[I've come a long way spiritually, since I wrote this piece. I have no new material to add; haven't had a camera in years. Now I try to align my thoughts, understandings and feelings about the subject of spiritualism with the Roman Catholic Church. My view of the spiritual hierarchy comes from the Church and her exorcists. --C.K.]
Do not reproduce in any form.
[Originally posted August 22, 2006. First reposted on January 5, 2009.]
by Catherine King
A few months ago, I started getting back into paranormal photography. I told you about it in Speaking for Myself:
I've entered the world of Spirit Photography again.
Spirits, by way of my ghost camera, have tipped me off that I'm entering another phase in my life-- an OTHER phase.
For the first time in a long while, I'm capturing more than orbs. It's swirling tendrils of energy,
surging light beings,
and dimensions that are not on our earthly plane.
I've tried to put these (sometimes cropped, but otherwise unaltered) images in some kind of context, in presentations such as the ongoing and unfinished Updated Spook Tree, and Housefull Of Phantoms. There's also DEPART!; my plea for deliverence, as well as the digital net art --
Windows Are The Eyes Of The Soul, and
What Is It About Doorways?
The range of visual phenomena I've been capturing lately is exceeded only by those Jerome captured at The Reunion, two and a half years ago. On that most terrifying of nights, he recorded glimpses of many ghostly orbs, phantom people, apparent demons and even UFO's. I'll share with you what's left of that night later on in the post.
Never before have I really searched for explanations for the haunting imagery. Once I was able to accept our photographs as evidence of the paranormal, I didn't speculate much further. I explained my stance in Photography by Catherine King: Meet My Collaborators:
They really are there, okay? And they feel like the dead. That's all I can say with assurance; anything else would be speculation. I suppose that's what they do on the orb site chat rooms -- speculate to their heart's content. What Jerome and I do is make art from our ghost photos -- presented with all the mystery, and the sensitivity to their message, intact.
Things Bright and Beautifull
Crowd of Witnesses
I had come to feel that . . . other people's metaphysics were, and are, of no use to me . . . I have to wrestle with my own findings, according to my personal tradition . . . Questions and issues of our mortality and immortality must be worked out mano a mano . . .
But more than just the camera is different in this new phase and era. I've changed. It's the time of the season to examine the core of all the problems in my life. I'm beginning to allow myself to reflect that
I'm not just haunted -- I'm cursed . . . Why us with all the paranormal photography? Are spirits really crowding around everything all the time? Or do Jerome and I attract entities, malevolent as well as harmless ones?
Listening to my inner voice, I can hear the word "Spiritualism" resonating like a ringing bell. I feel I'm being directed to do more than snap the shutter and assemble photomontages. It seems I should embark on a posting about these light anomalies.
The following text is part of my first piece of Ghost Photo Art -- Crowd of Witnesses.
The text, inked through drafting templates onto acetate, encircles a digital photocollage and describes in honest and heartfelt terms the beginning of my adventure with Spirit Photography:
When we finally got online around the middle of last summer, I was thrilled. Soon I discovered those paranormal sites that post uploaded photographs of supposed ghosts and spirits. Fascinated, I decided to try some DIGITAL SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY.
I began when a super powerful monsoon swept through the valley and knocked out the electricity. For hours that night we sat in the dark and questioned the finality of death. Every so often, I pointed the camera to the blackness around us and clicked the shutter.
Four days later the electricity was restored and we downloaded the pictures from that stormy night. The universe was about to start reeling. Some of the photos showed DISTINCT LUMINOUS ORBS, as large as a yard in diameter, hovering in midair in our living room! They looked just like a lot of the images on the internet sites, only bigger.
As we examined our captured images I felt strangely frightened. I wasnít really prepared to find ghosts or spirits in our own home. And they were so easy to capture. Six out of seven photos showed the baffling images. What did that imply?
Did it mean our apartment was haunted? Neither of us sensed anything supernatural at home- no cold spots, no disembodied voices. But the pictures were graphic evidence that something otherworldly was right in our living room!
I believed that some of the photos on the internet were bound to be fakes. Others were certainly flukes. I could also believe that some were genuine. But one thing I knew for sure; there was no question but that our photographs were genuine.
I put down the camera. For the next few weeks I examined my beliefs about what is possible. I needed a broader concept of reality before I could continue with spirit photography. The orbs must have always been existing with humanity, I told myself. We just couldnít see them before we had digital technology.
Suddenly I was confronting a profound terror inside myself. I felt an alienating fear of my most familiar and intimate surroundings. I scared myself when I was alone at home, picturing spectral spheres all around me. I didnít want to walk through a spot where an orb had been, even though Iíd captured them pretty much all over our apartment. I couldnít function if I was afraid to move about my own home. I had to come to terms with this new reality.
Truly, the unknown is all around us, all the time. This is reality. For days I struggled with my new realization. I looked back at myself, before I knew about the orbs, almost as if I had been another person. Pragmatically and reverently, I came to accept that we the living are surrounded by those who are not. Again I picked up the camera, empowered by having overcome my fears and accepting the mystery that has always been. Now I was ready to document this cosmic phenomenon.
