Tag Archives: Ghosts

Aiden Sinclair Photoshoot

 

 

 

Aiden-For-Web-4I met Aiden Sinclair in April of 2014 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado during a Strange Escapes event. Aiden was not only the kind of guy that I instantly wanted to make friends with, but he was the kind of guy I immediately wanted to photograph as well.

Even while he took over the lobby of the hotel for a twenty minute demonstration of his paranormal illusions act, it was his manner and style that struck me as much as the quality of his act. He was dressed in a black vest with red tie, crucifix chain hanging from a button, with round glasses, and his act was a compelling mixture of illusion and allusion — drawing on the history of the hotel, spiritualism, and spirits themselves — in a way I’d never seen before. As someone intensely interested in the play between ghosts, entertainment, performance, and the suspension of an audience’s disbelief, I was quickly curious to get to know this stranger and see what he was all about.

He made many fans that day, as well as significant connections. He returned the following year to the Strange Escapes event as an official entertainer for those groups on their off-nights, and he’s established a recurring show at the Stanley each month called “Illusions of the Passed.” Turns out that, during his second stint at the Stanley, he was also in-between rounds on America’s Got Talent, where he wowed judges and the audience with his not only his act, but also his story.

After a few good conversations over beers that second year at the Stanley,  I began to pester him regularly for a photoshoot, knowing his style and mine would be a match I’d wanted to shoot for my whole career to that point. We finally managed to make time this October for him to visit my home studio in Loveland to make a few portraits.

This is the behind the scenes video:

The images were shot on a Canon 6D with both the 24mm 1.4L and the 50mm 1.8 (still working up to that Sigma Art!) with an Einstein E640, a 47″ Paul C. Buff Octobox, and a Canon 430EX II speedlite with a MagMod kit in front of a black fabric backdrop.

We were going for a variety of shots, from headshot portraits to images with a few of his more iconic props, and a handful of composites. The composite backgrounds are plates of various locations around Germany that I had the opportunity to shoot back in January while traveling with my brother.

October was a crazy month for me, running from photoshoot to photoshoot around both the state of Colorado and the country itself. Early November was crunch time to get these shoots edited, and Aiden’s name was high on the list! A few of my favorite images can be seen below.

 

Aiden-For-Web-21It was truly a blast to work with Aiden, and I’m happy to call him a friend. He’s a class act and has very big things in his future. I’m excited to watch them come together for him as smoothly as these images came together for me!

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Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, the short story collection Into a Sky Below, Forever, and the forthcoming Amarricages. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team, and now lectures across America and leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s also a portrait photographer and conceputal artist based in Northern Colorado. Follow him on Twitter: @KarlPfeiffer

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Pseudoscience and Paranormal Research

I don’t want to get too deep into this issue at the moment, as I think there will be other article and blog opportunities in the future to explore this more deeply, but I did want to write a quick response to an article I read recently on the Huffington Post that demanded a bit of thought longer than 140 characters.

For the past couple months, I’ve been following the Society for Psychical Research Twitter account, which retweets and shares a number of fascinating articles and stories about all aspects of current ESP research, whether these articles be positive or negative. Today as I was browsing the tweeter, I came across a really interesting article about Pseudoscience and how it corresponds to paranormal research, written by Stafford Betty. Normally, “pseudoscience” is a term thrown around by skeptics to demean research into “paranormal” or anomalous phenomena. And it bothers me to no end. A quick perusal of the wikipedia article about Pseudoscience raises my blood pressure almost immediately.

And so, reading an article that responds to this issue in support of the scientists doing serious research into this issue should make me happy, but unfortunately I have to be the guy who, while agreeing with the premise, disagrees with the justification (which usually means I get to upset everybody!).

The thing about Betty’s article is that he tries to defend paranormal research (again, the scientific work being done in laboratories rather than the ghost hunting work being done in the boob tube) as not being pseudoscience by justifying the validity of the potential for the phenomena to exist, rather than defending the science that’s being done.

Which, on the whole, the article is fine. He begins by pointing out the negative feedback in regards to a cover story about reincarnation research published in Virginia Magazine. (Most of this feedback is deeply biased and despite being promoted in the name of science, is in itself a stain on the true work of science). One such commenter called the work being done “pseudoscience”. Betty then used the rest of his article to briefly defend the topic of research (loosely, consciousness and whether its existence is a causal effect of brain biology or whether it’s something separate entirely), which I think he did well for a non-scholarly editorial defense.

The problem is that he never actually describes how the work being done isn’t a pseudoscience. He just justifies the potential for the phenomena to exist. Which is important. But, not what the article claimed to address in the headline. And, more to the problem at hand, another article pointedly defending paranormal research but missing the mark is more than fodder for the critics and these same science trolls who seek to discredit the research. It doesn’t advance much because most folks who are firmly on one side or the other on the issue don’t see past the neglected argument.

I’m not writing this blog to fill in the blanks, but simply to clarify them. I’m not a scientist, and there have been thousands of experiments executed by well-credentialed scientists over the past century into these more anomalous categories. Each set of experiments can be gauged on its own merit toward whether or not it’s pseudoscience.

