church in North Yorkshire, England is a fake because the character looks to be posing too much.

However, Reverend K.F. Lord insists there was nothing visible to the naked eye when he took the photo, and photo experts say it hasn't been double exposed.

Toys 'R' Us - 1978

The Toys 'R' Us store in Sunnyvale, California is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Johnny Johnson, and this image shows a silhouette leaning up against the shelves.

The same figure wasn't there when the photo was taken. The story goes that Johnny had a thing for a girl named Elizabeth, the daughter of a plantation owner - the plantation used to be on the Toys 'R' Us site - Johnny bled to death after cutting himself chopping wood, and now roams the aisles of the store searching for her.

St Botolph's Church - 1982

In the top right of this photo you can see a figure who apparently bears a similarity to someone that had recently been buried nearby.

If you look carefully in the upper right-hand corner of this photo, you can just make out a translucent figure. It was taken at St. Boltoph's Church in 1982, and at the time, there were only three people in the building.

A builder later contacted Chris Brackley, who took the photo, to tell him he recognised the face as being the same as someone he'd previously seen in a coffin in the church.

Worstead Church - 1975

Another church, another ghostly visitor. This ghost has been reported as being seen before in this location too.

Peter Berthelot took this picture of his wife, Diane, sitting on a pew at the Worstead Church in Norfolk, England in 1975. When they had the film developed, they noticed a ghost sitting on the pew behind Diane.

A man allegedly stayed in the church all night sometime in 1830 to try and disprove the theory of ghosts, but he claimed the following morning he had in fact seen the white lady seen in this picture.

Lord Combermere - 1891

This image taken of the library at Combermere Abbey in Cheshire, England by Sybell Corbett clearly shows a figure sitting in the chair on the left.

It's believed to be the ghost of Lord Combermere, a British cavalry commander in the 1800s.

The Brown Lady - 1936

This photo of 'The Brown Lady', is considered by many to be actual photographic evidence of ghosts. It was taken at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England in 1936.

There had allegedly been many sightings of the figure before this photo and it's said to be the ghost of Lady Townshend. She was locked in a room in the hall by her husband when he found out about her infidelity and left there to die.

Corroboree Rock - 1959

Some of these ghostly photos could just be explained away as double exposures, but there's no denying they're interesting.

Nobody knows who the ghostly figure in this photo is, but it was taken in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia in 1959.

Some people think it's just a case of double exposure, while others think it could be a spirit watching us, or something else, because it looks like they're holding binoculars.

Tulip Staircase Ghost - 1966

This photo taken inside the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, clearly shows a ghostly figure holding the handrail of the Tulip Staircase.

Photo experts have all agreed that it hasn't been tampered with, so is considered a genuine example of ghosts' existence.

Robert A Ferguson - November 1968

Because this photo was taken on a Polaroid, it's been deemed by many to be legitimate. It shows Robert A. Ferguson giving a speech, and the ghost of his deceased brother Walter peering over him.

Madonna of Bachelor's Grove - 1991

The Ghost Research Society of America took this photo at Bachelor's Cemetery in Illinois, after they noticed strange readings on their equipment.

They didn't see anything at the time, but when this image was exposed, it showed a woman in white clothing sitting on one of the graves.

The Wem Town Hall Ghost - November 1995

Although Tony O'Rahilly's photo appears to show the ghost of a young girl in the doorway to a burnt-down Wem Town Hall, it was later deemed to be a fake. The girl in question apparently appears on a postcard that appeared in the local paper.

Sefton Church - 1999

This picture at Sefton Church in Liverpool, England, clearly shows a man wearing a black uniform, believed to be the old church minister.

There were allegedly only two photographers in the church on the day it was taken, and neither of them recall seeing a physical being standing there when the photo was taken.

William Mumbler - 1860s

William Mumbler is credited with creating the first photo to show a ghost in the 1860s. But it in fact wasn't a ghost at all, it was simply an accidental case of double exposing a negative while taking a photograph of himself.

The entrepreneur in him turned this into a business, where members of the public would have their portrait exposed with an image of a dead relative.

Girls in Manila - 2000’s

A digital photo shows a ghostly figure touching one of the two girls seen in this photo, yet no one was there.

The two girls in this photo, taken in Manila, Philippines, didn't report seeing anyone or feeling any presence when this photo was taken. It was also taken on a digital camera, so it can't have been the result of double exposure.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium - 2006

This image was snapped in an abandoned tuberculosis hospital in Louisville, Kentucky in 2006. As you can imagine, in its heyday, the hospital saw an incredible amount of sickness and death - leading many to believe in the possibility that it could be haunted.

In recent years, it has become one of America's most popular destinations for ghost hunters.

This eerie image apparently depicts Mary Lee, a nurse who hung herself in the hospital. The story goes that this poor woman was impregnated by a doctor who worked in the hospital but later wanted nothing to do with her.

Tewin Bury Farm Ghost - 2008

Neil Sandwich took this photo of a farmhouse where his friends were getting married.

When he put the photo into Photoshop and adjusted the exposure, he noticed a mysterious white figure on the right-hand side, appearing to be peering out of a doorway. Cleaners at the farmhouse had apparently seen the ghost of a young boy wearing white clothes before, too.

San Antonio crossing ghosts

Years ago, sometime in the 1930s, it's said that a school bus full of children broke down near a railway crossing in San Antonio, Texas. Tragically, a speeding train hit the bus, killing several children and the bus driver.

This photo taken by Andy and Debi Chesney appears to show some ghostly apparitions that people have suggested look like ghosts of the children. Like any of these images, there is some debate about whether they're real and even if the history itself is true, but they're still spooky.

A ghostly pooch

This photo shows a tale of two four-legged friends. The dog on the left had a much larger pal (pictured on the right). When the little one died, he was later photographed seemingly appearing with his friend from beyond the spirit world.

A demonic spirit on a hospital bed

This weird vision shows a CCTV camera in a hospital. A demonic spirit appears to be trampling over the bed.

Apparently, the person in the bed passed away shortly afterwards. This image could easily appear in our list of the most famous monster photographs instead .

The Pink Lady

This image from Greencastle, Indiana was taken by Guy Winters and chums who were investigating paranormal reports about an abandoned house in the area.

This photo seemingly shows a ghostly woman bathed in pink and includes a final shot where the image has been digitally enhanced showing an incredibly human face on the apparition.

The Grey Lady - 2015

This image from 2015 was captured on an iPhone and seemingly shows a ghostly apparition. This figure could be that of the ghost of Dame Sybil Penn, a lowly servant of the Tudors who has haunted Hampton Court palace since 1829 .

The photo was snapped in the King’s Apartments of the Palace. While the so-called Grey Lady of Hampton Court is usually said to walk the corridors of the State Apartments and Clock Court. Interestingly this ghost is also said to be linked to weird and wonderful noises of a spinning wheel. That sound keep coming from behind a wall, which at one point was removed only for people to discover the spinning wheel behind it. Spooky stuff.

How to Master Ghost Photography

If you’ve seen photos of ghostly apparitions and wonder how they were captured, most likely they were not doctored or otherwise created in post process. Your camera has the fantastic ability to capture unique effects, including those often mistaken for ghosts and spirits.

ghost photography

Wall Of Heroes by starfish235, on Flickr

Ghostly images like seen above are created with the use of a slow shutter speed. If you’re not familiar with how your shutter speed can affect your final image, read my article here which explains it in great detail.

Before we get started, you should know that there are a few pieces of equipment needed to execute this technique:

1. DSLR Camera

…or at least a camera that you can control your shutter speed with. While you could probably get away with a point-and-shoot, your control will be rather limited.

In order to have full control over your camera and avoid any unwanted blurring, a tripod is needed to help stabilize your scene. Again, you could get away without one, but you run the risk of camera shake – not to mention being without a tripod will greatly limit your angles and vantage points.

3. Remote Shutter Release Cable

This is to ensure that you don’t touch the camera when you press the shutter button, which is one of the most common ways to cause camera shake.

4. ND Filters

Whether you purchase the slot-in filters or the threaded, an ND filter is necessary for daytime ghost photography in order to limit the amount of light that hits your sensor.

Types of Ghost Photography

Typically, there are two identifiable types of ghostly images that are captured in unique ways:

1. The Transparent Figure

The transparent figure, which is quite haunting, is executed by the use of a perfectly still model combined with an extended shutter speed. You’ll have to experiment with this method as it is very dependent on your environment (amount of available light, your aperture, etc).

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. by Aristocrats-hat, on Flickr

Typically, you’ll need a shutter speed of a few seconds or longer to allow for enough exposure time. The goal here is to have your model remain perfectly still, but only for a fraction of the exposure. This will allow for your camera to register an identifiable figure in sharp detail, but be transparent since the model wasn’t in frame the entire time.

When moving out of frame, do so quickly to avoid any blurring. You’re basically combining two photos in one here -one with you in frame and one without – so any slow movement in between will register.

2. The Flowing Figure

In contrast, the flowing figure actually depends on fast movement to be executed properly. Since your creating a somewhat transparent blur, there is no need for sharp detail.

ghost photography

ghost walk by Pedro Moura Pinheiro, on Flickr

Like with the transparent figure, this will take some experimenting as your shutter speed will vary on the amount of light you have. It's important to move fast during the exposure so that the human shape is still somewhat recognizable, but greatly blurred.

For a truly ghostly effect, wear flowing clothes or even drape a bed sheet over your shoulders. When you combine this with moving briskly throughout your frame, your figure will appear more haunting.

Also make sure to create the environment. Since you’re going for a haunting image, your final photo will be enhanced by your surroundings. Pick a location that compliments the mood you're going for – this will only be beneficial to your photo.

For more inspirational ghost photography, please visit this Youtube video . It’s a collection of images by photographer Cole Thompson , which prove to be stellar examples of this process.

Read more great articles by Christopher O’Donnell on his website or follow him on Facebook .

About Author

ghost photography

I'm a professional landscape photographer living on the coast of Maine. Through my work, I like to show a vantage point that is rarely seen in reality; a show of beauty, emotion, and serenity. Feel free to visit my website .

Hey Christopher. Is there any advantage to black and white vs. color in ghost photography? I looked at the link you gave for Cole Thompson and looks like his are all black and white.

Great article, as always! Thanks, Pam

Flowing figure photo is not showing up. Flikr says its not available.

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Ghost Photography: An Introduction to Capturing Ghosts

Ghosts & Hauntings

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An oxymoron?

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. We’ll start off by discussing what spirit photography is. Then, we’ll go over how to master the art of capturing these ethereal figures with some tips and tricks on how to create your own ghostly images: what you need to know before taking your picture; how shutter speed affects ghost images; how light plays a role in creating them; and finally, what setting adjustments are necessary for optimal results. Finally, we’ll discuss some famous ghost photos and the theories behind them. If you want to learn how to take the perfect photo of a ghost, this is the article for you.

Ghost photography aka spirit photography is a fascinating art and has been around for centuries. The earliest known ghost photos date back to the 1850s and were taken with early cameras that had long exposure times (10-15 seconds) so that light could properly expose the film.

What Is Spirit Photography?

Spirit photography is  the process of photographing the apparition of an individual. It is also sometimes called “ghost photography” or “spirit pictures” and can be done to see how spirits move in those surroundings, what they look like, how happy or sad they are, how many there are, etc.

Types of Ghost Photography:

There are two main types of ghost photography; Transparent figures or orbs. 

ghost photography

Transparent Figure:

The transparent figure, which is hauntingly perfect, can only be achieved with a combination of a perfectly still model (for a fraction of the exposure) or a moving model through the scene over an extended shutter speed.

You’ll have to experiment with this method as it’s very dependent on your environment (amount of available light or aperture).

Typically you will require around three seconds or more for the right exposure time; make sure that your subject stays completely motionless during just one part of the image sequence while they are captured in sharp detail – allowing them to disappear into other parts where there is less clarity.

The process behind capturing these figures requires some experimentation but once mastered allows you to create pieces that look like ghosts caught in action!

Orbs are holographic images. Ghost orbs are typically associated with spirits of the dead. This is how they’re often perceived by people who don’t have any experience with ghost photography, and how most ghost hunters go about their work.

In reality, it’s not always easy to classify what an orb could be – it can sometimes just be reflections from light sources that cause a lens flare.

How to Master Ghost Photography:

The best way to capture ghosts is by setting a long exposure time. You can set this on your camera using a bulb shutter or in photoshop with an image that you have already taken. It should be at least 15 seconds but only as slow of exposures are needed for what you’re trying to capture.

What you need to create your own ghostly image?

  • You’ll need a camera with a manual mode that lets you adjust the shutter speed, an ND filter and some kind of light source like candles or flashlights for low light situations.
  • A lens that allows manual focus. Manual focus is important for ghost photography because you want to avoid any ghosting or flaring of the wrong parts that could happen with an autofocus.
  • A tripod or other stabilising device is helpful because it will help reduce blur from camera shake, which can be very difficult to remove later on in post processing.

You’ll also want to consider a neutral density filter (ND filter) of around the 5-16 stops of light, but allows for long exposures during the day, and a cable release to enable easier shutter release without disturbing it. 

Step by step instructions on how to capture ghostly photos:

Step one: picking the right location.

Your location should reflect the ghost subject.  If you are looking for a ghost that is said to haunt a school, it would be appropriate to find the location of where your subject was last seen. You’ll want to plan how and when you will go about capturing these images in order to make sure there’s enough time present so nothing can happen on accident or unexpectedly.

– Consider how much time you will need to be at the location, how often your subjects are seen.

– Is there a specific time of day that they show up?

– What is the weather like in this season?

– Are there other variables such as light or any other environmental factors that could affect how these images turn out? For example: If the ghost you’re trying to capture appears in a dark area, how will this affect the exposure?

With these considerations in mind, it’s time to start looking for locations.

Local cemeteries can be great places for spooky photos as well as abandoned buildings and other old structures. You’ll want to avoid areas that may be heavily populated with living souls at this time.

Local legends about ghosts are also a great place to start if you don’t have any other locations or ideas in mind. Searching for these can give you some really specific directions on how and where to find the ghost that’s supposedly haunting those woods near your house, or how it haunts the abandoned building downtown.

In your search, you may also find some interesting historical information about how the ghost came to be and why it’s still here today.

Step Two: Keeping your camera steady

Since you’ll be using long exposures, it’s important to ensure that the camera is stable. Stabilising your camera on a tripod is always the best option, as it will ensure that nothing shakes or moves during the shot and you should be able to take photos for longer without having to worry about how long it takes.

If there are any creaky or unstable surfaces in your area, try and avoid them when photographing ghosts as they can become even more apparent with longer shutter speed you need for ghost photography.

If there isn’t a good surface where your subject appears at night, try setting up some steady lights that provide enough illumination for your ghost to be seen.

Step three: Time to capture those ghostly images

Ghost effect photography settings:.

Start with ISO 100 or lower, Aperture F/16.0, Shutter speed BULB (make sure to set your camera accordingly), White balance Daylight and Manual focus.

Don’t forget about ISO this will determine how sensitive your camera is to light. Your ISO should be set at 100 or the lowest possible setting for how dark it is where you are shooting.

So how long should you exposure for?

This will vary based on how dark it is and how much light your source has, but a good starting point for a 15 second exposure time in daylight with candles or flashlights would be five minutes. This should give you some pretty strong ghosting effects if used.

For a long exposure ghost you’ll need to set your camera to a shutter speed of about 15-30 seconds. This will give you enough time for the ghost’s movement through or to appear and then move back out. If you have a 15-second shot and your model moves out of the scene after 7 seconds, the camera will continue to expose and you’ll be able to see through their body. If the model stays for more time, they will be more solid; if less time, you’ll see through them even more.

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If there is any light shining through windows near where your subject appears, this can cause some flair and make them difficult to see with more exposure. Try to avoid any direct light sources near your subject.

If you’re still having trouble with figuring out how to do ghost photography, there are some apps that claim to be able to help create these images as well by using a “ghost filter.” However, we would recommend trying the basics first and then moving on from there before resorting to an app.

Step four: Post – Processing

Most ghostly photos are old and therefore need a vintage feel.  If you want to take your ghost photos one step further, pick up some old film and old school it.

Or create a vintage feel in edit by using a faded filter. To get the effect to how you want it, play with the sliders until you find something that fits your vision for how ghostly photography should look.

You can also use other filters like grain or sepia if desired!

If you want to learn more about the basics of editing.

ghost photography

Learn the 5 Basics of Editing

In this blog post, we’ll talk about what the 5 photo editing basics everyone should know. We’ll also look at which photo editing software is best for beginners. So if you’re interested in learning more about how to edit photos today, then read on!

Are there any real ghost photos out there?

We’ve all seen some pretty spooky photos of supposedly haunted places, but how do you know if they are real or just clever photography? 

