It made me recollect a night a little over five years ago, when I was part of a ghost hunt. There were about seven or eight of us – two reporters (myself included), a professional photographer, and a selection of other responsible individuals – that a newspaper sent in to spend the night at what is said to be one of the most famously haunted hotels in America. It was meant to be "part Scooby-Doo and part Blair Witch", my editor said. We were supposed to treat it seriously, but also have some fun while we were there: not to take it TOO seriously. 'Cuz then we might fall into the trap of believing things that our subconscious minds wanted us to believe. Our editor worked it out with hotel management for us to have what was supposed to be the most haunted room in the entire place to use as our homebase: we'd meet back every hour and swap notes. In the meantime we were free to go wherever, just so long as we didn't bother the guests. We didn't have anything like electro-magnetic field detectors or night-view videocameras, but we did have several photographic cameras (including one loaded with infrared film) and my audio tape recorder that I used to speak notes into and record whatever else.
Long story short: we came away from that night with more than we expected. A lot more. There's a photograph taken that night that I wish I could post here, but the copyright belongs to someone else, so it wouldn't be right for me to do that. I made myself look at it again after watching Ghost Hunters, even though five years later it still gives me the freezing willies. We took several pics with the infrared film: in four of the photos (including two from the "haunted" room) there are unexplained signatures that show up. It's the one in the hallway that's really disturbing: it was the day after we got the photos back that we realized there was a woman's face hanging neck-high in mid-air down the hallway. There was nothing there when we took the photo, and don't ask me why we chose to take a picture at that exact moment: the whole story is coming someday from another venue, and I don't want to steal their thunder by talking about it here. There was also the matter of my tape recorder: it picked up some very spooky sounds – a voice whispering – while we were in another building on-site. There were two people in that room at the time, and this wasn't a voice from either of us.
Do I believe in ghosts? Well, given the evidence we collected firsthand that night, I now admit to believing that there's something we can’t explain in terms of the normal world that’s at work here. My own personal theory? If there are such things as ghosts, I don't believe they're "spiritual" in nature at all. My thinking is that they are some kind of "recording" left in a place that sometimes replays itself: a recording in time and space. It might have something to do with quantum physics. Or this might all be a little too wacky anyway. But you tell me: would you say you don't believe in spooks if your tape recorder picked up a weird voice saying "Let me out..."?
Anyway, at the time I wound up doing a lot of research into real-life hauntings, including the many apparent photographs of ghosts taken over the years. Some I'd seen before and others were brand-new to me. It's been something I've made an occasional study on in the years since. A number of them "stuck with me". Since we're now getting into the Halloween season, I thought it might be fun (and maybe even horizon-broadening) if I shared here what I thought were the top ten ghostly photographs taken to date.
So far as I can tell, these are the real deal. Meaning that they've been sifted through with a fine-tooth comb by people who know photography and have withstood all scrutiny. These are the pictures that simply can't be explained, or at least haven't yet according to anything we can explain currently. That doesn't leave very many photos for serious consideration: there are tons of professed ghost photos. Most of them are explained away with extreme ease: Too many "ghosts" are simply camera straps that got in the way of the lens. Ghostly "orbs" are probably nothing more than light scintillating off of dust particles. Some ghostly images are mere double exposures (an example of which is glimpsed in the movie The Godfather). Occam's Razor applies bigtime here: the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one. Tends to be, that is...
So with all that in mind, for your viewing pleasure (and excluding the one photo that I've already said I can't show here, even though it's really unsettling to look at) and just in time for Halloween, here are what I consider to be:
And there you have it, my personal list of the best ghost photographs (or not) taken so far. But before I close out this article, I want to make mention of just one more photograph: one that I found while doing some research ("The Best Ghost Photographs Ever Taken" at About.com’s Paranormal Phenomenon site was a HUGE help, as was the website for L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations). This photo is, ahhh geez what else can I say about this: if this is the real deal, then there's something cosmically sweet about this picture. Some people say that love is forever... well, this might be the first time ever that we've got documented proof of that. I’ll let Denise Russell take it from here, courtesy of About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena:
"The lady in the color photo is my granny," she says. "She lived on her own until age 94, when her mind started to weaken and had to be moved to an assisted living home for her own safety. At the end of the first week, there was a picnic for the residents and their families. My mother and sister attended. My sister took two pictures that day, and this is one of them. It was taken on Sunday, 8/17/97, and we think the man behind her is my grandpa who passed away on Sunday, 8/14/84. We did not notice the man in the picture until Christmas Day, 2000 (granny had since passed away), while browsing through some loose family photos at my parents' house. My sister thought it was such a nice picture of granny that she even made a copy for mom, but still, nobody noticed the man behind her for over three years! When I arrived at my parents' house that Christmas day, my sister handed me the picture and said, "Who do you think this man behind granny looks like?" It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I was absolutely speechless. The black and white photos show that it really looks like him."I don't need what might be a ghost's photograph to attest to this truth: when you're in love with that one special someone, nothing will stop you from being with that person. But it's still pretty nice to get a tangible confirmation of that every once in awhile...