To point out these blanks then, I want to first clarify the definition of Pseudoscience, (which I’ve snagged from Wikipedia, despite my frustrations with the rest of the article).

Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.[1] Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.

Now, there are some components of this definition that Betty addresses, primarily the issues of plausibility, which, ultimately, does work toward validating the the work against pseudoscience claims, especially when the commenters are disputing the plausibility of the issue. However, the real argument should be placed in defending the scientific structure of the work being done to validate or invalidate the claims of such anomalous phenomena. Because it is being done. It’s been worked on for a century now by people who know the scientific method, who trained and were educated as highly and deeply as any other scientist in any other field.

If an article is going to be written defending paranormal research against pseudoscientific claims, the real heart of such an article shouldn’t be the continued volleying of argument toward the plausibility of such phenomena (though obviously an interesting discussion, I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s useless against the close-minded). It’s the science that’s going to persuade people. It’s going to be illustrating the process, the breakdowns, the results, the recreations, the predictions, the implications.

The main buzzword in the pseudoscience argument isn’t plausibility (that’s just a buzzword in general), it’s the “scientific method”, a phrase that’s been rather unfortunately muddled for paranormal research in its application on many Ghost Hunting shows, who claim to be following the scientific method, when in reality, they aren’t. That’s undeniably pseudoscience. There are no delicately controlled, recreatable experiments. No predictions. Just lots of theory and multi-variabled experiments. It’s loosely scientific. There’s a basic structure that’s followed and is even respectable toward exploring the plausibility of such phenomena. But it’s not real science, and so falls into that pseudoscientific category.

But real genuine scientists are doing good work. And that work needs to be defended more thoroughly. The articles that need to be written are the ones that explore and break down whether these experiments that are being/have been done are good science. I’ve read dozens of overviews that suggest that yes, these scientists are doing thorough and recreatable work. They are restraining from theorizing and throwing around out-dated terms that carry folk definitions hundreds of years old. And they have results.

The articles that we need to see published on such sites as Huffington Post are the ones that go deeper than just butting heads over plausibility, but the ones that refute each of these other claims, defending the work (not just the theories or phenomena) as very much adhering to the scientific method, as producing strong evidence, as thoroughly tested, and with provable (and proven) claims.

Some experiments might not hold up. Some may very much hold up. But it’s time to move beyond the head-butting and help this well-deserving, genuinely scientific field see a positive light of day.

Karl Pfeiffer is not a scientist, but he’s deeply passionate about paranormal research. He’s the author of the books Hallowtide and Into a Sky Below, Forever. He writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and the Paranormal Pop Culture Blog, and he lectures across America about approaches to the paranormal. He graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Creative Writing and an emphasis on Religious Studies. He leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel and won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, appearing briefly on Ghost Hunters International. He’s also a photographer. 

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Something Unsettling

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Another set of my more eerie and supernaturally inclined conceptual photography. It’s still January (though if this accounts for 1/12 of this project already, it’s going to be a wicked fast year). Hoping to continue to improve. Some of these I’m not in love with. Some I am.

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How to Photograph a Ghost!

Photography Follow-Up:

Hey guys, I’m back with more vlogs! Sorry it was so long, my camera got stolen, and I got a new one, but then I was busy with summer work and getting the next book out. No excuses!

What I want to do is finish up on the photography topic that I was discussing before the break, and break down the different ways to photograph a potential spirit, and why some may be better than others.

So.

The setup: you’re in a very dark basement that’s said to be haunted, and there’s not much in the way of ambient light for any average camera to pick up at all. How do you best set up the situation to photograph a ghost?

The go-to camera of most experiential investigators?

Cell Phones.

Why they’re good? They’re portable, at-hand, and the images are easy to share and, these days, decent quality. Another less-known reason it’s good? Oftentimes, because the lenses are smaller and cheaper than your average point and shoot or SLR cameras, some cell phone cameras actually see a bit further into the UV light spectrum because they’re not as thoroughly filtered. Hence why lens flare is a little more wacky on a cell phone. If spirits do exist in this smaller, often unseen band, cell phones might be more likely to see them.

The problems with cell phones though, for one, is that they’re usually hand-held. Especially when so many ghost photos are examples of pareidolia, it’s important to take multiple photographs from the exact same position, to rule out anything environmental that you can later compare against. It’s also easier to recreate the shot later for further comparison.

They also need a flash in low-light conditions.

Flashes

And here’s the thing about flashes. The primary problem is that the intense burst of illumination, so close to the camera’s lens, illuminates tons of particulate matter right in your photograph (at odds to off-camera flashes or light sources). So if you have a finger, camera-strap, piece of dust, or bug hanging out in front of the lens, the flash is going to make it look like ectoplasm. Shooting without the flash removes something like 98% of variables otherwise thought to be spirit.