When you look at photographs on the internet, it is important to keep in mind that these images can be manipulated. In fact, with photoshop and other editing software programs available today, it has become easier than ever for people to create ghost pictures. With this said, there may still be a few genuine examples out there somewhere!

The Brown lady of Raynham Hall

ghost photography

The Brown Lady is considered one of the most well-known ghost photographs in history. The photo was taken by Captain Hubert C. Provand and his wife Elsie at Raynham Hall, a country house located near Fakenham in Norfolk, England on September 19th 1936 at 12:25 am.

The photo became famous in 1937 when it was published in Country Life.

The first time the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall photo is seen, she seems to be beckoning to them with her hand raised and pointing towards a door that Captain Hubert C. Provand had difficulty opening.

This gesture has led many people to believe that the ghostly figure may have been warning the photographer not to come any closer because it is her house.

This theory can be supported by how she seems to have a sad expression on her face and how Captain Hubert C. Provand’s daughter said that when they first saw the woman, she seemed scared of them and was shaking her head no even though there were never noises of someone coming up the stairs.

A few other theories about how this photo was created come from how Lady Florence’s appearance could have been a reflection, or how the photographer might have walked into her while she was climbing the staircase and then photographed it to make it seem like an apparition.

There are also people who believe that Captain Hubert C. Provand might have actually photographed his daughter in a dress with long hair, how he had done other photographs of her for the same hall which could explain why she has such an expression on her face and how it is possible that the woman’s appearance may have been from using double exposure photography to make it seem like there was someone standing at the end of the hall.

What do you think?

Lord Combermere

ghost photography

Lord Combermere was taken by Sybell Corbet.  According to the story, Lord Combermere’s ghost was seen in a photo taken by Sybell Corbet. Supposedly when he first showed his wife and family how many photos of their home had been developed, they were shocked that there seemed to be an extra guest at dinner!

Theories behind how this could have happened are that a previous visitor may have been captured, how the photographer might have set up an extra camera for himself and then left it to go eat dinner before returning to take more photographs or how someone could have had their face covered with some type of garment.

Theories on how Sybell Corbet created this photo is that she used a double exposure on the negatives, how she might have used a transparency of him with her camera or how someone may have posed as Lord Combermere, like a servant.

Freddy Jackson

ghost photography

The air mechanic, Freddy Jackson died in a tragic accident and was buried two days earlier. That day he could be seen as the face of fear on this famous photograph taken before his funeral at his squadron’s hangar. The photo has been scrutinized by many people with different theories about how it came to be that way. Some believe there is an extra person in the photo while others believe it is just Freddy’s ghost.

Some people who have seen this photograph said they felt uneasy and scared by how he looked, like there was a feeling of otherworldly presence about him that couldn’t be explained through any logical means. But after his funeral when news reporters went to interview those who knew him, they said how he was the kindest person, always giving and happy.

After this photo came out, Freddy’s squadron released a statement saying that it had been an accident but asked people not to share his story so no one would feel sorry for him or come across any of his ghostly apparitions while walking around town. They felt like it would be a dis-honour to how he lived his life.

What are your thoughts on the photo? Is there a ghost in this photograph or is it just Freddy’s face reflecting fear before death?

Specter of Newby Church

ghost photography

The story of the ghost who haunts Newby Church dates back to 1679. The church was a three-mile walk from where the nearest town, Poole ,was located and needed protection in case of an attack. King James II ordered that there be at least one man guarding it during Sunday sermons every week for seven years in return for a £25 fee.

In 1684, the soldier was found dead on the floor of Newby Church with his head smashed in by an unknown object and no one knew how it had happened. After this incident, there were regular sightings of the ghost which became known as “The Specter.” The guards would hear footsteps coming towards them and when they turned around, no one was there.

People believe the ghost is that of a soldier who was killed in 1684 by an unknown assailant while guarding Newby Church.”

“We found out about this event from one of our field investigators, who lives in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and he has often advised us on ghosts.”  This story was told to me by one of the founders of Ghost Finder.

“He was at a pub with some friends one night when they were talking about how to make ghost photos, and someone mentioned how you could do it using an old camera that has been abandoned for years.”  “It’s not difficult to find people who are willing to risk their lives for a photo – and how to make ghost photos.”

What are some possible explanations for how these photos may have been made?

Theory how this photo could have been created is that an old camera was abandoned for years and then someone had their face covered with some type of garment, how they might have used a transparency or double exposure.

Wem Town Hall in Shropshire

Many ghost photos have been debunked and are often explained away as natural phenomena, but there is one photo that has not been explained. The Wem Town Hall in Shropshire was built in the 18th century on the grounds of a medieval priory. It became home to various organisations such as guilds, courts, schools and church services.

The most famous ghost photo was taken in the 1950s by a photographer called Tom Denton, who used to take photos for how-to books on how to use cameras and photography equipment. He had never seen anything like this before and he tried his best to debunk it as something natural but couldn’t find any explanation for what it could be.

The photo has been dated to the 20th century, but it is unclear how old the building itself is so there are many theories about how this could be explained. One theory says that a tall man dressed in black was photographed standing at an angle near a window and he appears as a transparent figure because of how long Denton left the shutter open.

Others say that the image is a reflection of how much time has passed since it was built, and as people have walked past over the years they cast their shadows onto this window both inside and outside. The only way to know for sure is by taking another photo in the same spot with an identical camera so we can compare what was captured to what is visible in the photo.

The Wem Town Hall Ghost has been seen as a sign that ghosts exist, but how can this be when so many ghost photos have been debunked?

It’s possible that we don’t know how all of these natural phenomena happen yet and until there’s a scientific explanation it may never be known how the ghost is captured in this photo.

Have you managed to photograph a ghost? What do you think – Are these ghosts real or creative photography?

Robyn O'Brien

Robyn O’Brien

From Robyn O’Brien Photography & Robyn’s Academy . Where you’ll find inspiration, easy to follow photography tutorials and learn how to create photos you’re proud to share.

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Ian Middleton Photography

Ghost photography technique tutorial

By Ian Middleton

ghost photography

Additionally, you can do a double exposure

See more here in my video.

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When a 19th-Century ‘Spirit Photographer’ Claimed to Capture Ghosts Through His Lens

By: Dave Roos

Updated: October 5, 2023 | Original: October 17, 2019

'Spirit' Photography

Even 150 years later, the eerie spirit photographs taken by Boston photographer William Mumler pack an emotional punch. A mourning mother is visited by the angelic silhouette of her departed daughter, the young girl resting her tiny hand on her mother’s lap. A mutton-chopped widower, his head hung in grief, is comforted by the glowing soul of his loving wife, her hands draped across his heavy shoulders.

It’s not hard to understand why 19th-century Americans enamored with the growing Spiritualism movement would have believed that these photographic apparitions were real, even as high-profile skeptics like P.T. Barnum decried spirit photography as a sham.

When spirit photography appeared in the 1860s, the United States was reeling from the Civil War , which claimed an astonishing 620,000 lives. Deep in mourning, Americans were drawn to anyone who offered even a fleeting connection to the souls of their dearly departed. Self-proclaimed mediums performed seances in which the living could speak with the dead, and photographers like Mumler granted the wishes of the bereaved to see their lost sons or brothers one last time.

Peter Manseau, curator of American religious history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, says Mumler was surely a fraud, although he doesn’t know exactly how the photographer managed his trick. As he notes in his book, The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost , he also doesn’t discount the healing function that Spiritualism served.

“It was a genuine religious movement that meant a lot to people a time when the nation was going through mourning and loss like it had never had before,” says Manseau.

Mumler was, in Manseau’s words, a “kitchen tinkerer”—an amateur chemist and incurable entrepreneur who once peddled his own homemade elixir for curing dyspepsia. Trained as a silver engraver, Mumler decided to try his hand at photography, this wondrous new technology that produced portraits that people would pay a whole dollar to purchase.

While taking self-portraits for practice, one of Mumler’s prints came back with an unexplainable aberration. Although he was “quite alone in the room” when the shot was taken, there appeared to be a figure at his side, a girl who was “made of light.” Mumler showed the photo to a spiritualist friend who confirmed that the girl in the image was almost certainly a ghost.

Manseau says that Mumler had a knack for self-promotion and his otherworldly photo was written up in popular spiritualist newspapers like the Banner of Light and also the mainstream press. Bostoners began lining up at his small portrait studio to pay as much as $10 for their likeness with a lost loved one.

“Mumler sold himself as someone who could not explain what was happening or why he was chosen to take these pictures,” says Manseau. “He was as astonished as everyone else that suddenly his camera could take pictures of ghosts.”

William H. Mumler Spirit Photography

A visitor to Mumler’s studio would be told that there’s no guarantee that a departed soul would appear. Mumler didn’t “command the spirits,” says Manseau, they “came and went as they pleased.” And if a photograph didn’t come out as the customer expected—the ghost of an old woman instead of lost brother, perhaps—Mumler would help the client search their memory for other spirits who might be eager to commune with the living.

Since photography was such a new invention in the mid-19th century, few people had other photos to compare with the faint, blurry images of the ghosts. Did Great Aunt Winifred wear her hair in a bun? Probably!

Mumler’s spirit photography attracted skeptics from the start. Manipulating images was a known part of the photographic artform and other photographers were openly experimenting with double exposures and superimposed negatives, all of which could create the effect of Mumler’s spirit photography.

Skeptics Accused Mumler of Fraud

William Mumler's 'Spirit' Photography

One day, the veteran Boston photographer J.W. Black arrived at Mumler’s studio and demanded a demonstration. He sat for a portrait and carefully watched every step of Mumler’s process, including the alchemy of the dark room.

As Manseau describes it in his book, “Black watched as his own dark outline appeared on the glass, its form not unlike the photograph he’d had taken of himself seated with his newspaper. But then another shape began to emerge. ‘My God!’ Black said. ‘Is it possible?’”

The shape took the ghostly form of a man standing behind Black’s shoulder. Was it the great photographer’s father, who died when Black was 13? Black didn’t stick around to explain. He offered to pay for the print, and when Mumler politely refused, Black walked back to his studio, still clasping the photograph.

But over time, the evidence against Mumler started to mount. In one case, Mumler created a spirit photograph for woman who had recently lost her brother in the Civil War. When the brother miraculously returned home alive, things got awkward. But instead of accusing Mumler of creating a fraudulent photo, the faithful woman blamed it on an “evil spirit” trying to deceive her .

Another case was harder to dodge. A man visiting Mumler’s studio recognized a female ghost as his wife , who was not only alive but recently had her portrait taken by Mumler. Wasn’t it obvious that Mumler was reusing old negatives and playing them off as ghosts?

Since things were getting hot in Boston, Mumler tried relocating to New York in 1869, but he was quickly arrested and tried for fraud. The New York prosecutors called a parade of expert witnesses who offered at least nine ways that Mumler could have used photographic trickery to produce his ghostly images.

P.T. Barnum, a certified expert on “suckers,” commissioned a fake photograph of himself with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln to present as damning evidence in the trial.

But the jury was unconvinced. Sure, there were a million ways that Mumler could have faked the photos, but no one had caught him in the act or provided concrete evidence that he used any of those methods. The defense also cast doubt in the minds of the jury about the presumed limits of photographic technology.

“The defense argued that human ingenuity can do all these things that a generation ago would have seemed like sheer magic,” says Manseau. “How can we say that photography cannot do this, too?”

Mumler's Next Invention: Newsprint Photography

Abraham Lincoln's Ghost

Mumler was acquitted and returned to Boston. He shied away from spirit photography and refocused his efforts on the chemistry of photo development. He eventually invented a technique called the “Mumler process” that allowed the first photographs to be printed on newsprint, transforming the practice of journalism.

But before Mumler hung up his hat for good as the world’s most famous spirit photographer, he welcomed none other than Mary Todd Lincoln into his Boston studio. It was 1870, five years after her husband’s assassination. Despite the accusations of fraud against Mumler and other spiritual mediums, Americans like the former First Lady, still deep in mourning, wanted to believe.

Mumler’s famous portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln shows the diminutive widow dressed all in black, her small hands clasped on her lap, while behind her stands the tall, slender, bearded apparition of her fallen husband.

“It was the last photo taken of her in her life,” says Manseau. “No one could dissuade her that it did not mean that Abraham Lincoln was still by her side.”

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What is Spirit Photography: Fraud or Phenomenon?

Spirit photography, also known as ghost photography, is a fascinating 19th-century mystery. Read on to learn more.

what is ghost spirit photography

Is it possible to see your loved ones after they pass away? Spirit photographers have an answer for you. The mysterious images of ghostly figures awed people for decades, and even today keep intriguing audiences who are well aware of photographers’ tricks. But how exactly did they do it, and were there any real ghosts involved? Read on to learn more about spirit photography.

What is Spirit Photography?

unknown woman photo 1865

To label the invention of photography as simply yet another discovery within the history of humanity would be an understatement. Not only did this groundbreaking event radically change the ways of recording and transmitting information, but it also significantly thinned out the barriers of distance and time. For the first time in human history, it became possible to witness an event without actually attending it or to look at the face of someone who might not be alive anymore. The impression of it was so intense that the possibilities of the new technology seemed limitless to many people. Some believed photography could break the barrier between the living and the dead , not metaphorically but physically.  In that moment of confusion, the cultural phenomenon of spirit photography came into existence.

By the 1860s, several photography techniques were already familiar to the public. The most popular one used in the United States involved a so-called glass negative (a glass plate covered in a light-sensitive emulsion). The emulsion darkened the parts of a photograph that were the lightest in reality, creating a reverse yet accurate image. Then, a photographer developed the negative and printed the final image.

spirit photography hope couple 1900

The new technology called for endless experiments, so the history of photo manipulation is almost as long as the history of photography itself. Although there were numerous ways to create an illusion of a floating spirit, historians did not recover all of them, leaving an element of mystery still. The most popular proven methods featured overlaying several negatives during the printing process so that the images would appear on the same picture.

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Another technique was simply using a plate uncleaned after the previous use. As a result, the new photograph was developed along with the contours of another one. Of course, different techniques produced different results. For that reason, spirit photographs had a variety of ghosts present: some appeared as semi-transparent figures, some as strange balls of light, and some as floating heads similar in density to those of the living.

Spirit photography should not be confused with another phenomenon of the era, the post-mortem photography . Post-mortem photographs featured the physical bodies of someone’s deceased relatives, most likely children or mothers who died in childbirth. Although the pictures themselves were morbid, the desire to capture a dead loved one next to their living family at least once is quite understandable. Before the advent of photography, artists sometimes painted portraits post-mortem as well. Spirit photography had essentially the same purpose, yet never used actual bodies, utilizing photo manipulation of various kinds.

William Mumler: The Alleged Pioneer of Spirit Photography

mumler tinkham photo 1862

The first person to ever take a photo of a spirit was William Mumler, an engraver and amateur photographer from Boston. In 1861, Mumler was working on a self-portrait. But Mumler was not the only person in the picture. Behind him appeared a figure of a woman, which Mumler identified as his long-dead cousin. This story told by Mumler was the beginning of a long-lasting craze over spirit photography.

Mumler’s discovery happened just at the beginning of the American Civil War . Feeling the air saturated with death and grief, Mumler saw a perfect business opportunity, opening a photography workshop in Boston. He was not working alone. his wife, Hannah Mumler, was involved in the process. While Mumler was busy with the technical part, Hannah acted as a medium, reaching the deceased relatives of a client and asking them to reveal themselves in the photograph. Another curious fact was that Hannah was a trained photographer, unlike Mumler. They met in a photography studio which was Hannah’s workplace that Mumler rented for his experiments. Some historians believe that it was Hannah Mumler and the owner of the studio Helen F. Stuart who invented the technique and designed the business scheme that followed.

mumler lincoln photo 1872

Mumler’s most recognizable and sensational work was the 1872 portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln with her deceased husband, the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. A semi-transparent figure of Lincoln is standing behind the seated Mary Todd, touching her shoulder. The president’s widow was an avid believer in spiritualism and mediumship. Crushed by her husband’s murder and the deaths of their three sons, Mary Todd Lincoln tried to find comfort in the possibility of connecting to her dead loved ones as if they were still there.

Mumler VS P.T. Barnum

spirit photography rochas 1909

Although spirit photography was a huge trend at the time, it had its fair share of skeptics as well. The history of spirit photography is also a history of remarkable court cases. Fraud charges were common occurrences for photographers who claimed to make the dead appear in pictures. The jury tried to unveil their technical secrets, but they rarely succeeded.

William Mumler was put on trial by none other than P.T. Barnum . Although Barnum was rather far from being an honest entrepreneur, he insisted that Mumler’s activity was essentially nothing but preying upon the grief-stricken relatives of the deceased. During the trial, Barnum presented his version of the Lincoln photograph showing an image with the face of the dead president floating beside him. That accusation was followed by another, even more striking. Some witnesses claimed that Mumler was breaking into their clients’ houses to steal photographs of their dead relatives and use them for his works.

lincoln barnum photo 1869

The trial initiated by Barnum did not bring any result since Mumler was cleared of all charges. However, this was not entirely Mumler’s victory or that of his lawyer. Mumler’s main line of defense was shifting the responsibility from himself to the spirits. The photographer insisted that he was not responsible for the figures appearing, and if someone was unhappy with the result, it must have been the spirits playing tricks on them. The main reason for Mumler’s acquittal was that the judge and the jury had no idea how a manipulation like that could become possible. In fact, we still cannot be entirely sure how Mumler did it, although there are numerous possible explanations and techniques, there is no definitive proof of his method.

Frederick Hudson and Georgiana Houghton

hudson album photo 1872

Across the ocean, the first (and the most famous) British spirit photographer was Frederick Hudson.  Like Mumler, Hudson was working with an assistant. Along with the photographer, a medium and artist named Georgiana Houghton was present. Houghton made sure that the dead relatives would connect to the world of the living. Unlike the pale silhouettes captured by Mumler, Hudson’s spirits look more solid and physically present, as if another person was standing right next to the sitter. Although Hudson was proclaimed a fraud several times during his lifetime, he never went to jail. The will to believe overweighed any logic for some people. For example, one of Hudson’s sitters claimed to see his dead mother in a photograph next to him, even though, in his own words, the ghost looked nothing like her.

houghton eye of the lord watercolor 1864

Houghton herself was a trained artist and claimed to channel her artworks from the world of spirits and higher beings way earlier than Hilma af Klint . However, her association with Hudson did not help her career in the long term. Even though neither of them ever faced any criminal charges for their photographic experiments, Houghton would hardly be taken seriously as an artist for decades. The only exhibition of Houghton’s work during her lifetime was organized and paid for by the artist personally. Although Houghton died in 1884, her artworks would be on display for the next time only in the twenty-first century.

Why Did People Believe in Spirit Photography?

spirit photography robin ghost 1863

Despite the rightful accusations by P.T. Barnum and many others, it would not be entirely correct to dismiss spirit photography as merely an instrument for capitalizing on someone’s pain. In a way, photographs of dead loved ones helped people navigate grief and sorrow, providing them with one more chance to see their loved ones before letting go. Just like the practice of mediumship, spirit photography was also a way to cope with the fear of death. While skeptics labeled both practices as frauds, believers in spirits received their proof that death is not final. Like Mary Todd Lincoln grieving over her husband and sons, many others were trying to find comfort in the idea that there was something to hope for beyond the grave.

However, not all believers in spirit photography were grief-stricken relatives in need of comfort. Many other proponents of spiritualism were more rational in their beliefs. The rapid technological advances of the nineteenth century created a stir in public minds. The world suddenly became unfamiliar, forcing many people to actively search for answers. The discoveries of invisible waves and particles, new means of travel, and new ways of transmitting information raised further questions: if these forces were unknown until the present moment, what else could humanity be missing?  What if photography, as a new way of seeing, can capture something invisible to the human eye? What if it can be a bridge between our world and others? Thus, even though spirit photography may now seem like a weird occult craze, it nevertheless had at least some logical reasoning behind it.

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By Anastasiia S. Kirpalov MA Art History, Modern & Contemporary Art Anastasiia holds a MA degree in Art history from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Previously she worked as a museum assistant, caring for the collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. She specializes in topics of early abstract art, nineteenth-century gender, spiritualism and occultism. Outside of her work, she is interested in cult studies, criminology, and fashion history.

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Best Real Ghost Pictures Ever Taken

They say seeing is believing. And while in this day of digital image manipulation that might not be as true as it once was, these photographs are considered by many to be the real deal - photographic evidence of ghosts . Faking ghost photos through double exposure and in-the-lab trickery has been around as long as photography itself; and today, computer graphics programs can easily and convincingly create ghost images. But these photos are generally thought to be untouched, genuine portraits of the unexplained.

The Brown Lady

This portrait of "The Brown Lady" ghost is arguably the most famous and well-regarded ghost photograph ever taken. The ghost is thought to be that of Lady Dorothy Townshend, wife of Charles Townshend, second Viscount of Raynham, residents of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England in the early 1700s. It was rumored that Dorothy, before her marriage to Charles, had been the mistress of Lord Wharton. Charles suspected Dorothy of infidelity. Although according to legal records she died and was buried in 1726, it was suspected that the funeral was a sham and that Charles had locked his wife away in a remote corner of the house until her death many years later.

Dorothy's ghost is said to haunt the oak staircase and other areas of Raynham Hall. In the early 1800s, King George IV, while staying at Raynham, saw the figure of a woman in a brown dress standing beside his bed. She was seen again standing in the hall in 1835 by Colonel Loftus, who was visiting for the Christmas holidays. He saw her again a week later and described her as wearing a brown satin dress, her skin glowing with a pale luminescence. It also seemed to him that her eyes had been gouged out. A few years later, Captain Frederick Marryat and two friends saw "the Brown Lady" gliding along an upstairs hallway, carrying a lantern. As she passed, Marryat said, she grinned at the men in a "diabolical manner." Marryat fired a pistol at the apparition, but the bullet simply passed through.

This famous photo was taken in September 1936 by Captain Provand and Indre Shira, two photographers who were assigned to photograph Raynham Hall for Country Life magazine. This is what happened, according to Shira:

"Captain Provand took one photograph while I flashed the light. He was focusing for another exposure; I was standing by his side just behind the camera with the flashlight pistol in my hand, looking directly up the staircase. All at once I detected an ethereal veiled form coming slowly down the stairs. Rather excitedly, I called out sharply: 'Quick, quick, there's something.' I pressed the trigger of the flashlight pistol. After the flash and on closing the shutter, Captain Provand removed the focusing cloth from his head and turning to me said: 'What's all the excitement about?'"

Upon developing the film, the image of The Brown Lady ghost was seen for the first time. It was published in the Dec. 16, 1936 issue of Country Life. The ghost has been seen occasionally since.

Lord Combermere

This photograph of the Combermere Abbey library was taken in 1891 by Sybell Corbet. The figure of a man can faintly be seen sitting in the chair to the left. His head, collar and right arm on the armrest are clearly discernable. It is believed to be the ghost of Lord Combermere.

Lord Combermere was a British cavalry commander in the early 1800s who distinguished himself in several military campaigns. Combermere Abbey, located in Cheshire, England , was founded by Benedictine monks in 1133. In 1540, King Henry VII kicked out the Benedictines, and the Abbey later became the Seat of Sir George Cotton KT, Vice-Chamberlain to the household of Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII. In 1814, Sir Stapleton Cotton, a descendant of Sir George, took the title "Lord Combermere" and in 1817 became the Governor of Barbados. Today the Abbey is a tourist attraction and hotel.

Lord Combermere died in 1891, having been struck and killed by a horse-drawn carriage. At the time Sybell Corbet took the above photo, Combermere's funeral was taking place some four miles away. The photographic exposure, Corbet recorded, took about an hour. It is thought by some that during that time a servant might have come into the room and sat briefly in the chair, creating the transparent image. This idea was refuted by members of the household, however, testifying that all were attending Lord Combermere's funeral.

Freddy Jackson

This intriguing photo, taken in 1919, was first published in 1975 by Sir Victor Goddard , a retired R.A.F. officer. The photo is a group portrait of Goddard's squadron, which had served in World War I at the HMS Daedalus training facility. An extra ghostly face appears in the photo. In back of the airman positioned on the top row, fourth from the left, can clearly be seen the face of another man. It is said to be the face of Freddy Jackson, an air mechanic who had been accidentally killed by an airplane propeller two days earlier. His funeral had taken place on the day this photograph was snapped. Members of the squadron easily recognized the face as Jackson's. It has been suggested that Jackson, unaware of his death, decided to show up for the group photo.

Tulip Staircase Ghost

Rev. Ralph Hardy, a retired clergyman from White Rock, British Columbia, took this now-famous photograph in 1966. He intended merely to photograph the elegant spiral staircase, known as the "Tulip Staircase", in the Queen's House section of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Upon development, however, the photo revealed a shrouded figure climbing the stairs, seeming to hold the railing with both hands. Experts, including some from Kodak , who examined the original negative concluded that it had not been tampered with. It's been said that unexplained figures have been seen on occasion in the vicinity of the staircase, and unexplained footsteps have also been heard.

This photo isn't the only evidence of ghostly activity at the Queen's House. The 400-year-old building is credited with several other apparitions and phantom footsteps even today. A few years ago, a gallery assistant was discussing a tea break with two colleagues when he saw one of the doors to the bridge room close by itself. At first, he thought it was one of the lecturers.

Other ghostly goings-on include the unexplained choral chanting of children, the figure of a pale woman frantically mopping blood at the bottom of the Tulip Staircase (it's said that 300 years ago a maid was thrown from the highest banister, plunging 50 feet to her death), slamming doors, and even tourists being pinched by unseen fingers.

The Back Seat Ghost

Mrs. Mabel Chinnery was visiting the grave of her mother one day in 1959. She had brought along her camera to take photographs of the gravesite. After snapping a few shots of her mother's gravestone, she took an impromptu photo of her husband, who was waiting alone in the car. At least the Chinnerys thought he was alone.

When the film was developed, the couple was more than surprised to see a figure wearing glasses sitting in the back seat of the car. Mrs. Chinnery immediately recognized the image of her mother – the woman whose grave they had visited on that day. A photographic expert who examined the print determined that the image of the woman was neither a reflection nor a double exposure . 

The Ghost of Boothill Cemetery

Terry Ike Clanton is an actor, recording artist and cowboy poet, and is also a relative of the legendary Clanton Gang who clashed with the Earps and Doc Holliday at the famous gunfight at OK Corral. Clanton took this photo of his friend at Boothill Graveyard . The photo was taken in black and white because he wanted Old West-looking pictures of himself dressed in Clanton's 1880-period clothes. Clanton took the film for developing to the local Thrifty Drug Store, and when he got it back was startled at what he saw. Among the gravestones, just to the right of his friend, is the image of what appears to be a thin man in a dark hat. By height, the man appears to be either legless, kneeling... or rising up out of the ground.

Ghost in the Burning Building

On Nov. 19, 1995, Wem Town Hall in Shropshire, England burned to the ground. Many spectators gathered to watch the old building, built in 1905, as it was being consumed by the flames. Tony O'Rahilly, a local resident, was one of those onlookers and took photos of the spectacle with a 200mm telephoto lens from across the street. One of those photos shows what looks like a small, partially transparent girl standing in the doorway. Nether O'Rahilly nor any of the other onlookers or firefighters recalled seeing the girl there.

O'Rahilly submitted the photo to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena which, in turn, presented it for analysis to Dr. Vernon Harrison, a photographic expert and former president of the Royal Photographic Society. Harrison carefully examined both the print and the original negative and concluded that it was genuine. "The negative is a straightforward piece of black-and-white work and shows no sign of having been tampered with," Harrison said.

But who is the little girl? Wem, a quiet market town in northern Shropshire, had been ravaged by fire in the past. In 1677, historical records note, a fire destroyed many of the town's old timber houses. A young girl named Jane Churm, the legends say, accidentally set fire to a thatched roof with a candle. Many believed her ghost haunted the area and had been seen on a few other occasions.

UPDATE:  This photo may have been proved to be a hoax. An  article  in the Shropshire Star presents evidence that the image of the girl in the photo may have been lifted from an old postcard. 

Ghosts of the SS Watertown

James Courtney and Michael Meehan, crew members of the S.S. Watertown , were cleaning a cargo tank of the oil tanker as it sailed toward the Panama Canal from New York City in December of 1924. Through a freak accident, the two men were overcome by gas fumes and killed. As was the custom of the time, the sailors were buried at sea off the Mexican coast on Dec. 4.

But this was not the last the remaining crew members were to see of their unfortunate shipmates. The next day, before dusk, the first mate reported seeing the faces of the two men in the waves off the port side of the ship. They remained in the water for 10 seconds, then faded. For several days thereafter, the phantom-like faces of the sailors were clearly seen by other members of the crew in the water following the ship.

On arrival in New Orleans , the ship's captain, Keith Tracy, reported the strange events to his employers, the Cities Service Company, who suggested he try to photograph the eerie faces. Captain Tracy purchased a camera for the continuing voyage. When the faces again appeared in the water, Captain Tracy took six photos, then locked the camera and film in the ship's safe. When the film was processed by a commercial developer in New York, five of the exposures showed nothing but sea foam. But the sixth showed the ghostly faces of the doomed seamen. The negative was checked for fakery by the Burns Detective Agency. After the ship's crew had been changed, there were no more reports of sightings.

UPDATE:  This photo may have been proved to be a hoax. Blake Smith has written an in-depth analysis and investigation of the photo for  ForteanTimes .

Madonna of Bachelor's Grove

This photo was taken during an investigation of Bachelor's Grove cemetery near Chicago by the Ghost Research Society (GRS) . On August 10, 1991, several members of the GRS were at the cemetery, a small, abandoned graveyard on the edge of the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, near the suburb of Midlothian, Illinois. Reputed to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the U.S., Bachelor's Grove has been the site of well over 100 different reports of strange phenomena, including apparitions, unexplained sights and sounds, and even glowing balls of light.

GRS member Mari Huff was taking black and white photos with a high-speed infrared camera in an area where the group had experienced some anomalies with their ghost-hunting equipment. The cemetery was empty, except for the GRS members. When developed, this image emerged: what looks like a lonely-looking young woman dressed in white sitting on a tombstone. Parts of her body are partially transparent and the style of the dress seems to be out of date.

Other ghosts reportedly seen in Bachelor's Grove include figures in monks' clothes and the spirit of a glowing yellow man.

Railroad Crossing Ghost

A strange legend surrounds a railroad crossing just south of San Antonio, Texas. The intersection of roadway and railroad track, so the story goes, was the site of a tragic accident in which several school-aged children were killed - but their ghosts linger at the spot and will push idled cars across the tracks, even though the path is uphill.

The story may be just the stuff of urban legend, but the accounts were intriguing enough that an article about the phenomenon, ​" The Haunted Railroad Crossing ," was written. The article included a photograph submitted by Andy and Debi Chesney. Their daughter and some of her friends had recently been to the crossing to test the legend, and she took some photographs. Inexplicably, a strange, transparent figure turned up in one of the photos. "They had no idea that it was in the picture until the next day when I printed out the picture and showed them," said the Chesneys. "It was really freaky. It appears to be a little girl carrying a teddy bear."

Other readers who have viewed the photo think it shows a little girl with a dog sitting at her feet. What do you think?

Specter of Newby Church

This photograph was taken in 1963 by Reverend K. F. Lord at Newby Church in North Yorkshire, England. It has been a controversial photo because it is just too good. The shrouded face and the way it is looking directly into the camera makes it look like it was posed – a clever double exposure. Yet supposedly the photo has been scrutinized by photo experts who say the image is not the result of a double exposure.

The Reverend Lord has said of the photo that nothing was visible to the naked eye when he took the snapshot of his altar. Yet when the film was developed, standing there was this strange cowled figure.

The Newby Church was built in 1870 and, as far as anyone knows, did not have a history of ghosts, hauntings or other peculiar phenomena. Those why have carefully analyzed the proportions of the objects in the photo calculated that the specter is about nine feet tall!

Ghost of the Seven Gables

While touring the historic House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts – the birthplace of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne – Lisa B. snapped this remarkable photo. The ghostly image of a small boy seems to be in the shrubbery, peering over the wooden fence.

The most amazing part of the story of this photograph is that she subsequently did some research about Hawthorne and the house. While looking through a library, she came across one of Hawthorne's books, " Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny " by Papa. On the cover of that book is a portrait of Hawthorne's five-year-old son, Julian. And as you'll see by clicking on the photo at left, the portrait of little Julian bears a striking resemblance to the ghost in Lisa's photograph.

Ghost in the Choir Loft

In 1982, photographer Chris Brackley took a photograph of the interior of London 's St. Botolph's Church but never expected what would appear on the film. High in the church's loft, seen in the upper right-hand corner of his photograph, is the transparent form of what looks like a woman. According to Brackley, to his knowledge, there were only three people in the church at the time the photo was taken, and none of them were in that loft.

Robert A Ferguson

This photo was taken on Nov. 16, 1968, when Robert A. Ferguson, author of " Psychic Telemetry: New Key to Health, Wealth, and Perfect Living ," was giving a speech at a Spiritualist convention in Los Angeles, California. Faintly appearing next to Ferguson is a figure that he later identified as his brother, Walter, who died in 1944 during World War II . At first glance, this might seem to be a double exposure or some kind of darkroom trickery, but this photo is a Polaroid (one of several taken of Ferguson at the time), making any kind of hoaxing quite unlikely.