Photoluminescence

But the other problem is that the flash could be harmful to spirits. Photoluminescence is the process of a gas or substance absorbing photons of light and then re-emitting them. This process is a very specific scientific process, so I don’t want to go babbling about a process that could well be irrelevant (like those investigators who try to equate everything spirits do to quantum physics), but if this process happens, and a flash photograph illuminated a spirit, that substance could theoretically re-emit that light back toward the camera, giving you a strange photograph. That said, photoluminescence often fundamentally affects the structure of the substance, and carries the possibility that the spirit (or conscious substance) could be harmed by the emission, losing their substantial form after the photograph and photoluminescence.

UV Radiation

The same goes for exposure to ultra-violet radiation. One theory towards why spirits may be more active at night (as discussed in this vlog), is due to the UV radiation being harmful to a physical, manifested form. The same way that we get sunburned by UV light (our substantial structure is physically damaged by this radiation), perhaps ghosts too are broken down by such exposure. This may well apply to IR as well. We see shadowy figures more rarely walking directly through an IR beam, and more often they’re crouching behind objects, only peeking out.

IR Illumination

In order to penetrate deeply into the room with our night vision cameras, many investigators rig extremely bright IR illuminators beside their cameras. They seem dark to us because we can’t see them, but these lights are veritable spotlights blasting out these rooms. While IR is on the less-harmful end of the spectrum (the wavelengths are longer, and the same way red-light doesn’t hurt our night vision, IR is more gentle as well), in such incredibly bright doses, it still could be hurtful to spirits, or at the least, very intrusive to a spirit’s environment. If someone shone a couple car headlights into your room in the middle of the night, it’s altogether likely you’d duck out of the intensity too, regardless of it giving you a sunburn or not.

Visible Light

Given that the intensity of IR illuminators may be, after the fact, even brighter for the spirits than just keep the lights on, well, why not just keep the lights on? Certainly many investigators have their reasons for investigating in the dark, (which I still explore in this vlog), but it is a valid alternative for ghostly photography, and also minimizes low-light solutions which introduce too many false positives.

But there’s still arguments against such light. It’s very intrusive, often harsh, conflicts with investigators’ EMF equipment, their more subtle sensitivities, and potentially the spirits physical structure (as UV, photon emission, and IR may seem to do as well).

So. We’ve got issue with flash photography, IR illumination, visible lights, how are we supposed to photograph a spirit?

Long Exposure Photography

The immediate alternative is to shoot with a long exposure. Long exposure is automatically applied on the “night-shot” setting of most cameras, and a manual adjustment on most DSLRs. The exposure is adjusted by keeping the shutter open for different amounts of times. If photography is simply burning light onto a sensitive plate, quick bursts of exposure (a fast shutter speed) will capture quick movement as still, but the longer you hold the lens open (slow shutter speeds) the more the image will blur before the photo is over. At night, this can be as long as seconds that the lens will be open, and if the camera is hand-held or if there’s movement in front of the camera, you get motion-blur (which can look like creepy trails of ectoplasm, where in reality the light source seems fixed).

This is how you make cool light-paintings. By running around with a flashlight while your lens is open, you can create cool streaks of light.

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The problem here is that, while you make cool streaks of light, it doesn’t also make streaks of shadow. Because the light is, in effect, burning into the sensitive plates, it masks any dark movement because that light is already burned in.

Think of giving yourself a sun-tan tattoo. If you were to drag a heart-shaped cutout across your skin at the beach, you don’t get any kind of design. But if you leave it in one place, you get your tattoo.

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Same goes for photography, as we’re also talking about light burning into a source. If you leave your shutter open for thirty seconds at a time and a shadow (or a non-illuminated person) were to walk across the frame, they won’t show up in your photo, the same way that the heart doesn’t show up on your skin if you’re moving it around.

Which is what makes THIS picture recorded by the Ghost Hunters International team at Port Arthur Penitentiary in Tasmania so strange. Shooting thirty-second exposures outside at night, they captured the image of a man walking across the hill. Why that’s weird? Because a silhouette of a person walking, for thirty seconds across a hill, shouldn’t show up at all — even if it were a living person. But the fact that this figure shows up as a perfect, non-transparent shadow, suggests that, though it appears to be striding, did not move for the entire thirty seconds.

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Though this was indeed captured by a team, it should be a pretty rare occurrence, because everything we know about spirits is that they appear to move at normal speeds, and for the most part, it’s very rare to see a spirit in one place for as long as thirty seconds. They often seem to be fleeting. And so, unless they’re bright or producing light, they’re not going to show up very well on a long exposure, even if it gives you a nice bright photo in the dark.

So if exposures and flash photos are out, how are we supposed to take photos? And if IR illumination is out, how do we shoot video?

Great questions.

Low-Lux Cameras

One alternative is to invest in Low-Lux camera equipment, or light-amplifying night vision. Most cheap night vision cameras are so today because they’re essentially using invisible flashlights to light up a room. It’s the expensive stuff that doesn’t illuminate a room, it amplifies what’s already there. Night vision goggles? There are no little IR illuminators on the sides, they’re amplifying the light that’s already there. Consider the difference between these two IR images.

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Light amplification is great, but it’s also expensive as shit.