Vacation Party Ghost

These two photos were taken in 1988 at the Hotel Vierjahreszeiten in Maurach, Austria . Several vacationers gathered for a farewell party at the hotel and decided to take a group photo. One of the party, Mr. Todd, set up his Canon film camera on a nearby table and pointed it at the group. The table is the white band at the bottom of the photos. He set the self-timer on the camera and hurried back to the table. The shutter clicked and the film wound forward, but the flash did not fire. So Todd set the camera for a second shot. This time the flash fired.

The film was later developed, and it wasn't until one of the party members was viewing the photos that it was noticed that the first (non-flash) photo showed a somewhat blurry extra head! No one recognized the ghostly woman, and they could not imagine how her image appeared in the picture. Besides being a bit out of focus, the woman's head is also too large compared to the other vacationers, unless she is sitting closer to the camera, which would put her in the middle of the table.

The photo was examined by the Royal Photographic Society, the photographic department of Leicester University, and the Society for Psychical Research, all of which ruled out a double exposure as the cause.

Godfather's Pizza Ghost

Several unnerving instances of ghost and poltergeist activity were reported by the management, staff, and customers of the Godfather's Pizza restaurant in Ogden, Utah in 1999-2000, prompting an investigation by Utah Paranormal Exploration and Research (UPER) . Phenomena included:

  • The sighting of several spirits, including those of a man, a woman, and two boys
  • A jukebox that played by itself, even when unplugged
  • A tile floor that inexplicably bulged up as high as ten inches then leveled itself; a later examination showed nothing out of the ordinary beneath the tile and the concrete was intact
  • As many as 40 fluorescent light tubes flew out of their boxes and smashed on the floor
  • Mysterious whistling was heard from the kitchen several times.

UPER's investigation found that the restaurant might have been built upon a very old pauper's field—a cemetery for the poor. It also resulted in this photo, taken by Merry Barrentine, UPER's general manager, in 2000. This misty apparition was actually seen with the naked eye for a few seconds as it materialized in the middle of the room.

Ghostly Grip

This interesting photo was taken sometime around the year 2000 in Manilla, Republic of the Philippines. According to The Ghost Research Society , two girlfriends were out for a walk one warm night. One of them entreated a passing stranger to photograph them using her cell phone's camera (hence the low-resolution picture). The result is shown here, with a transparent figure seeming to tug on the girl's arm with a firm if friendly grip.

Without further information on this photo, we have to admit that the ghost could have been added with image processing software. But if it's genuine and untouched, it certainly qualifies as one of the best ghost photos.

Haunted Bureau

This early 20th Century photo of a beautiful Queen Anne style bureau was taken at the request of a furniture dealer by Montague Cooper, a well-known and respected photographer of the day. Cooper was at a loss, however, to explain the transparent hand that appears to rest near the top of the bureau. Is it the ghost of a previous owner who was reluctant to let it go?

Cemetery Ghost Baby

A woman named Mrs. Andrews was visiting the grave of her daughter in a cemetery in Queensland, Australia in 1946 or 1947. Her daughter Joyce had died about a year earlier, in 1945, at the age of 17. Mrs. Andrews saw nothing unusual when she took this photo of Joyce's gravemarker.

When the film was developed, Mrs. Andrews was astonished to see the image of a small child sitting happily at her daughter's grave. The ghost child seem s to be aware of Mrs. Andrews since he or she is looking directly into the camera.

Is it possibly a double exposure? Mrs. Andrews said there were no such children nearby when she took the photograph and, moreover, did not recognize the child at all – it was no one she would have taken a picture of. She remarked that she did not believe it was the ghost of her daughter as a child.

Investigating this case, Australian paranormal researcher Tony Healy visited the cemetery in the late 1990s. Near Joyce's grave he found the graves of two infant girls.

Decebal Hotel Ghost

Authorities have warned people to stay away from the Decebal Hotel because construction was taking place on the 150-year-old building. What they didn't warn people about was the ghost. The spirit of a tall woman in a long white frock has long been reported at the spa. The hotel in Romania is rumored to hide ancient Roman treasure, and the ghost, it is said, appears to protect it from treasure hunters.

Only anecdotal evidence for this ghost existed until 2008 when 33-year-old Victoria Iovan snapped this photograph, which indeed seems to show the ghostly image of a tall figure in long white garb.

"I photographed my boyfriend in the hotel," said Iovan. "Back home I was shocked to see another woman's shadow in the picture. She looked like a priestess in long white clothes."

Coventry Spectre

On Jan. 22, 1985, the Coventry Freeman organization were having a dinner event at St. Mary's Guildhall in Coventry, U.K. Everyone in the group had her or his head bowed in prayer when this photo was taken, including a towering, mysterious figure standing top left. The strange cowled spectre appears to be wearing clothing much like a monk  frock from another time. Lord Mayor Walter Brandish, who was present at the dinner, said there was no one at the event who was dressed like that, and he could not explain the presence of the interloper in the photo.

St. Mary's Guildhall dates back to the 14th century and served as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Watcher

This photo was taken at Corroboree Rock at Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia in 1959. What does not seem to be a trick of light and shadow is a human form, semi-transparent, wearing what looks like a long white dress or gown. More curious, the figure seems to be holding something in the manner that a person holds a camera or binoculars.

One possibility is that this is a double exposure of a living person. In 1959, this image would have been captured on film.

If it is not a double exposure and this is a spirit captured on film, then a number of questions arise: What is the entity looking and why? Do they have cameras and binoculars in the afterlife? Or is this an instance of a time slip in which the camera has recorded a scene from a different time?

It has even been speculated that this figure might actually be a time traveler or interdimensional being , who has been photographed in the act of watching us!

The Phantom Pilot

Mrs. Sayer and some friends were visiting the Fleet Air Arm Station at Yeovilton, Somerset, England in 1987 when this photo was taken. They thought it would be cute to take a picture of her sitting in the seat of a retired helicopter. No one, Mrs. Sayer insists, was sitting next to her in the pilot's seat... although a figure in a white shirt can clearly be seen sitting there. She told an investigator with the Society for Psychical Research that she remembered feeling rather cold sitting in that seat, even though it was a hot day. Other pictures taken at the same time did not come out.

Worth noting is that the helicopter was used in the Falklands War, but there is no information as to whether or not a pilot died in that aircraft.

This amazing photo was taken by photographer and graphic designer Neil Sandbach in 2008. Neil was photographing some scenic shots at a farm Hertfordshire, England, as part of a project for wedding stationery; the couple planned to have their wedding ceremony held there.

Later, Neil was astonished when he examined the digital photo on his computer. There, as if peeking around a corner at him, is a ghostly, white, almost glowing figure of what looks like a child. Neil says he is quite sure there was no one there at the time.

There is further corroboration that this is a true ghost photo. Neil had shown the couple the anomalous photo, and before the wedding they asked the staff at the farm if they had ever had any spooky experiences there. They did not mention Neil's photo. Indeed, they admitted that the figure of a young boy, dressed in white night clothes, had been seen on several occasions around the barn.

Apparently, this is the ghost that Neil photographed.

The Pink Lady of Greencastle picture

These photos were taken by Guy Winters when he and friend were investigating the O'Hare mansion in Greencastle, Indiana. They were told about the old abandoned house by another friend who said he and his girlfriend were scared away from it by some ghostly entity. So with the permission of the owner, Guy and Terry went to explore the property. Armed with video and film cameras, the team spent a couple of days, in both daylight and at night, looking for evidence of possible haunting activity.

The above photos are the remarkable result of a picture Guy took of one of the upstairs windows. The image of a vaporous pink ghostly woman is rather clear. Guy did not see the figure at the time he snapped the photo but saw it only after the film was developed. An analysis of the film determined that the image is present on the film's negative. The bottom right photo is a digital enhancement, which reveals a skull-like appearance for the ghost's face.

Several other anomalies and paranormal activity were experienced thereby Winter's team.

White Lady of Worstead Church

In 1975, Diane and Peter Berthelot along with their 12-year-old son visited the Worstead Church in north Norfolk, U.K. Peter took a photo of his wife sitting and praying on one of the church benches, and when they reviewed the developed photos some months later, a friend of Mrs. Berthelot asked, "Who's that sitting behind you, Di?"

The figure in the photo Mrs. Berthelot appears to be wearing light-colored, old-fashioned clothes and a bonnet.

The Berthelots returned to Worstead Church the next summer with the photo and showed it to Reverend Pettit, the church vicar. He explained to Diane the legend of the White Lady , of whom she had never heard. It is said that the ghost is a healer who appears when someone near is in need of healing. When she visited the church at the time of the photo, Diane was in ill health and was taking antibiotics.

Reports of the ghost date back well over 100 years. According to one story, on Christmas Eve of 1830, a man boasted a challenge to the White Lady. He said he would climb to the top of the church's belfry and kiss her if she would appear. So up he went. When he failed to reappear after a time, however, friends went to search for him. They found him in the belfry, cowering in a corner, terrified. "I've seen her," he told them, "I've seen her...." And then he died.

For a time, Mrs. Berthelot said she felt a calming tingling sensation whenever she looked at the photo, but that feeling has since subsided. Today, the church has been remodeled into a pub.

Electric Chair Ghost

Engineer Fred Leuchter was hired by the state of Tennessee to evaluate, modify and update its electric chair, which is used for executions. The heavy oak chair was made from the wood that was once a part of the state's old gallows.

Leuchter offered his services to modify the old equipment to make the chair both more effective and more humane. The state of Tennessee sent the chair to Leuchter's home, where he intended to work on it in his basement workshop. He took several photos of the chair before he started work to document his progress. This is one of the photos.

When the photo was developed, Leuchter noticed several anomalies. Apart from the orb-like shapes, a few ghostly images can be seen.

The orbs can most likely be attributed to the overhead light source reflecting on the camera lens. And the "face" on the back of the chair (enlarged on the top of the photo above) could just be interesting pareidolia.

A little harder to explain, perhaps, is the ghostly hand image at the end of the right-hand armrest of the chair (enlarged on the bottom of the photo above). This, too, could be pareidolia, but its resemblance to a limp hand exactly in the place where an executed man's hand would be is striking.

Could it be the ghost of an executed man?

Leuchter points out that the chair and its occupants were subjected to strong electromagnetic forces. Could they have imprinted it with these haunting images?

Sefton Church Ghost

Sefton Church is an ancient structure (started in the 12th century and finished in the early 16th century) in Merseyside, England, just north of Liverpool. This particular photograph was taken inside the church in September 1999.

According to Brad Steiger's " Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places ," where this photo was found, there was only one other photographer in the church beside the person who took this picture. Neither of them recalled seeing the ghost or any flesh-and-blood person standing there who could account for this image. Because the figure is all in black, it has been theorized that the apparition could be that of a church minister.

Reader Mark Tomlinson reports that a pub next door to the church, called the Punch Bowl, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a man in blue nautical garb, which has been reported there for many years.

  • Photos That AREN'T Paranormal
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Secrets of Ghost Photography in the 19th Century

Sofia Rodriguez Cuevas 11 April 2021 min Read

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William H. Mumler, Mary Todd Lincoln with the “ghost” of her husband, 1869, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN, USA. Wikipedia.


Harry Clarke, Its Figures Passed By Me from Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, George G. Harrap and Co., London, 1919. Public Domain Review. Detail.

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Secrets of ghost photography: William H. Mumler, Mary Todd Lincoln with the "ghost" of her husband, 1869

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Sofia Rodriguez Cuevas

(Santiago de Chile, Chile, 1998) Professional photographer, specialized in analogical processes, and student of Restoration and Conservation of art at the UPV, Valencia. Multidisciplinary artist; poet, illustrator and photographer.

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Ghost Photography 101

Smile, and Say "Cheese"!

Without a doubt, the most frequent question I'm asked is, "How can I photograph ghosts?", naturally followed by questions about camera type, best time of day, use of flash or external light source and questions concerning the ultraviolet and infrared spectra. As there is so much more to this than one might think, please allow me to take the easier (and lazy!) route and attack them from the 'ghosts really do exist' angle and assumption. Let's tackle them in no particular order...

What's the Best Type of Camera to Photograph Ghosts?

The best camera is always the one you have with you! While theories abound as to what ghosts are and the best methods to capture their image, the truth is that it's a complete mystery.

Digital Cameras

Almost everyone has gone digital, and for very good reason: no film or processing costs, ease of sharing/emailing, instant gratification as results can be seen immediately, hundreds or thousands of shots can be taken and stored on one small memory card, and ease of editing on any computer (or even in the camera itself). All are, without a doubt, a huge advantage in convenience over analog (film) photography, but the last is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to your quest for proof of the paranormal. Sure, you'll be able to proudly send your shots with ease to all the paranormal websites, but the fact is that digital data is easily manipulated. Whether it's that elusive ghost in your town's oldest cemetery, the UFO that's buzzing over your neighbor's house, or the lake monster that you're convinced has taken up residence in your city's municipal reservoir (and doing its business in your drinking water...eeeeew!) your photographic 'proof' will forever be suspect if captured digitally. While a single photograph, regardless of medium, will never and should never be accepted as definitive proof of the paranormal, your digital shot will always send skeptics, debunkers and naysayers in to a fit of denial. Why? Because they'll ask one question consisting of three simple words: "Where's the negative?"

"Film? They Still Make That Stuff?"

Yes, film is still being manufactured, albeit more of a niche professional product than a mainstream consumer item. And, guess what? With all types of negative (a.k.a. "print") film you'll get one thing that your digital camera and printer will never spit out or cough up: a film negative! Positive (a.k.a. "slide") film will produce a film slide, which is just as good as a negative, only it's a 'positive' rendition of the scene as opposed to a negative. Ughhh...is your head spinning yet? Well, to make it easy, just remember that any type of film that requires processing will produce either a negative or a positive color slide, just like what Grandpa used to send out and pick up at the drug store or camera shop back in the day. Why does an image caught on film make for a more convincing pro-paranormal argument? Because the physical film negative or slide is much more difficult to manipulate and alter, and can easily be detected by independent experts and the film's manufacturer. Of course, all bets are off if the actual scene itself was fabricated; film would probably have no advantages over digital capture in such a scenario. The same would also be true if the film negative or slide was digitally scanned, then altered in Photoshop or another program. However, when push comes to shove and the name calling and accusations start to fly, the film photographer will always have the advantage in that he/she will have the original negative or slide to fall back on. The digital photographer? Well, good luck with that.

There are a few very good film emulsions still in production for paranormal use. No, that's not their intended and stated purpose according to their manufacturers, but "good" in the sense that they tend to record a wider light spectrum than can be seen by the human eye. As we don't know at what wavelength of light ghosts reside, it's always a good idea to cast as wide a net as possible. Rollei Aviphot (Superpan) 200 and 400 Infrared black and white negative films, made by Agfa in Germany, reach up to 820nm in the near-infrared range and dip into the ultraviolet to about 380nm. Ilford SFX200, also a black and white negative film, has "extended red" sensitivity, and goes just beyond normal human vision to 740nm. All of these films also record the visible spectrum, which is approximately 400-700nm for most humans, and can be used with various filters to selectively block or allow individual spectra. And while we're on the subject of film, don't think your garden variety drug store film can't be used. Those, of course, record visible light, which may be all that's necessary to snap that once-in-a-lifetime (yours, not hers) shot of Aunt Wanda sitting in her favorite recliner with a scotch and soda in one hand and a filterless Camel dangling from the other...charming, and just how you always remembered her. Remember to use a relatively 'fast' film; ISO 400 or 800 is what I recommend, unless you can use a support such as a tripod. Avoid using the camera's flash (I'll talk more about that in a minute). One thing to keep in mind: long before everyone on the Internet (including yours truly) was talking about fancy schmancy, expensive "ghost" cameras capable of amazing feats, photographers were recording supposedly paranormal images with their Kodak Brownie box cameras and $20.00 Kodak Instamatics. Yep, the best camera really is the one you happen to have with you!

Does the Brand of Digital Camera Make a Difference?

All digital camera manufacturers try, as closely as possible, to have their products track the spectral sensitivity of the human visual system, and all do an admirable job. If that were not the case, your photos would have weird coloration and would not look like the scene as you, with your human eyes and brain, remember it. The problem is that most digital sensors can 'see' a much wider spectra than humans, digging deep in to infrared (IR) and somewhat piercing ultraviolet (UV). The camera manufacturers solution? Filtration, and lots of it. The trick to avoiding photos with red, pink and blue hues is to filter out most IR and UV before the light rays hit the sensor. While most manufacturers now have it mastered, some of their older models did a good, but not great, job of it. For example, some models that used a previous generation Sony sensor particularly adept at recording IR information and using less-aggressive filtration could be used for infrared photography, even without modification. The Pentax K100D Super is such a camera. Others, such as the Fujifilm FinePix E550, using the offbeat (but excellent) proprietary sensors and filtration that Fuji is known for, did only a fair job of filtering UV and IR.

Why does this matter? Because if you're in the market for a new digital camera to use exclusively for ghost hunting, you may be better off with a used, older model. If you're in the 'ghosts are visible within the normal range of human vision' camp, any camera, new or used, should serve you well. On the other hand, if you believe that ghosts have only been photographed because of some of the quirks and filter/sensor combinations that allow the UV/IR spectra to shine on through, do an Internet search and find some older models that others have had success with. Some sites devoted to UV and IR photography have excellent, albeit dated, recommendations.

Just a (sort of) quick note concerning Canon DSLR cameras, both new and older models, and why they may not be the best choice to catch a shot of Honest Abe if, by chance, Barack and Michelle invite you to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom:

Decades before electronics companies such as Sony and Panasonic jumped in to the digital camera arena, Canon was a traditional camera and lens manufacturer. Canon, along with Nikon, have long produced the lion's share of gear professional photographers rely on. However, unlike Nikon, Canon saw the future of photography and, in the 1960s, began to develop in-house electronics capability and expertise that helped it immensely in subsequent decades; first with electronically controlled film cameras and all the way to the digital marvels we have today. With its professional backbone and capabilities, almost every part on a Canon camera, from proprietary digital sensors and filtration to the buttons that control the beasts, are made by Canon. In contrast, the sensors used by Nikon in their cameras are made by Sony. Yes, some other manufacturers do have that in-house capability, such as Sony and Panasonic, but not the commitment to the professional market or traditional background. For those reasons, Canon products are consistently among the best in image quality, with their proprietary components delivering the exacting results professional photographers expect. And that, my friends, is where the problem may lie in their paranormal use.

"Exacting results" and images as true as possible with digital sensors requires aggressive filtration, and Canon has it down to a science. It's the reason images from their unmodified DSLRs have very little IR or UV contamination and, therefore, the reason you may not notice Abe stopping by to say "Hi" if you're sleeping in his bed. To be sure, the lines between camera manufacturers are blurring in this regard, and are not nearly as prominent as they were only a few years ago. All are quickly approaching a level playing field, but it still may be a factor you want to consider. As with any major purchase, do your research.

"Full Spectrum" Cameras

There are brand differences, and I can only recommend those made or modified by Moditronic and Spectercam. Unfortunately, both have recently stopped production of paranormal equipment. Suffice it to say, full spectrum cameras are the 'must have' item in the paranormal field at the moment, and I've caught some very cool images with them. Full spectrum cameras capture near ultraviolet (UV-A, 400-315 nm), visible light (''White" light, approximately 400-700 nm), and near infrared (NIR/IR-A, 700-1400 nm). Of these, the UV-A portion of a full spectrum camera's range is the most difficult to capture, and is easily blocked by lens coatings, multiple lens elements, and even air itself. The visible light and infrared spectra can completely overpower the ultraviolet so, for all these reasons, special care, balance and expertise are required in creating a competent and capable full spectrum camera. However, there's still no scientific proof of their superiority in capturing the paranormal. My thoughts? If you've got 'em, use 'em. Planning on purchasing one? Go with one of the two brands I've mentioned if you can still find one online. Can't afford one? Don't let that stop you from searching for spooks! Use whatever you have; you may be very surprised at what you're able to capture. When it comes to equipment to photograph ghosts, often the old adage "less is more" rings very true. Why? Read on...

Ghosts on the Cheap!

The visible and near infrared spectra are easily captured by full spectrum cameras. However, as stated above, near ultraviolet is much more difficult. In short, the more you put between the UV-A wavelength and the object attempting to record it, the less UV-A gets through. It is important to keep in mind that what is transparent in visible light and to human vision, such as clear glass, is much less so in the ultraviolet wavelengths. The more glass in the form of camera lens elements you pile on between the UV-A light waves and the camera's digital sensor or film plane, the more those waves are blocked. Add to that the anti-reflective multi-coatings used on virtually all modern camera lenses, and that advertised zoom lens "full spectrum" ghost hunting camera you bought on Ebay is simply a "visible light/near infrared" camera. Yes, the camera's digital sensor may be capable of recording the UV-A spectrum, but the multi-element, multi-coated lens attached to the camera is completely blocking it from reaching that sensor. Those modifying and selling these cameras don't tell the buyer that very important fact or, worse, don't even know it.

And, yes, that's why less really is more when trying to catch a glimpse of a ghost on digital or film. A cheap, simple camera with an uncoated lens with the fewest elements is the way to go. If you want to buy a fixed lens (a lens that cannot be removed) full spectrum digital camera, look for one that has the most basic lens available. When buying an SLR film camera, digital SLR or digital mirrorless camera with removable lenses, always use an uncoated, basic lens for ghost photography, and that's when Ebay does come in handy! Starting in the mid-1940s, most lens manufacturers started to use a single-coating on their lenses to reduce glare and reflection, resulting in increased contrast and image quality. Later, in the 1950s and 60s as their technology improved, they advanced to multi-coatings for an even more dramatic improvement. Unfortunately, by design, as lenses became more complicated and lens coatings more effective, less of the UV-A spectrum could penetrate. The result, if we are to believe that ghosts are visible in that spectrum, was less spectral photobombing. Skeptics and debunkers love to use the "If ghosts a real, why aren't we seeing more ghost photos if nearly everyone has a cellphone camera with them?" argument. Well, the reason above, and manufacturers purposely filtering out UV-A, could very possibly be the answer. Now, let's get back to that online auction...

You will find the largest selection of old, uncoated lenses and cameras with simple, uncoated lenses on Ebay. For lenses to use on your digital SLR, search for some 1930s and 40s models, even into the early 1950s. Read the seller's description of the item carefully. If you are still unsure, Google the name of the camera or lens and do some online research. The optics of an uncoated lens should be completely without a color tint, just clear glass. Although it may be difficult to tell in the seller's photos, in your hand, single-coated lenses will have a slight monochromatic tint, usually yellow or blue when held up to the light. Multi-coated optics will usually exhibit multiple colors when doing the same. You will not find an old lens with the same mount as your digital SLR, but conversion adapters for most mounts can also be found on the cheap on Ebay. Keep in mind that you will not have all the exposure modes your camera offers available when mounting an old lens with an adapter, and you will have to manually focus, but it is doable and the possible results certainly worth it. And that leads us to...

Ghosts on the Cheap, Part Two!

Here's an example of a film-based still ghost camera setup that will equal or better any modified digital "full spectrum" ghost camera you'll find on Ebay, and you can have it for under 20 bucks. Yup, that's right... $20.00 .

Start with a very basic 35mm, fixed-focus point-and-shoot camera that has an electronic flash, such as the Vivitar PS33 . Remember, as I mentioned above, the golden rule to capturing images in the UV-A spectrum is putting the least amount of uncoated glass between the ghost and the film , and the PS33 and several similar cameras meet that requirement. The PS33 has only two lens elements, and both are uncoated. That's about as simple as you are going to find with the exception of a pinhole camera (a camera which has no lens). However, pinhole cameras are impractical for ghost photography due to their fuzzy image quality and the long exposure times needed. I bought my Vivitar PS33 camera new on Ebay for the astronomical sum of $1.49. Now we add the magic...

Buy a roll or two of 36-exposure Rollei/Agfa Aviphot Infrared 400 or Kodak T-Max 400 film. These are black and white negative films with sensitivity in the UV-A, Visible (white light) and Near IR spectra. Their 400 ISO speed is also a perfect match for basic electronic flash cameras such as the Vivitar PS33. Neither film requires special handling. While it will equal the Near IR and visible light capability of most expensive modified digital "full spectrum" cameras, this inexpensive camera/film combination will literally blow them away in its ability to capture UV-A. While you may not get the instant gratification of immediately seeing the image on the LCD screen of your digital wonder, keep in mind that you will likely have a better chance of capturing a ghostly image with this cheap camera/film set-up than with your high-priced, dedicated digital ghost camera. You will become more judicious, learn to rely on your intuition and take images that count, not just shoot with the shotgun approach and hope for the best, as most ghost hunters do with digital. Remember, paranormal investigators back in the day were capturing ghostly images, and arguably higher-quality ghostly images , long before digital came along.

Ahhh...but what about developing the film? Isn't it expensive? It's difficult, right? No and no! You can easily process black and white negative film in your bathroom. In fact, you can even develop it in coffee and Vitamin C (how cool is that?!). Google the subject; there's a wealth of information online. Buy a super-cheap 35mm negative scanner (Ebay or Amazon) and download the images to your computer. If you still don't want to attempt processing the film yourself, you can send it to a lab, such as my friends at The Darkroom in San Clemente, California. They're fast, cheap, do awesome work, and will send you postage-paid envelopes to mail your film. And yes, you can request high-resolution scans of your film to CD instead of prints to satisfy your digital cravings. The best part? When the naysayers and debunkers who masquerade as healthy skeptics try to convince you that you didn't see what you know you saw do smugly ask, "Where's the negative?", you can confidently reply, "Here it is, Mr. Randi" (or Mr. Nickell, or Mr. Shermer...or any of the countless debunkers masquerading as healthy skeptics in the media). The even better than best part? You've done it all on the cheap!

Ghosts on the Cheap, Part Three!

If you still insist on the instant gratification rush of digital capture, it may cost you just a bit more than taking the film route, but not by much. Let's go back to Ebay...

If you're not particularly handy with a screwdriver, search "Full Spectrum Digital Cameras" on the site. You'll find a lot of offerings but, again, remember the golden rule about what you put between the capture device of the camera; in the case of digital, the imaging sensor instead of film as in the example above. The same rule applies regardless of if the camera is analog (film) or digital. You may be tempted to spring for the more expensive modified cameras with well-known names, such as Canon, Sony, etc., and these are fine cameras to capture the visible (white light) and Near IR spectra. However, because of their more complex lenses (because the lens has more elements) and multi-coating, you'll be missing out on most, if not all, of the UV-A spectrum. Again, technically the modification will allow the camera's digital sensor to record UV-A, but the lens and coatings in these more expensive and sophisticated models will block the UV-A information before it ever reaches that sensor. The solution? Our favorite word: CHEAP!

Look for low-end models such as DXG and others. Many paranormal groups sell the modified, full spectrum versions of these cameras on Ebay to raise money for their investigations. They have less-complex lenses (fewer lens elements), are usually uncoated, and therefore allow more of the UV-A spectrum to pass through to the camera's digital sensor. This really is an example of "less is more"; you'll have a device more capable of capturing the advertised "full spectrum", and it will be a win/win scenario...for you and your wallet. But wait, you say you want cheaper still ? Keep reading...

If you are handy with a screwdriver (and you'll probably need a set of 'jeweler' screwdrivers available at Home Depot, Lowe's, or any hardware store for about five bucks), you can modify a digital camera yourself. Go to a place like Wal-Mart or K-Mart and get one of those cheap digital still or video cameras, you know, the ones for sale on the rack in blister packs, usually for under $20,00. I strongly urge you not to attempt to modify an expensive camera that you may already own ; the cheap camera will better suit your purpose, will be more capable of full spectrum photography once modified (the lens again), and won't break the bank if you screw-up the modification. The Internet abounds with 'how to' instructions and, even if you can't find the exact model they are modifying online, remember that most of these cheap digital cameras are very much alike, many coming from the same factories, so you'll be okay. Save the bucks and good luck!

Flash and External Light Sources

There's no inherent problem in using the flash on your camera or an external light source on an investigation; the problem is with the thought process of many paranormal investigators and amateur ghost hunters in their use. They may be the most misused and overused tool in the paranormal equipment arsenal. Instead of thinking outside the box and attempting to come up with something truly unique and innovative, most equipment manufacturers continue to crank out 'me too' camera/video lights almost as frequently as they produce yet another model of 'me too' EMF meter. Everybody and their brother is offering some type of "full spectrum", ultraviolet or infrared lighting on eBay or for sale through their group's site for use with still or video cameras. That's all fine and dandy if you want to photograph a room in those spectra, and can be helpful if, for example, you want to keep a camera trained on a trigger object to see if it moves, without the glaring distraction of bright, visible lights. Unfortunately, that's not how most are used.

There are really only two ways that we're aware of how images appear on film or a digital sensor: via reflective light or via luminescence . Reflective light is how we are able to see most of our world; a light source that produces rays in our visible range (approx. 400-700nm) that reflect or 'bounce' off an object and are perceived and processed by our visual system. Film and digital sensors, while more crude in their sophistication, work in a fairly similar fashion to our visual system in that light from an object is reflected on to them to form an image, just as it is on the retina in the backs of our eyes. Luminescence is the emission of light from an object itself, a form of cold radiation, and does not involve or need a reflective light source. A good example would be a dayglo wall poster from 1960s, the type excited by black lights (Yeah, even with everything you were smoking back then, you remember those!). Cold luminescence is very different from thermal energy, which standard photographic films, digital sensors and even our visual system cannot see. Yes, all can see fire or the red glow of a hot burner element on a stove, but that's not thermal energy itself, it's the visual result of thermal energy. Thermal imaging cameras are sometimes used in paranormal investigation, but despite being touted and featured on some ghost hunting television programs, they're of dubious value. I have one, but after several months, realized the technology offers little with regard to paranormal investigation. It is among the many pieces of equipment that I've put 'out to pasture' and have retired from investigations.

While the debate rages as to what ghosts actually are, most agree they do not seem to consist of solid matter. A more likely and probable scenario is that we are dealing with something akin to a projected image or something with luminescent properties. They could be 'visible' in any or all spectra; ultraviolet, visible and/or infrared. Why, then, would we want to blast them with high-intensity light in those spectra in an attempt to capture their image on an analog or digital medium? Is the projected image on a screen in a movie theater easier to see with the lights on? No, of course not; image quality and contrast suffer greatly. Would you want to snap a photo of a candle flame bathed in the intense brightness of a searchlight? No, because the flame would be completely washed-out and invisible under such conditions. Should you blast a non-physical being with UV-A light in hopes of making it visible, in similar fashion to that '60s wall poster? No, because the key term here is "non-physical", which is very unlike that poster. If ghosts are visible in the ultraviolet spectrum, use of any light source would be counterproductive, as their image would be overpowered. Yet, many in the paranormal field still insist on 'lighting up', using every type of light source imaginable, and happily snapping away. That makes absolutely no sense unless we're dealing with solid, physical matter that can reflect light, and everything we do know through anecdotal reports and observation leads us to believe that's not the case. It really comes down to an issue of independent thought; thinking things through to their logical conclusion, applying as much scientific theory and probability as can be applied to paranormal investigation in context of the limited information we have on the subject and, most importantly, not becoming a flock of sheep and doing something just because everyone else is or because it's how the clowns on cable say it should be done.

So, what's the best lighting technique to photograph our spooky friends? Whether digital or film and regardless of conditions, use a tripod, avoid the use of flash, and never use an external light source (normal indoor room light is okay as long as it's not too bright) unless you are not attempting to photograph the actual spirit, but only the movement of a physical object, such as a trigger prop. For more information on ghost photography, see the Ghost Hunting Myths and Ghost Hunting Questions pages of my website.

Is There a Time of Day/Night That's Better for Capturing Ghostly Images?

No, but it's always best to be there at the time most ghostly activity is reported to occur. Obviously, daylight photography is easier to accomplish, has less variables and is less suspect in the eyes of skeptics, but follow the suggestions in the paragraph above for night or indoor activity. And no, it really isn't like TV would have you believe; ghosts seem to be just as active during the day.

Rain? Snow? Fog? Stay Home and Watch a Scary Movie Instead.

You know those spooky-but-ubiquitous nighttime cemetery orb photos that are posted on just about every paranormal website? How about those creepy-but-ubiquitous nighttime graveyard 'ectoplasmic mist' shots? They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", although that idiom no longer holds much truth in the age of digital manipulation and Photoshop. And it has never been true of outdoor shots featuring floating spheres and misty goo. Unless, of course, you're talking about the weather.

Most 'ectoplasm' and 'orbs' are nothing more than the intense light of the camera's flash reflecting off something very normal, not paranormal, in the atmosphere. The combination of rain or snow, darkness and flash photography is certain to conjure orbs every time. Cold temperatures, your breath and a camera's flash will conspire to summon ectoplasm, seemingly out of thin air. As for the latter, I'll give you a reason to quit that even the American Cancer Society fails to mention: cigarette smoke will do the same, regardless of outside temperature. What's that you say? You still refuse to quit? My only reply to that is, as a paranormal investigator, you should have a unique perspective on one absolute truth: it is much better to be above the ground than below it.

Location, Location, Location?

I've often wondered why ghosts would want to hang-out in a cemetery; wouldn't they rather visit a location connected with happier times in their lives? Chilling and spending time with living friends and family seems as though it would be much more appealing. Well, many are spectral couch potatoes and prefer home sweet home over grass and granite. Still, many interesting 'ghost in the cemetery' photos exist, even after discounting the ridiculous orb and mist shots offered as 'proof' on the sites of some New England paranormal investigators and weekend ghost hunting groups. How, then, are we to explain this ghost/cemetery connection?