Back-Lighting

Your other alternative is back-lighting. Rather than setting up your light right beside your camera, blasting out the room (and, potentially, the spirit), you instead set up your illumination along a back wall in your shot, so that you can see the back of the room, and you have a bright surface to differentiate a shadow or figure moving through your shot, without blasting that figure out with intense, possibly-harmful light.

And the best light to use? Investigators like Barry Fitzgerald suggest that red is the most welcoming for spirits. The same way photographers use red light in dark rooms, because it’s the least intense of the visible light wavelengths. Where UV is very harmful, red is as far as we can get, and doesn’t effect the photographic chemicals. Same goes for our night vision. Red doesn’t  burn into our eyes as badly.

The best way to capture a ghost? Red light, splashed up over a back wall, or light-amplifying equipment. No flash, shutter speeds that aren’t too long, and tripods.

Then, go ahead and see what you might get.

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He now leads the weekend public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, he travels the nation lecturing, and he writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and the Paranormal Pop Culture Blog. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide and the book Into a Sky Below, Forever. He’s also a portrait and landscape photographer based of Fort Collins. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Conjuring Review

Sorry I’m slow on this one. The review should have been up last Thursday, but I was finishing up another job, and just today got to the theater.

So!

Initial Review:

Like all the movies I review, there are two levels of analysis happening here: there is the analysis for the experiential moviegoer, and the thoughtful moviegoer. The Conjuring, for the experiential moviegoer, doesn’t go wrong. It doesn’t go terribly right, but it’s a good horror flick. Jump scares. Good ghost story manifesting in a good frightening possession. I can see why most people are liking it here in its first week.

For the thoughtful moviegoer… well… if you don’t know me by now, that’s where my discussion comes in.

The-Conjuring-BannerAs always, it helps at this point to have seen the movie, because apt discussion comes best when we can discuss the meat and potatoes of a movie, regardless of spoiler-worry, and in a way that puts us all on the same page.

This review is going to hit on a lot of the topics I continually hit on when writing reviews on supernatural-movies, because this movie generally failed in the way most of these supernatural-type movies fail.

Premise:

What makes the horror genre brilliant is that horror is dealing with extremes. These extremes take us out of our comfort zone, both emotionally, ethically, morally, and philosophically. Most horror movies get stuck in the first category: the emotional one. If they can scare you, they believe that they’ve done their job.

Many movies run in the same trend. Romantic Comedies have real potential to rip apart conventional social standards and dig around inside. Action movies can make larger commentary on the workings of government and politics and science-fiction. You name it. It’s usually the movies that push their boundaries, in whatever genre, that are reaching for real depth, and find themselves redefining the genre in the first place. Those are the brilliant movies.

Horror is not unique in that capacity, but it is closer to my heart.

This oftentimes is where I get frustrated with possession movies, because possession movies seem to always start with a beautiful layout of themes at the heart of their premise. These themes range from crises of faith, to the existence of a god, to the evil inside us, to the nature of insanity, to the nature of evil, to the pros and cons of religious systems–you name it. But in 99% of the execution, they fall into simply bloody messes and shark-jumping.

I suggest that the real tension–the real drama–of a horror movie comes from these themes and their emotional manifestations within the movie. The same way that my all-time favorite movie, The Dark Knight, manifests these themes in character, letting them play out on a symbolic level, I expect the demons and the ghosts and the things that go bump in the night to be manifestations of the same types of themes.

This hope alone goes back to philosophy, to Jung in particular, whom I love. He structured the way for Joseph Campbell, who wrote the Hero’s Journey. Jung took a mystical approach to storytelling, and charted the recurring tropes of stories on an international scale to be indicative of a kind of Platonic, mystical depth, where each trope was a manifestation of some spiritual consistency.

Regardless, this play between symbol, theme, and emotional, dramatic tension is, for me anyway, the heart of any brilliant movie. (These can be manipulated across the board, of course. Symbol and theme can be sacrificed for an emotional tension that reveals deep, deep inner truths. And by the same coin, emotional narrative can be sacrificed for pure exploration of theme and image, branching into very post-modern, abstract filmmaking. But it’s all along the same spectrum: dealing with deeply human issues.)

So here, in a genre that is–at the very least on a spiritual level–screaming for thematic discussion and tension, we have movies that just seem to ignore it.

And unfortunately, The Conjuring seems to have ignored it.

The Conjuring: 

The Conjuring takes its emotional tension from the situation: (whether you consider the main protagonists to be Ed and Lorraine Warren, or if you consider them to be the Perrons) there are angry ghosts, and the angry ghosts create a mess.

There’s nothing more than that. At best, there are themes hinted at: the importance of family and… well… the importance of family. Really, that’s it.

Even with that theme, a pretty decent one: there’s no stress put on it in any kind of executable way. Even with the risk of having their daughter put in jeopardy because of their need to help the other family, the Warrens’ argument is instead about Lorraine’s safety rather than their daughter’s. The question at the very heart of the movie, whether to continue to help one family at the expense of another, is never even discussed. The writer’s didn’t seem to recognize the very tension in what they had already wrote, let alone the potential for more.

Really, past all that, it’s just a succession of tropes. And there were so many: creepy imaginary friend; creepy doll; creepy cursed object; clocks stopping at 3:00; creepy basement; creepy blindfolded hide and seek game; family dog dying; birds crashing into the house; spirit with unfinished business; team investigating the house; exorcism; eye of the hurricane lull… the list goes on.

I think the reason so many people liked this movie on the surface was that it presented all these tired tropes in a way that didn’t suck. Which is only really celebrated because in most movies they do suck.

I was hoping that even with the steady progression of tropes, that the director of Saw and Insidious would have some style up his sleeve to give us a bit of spectacle with them. But really… just a creepy house. That was all the atmosphere we got. I can only recall one shot in the movie that really stood out to me in any kind of creative, atmospheric capacity.

Really, this film falls perfectly on the spectrum of mediocrity.

It wasn’t as laughably bad as 2012’s atrocious The Apparition, which couldn’t even execute a cliche trope to save a life. But, by the same token, when compared to the masterpiece Spanish Del Toro-produced Orphanagewhich heaps on many of the exact same tropes, but with a skillful execution thoroughly mindful of atmosphere, genuine frights, and depth of theme, The Conjuring just flounders around in average mediocrity.

It was just hitting its beats.

And yeah, maybe that was exactly what this movie was supposed to be. It didn’t pretend to be more than what it was. It was a summertime frightener. But really, can’t we get some effort out of a horror movie these days? Especially one that so heavily leans on the treasure trove that is Ed and Lorraine Warren.

C+

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and Paranormal Pop Culture Blog, works with investigative teams across Colorado, lectures across America, and leads the public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

 

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Recommended Paranormal Reading

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A fantastic question, and one that I wish I get more often. I answered this one a couple months ago, but thought it might be easier to lay it out in a blog.

Caveats of course come in the sense that there’s still dozens upon dozens of wonderful and mind-bending books on the paranormal that I haven’t gotten to yet. But there are a few that I think would be wonderful if people started getting their hands on.

9781450253567_p0_v1_s260x4201. Paranormal Technology: Understanding the Science of Ghost Hunting by David Rountree. 

If there is one book any serious technical investigator of the paranormal should read, it’s this one. Where in today’s paranormal world many teams are largely ignorant to scientific theories, equipment, and genuine methodologies, this book is quintessential reading to help understand not only how the tools you’re using work, but what they’re measuring. Some is over my head. Some is borderline scientistic and narrow-sighted, but overall required reading. There’s a big part of me that wants to suggest to any investigator to not use any piece of technology again until after reading this book.

 

 

images2. Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science, Understanding the Nature and Power of Consciousness by Edgar D. Mitchell. 

The paranormal extends SO much farther than simply ghosts. If you want your mind BLOWN when it comes to the paranormal, you absolutely must read this book. A compilation of articles from psi researchers in 1973, this book synthesizes data collected by three generations of psychical researchers, whose conclusions come up again and again that the existence of psychic abilities have been effectively proven to exist, and that the next step is learning more about how they work. Readable. Mind-bending. Wonderful. It’s thoroughly referenced and footnoted, so opportunities for further reading abound. 

(From my reading in this, I’ve got sitting near my headboard my on-deck reading, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death by FWH Myers and The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena by Dean Radin, which has gotten a wealth of wonderful reader reviews on Amazon.)

 

5676823. The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel

But the paranormal doesn’t stop at spirits and psychic phenomena. In fact, much of my reading list strays away from ghosts on their own entirely. Because of popular culture right now, we all get the general ideas behind the existence of ghosts. How many of us, after watching the first two seasons of Ghost Hunters can relay the three types of haunting and how EVP is different from disembodied voice? Keel’s Mothman Prophecies is a true achievement in paranormal research. Though I’m a big fan of the Pellington-directed movie, the book is fantastic reading. Diving so deeply into the strange events at point pleasant, Keel can’t help but become a part of the story. Despite breaking one of the first rules of journalism, the book then becomes instantly engaging on a level not purely intellectual, but reads as good as a fiction thriller. Mothman Prophecies brings together UFOlogy, some of the earliest reports of the Men in Black phenomena, poltergeist-type happenings, cryptids, and the titular prophecies. Where one phenomena stops and another begins? That’s the real question below this book.

(Note: Keel also wrote the wonderful Our Haunted Planet, which, while eye-opening as it dissects ancient mythology and the potential reality of gods, aliens, and faeries, is poorly referenced throughout, making many of his lofty claims immediately suspect to the careful reader. Though I’ve only read the opening chapters, it seems that Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia–which is available used for $400 dollars on amazon, or as a free PDF on a quick google search–is a much better presented exploration of similar study).