If you've read the Ghosts and Hauntings page of my site, you already know that I believe ghosts have free will and, just like the living, can make their own choices. Time and distance are meaningless concepts 'over there', so they can be wherever, whenever. They also seem to be drawn and respond to the emotions and thoughts of those they were close to in this life. That seems to be the motivation behind the use of prayer in so many religions, as it is believed the prayers can be 'heard' by those who have passed. If that is the case, ghostly manifestations in cemeteries actually start to make sense. Where was the last large gathering of friends, relatives and loved ones all concentrating on the departed? Very likely, it would have been the funeral and subsequent burial in the cemetery. When someone is visiting a cemetery, where are their thoughts? Probably with the departed and, if someone does take the time to visit, they almost certainly had some type of emotional connection to that person. No, I don't believe ghosts are squatters and join some type of "Occupy the Cemetery" movement, but they can and do visit, and the catalyst is not the dead, but the living. Ghosts are sometimes photographed at family events such as parties, reunions and weddings, and the combined energy and thoughts of family members, just like in the cemetery, could very well be the reason. While I don't believe a ghost is around every corner, they can be anywhere, and location may not be as important as the person(s) at the location.

Dead Wedding Crashers

Ghost photography is, for the most part, of the candid variety.Think of yourself as a spectral Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous French master of candid street photography. He happily snapped away, catching fleeting glimpses of people going about their business, often without them being aware they were being photographed. Sure, he captured the living and you want to capture the dead, but let's not sweat the minor details...the idea and technique are the same. While many praise Cartier-Bresson for his sharp eye for composition, I tend to think the magic was in the numbers. I certainly do not doubt his skill, but the simple fact is that if you take enough shots of a subject, odds are a few will be 'keepers'. I often wonder about the shots that never made it to the pages of the countless books dedicated to his work; I'm sure they far outnumber the ones that did. However, opinions such as mine amount to heresy in the world of artsy-fartsy photography. But then, I also dislike French cinema and am annoyed by National Public Radio fundraising week, so I apparently lack the 'artsy-fartsy' gene...

What we can learn and adapt from Mr. Cartier-Bresson, however, is the value of the shotgun approach to candid photography and, specific to our purposes, candid ghost photography. In my experience, dead people are camera shy and truly hate to strike a pose. The exception to that pearl of wisdom is during group photos, such as weddings, family reunions and the like, where they will sometimes photobomb the shot to be part of the group. That leaves us no choice but to try to photograph them unaware and caught in the act, taking lots of shots in succession and hoping for that keeper.

The goal of ghost photography is to document, not to take pretty pictures. You may have to retrain your eyes and mind to be less conscious of composition and more aware of what is going on around you. Get a weird vibe from a room? Start hitting the shutter release button. A particular area of a location giving you the heebie-jeebies? Start snapping in that direction. Metaphorically, put away the rifle and use the shotgun.

WWKD?: What Would Kanye Do?

So you've taken some pictures, now what? Get ready to play haunted hide and seek. Spend some time, somewhere without distraction, and closely examine your shots. Even if using film, it is a good idea to get high-resolution digital scans of your negatives at the time of processing to view them on your computer monitor. That way, if you do think you see something unusual, you can zoom in on it to get a closer look, and a high-res scan will make that possible to do with reasonable clarity.

Unless obnoxiously egotistical in life, a ghost will usually not appear front and center in a frame. Of course, the ghosts of Donald Trump and Kanye West would but, yes , they're still with us. However, as mentioned above, the vast majority of ghosts seem to want to avoid the limelight. Whether that is an unwritten code of conduct rule in the spirit world, I haven't a clue, but it is what it is. Make sure that you examine all areas of the frame. For example, if you have shots in a cemetery surrounded by woods, check not only the main part of the shot, but the margins of the tree line.Taking outdoor shots of a purported haunted house or other structure? Check even the smallest details in the windows. And don't be surprised if you see that someone, or something , was watching you. Boo!

Final Thoughts

While I've concentrated on still photography on this page, most of the information applies equally to video. I hope that you've found this information helpful, and please feel free to shoot me an email with anything you've captured. Now...grab your camera and get to work!

What Is Ghost Photography | Creating Ghost Photos

What Is Ghost Photography

Posted By: technowifi

What is Ghost Photography?

Ghost photography, or spirit photography, entails catching ghosts on film. The art of ghost photography has a long and illustrious background, and it continues to be widely practiced today despite its relative obscurity.

When it came to belief in spirit photography, there was a wide range of opinions concerning ghosts caught on camera.

Some believed that ghosts do exist and that the photos showing their existence were real, while skeptics thought it was all camera tricks and that anyone believing in ghosts appearing in photos was either gullible or into spiritualism.

Today, most photographs of ghostly apparitions that you see, are not results of doctoring, or post-photography processing.

Modern cameras have advanced features with the incredible ability to capture special effects, including those misconstrued as ghosts.

How to Create Ghost Photographs

It is beneficial to be well prepared to photograph ghosts effectively. For effective ghost photography, you will need the following items.

  • Your camera
  • A strong tripod for scene stabilization,
  • A remote shutter release to prevent you from physically handling the camera during the shoot

The presence of a ghost in a haunted location is a bonus, but if you do not have one, you can be as imaginative as you want with the location of your ghost.

Long or slow shutter speeds are essential for achieving a ghostly effect in photography. It should only take a few to several seconds to complete the task. Lighting at night or in the early evening is ideal, but dim interior lighting can also be effective. It is even more crucial if you have a camera that you can control the shutter speed.

If you are filming during the day, you will need ND filters. An ND filter helps to minimize the amount of light hitting your camera sensor during the daytime. You can either use threaded or slot-in filters.

You must choose a suitable background so that it does not draw attention away from your subject’s appearance.

For you to achieve a good distinction between your subject and the background, you must first eliminate any ghosting effects.

A vibrant and basic wall will suffice. If you want to enjoy the benefits of your surroundings, the ground, or the sky are good places, to begin with as backgrounds.

Please keep in mind that using a confusing background can be difficult unless you are going for a specific effect.

There are two distinguishable types of ghostly images captured in different ways: the transparent figure and the flowing figure.

The Transparent Figure

You may have come across a mysterious-looking photo that features a transparent subject. The picture might look disturbing, especially for anyone with no knowledge about ghost photography.

Transparent figure photography is one of the simplest ghost photography techniques. It requires multiple exposure techniques and is highly dependent on the environment.

For a sufficient amount of exposure time, you will typically need a shutter speed of a few seconds or longer.

Ideally, your model should remain perfectly still for only a fraction of the time that they are exposed to the camera. Doing this allows your camera to capture an identifiable figure in sharp detail while remaining transparent because the model was not in the frame at the time.

Avoid any blurring of the image by moving out of the frame as quickly as possible. The viewer will notice any gradual movement between the two photographs since they are effectively two photos in one: one with you in it and one without.

The Flowing Figure

The flowing figure, on the other hand, is dependent on rapid movement for correct execution.

There is little need for drastic specifics because you are attempting to create a transparent blur, but just like the transparent figure, you will need to do some experimenting first.

Your shutter speed while photographing the flowing figure will vary depending on the amount of light available, which is why you need to experiment first.

For the human form to be both visible and substantially blurred, it is necessary to move quickly during the coverage.

Dress in loose-fitting clothes or even wrap a white sheet over your shoulders to create a completely ghostly effect. Using this technique in conjunction with moving quickly all through your frame will make your image seem more surreal.

Also, make certain to create the appropriate environment. Because you are aiming for a haunting image, the surroundings will play a role in enhancing your final photograph.

Choose a location that complements the mood you want to convey in your photograph.

Final Thoughts

Ghost shots are intriguing and they leave so many questions, especially to those with no knowledge about ghost photography.

While they are intriguing to others, creating ghost photos is fun for the photographer as it brings out the best of their creativity.

All you need is the right camera with a tripod for support and a shutter speed that you can control to make the most amazing ghost photos.

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Ghost Photography


by Blake Smith

Filed under Paranormal

Skeptoid Podcast #455 February 24, 2015 Podcast transcript | Subscribe

Listen on Apple Podcasts

In books promising you a glimpse of the beyond you find page after page of chilling photographic evidence that spirits of the dead walk the earth! A ghostly baby sits on a grave. A translucent figure descends a staircase. A childs face emerges from the flames of a devastating fire. Do these photographs offer real glimpses of ghosts? Or is there a more rational explanation for ghost photography? Let's expose these mysterious images to the light of science and see what develops.

The history of ghost photography is closely tied to the history of photography itself. Early photography was much like all new technology in that enthusiasts had to become skilled with the various equipment and chemicals required for producing images. Before the invention of photographic film the photographers worked with chemically treated glass plates which could be cleaned and re-used to make new images. Early photographers were often running small businesses, using their photography to make portraits for 19th century families. Because of the bulk of their equipment, most worked in small studios rather than moving their equipment about. Sittings were arranged and paid for. The expensive glass plates were often cleaned and re-used, but if not cleaned properly the remnants of the old image could be seen in subsequent photos. This method of producing multiple exposures was certainly widely known within the field by the photographers, but was not well understood by the general public.

Before we dive into the story of the early spirit photographers, it is important to talk about the cultural stage upon which they performed. The spread of photography was happening simultaneous to the rise of a new religion or belief system called "Spiritualism." The main ideas of spiritualism centered around the belief that the dead continue to exist as spirits and maintain their consciousness here on earth after they've died. Interaction with these spirits was said to be possible through the use of psychics or mediums . Spiritualism began in the 1840s and grew through the early 20th century, attracting millions of followers and adherents. In the wake of this growing movement, ideas such as parlor seances grew very popular and it was quite easy to find people who openly believed in spirits as a scientific reality.

A large population of people seeking proof of life after death made it possible for a robust network of mediums to set up shop in the north east of the United States. It was in this environment that Boston photographer William Mumler introduced spirit photography to a community eager for more proof of life after death.

Mumler had been a jewelry engraver before he began his new career as a spirit photographer with a single photo which he alleged showed the image of one of his deceased relatives who had died several years before his self portrait was taken. In a time when photography was already an expensive proposition for a family looking for a portrait, Mumler was able to fetch several times the normal cost of a traditional photograph for one of his special portraits which would show a ghostly image of some alleged dead loved one along with the mundane image of the living subject.

How would he accomplish this? How did he fool people with his blurry but easy to reproduce multiple exposure photographs? It was a success for him because he worked with a network of mediums who would gather details about the dead subject from the grieving loved ones, then in exchange for half the profits the mediums would send these details to Mumler. The mediums told their customers to arrive at Mumler's studio at a particular time. Mumler would have never met them and never been personally told details by the victims - yet he already had everything he needed to find a similar subject from his library of traditional portrait negatives to find a person who somewhat matched the image of the deceased. His portraits were indistinct enough and the customers desperate enough in their wish for a signal from beyond that most accepted the photographs as genuine psychical phenomena. Mumler's wife assisted with the business and they added all sorts of theatrical contrivances to enhance the magical nature of the spirit photography session. In 1868 Mumler and his wife moved to New York - the state that was the birthplace of Spiritualism - to set up shop.

Business boomed and in just a few months Mumler was able to purchase his studio instead of renting it. But then a skeptical news reporter investigated and convinced the Mayor of New York to pursue fraud charges. A sting operation took place and Mumler was arrested and put on trial.

The trial of William Mumler was a spectacle that included testimony from P. T. Barnum, whose cynical and amusing testimony against Mumler often brought the proceedings to a halt as the courtroom erupted in laughter. Barnum had written about the deceptive methods of spirit photography in a book titled The Humbugs of the World . explaining that photographs of famous statesmen had been made by the photographer inserting indistinct reproductions from famous paintings through multiple exposure techniques. In the trial Mumler was criticized and mocked, but the prosecutors failed to demonstrate his fraud and he was not found guilty - though he was financially destroyed.

Mumler moved back to Boston where he made the most famous spirit photograph of his career. In 1872 a woman traveling incognito came to Mumler's studio to sit for a spirit photography portrait. When she returned for her photograph it was everything she'd hoped for - the picture showed her own image being spiritually embraced by the ghostly image of her late husband, Abraham Lincoln.

Mumler's success led to many other early photographers duplicating his methods. It may seem amazing, but even when fraud was demonstrated or when the phony photographers themselves confessed to fraud, desperate clients still believed that the photographs they'd bought were real proof of continued consciousness after death. Were all of these photographs fake? There is ample evidence to suggest they were, but these multiple-exposure tricks were just the first kind of spirit photography.

As Spiritualism grew, mediums began to produce an astonishing array of physical manifestations in their seances. Witnesses saw glowing figures, floating trumpets, and (as famously demonstrated by the ghost called "slimer" in the film Ghost Busters) a mysterious spirit substance known as ectoplasm.

It was not a simple case of Spiritualists versus skeptical scientists when investigations occurred. There were many scientists who were open to the idea that such phenomena was real, and there is a robust body of historical investigations from this time period. Entertainers, scientists, intellectuals and people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds looked into the question. Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Hereward Carrington, Camille Flammarion, Alfred Russell Wallace, Pierre and Marie Curie, Scientific American and the Society for Psychical Research - all conducted investigations. Some found fraud, others found self delusion, but ultimately none found reproducible scientific evidence for the paranormal that could survive scientific scrutiny.

From this era come a variety of strange photographs that are alleged to show ectoplasm emerging from the nostrils and mouths of mediums. Shoddily constructed puppets hang from wires or emerge from closets. To the modern viewer there is little mystery about these photos - they show obvious fraud. But at the time they were taken, many saw them as real proof of the paranormal as scientific reality.

But these early cases represent just one kind of ghost photo: deliberate fraud for profit. There are other kinds of ghost photographs and many of them still make the front page of tabloid newspapers and silly segments of 24-hour cable news networks. Let's take a look at the most common examples.

Glowing dots float in the images but when the photo was taken there was nothing there. Some of these glowing shapes even seem to have faces in them. They call them orbs. Once the darling of the paranormal world, more and more researchers have begun to recognize these for what they really are - dust particles illuminated by the flash of the camera. What about the alleged faces in the orbs? We'll get to that next.

Perhaps the most common cause of alleged ghost photos, a photograph is taken and in the shadows, in a window pane, in a darkened doorway faces appear, or mysterious humanlike forms. What are they? Why didn't the photographer notice them when they took the photo? Science has a term for this - and so do amateur ghost hunters. In scientific terms this is called pareidolia, which describes the human tendency to see faces where there are none. Such faces are called simulacra. It is a type of apophenia - which is the human tendency to find patterns and meaning in chaos. Pareidolia is discussed in more detail in the Face on Mars episode of Skeptoid, but it accounts for a very large percentage of ghost photos. It has also been the source of cryptozoology, fairy, angel and saint photos. Occasionally "orb" photos show tiny smiley faces, made from random pixels. For reasons unclear to me, paranormal enthusiasts have started using the term "matrixing" to describe the same phenomena. It is almost like they are being deliberately unscientific by eschewing the proper terminology and making up their own.

In November 2007 a security video at an Ohio gas station went viral after being picked up by multiple news organizations. A blurry, semi-translucent image moved around on the video and seemed to fly and move through objects around the pumps - but did not seem to be seen by the patrons. The media coverage was mostly uncritical and just seemed to ask, "was this a ghost?" Skeptical researchers were able to identify the culprit as an insect walking on the lens of the camera. This kind of easily explained video phenomena comes up again and again from fixed location security cams. The effect is caused when insects walk on the lens and produce blurred images. Spiders, moths and ladybugs have all been misdiagnosed as spirits in these kinds of videos.

Accidental Multiple Exposure

With the popularity of digital photography this kind of error is becoming rarer and rarer. In film-based cameras, it was sometimes possible to accidentally shoot the same piece of film twice without advancing to the next fame. In most cases, the result would be easily recognized as garbage when the two merged images were developed. Occasionally a merged image would result in a ghostly figure or the face of the recently deceased (who had been photographed while alive) who then showed up in a later photograph as a multiple exposure artifact.

Long Exposures and Moving Figures

Many alleged ghost photos from the early 20th century resulted when photographers took photos with long exposure settings and someone moved through the scene. This type of photo can show a faded figure, similar to those seen in multiple exposures, but the tell-tale sign of this kind of photo is when a portion of the ghostly figure is repeated or motion blurred as they pass through the frame of the shot.

Camera Straps

A mysterious glowing blob appears in the photo - yet no one saw anything unusual when the photo was taken. What could it be? Was it an angel? A ghost? Chances are it was your camera strap, partially obscuring the lens and out of focus from the rest of the photo. These weird looking shapes convince many people they've captured a ghost.

A Cold Breath

Ghost hunting on a cold winter night can often produce a creepy looking fog that nobody noticed when the shot was taken. But if the photographer was alive and the air was cold, there is a good chance that as the photo was taken it captured the foggy breath that accompanies such shooting conditions. These foggy patches sometimes even catch the camera flash and create weird shapes and figures - but they're not ghosts.