9780253221810_med4. Phenomenology and Mysticism: The Verticality of Religious Experience by Anthony Steinbock

Readers familiar with my areas of research know that in much of college, I focused a lot of study on philosophy of religions (both east and west) as well as an emphasis on mysticism. Mysticism is the practice of having an experience of something divine or transcendent of the world around us. Steinbock’s textbook examines what makes a spiritual experience inherently spiritual and where it crosses with the world around us. Indeed, as paranormal researchers, if we are coming into contact with beings or creatures from a plane truly beyond our own, the similarities in experiences immediately come together. If any researchers are interested in the broader implications of what it means to contact beings from “somewhere beyond”, Steinbock is a must read.

(Mystical experience is broadly classified and broadly researched in a way that much of the paranormal hasn’t. Some other books for reading on the subject include William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. James was one of the founding members of the Society for Psychical research, which is necessarily referenced in Mitchell’s Psychic Explorations book. Funny how they all start linking together again, isn’t it? Also, try Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts, Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Beliefand Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience.)

9780060653378 5. Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans by Malachi Martin

It should be noted that I have a problem with fundamental religious belief (which you’ll understand far more deeply if you pursue the mystical readings), but Martin’s book on possession is one of the best. It very thoroughly documents five case studies on various possessions that he researched. Where many television shows today like to throw around the “demon” word to keep their episodes exciting for the audience at home, the reality of demonic possession is shocking and very different. This book explores not only the exorcisms, but the circumstances surrounding the onset of the possession. This can be difficult to digest for the non-religious reader, as its very fundamentalist. But Martin is a professional and does a fine job of presenting the circumstances with very little bias. Even from the 1970s and with deeply religious background, such topics as transgender individuals are handled gracefully, though certain implications do leave a critical reader a bit wary. Regardless, as a study on the fact of possession, there’s much that cannot be denied, and the presentation here borders on masterpiece.

(If demonology is your thing, there is some fascinating reading on the subject. I also recommend The Dark Sacrament by David Kiely and Christina McKenna and The Rite by Matt Baglio).

41NPF555BTLHonorable Mention: The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion by James George Frazer.

The first time I tossed out these books on twitter, I added also that you should read anything that John Tenney recommends. If he told me there was insight in the phone book, I’d take to the phone book with a magnifying glass. At the time, his go-to book to add to the list was The Golden Bough. Because of his recommendation, this fat tome is sitting on my shelf patiently waiting my read. Written around the turn of the 20th century, this book is considered a foundation for modern-day Anthropology, studying how beliefs over time have changed from magic to religion, and from religion to science.

Those are my suggestions, caveats and thoughts and all. I do hope these help. If you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to sound off in the comments down below!

 

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and Paranormal Pop Culture Blog, works with investigative teams across Colorado, lectures across America, and leads the public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

 

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UV Light and Spirit Photography (Feat. Barry Fitzgerald)

You’ve done a lot of work with full spectrum photography. A lot of teams are trying to do the same. What are some of the nuances of this kind of photography?

You have to understand that what we’re trying to do is to film into those light frequencies without projecting unnecessary light into those frequencies. So these lights–full spectrum floodlights–they really go against what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to observe phenomena that occurs within those frequencies. So producing UV light starts to break down the manifestation of spirit as it starts to come into this form that we understand. So that light starts to hinder on both sides of what we appreciate as the visual spectrum.

What would you suggest then as an alternative for the floodlights?

The alternative that we’ve been using that’s shown to be successful is a low lux full spectrum video camera. This is something that’s like a security camera, but it runs at sixteen frames per second, so it gets much more light into it and you’re able to see those breakdowns of energy as they collapse in on themselves, and we’ve been able to see some amazing stuff in that low lux range.

Spirit find it easier to manifest in RED light…

So a small amount of red and with a low lux camera capturing a wider range of the EMF spectrum yields greater success in capturing something that truly is of the supernatural realm.

So for folks at home, with money worries, are there any more manageable options available? 

There are alternatives on eBay but you want to make sure you’re going for a generation 3 or 4. They will run you around 300 dollars. Compared to what we have on the market at the moment, which are claiming to be full spectrum, they don’t actually film in low light conditions. You have to use extraneous light, lighting these places up, trying to capture something that will not appear because of the light being used. 16 frames per second can really go down into those low lux areas. When you have a hand held camera converted to full spectrum, it shoots in 35 frames per second, and it needs a lot more light, which doesn’t work in the field.

So in terms of flash photography versus long exposures, pros and cons to both?

You do have pros and cons to both. It’s one of those things, the flash itself can present–if there’s no filter on the flash–it can present the UV that can illuminate the manifestation and bounce back the light to the camera, but of course when that happens, the materialization pulls back altogether and you get a one shot deal. The open shutter uses existing light already there, not being blasted with other light sources, but of course you have the problem as well that on a thirty second exposure, you have something that walks straight through your shot, leaving a blur, so you have no idea what it was. Or you could be lucky enough to get that one solid shot, but those are rare deals.

You’ve only had it happen the one time?

One time.

With the flash, if the physical form is broken down, can they not affect the world? Or only not materialize visually again?

Understanding that materialization and the structures required for a spirit to materialize, you’re able to understand what they can interfere with and at one time. They can pull back in a fully lighted environment but still have the ability to influence. That’s something I wrote about in my book, The Influence. That in itself can be quite a dangerous little subject on its own.