An Unnoticed Person or Feature

Many alleged ghost photos are shared and published because the photographer says there was nobody in the frame when they shot the photo. This is quite common on photos where the photographer was shooting a beautiful building or a lovely landscape. The photo turns out but shows some unexpected person in the shot who is unremembered. Skeptoid has talked about the fallibility of memory before, but it is worth repeating that human memory is very poor indeed and when we are focused on a particular activity we are not good at noticing background details. Strangers in the background of photographs shot at tourist sites are much more likely to be unnoticed visitors than visitors from beyond the grave.

Deliberate Hoaxes

Sadly, this is a very common source for many famous ghost photos. The urge to hoax ghost photos can be done for fame, for profit or for many other motivations. Some people see ghost photos as a way to help bolster the belief in ghosts and in this sense, like people who fake miracles, a ghost photo may be a type of pious fraud. But there are tabloid papers who will pay very good money for a new ghost photo, and that temptation is enough to drive them to create hoaxes. People will also hoax because it entertains them to fool people. To paraphrase author & artist Daniel Loxton, a hoaxer doesn't need to make a lot of money to self-justify the fraud, they merely need to make enough money to justify the fraud. For some that is a very low bar indeed.

Whatever the source of the ghost photo, whether it is fraud or one of the aforementioned types of errors, the big problem with these kind of pictures is that they are useless as evidence for the paranormal. What they are much more effective at is showing the apparently limitless ability of the human mind to find special meaning in images. To date, no ghost photograph has come close to providing convincing proof of life after death. Even more annoying is the fact that photographs which have been demonstrated to be frauds or accidents are still shared on countless websites and in books as real paranormal phenomena. Yet for grieving loved-ones, even the most tenuous hint that their dear departed connections are still out there somewhere waiting for them is enough to dismiss all evidence to the contrary.

The next time you go looking for ghost photos on the Intenet, please do me a favor: add the word skeptic or explained to your search. Chances are that researchers may have already figured out what is really going on. But even if they haven't, an unexplained photographic anomaly isn't proof of anything except that something hasn't been explained.

By Blake Smith

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.

Cite this article: Smith, B. "Ghost Photography." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 24 Feb 2015. Web. 22 Oct 2023. <https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4455>

References & Further Reading Brugioni, Dino. Photo Fakery: The History and Techniques of Photographic Deception and Manipulation. Dulles, VA: Brassey's, 1999. Loxton, Daniel. "Photographing Phantoms - Part Two." Skeptic. 1 Sep. 2014, Volume 19, Number 3: 67 - 77. Loxton, Daniel. "Photographing Phantoms - Part One." Skeptic. 1 Jun. 2014, Volume 19, Number 2: 67 - 77. Nickel, Joe. Camera Clues. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1994. Willin, Melvyn. Ghost Photos: The Paranormal Caught on Film. New York, NY: Metro, 2009. Wiseman, Richard. "Hauntings: The Science of Ghosts." Science of Ghosts. Wiseman, 10 Apr. 2009. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <https://scienceofghosts.wordpress.com/>

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The Creepiest Real Ghost Photos Ever Taken

The Creepiest Real Ghost Photos Ever Taken

Throughout the history of photography, there have been taken thousands of real ghost photos that support the theory of the existence of the other world. Photographers got interested in capturing ghosts in the middle of the 19th century, and nowadays they continue following this tradition.

22 Real Ghost Photos You Should Definitely See

I think I won’t surprise you by saying that most “real ghost photos” are fakes. But at a certain period of history, such pictures made their creators famous and confirmed people's faith in the afterlife.

1. Spirit Photos by William Mumler (1862-1875)

william mumler real ghost photos

William Mumler can be called a pioneer in this photography genre. In the 1860s, he helped hundreds of people by creating “real” images of his clients standing next to their dead relatives.

real ghost photo by william mumler

Even now, you can find hundreds of pictures of ghosts created by this talented photographer on the net, but the most popular is the one in which the "ghost" of Abraham Lincoln appeared in the photo of his wife Mary Todd Lincoln.

Of course, the deceased American president didn’t rise from the dead to pose together with his wife. It was an accidental case of double exposing, which caused a real sensation. An American showman P.T. Barnum sued Mumler for alleged fraud, but the court acquitted him.

2. Lord Combermere's Ghost Photo by Sybell Corbet (1891)

lord combermere

This rare historical photo was taken in the Abbey Library by Sybell Corbet, who left the camera for 1 hour in the empty room, while all the employees were paying their last respect to Lord Combermere. When she developed the plate, she noticed a see-through image of a gentleman sitting in the armchair, which was the one favored by the dead lord.

Staff members claim that the “man” in a photo looks like the late 2nd Viscount, though there is a huge percentage of skeptics, who believe that a camera captured a servant, who came into the room and sat briefly in the chair.

3. Irish Linen Girls (1900)

irish linen girls real ghost photos

This photo of ghost depicts Irish linen workers in their workshop. In 2015 it was included in the Getty Images collection and first appeared on the net.

Looking at the image for the first time, you are unlikely to notice any weirdness, but have a closer look at the lady sitting farthest to the right. Do you notice a hand on her shoulder? Can you see anyone who can place this hand there? Neither do I!

4. Disembodied Hand Touches Bureau by Montague Cooper (1900)

hand touches bureau real ghost photos

Photographer Montague Cooper took a picture of his desk in his studio. After developing the picture, he noticed a hand without a body that touched the table from above.

He assured that no one came to the table while the camera was working, and there was no mirror or reflector in the studio.

5. A Somerset Haunting by A. S. Palmer (1908)

somerset haunting real ghost photos

S. Palmer also wanted to take pictures of ghost and went to the haunted house to complete the mission. He took an army officer with him and they spent several hours in that place without noticing any disturbances.

Suddenly, at about 2.45 AM, they noticed a strange light in one room. Palmer retrieved his camera and took a flash photo of that area. When the film was developed, he noticed a clearly recognizable figure there.

6. A Christmas Ghost (1919)

christmas ghost real ghost photos

The realism of this ghosts photograph is questionable, but I decided to add it to this thematic selection. The people in the image are Newton D. Baker, the US Secretary of War, his wife and children.

The photographing process required producing a glass negative, which often underwent the chemical reaction of the glass with the environment, which eventually resulted in the degraded photo quality. That’s why many people believe that a “ghost” in this picture appeared because of some problems with a glass negative.

7. The Fairmont Banff Springs Ghost Bride (1920)

real ghost bride photo

This photo of a ghost has a real backstory related to a bride, whose wedding was organized in the Fairmont Banff hotel and who fell to her death while she was going down the stairs.

There are several versions of why she felt, but hotel workers and visitors aren’t interested in any, as they feel rather terrified seeing that bride going up and down the staircase ever since. There are some people, who even claim that they saw her in the ballroom waiting for the first dance she never had. This woman has become a Canadian legend and there even was released a coin with her picture in 2014.

8. The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (1936)

brown lady real ghost photos

The real prototype of the “Brown Lady of Raynham Hall” is Lady Dorothy Walpole, who was the second wife of Charles Townshend. This man was believed to have a really bad temper, which has affected all spheres of his life.

Charles Townshend hit the roof when he discovered that his wife has a love affair with Lord Wharton and decided to teach her a lesson by locking in the family home, Raynham Hall. The woman spent there many years until she died in 1726 from smallpox.

9. The Queen’s House Ghosts by Reverend R.W Hardy (1966)

queen’s house ghost real photos

Former clergyman Ralph Hardy, wanted to take several shots of an unusual spiral staircase in the Queen's House section of the museum. After developing the pictures, the photographer noticed the fuzzy outlines of a human figure holding on to the railing.

According to the surviving evidence, the maid was thrown from this staircase about 300 years ago. This ghostly photograph attracted the attention of Kodak experts. After carefully studying the negatives, they concluded that the image is real.

10. The Amityville Ghost Photo by Gene Campbell (1976)

real amityville ghost photo

In November 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Junior shot dead his parents and four siblings in his own house. Two years later, a professional photographer Gene Campbell spent the night in this house and took many pictures.

In 1979, the owner of the house showed the world the pictures taken by the photographer. One of them clearly shows the ghost of little John DeFeo - one of the children killed in the house.

11. St Botolph’s Church Ghost by Chris Brackley (1982)

real church ghost photos

This is one of the most famous paranormal photos that was examined by experts and proven to be real without undergoing any tampering or Double Exposure manipulations. The author of an image is Chris Brackley, who decided to take some photos in the church in 1982.

Together with Chris, there were 4 people in the church, but none of them was standing in the loft, where the figure of the ghost is visible.

12. Madonna of Bachelor's Grove Cemetery by Mari Huff (1991)

madonna of bachelor

Ghost Research Society visited this place in order to inspect it on August 10, 1991. Mari Huff, one of the scientists, took B&W infrared images of the surroundings but didn’t notice anything attention-worthy.

She was really shocked when she developed the film and noticed a woman in the photo. Pay attention to her meditative posture and old-fashioned attire. See more Victorian Era photos .

13. Boothill Graveyard Ghost by Terry Ike Clanton (1995)

real boothill graveyard ghost photos

Terry Ike Clanton took a photo of a friend in a cowboy's clothes. After he developed the film, there appeared a strange man in the background.

The figure looks like a man in a black hat, soaring over the ground in such a way that it seems as if he either has no legs or is on his knees. This is one of the creepiest real ghost photos.

14. Wem Town Hall Ghost by Tony O'Rahilly (1995)

real wem town hall ghost photos

This photo of ghost was taken on November 19, 1995 by Tony O’Rahilly, who was just beginning this photography career at that time. He was the witness of the fire which ruined the entire building and managed to take images of the blaze from the distance using a 200mm lens.

When he looked at the ready photos, he noticed a girl standing in the doorway of the burning building. The local residents claimed that it was the ghost of Jane Churn, who was called an arsonist in 1677.

15. The Ghost in the Corner by Niki Harless (2000)

real ghost in the corner photos

This image has long been featured as one of the real ghost photos. Not so long ago, it was uploaded to the website that contains fake ghost pictures taken by visitors, so its “nature” raises many questions.

16. Manila Ghost Photo (2003)

real manila ghost photo

This ghostly photograph was taken by a passer-by with Nokia 7250. Girls asked to photograph them and once they saw an image on the screen, they got really scared as there is a strange creature holding a girl’s arm.

17. Waverly Hills Sanatorium Ghost (2006)

waverly hills real ghost photos

The abandoned tuberculosis hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, witnessed a fair amount of suffering and death while it was functioning in the second half of the 20th century. This photo shows the ruined corridor.

Some say that the figure resembles Mary Lee, the nurse who hanged herself when she found out that she got pregnant by a doctor who, learning about her pregnancy, didn’t want to admit that he was the father of the unborn child.

18. The Boy on a Farm by Neil Sandbach (2008)

boy on a farm real ghost photos

In 2008, photographer Neil Sandbach took photos of a farm in Hertfordshire, England, for a couple who planned to organize their wedding there.

Looking through his digital photos later, Sandbech was surprised to see the distinctive ghostly figure of a boy peering around the corner of the building. Some people said they saw the figure of a boy dressed in white nightwear.

19. A Ghost Child by Matthew Summers (2008)

real ghost child photos

This photo looks rather ordinary, so you may guess why I included it on the list of the really ghost images. The photographer, Matthew Summers, didn’t notice at first anything odd as well, but when he zoomed in, he saw a little girl between the legs of gals on the left.

Ciaran O’Keeffe, who claims to be a “parapsychologist” and takes part in the TV show “Most Haunted”, suggested that there is no apparition in the shot. It is the result of pareidolia, which means that people are inclined to perceive random objects and patterns as faces.

20. The Sixth Swimmer by Kim Davidson (2014)

the sixth swimmer real ghost photos

The family in this photograph had a rest in Murphy’s Hole, which is in southeast Brisbane, Australia. There were only 3 kids there that day, but looking at the photo we can also clearly see another child.

This photo of ghost was posted on Facebook and a random viewer commented on it, explaining that a 13-year-old girl drowned there in 1915 and that’s probably her image was captured by a camera.

21. A Surprise at the Museum by Jonathan Hanna (2017)

museum real ghost photos

Jonathan attended the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, Nother Ireland and took this ghosts photograph there. He was alone in the carriage, but examining the photo, you can clearly see 2 other “creatures”.

One of them looks absolutely terrifying with the hollow eyes, while the figure on the right is sharply defined and has a reflection on the floor. In general, this picture resembles those taken with long exposures with people moving in and out of the image.

22. Spirit of the River Ystwyth by Dave Newnham (2018)

spirit of the river ystwyth real photos

On October 30, 2018, Dave Newnham was checking the footpaths on the estate at about 6:15 PM and suddenly saw a woman standing in the River Ystwyth, near Dologau Bridge.

He thought that she might be in trouble and called the lady to let her know that he is standing nearby. Later he explained that pretty soon he understood that she wasn’t a human, so he decided to snap a shot of a woman, who seemed to “disappear and merge into the river”.

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How Moscow looked 50 years ago (PHOTOS)

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The lens of the legendary master of photography Leonid Lazarev captured Yuri Gagarin and Nikita Khrushchev, but his main subjects were ordinary Soviet people. The “Live Twice” Exhibition, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the great Soviet photographer, runs at the Gallery of Classic Photography in Moscow until Aug. 26.

1. Strokes of childhood, 1957

ghost photography

A boy runs ahead of a watering machine, near a pastry shop.

2. Moscow during theWorld Festival of Youth and Students, 1957

ghost photography

The 6th festival was the largest in its history. It was attended by 34,000 people from 131 countries. Moreover, Moscow became the northernmost city ever to host the event.

3. Forsaken flowers, 1957

ghost photography

Did she miss a date? Or just lose her flowers?

4. Skiers, 1957

ghost photography

Could there be anything more pleasant in winter than skiing in a Moscow park?

5. Volga car. The waiting. 1958

ghost photography

The elegant Volga was the dream of many Soviet people. Produced in the city of Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod), it can still be spotted on the streets!

6. The trolleybus conductor, 1958

ghost photography

The first trolleybus rolled out on the streets of Moscow in the 1930s. It had a wooden frame, a metal cover, and a low maximum speed by today's standards: 50 km/hr. Since that time, many different trolleybuses were designed in Russia . Among them were the world’s most numerous trolleybus, rare double-decker models, and the first ever “trolleybus train.” 

7. On the corner. 2nd Lesnoy Lane, 1958

ghost photography

What did Soviet children do in the yards between apartment blocks? They played, chatted and even fought. 

8. Gorky Street, May 1, 1958

ghost photography

Labor Day on May 1 marks international workers’ solidarity and is a splendid opportunity to enjoy the coming spring. From 1932 to 1990, Moscow’s main street, Tverskaya, bore the name of the great Russian writer Maxim Gorky.

9. Belorussky railway station, 1959

ghost photography

Built in 1870, the Belorussky railway station is the starting point on the way to the Western borders of Russia.

10. Weekday, 1960

ghost photography

An ordinary day in Moscow.

11. Gifted hands, 1960s

ghost photography

The Monument to the Conquerors of Space was unveiled in the 1960s and is still located at the All Russian Exhibition Center.

12. Under the sun, 1961

ghost photography

Enjoying a spot of Moscow sunshine.

13. Mounted militia , 1962

ghost photography

Introduced in the 1800s, mounted guards usually patrol the beaches and park areas of the capital.

14. Window lights, 1967

ghost photography

Just 50 years ago Moscow was nowhere near as big as today. The multi-level residential areas outside the city center had only just appeared back then, and the night city became really amazing.  

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Miriam and ira d. wallach art gallery.

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Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography

April 30–june 21, 2003.

Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography , an exhibition of 20th-century photographs of Moscow, opens at Columbia University's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 and remains on display through Saturday, June 21, 2003.

Moscow has been a powerful magnet for many Russian photographers of the 20th century. Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography presents the work of 31 photographers, whose images have defined the visual experience of Moscow from the 1920s to the present. Diverse in form and strategy, the 90 photographs chosen for the exhibition trace the history of Russian documentary photography and offer insight into individual practices. From Aleksandr Rodchenko's constructivist visions and Evgenii Khaldei's humanist landscapes to Igor Moukhin's scenes of urban spectacle and alienation in the works of Russia's key 20th-century photographers, Moscow ventures beyond the expected image as a site of famous landmarks, architectural treasures and dramatic lifestyles.

Early 20th-century photographers Boris Ignatovich and Arkadii Shaikhet saw themselves in the vanguard of an emerging mass-media culture, defining with their cameras the visual experience of Soviet modernity. For nearly 70 years, Soviet photography was assigned the duty of maintaining the ideological rigidity of the Soviet State. Yet, as examples of the work of Iakov Khalip, Anatolii Egorov, Mikhail Savin, and Mark Markov-Grinberg show, Soviet photographic practices were much more complex than has been previously acknowledged. The works of these photographers remain intensely compelling to a modernist eye.