But really it’s practice and getting a good knowledge base behind you and understanding what you’re dealing with.

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, works with investigative teams across Colorado, lectures across America, and leads the public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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John Tenney Talks Patience. And Fishing.

New Vlog this week! Today we’re featuring paranormal researcher John EL Tenney, who’s amassed nearly thirty years experience in the field, documenting and studying everything from conspiracies to PSI. Staying consistent with the vlog’s theme toward misconceptions and new ways of thinking about ghost hunting, today we’re angling at patience. And fishing.

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Ghosts and Flares and Mists and Photos

Following last week’s blog about Orbs and photography, I want to use this week to talk some about other issues in photography, primarily camera flares, mists, and the importance of paying attention.

So what is a lens flare?

Most of you guys are familiar with lens flares if you’ve seen the movie Star Trek by JJ Abrams. It’s called “anamorphic lens flare” because it’s a lens flare on an anamorphic wide screen lens, so it’s very wide and very dramatic. He uses it because he loves this idea of the future being so bright that the light can’t be contained outside of the lens.

Lens flare though is when your camera is set up and you have a really bright light source either in the shot, or just outside of it. The light then strikes your camera lens and it’s redirected into your camera, giving you glare and often illuminating odd-looking artifacts.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 1.25.29 PMIf it’s off the side of your shot, you will see evidence of this object in the photo even if the object is not in your shot.

You might sometimes get dusty looking elements, a washed out effect, and sometimes a mirroring of the lens, in which you see curves and orb-like shapes.

The first thing you want to do then if you get one of these bright glowing oddly-shaped objects, is to look for bright objects just off to the side of the shot. Lens flare is not always a crazy disruptive streak of light. Sometimes it’s only a  haze, bad contrast, or strange orb anomalies.

CCTV_Lens_flare

What else shows up in pictures aside from flares?

Mists. And the easiest way to experience a false mist is to be taking pictures outside in the winter. You’ll be holding your camera in front of your face, or near your face, and your breath is illuminated in the flash.

Most people claim to not remember seeing their breath while taking pictures. Which can be true. Normally we don’t look immediately in front of our cameras when using a flash, and the flash can sometimes illuminate vapors more brightly than whatever ambient lighting is around at the time (the way that afternoon sun illuminates the dust floating through your living room).

It’s important to also remember that seeing your breath does not necessarily only occur in freezing temperatures. Sometimes, with the help of additional environmental factors, it can appear on a humid day with temperatures as high as forty or fifty degrees. Cold is important because what you’re seeing is condensation of water vapor as you breathe out. If it’s cold enough, it turns the vapor into a more dense form, and you see breath.

But this segues into the third part, which is observation.

This is a hard topic to discuss with people who are enthusiastic about their ghost photo. Why?

Because everyone thinks that they’re very observant.

I see a fair amount of photos that people have taken with figures in the background. Oftentimes this is from my stomping grounds, the Stanley Hotel, in which folks on a tour will capture of a photo of something eerie.

My problem is that I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how controlled the situation was. I don’t know for sure if that room was indeed locked down and if the photographer was as alone as they thought they were. Without a video setup or having been there myself, it’s too hard to make that call.

Oftentimes though this is seen in reflections. Most people will be taking a picture of a shiny surface and later find a figure in the background of the reflection. What’s challenging here is that most times, you don’t pay attention to what’s in the reflection itself. You pay attention to what’s in the space between you and the reflecting surface.

But think too about the time it takes to snap three photos, the delay between each photo, and then the time it takes before you study the photo. By the time most people have found a strange figure, zoomed in, and realized it is significant, when they look up again, if that person who was in the photo was on the move, often times they’re gone. Mysteriously vanishing.

And further still, we think observation and experience is the best form of evidence. However, what’s interesting is that it’s actually  not.

I worked for the cops for a couple years in their explorer program, and we studied this idea about the unreliability of witness testimony. In fact, if you want to run the same experiment that we did, put a bunch of friends in a room together. Have one person walk into your group and say something to you briefly. Then, after they go, give a few minutes delay, and ask everyone in the room to (first without talking) record what they remember the person to be wearing and what the person looked like. Emphasis on colors of clothes, hair cut, types of clothes.

It’s incredible the amount of radically different answers you will get.

In fact, it’s interesting to consider how unreliable this testimony is in court, despite how high we hold it qualitatively.

Look even at some of your childhood memories. Compare them to old photos.

Try this.

So be as observant as possible if you’re trying to actually capture a ghost. Such “evidence” should not be presented lightly. And it shouldn’t be acquired lightly either.

That’s all I got this week! Thoughts? Leave them in the comments down below, AND, as always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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CRAZY GHOST PHOTOGRAPHY!

First of all, what are orbs? Orbs are theorized to be concentrated pinpoints of energy that have manifested intensely enough to present as a small ball of light, or as a small pocket of matter.

Often confused, orbs are not evidence of–nor even indicative of paranormal activity. Energy orbs are just that, balls of energy floating around in the air.