Contemporary Russian photographers, such as Lev Melikhov, Valerii Stigneev and Sergei Leontiev, engage with the legacy of the Soviet documentary photography. But for them the documentary is a complex and multivalent genre, which incorporates subjectivity, ambiguity and reflexivity and comments on social and cultural issues without losing sight of the position from which that commentary is made. In the recent photographs by Vladimir Kupriyanov, Igor Moukhin, Anna Gorunova and Pakito Infante, the "real" space of Moscow is replaced by an imaginary and optical spaces of virtuality.

The works in the exhibition are on loan from Moscow's Cultural Center Dom, and many are being shown outside Russia for the first time. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Wallach Art Gallery is publishing an illustrated catalogue with a scholarly essay by the exhibition curator, Nadia Michoustina, a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia University's Department of Slavic Languages. The essay presents a nuanced history of Russian photography of the 20th century, and contributes to an interpretation of extraordinary images.

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10 Tips That'll Take Your Drone Photography to New Heights

Published by Vadim Sherbakov • 8 years ago

Vadim Sherbakov is an independent art director and photography enthusiast. He specializes in interactive web projects and applications for mobile devices at his primary job and he lives in Moscow, Russia.

As a photographer he is interested in landscape and cityscape photography and he is a big fan of aerial photography, using a drone to capture new angles on familiar subjects. He travels quite often to different destinations around the world and tries capturing both traditional and aerial photos of the same places.

He is new to 500px community but will be publishing more of his work in the near future. So check out his account here , or see his video work on Vimeo and join him on social media through Facebook and Instagram .

This article was originally published on Medium and is being republished on 500px ISO with express permission.


My name is Vadim (aka Madebyvadim), and for a few months now I’ve been using the awesome DJI Phantom 3 Professional version quadcopter to capture new and different photos. In this article, I’d love to share some of my experience with you, and help you make the best out of your next aerial photo shoot. Let’s do this!

First, I should say that I only use the Phantom 3 product, though I am sure all the points here are applicable to many other drone models. That said, my advice is most relevant to those of you who want to consider drone photography as a logical step forward and/or addition to your current photography gear.

Let’s face it, the Phantom’s camera is great, but not without its faults. Yes, it shoots 12MP RAW format, but noise and focus are weak points, and shake due to the wind is unavoidable. So, to make best of this awesome-but-limited tool, I follow these principals when I use it:

1. RAW is the Key


Dolomites, Italy

Almost every single professional photographer will tell you that the best way to shoot is in RAW format. They always shoot in RAW in order to be able to correct any flaws in exposure or color with greater precision.

This is even more applicable to drones. Since the camera resolution is only 12MP, it would be a crime to compress it into the .jpg format and not use the advantages of the RAW format.

“Yes, but I only shoot for fun,” you say. Even so, you might one day capture the-best-drone-photo-ever, and how disappointed would you be that day when you realize you won’t be able to process it properly because you’ve been sticking to the compressed .jpg format?

But seriously 🙂 if you are serious about trying drone photography, and I suppose you are if you’re reading this, then forget .jpgs and use RAW. Period.

2. The 16:9 or 4:3 Format Question


Civita di Bagnoregio in 4:3 Format


Civita di Bagnoregio in 16:9

I’ll confess I started out by shooting 16:9, since I come from a production background and it’s a more pleasing ratio for me, but I also shoot in 4:3. Furthermore, I sometimes shoot both at the same time.

Actually I am not sure why DJI is using 4:3 and 16:9 as photography formats, when the most used format is 3:2. I suppose it has something to do with video being the primary format for drone usage. Not sure.

So, I suggest you use both aspect ratios and see what works better for you, or even recompose and shoot in both at the same location. Yes, it will take more time, but I think it’s worth it… especially later in post-production when you have more flexibility in choosing the right shot for your portfolio.

3. Bracketing is the King


Rome, Italy

5 bracketing

Braketing with 5 Shots

This is a really awesome feature, and I am glad the Phantom has it. Bracketing serves a few purposes for me.

1. If I made a mistake in assessing the correct exposure, then I can choose the right one from 3 to 5 bracketed photos I’ve taken.

2. I also use them to create HDR images (not that eye-poping-over-the-top-saturated-100-%-hdrs , but more like an intelligent HDR).

In that case, the bracketing is an absolute must. In fact 95% of my shots are bracketed shots, so I can bring shadows back later or bring out highlights even more if necessary, instead of having only one option from a single shot.

4. P (auto) and M (manual) Mode


I almost always shoot in Manual mode. This lets me choose the lowest possible ISO as well as the shutter speed I desire.

The DJI app does not let you know if you have over or under-exposed your picture like a traditional camera would; there is also no half-released shutter button, unfortunately. So you would need to rely on histogram or use this trick:

First, switch to P mode and see what DJI auto mode is offering you, then switch back to M and build on what you saw in P mode.

5. ISO, How Low Can You Go


My advice on this subject is simple: always to shoot at the lowest possible ISO, which happens to be 100 on Phantom 3. This lets you minimize the noise in your photos, plain and simple.

Of course, you need to be aware of shake when shooting during the night and use common sense. I would not recommend going over 3sec exposure; if you end up needing a longer exposure, I’d advise you to go higher on your ISO in order to stay in that 3sec range.

6. Shaking of the Drone & Night Photography


Moscow with a 3sec exposure

This is relevant to a previous point. The drone is a machine that flies up high where the wind is stronger, and although it tries its best to stay stable, some shaking is unavoidable even in low wind conditions. The higher you go, the windier it typically gets—so even if it’s absolutely still on the ground, you may get wind up above.

Although the Phantom offers the ability to go as high as 8sec on the shutter speed, as I mentioned before, it is advisable not to exceed 3sec unless you’re okay with shaky photos.

7. ND and PL Filters


Vernazza, Cinque Terre

I use ND filters quite often, but that’s because I also shoot videos. In order to get a cinematic effect on a shoots, one should use the double of the fps one is shooting with. For example, I use 4K 24fps, which means I should ideally be shooting at 1/50 sec shutter speed. In order to achieve that on a bright day, I need to use Neutral Density filters to reduce the light coming into the camera and enable a slower shutter speed.

Since I use it but mostly for videos and its too complicated to us for photos, I’ll launch my drone, shoot photos, bring it back, put on the ND, and get it back up to shoot a video.

If you are going to use ND filters, be careful in dim lighting. The ND filter reduces the light coming into the camera (that’s the whole point), which slows down your shutter to the point where you might start getting some shake in your shots. In low light, stick to a default camera filter that is supplied with the Phantom.

A circular polarizing filter is another beast. You may know that you need to rotate it to the right position to achieve the desired PL effect when using it on traditional cameras; however, there is no possibility to do so on the drone, so I have never used PL filter.

8. Post-Processing

Vatican before

Rome Before


The shot in my example above was resized, straightened, and colour corrected in both Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve the look of the final version.

Don’t be lazy and share unprocessed shots straight out of camera. There is always room for improvement in any photo you take.

You will be amazed how a photo can be transformed in your favorite post-processing software. I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to post-process all of my shots. As I said before, I use bracketing extensively to combine 3 or 5 photos together before post-processing. See #3 for that subject.

9. Unique Angles, Panoramas, Long Exposures etc.

Mountain road

Mountain road from above


Moscow State University aerial panorama

Be creative.

You are no longer plagued by the inability to use the right spot in the right location. Drones are unique in the sense that they can take your photographs literally to the next level. So stop thinking in traditional terms—experiment, be open to the new shooting possibilities drones open up for you.

10. Drone Technicalities


Above Russian forest

This subject may vary across the models, but for the sake of simplicity I would assume that these issues apply everywhere.

What I am talking about here are the small technical things that need to be done to your drone before the flight in order to be as safe and productive as possible. Live it,?learn it as they say… and I am talking from experiences that haven’t always been very pleasant. It is better to follow a couple of easy pre-flight steps than to lose your drone and all the great things you captured with it.

Calibrate the Compass

Firstly, one must always calibrate the drone compass once you arrive on a new location far from the previous one (change landscaped, say from a field to a mountainside). This definitely helps avoid abnormal behavior in the air.

Check Your Figures

Secondly, check your figures. By that I mean you should check the drone’s compass sensor index after calibration. Even if your software claims that it is OK to fly, take the time to check those indexes.

For instance, it’s ok to fly my DJI when the index is between 1500 and 1600. Higher index means greater disturbances around, i.e. metal in the ground, some reflective surfaces, etc.


Thirdly, this is my own technique that I am simply sharing; I’m not claiming this as an absolute must-follow. It is up to you and your common sense whether you adopt it or not. But it did help me save my drone from crashing a couple of times.

So here it is: take some time to hover. What I mean is, don’t speed up from the ground as soon as the propellers are on. Ease it up a bit and hover. It gives you time to land the drone in case there are any immediate malfunctions or you feel that it has started behaving strangely. Take a couple of seconds to do this, and only fly up once you see that you are in complete control.

Mind the Wildlife

Fourthly, mind the wildlife in the air. I am dead serious about this. Seagulls, for instance, are often eager to attack your drone in order to protect their territory.

Download your Data Right Away

Last but not the least: download your data. I’ve developed the habit of downloading everything from my SD card right after the flight. This way I am safe from losing precious materials in case of any drone emergencies on subsequent flights.

Although I really love using drones for a new and exiting photo opportunities, I often wish that DJI would give us an even better quality camera at an affordable price, so we could use the Phantom series, (one of the best on the market, in my opinion) to its full potential… a man can dream.

In the meantime: Thank you. Fly safe!

  • Things I’ve Learned Working on Both Sides of the Camera

Beautiful Photos of Beautiful Women for a Beautiful Cause (NSFW)

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Things I've Learned Working on Both Sides of the Camera

Things I've Learned Working on Both Sides of the Camera

Beautiful Photos of Beautiful Women for a Beautiful Cause (NSFW)

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What Is The Ghost Photoshoot TikTok Trend? People Dressing Up As Ghosts Using White Sheets Explained

Posted: October 17, 2023 | Last updated: October 19, 2023

A TikTok trend where people dress up as ghosts to take cutesy Halloween-themed photoshoots was all the rage in the Fall of 2020, and it's making a comeback in the year 2023. Just in time for the spooky season, the latest videos following the trend have been inundated with people expressing their nostalgia for 2020 internet trends.

Each video is set to the hugely popular, algorithm-friendly TikTok song "Oh Klahoma" by Jack Stauber, but it still sparked some backlash on X (formerly Twitter) after veteran internet journalist Taylor Lorenz covered the story. Here's everything you need to know about every iteration of the ghost photoshoot trend, from conception to rebirth.

Where Did The Ghost Photoshoot TikTok Trend Originate?

In September 2020, TikToker @jackjanson88 posted a series of photos showing himself dressed up as a ghost using a sheet with cutouts for his eyes. Posed along various empty pathways, the nostalgic imagery of the video was a hit with viewers, gathering a million views in over a week.

How Did The Ghost Photoshoot TikTok Trend Spread?

Soon after the virality of @jackjanson88's video, various TikTokers recreated his Ghost Photoshoot and posted videos and photos of themselves dressed up in white sheets as well. TikTokers @katyya and @jadenellison08 were two early adopters of the trend, gathering over a million plays on each of their videos.

Why Did Taylor Lorenz Face Backlash For Her Coverage Of The Trend?

Websites like HITC and Distractify published articles on the trend soon after videos under the hashtag #GhostPhotoshoot gathered over 500 million views collectively. Journalist Taylor Lorenz covered the trend as well, posting a few photos from various ghost photoshoots on her X (then Twitter) profile.

Various people responded to Lorenz's post saying that they found the use of white-sheeted costumes and primarily white participants suspect, but faced pushback on their characterization of a harmless TikTok trend themselves.

What Was The 2023 Resurgence Of The Ghost Photoshoot TikTok Trend?

In October 2023, various popular TikTok creators posted videos participating in the trend, with TikTokers @benjikrol and @natalieewoodsss posting videos that gathered several million views apiece.

For the full history of the ghost photoshoot trend, be sure to check out Know Your Meme's encyclopedia entry for more information.

Read the original article on Know Your Meme.

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The Supreme Court orders makers of gun parts to comply with rules on ghost guns

The Supreme Court has ordered two internet sellers of gun parts to comply with a Biden administration regulation aimed at ghost guns, firearms that are difficult to trace because they lack serial numbers

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Oct. 5, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday ordered two internet sellers of gun parts to comply with a Biden administration regulation aimed at ghost guns, firearms that are difficult to trace because they lack serial numbers.

The court had intervened once before, by a 5-4 vote in August, to keep the regulation in effect after it had been invalidated by a lower court. No justice dissented publicly from Monday's order, which followed a ruling from a federal judge in Texas that exempted the two companies, Blackhawk Manufacturing Group and Defense Distributed, from having to abide by the regulation of ghost gun kits.

Other makers of gun parts also had been seeking similar court orders, the administration told the Supreme Court in a filing.

“Absent relief from this Court, therefore, untraceable ghost guns will remain widely available to anyone with a computer and a credit card — no background check required,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, wrote.

The regulation changed the definition of a firearm under federal law to include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun, so they can be tracked more easily. Those parts must be licensed and include serial numbers. Manufacturers must also run background checks before a sale — as they do with other commercially made firearms.

The requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts or kits or by 3D printers.

The regulation will be in effect while the administration appeals the judge's ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans — and potentially the Supreme Court.

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All GTA Online Ghosts Exposed locations

Earn cash, RPs, and a shiny new livery this spooky season.

GTA Online ghosts exposed

Ghosts Exposed is one of the Halloween events happening this year in GTA Online . As is traditional during the spooky season, it's time to dive back into Los Santos to earn some suitably ghoulish goodies. This time around, you'll be hunting down ghosts, and taking photos to send as proof so you can reap the rewards—basically you get a bunch of GTA$ and RP for your trouble.

You'll receive an email when you log in to the game, asking for submissions of paranormal content, and there are ten ghosts to find in total. So with that in mind, here are the GTA Online Ghosts Exposed locations.

GTA Online Ghosts Exposed locations 

The ten ghosts appear at set times every day, between 8pm and 6am in-game time, in set locations—though be aware they can move around in a fairly small radius, so you might need to look inside or behind a building if they're not readily apparent. Don't worry if you miss one as you can take a snap of it the next day. 

It's also worth noting that the tenth ghost will only appear once you've collected the other nine , and as it shows up in the middle of the night/early morning, you may need to wait until the following night to finish up.

You'll get $20,000 and 500 RP for each photo you send in, with a bonus of $50,000 and the Ghosts Exposed livery for the Albany Brigham if you collect all ten.

That said, with the map above as a reference, here are each of the GTA Online Ghost locations:

  • 8 pm to 9 pm: Look for the barn and you'll find the ghost at the opening on the upper floor.
  • 9 pm to 10pm: Find this ghost in the window of the white trailer home.
  • 10 pm to 11 pm: Look for the ghost standing near the abandoned bus.
  • 11 pm to 12 am: This one is standing outside the lighthouse. If you can find them there, look on top.
  • 1 am to 2 am: You'll find this ghost standing on top of the porch of a house.
  • 2 am to 3 am: Find this one in the graveyard, though it can also show up on top of the church.
  • 3 am to 4 am: Inside the roof of a house or by a window on the ground floor.
  • 4 am to 5 am: This ghost is standing at the top of a waterfall.
  • 5 am to 6 am: Find this one standing on top of the mouth of a train tunnel or it could be on the bridge.
  • 12 am to 1 am (after you've found the first nine ghosts): Standing in front of the Sandy Shores sign at the crossroads.

As soon as you take the photo of the tenth ghost, you'll get another email telling you the Ghosts Exposed quest is complete and you'll automatically get the rewards added to your bank and inventory. See you again next year?

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Sarah James

Sarah started as a freelance writer in 2018, writing for PCGamesN, TechRadar, GamingBible, Red Bull Gaming and more. In 2021, she was offered a full-time position on the PC Gamer team where she takes every possible opportunity to talk about World of Warcraft and Elden Ring. When not writing guides, most of her spare time is spent in Azeroth—though she's quite partial to JRPGs too. One of her fondest hopes is to one day play through the ending of Final Fantasy X without breaking down into a sobbing heap. She probably has more wolves in Valheim than you.


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    When and how to shoot. You are going to need a 30-second exposure, so ideally its best to shoot close to dusk, or in low light. Set your aperture to F16 and the ISO as low as possible. If that isn't enough, use an ND filter to stop down the light in order to get the 30 seconds you need.

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    The Ghost Research Society. This interesting photo was taken sometime around the year 2000 in Manilla, Republic of the Philippines. According to The Ghost Research Society, two girlfriends were out for a walk one warm night. One of them entreated a passing stranger to photograph them using her cell phone's camera (hence the low-resolution picture).

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