Scientists have been concerned with balls of energy for many years now, including ball lighting–which is a phenomena naturally occurring but so rare that scientists have a hard time studying it. They’ve managed to reproduce the phenomena in a laboratory, but whether or not the process is anything similar to what happens in nature is still a mystery.

However, some people believe that in the same way that we track anomalous and often-times communicative sources of “energy” on a ghost hunt, these balls of energy may well have something to do with ghostly activity.

But if we’re gonna talk about orbs, we first need to break down some photography.

First of all, DEPTH OF FIELD. What is it? Depth of field is the depth that your camera keeps objects in focus.

This varies depending on the lens. A narrow depth of field creates very blurry backgrounds, where the object in focus is only a very shallow part of the image.

300348456

With a deep depth of field, objects in the foreground are mostly in focus, while objects in the far background are also mostly in focus.

Also FLASH. Okay, we all know what a flash is: an intense burst of light from your camera to illuminate the room. But also keep in mind that holding a flashlight or other bright light source (including those invisible to the naked eye, like IR illuminators) are all in essence the same thing.

Now, the common explanation in paranormal research is that supposed “orbs” that appear on camera are actually dust particles. The dust is illuminated by the flash on your camera, and then, because your camera has focused on something deeper in the frame, farther away, the dust that is close to your camera lens is out of focus, forming a pretty sphere.

Consider this video here, in which out of focus lights turn to pretty, perfect circles with sometimes strange little squiggles or swirls inside.

These little squiggles are the product of the out of focus object. Play with the focus on your cameras. This very easily becomes the MATRIXING effect, also called PAREIDOLIA. Our human brain is trained to recognize facial features as part of our psychological development. So when you think you see a face because you’re zoomed in to the pixels, it’s not a ghost. The “orb” is a perfect sphere because it’s out of focus. Even if that was a spirit manifesting, they’re not going to manifest so that the more out of focus your camera is, the more in focus they are. If the “orb” was far enough away that your camera could focus on it AND see a face within it, everyone in the room would be aware of that orb.

The key is also this: Most orbs, if they are self-contained energy, would be characterized by their PRODUCTION of light, and the brightest point would be the center, radiating light OUTWARD, and in best case scenarios, casting that light onto another nearby object.

Most dust particles captured in photography are REFLECTING light. You can clearly see an outer edge is illuminated, or the orb is for the most part simply transparent.

House_Dust_Orbs

This is oftentimes witnessed on video camera too. Video usually utilizes a powerful light source, the IR light, that investigators use often. Think of it as a constant flash. Anything drifts in front of the lens, you have an orb. Often because this light is so powerful and direct in an otherwise dark room, insects and floating particulates, when they hit the light beam, are brightly illuminated, and move in odd patterns.

Sometimes they’re close enough to the camera to see wings. Sometimes they’re far and small enough they seem only like a small dot.

Why are they sometimes in colors? I was told that if they were purple, it’s my uncle. Oftentimes, the flash illuminates the room and bounces off the dust particle. If the particle looks red, it’s usually because there was something red in the room that the flash bounced from, and this is what illuminated the dust.

This can also be due to water particles, insects, and dust. All of which are around us constantly. If you show me a picture of an orb from a dusty tunnel, old attic, or outside during a snowstorm, I’m obviously going to rule it out.

If you show me an orb from anywhere else, let’s face it, I’m gonna rule that out too. Dust is everywhere.

HOWEVER. Let’s play some devil’s advocate here.

Orb’s DO seem to be a recurring phenomena. I’ve seen then with my own eyes in a dark room. Often they seem to be a trick of my eyes, those semi-supernova-esque type appearances that oddly enough are often validated by other people in the room. I’ve seen them under chairs, near people’s bodies, floating by the ceiling and along the floor.

I’ve never seen one photographed.

However, there is something to be said too for the idea that if a spirit concentrates its manifestation to an individual point, perhaps it can come through as MATTER in a very tiny space. In which case, wouldn’t it look just like a dust orb on camera?

Certainly so. If that’s what’s happening, if matter is actually forming before your camera, close enough to the lens to be out of focus and illuminated by the flash, maybe it is indeed a ghost. My problem is that if it in all likelihood is a piece of dust or moisture or bug(which are all EVERYWHERE), what are the chances you’ve captured proof positive of a ghost?

Cropped_Chromatic_aberration_with_cats_eye_effect

In my opinion? Slim. Very slim.

Other ways to try to capture orbs then would be such:

Set up an experiment in which you put two cameras a few feet from each other, on tripods. Using the flash on both, and rigging a remote to set both off at the same time, an orb should appear in both of the photos if it is indeed deeper in the room.

However, this also supplies problems. In a dusty room, you might get two separate orbs in the photos. So, I’d trust using an SLR camera with no flash or bright light source close to the camera, and a lens hood.

If you get an orb in one of those photos, check to see if it seems to be producing light or reflecting light. If reflecting, where is it coming from?

But that’s all I’ve got this week. Disagree? Agree? Let me know more down in the comment section down below!

As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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