It is my observation that the orbs have personality-like behavior. I often capture them floating in front of our wall art. They always hover above our projects as they lay spread out on tables. Over and over I find orbs resting on our computer keyboard. Wherever we do creative work, it seems they are lingering. The orbs in our apartment seem to linger in groups. It appears we are living elbow to elbow with spherical spirits. By extension then, could it be that THE ENTIRE PLANET IS COVERED WITH A CLOUD OF SOULS?
It was the summer of 2002 when Jerome and I bought a new computer and the Apple people included a digital camera with the package. So it's been four years now since the Other World has been offering me undeniable evidence of its existence. I probably wouldn't have believed all these wonders without the pictures to prove them.
As I noted in Crowd of Witnesses, it's amazing how much "We just couldnít see . . . before we had digital technology." This technology has the capacity to extend our perception far beyond what we have come to accept as The Here and Now. Perhaps your camera, like mine, will lead you to expanded realms of personal growth. You might be able to say, as I did, "I looked back at myself, before I knew about the orbs, almost as if I had been another person."
Casting my mind back to the profound revelation that was our first batch of orb photographs, I'd have to say I hadn't actually expected to capture anything paranormal. It started as a lark in the dark -- something entertaining to get through a stormy night in a creepy old apartment without electricity. It's been quite a soulfull adventure since then --a spiritual voyage undertaken in a digital vessel. It's mysterious, frightening, humbling and extremely interesting.
In an earlier post, I reviewed How to Photograph the Paranormal, by Leonore Sweet, Ph. D. She quotes Dr. Alan Meyer-- The orbs movements are lifelike as they demonstrate they have emotions, intelligence, and attitude.
I noticed orbs displaying the same personality-like behavior, as I've documented with many photographs. Orbs and other spirits attach themselves to fashion, flowers, flags, crucifixes, doors, windows, lamps, TVs, and tools.
Sweet is wrong when she advocates detachment from the world:
Attachment to the things of this world keeps us bound to it and incapable of experiencing spiritual enlightenment.
My interpretation from the body of original paranormal photography that Jerome and I have accumulated, is that detachment is against our human, and spiritual, nature. A host of photographs, along with the psychological effects of haunting, have led me to conclude that Life and the Afterlife are all about attachment and lingering longing. I'm going to use the Spirit Photography of King and du Bois to try to convince you of that. We'll also have a fascinating time just looking at a Very Large Array of different paranormal phenomena.
Let's begin with this poignant picture of an orb following Jerome and me as we strolled through our historic neighborhood on Christmas night, 2004. The delicate darkness is so deep and so beautifull, with its tiny shiny jewels on black velvet. I bet the deceased is remembering Christmases past, wishing they were still alive to share more. If your monitor is good enough, you can see the subtle tonal variations in the large tree.
This charming subdivision is old enough to have many huge, mature trees-- fairly rare in Phoenix. Jerome and I feel that orbs, and other spirits, love trees. You'll see many more examples of that love throughout this post. Anyway, isn't that a mysterious-looking illumination in the tree behind the orb? It doesn't really look like Christmas lights to me.
Jerome captured this moving orb right in front of the big, old house across the street. He was standing no more than six feet from the orb, which would make it about as big as a beachball, we figure.
Though their world may be one of eternal night, it feels like the orbs yearn to return to the world of the living. They long to come home. It's as if this orb, like countless people throughout time, is saying "Leave the light on . . . Don't forget me . . . "
Our big, old, backyard is full of paranormal phenomena. The orbs out back seem to be lingering on the outside, looking in. I find this observation more sad than creepy. I captured this curious orb right after we moved into our Little House in the Big Graveyard. Very soon afterwards I made and hung the heavy curtains over the French doors.
Once I would have been unnerved about having them out there, like supernatural Peeping Toms , but by now I know that some invisible body is always watching everything.
Sweet: Many orb photographers report having . . ."personal" orbs . . .
Here's the Beautifull Stranger moving around during the day.
The Beautifull Stranger appears and reappears over and over in the same spots in the backyard. That's another quality I've noticed about orbs and other spirits-- their obsessive persistence (kind of like me).
A detail view:
Here's a closeup:
The Beautifull Stranger seems to love the little mango tree as much as Jerome and I do.
I lay off the spirit photography from time to time, for various reasons. After one of these breaks I captured this lovely portrait, which has been very popular on the internet. I call it Return of the Beautifull Stranger:
Some skeptics will tell you that orb photos are flying bugs. Not our photos. Here I captured some orbs and a moving bug in the same photo, and you can clearly see the difference.
Here's a closeup of the bug. How fast do you think digital cameras must be in order to freeze a bug in midflight like that? Then consider how fast the orbs must be moving when they leave those blurry trails behind them. Faster than a speeding bug . . .
Jerome and I didn't photograph "in the field" until we were a year into the spirit photography. That's when we moved from the Haunted Apartment to the Little House in the Big Graveyard. The apartment was our haunted photo studio for the first twelve scary months.
There's no telling what traumatic and tragic events transpired in those fifty-year-old rooms. I captured hundreds of eerie moods there. A long time ago I showed you a variety of them in slideshows that I posted on my defunct electronic grimoire, Tin Flame. The slideshows, especially Dark Mood Descending, artfully captured the oppressive atmosphere in The Haunted Apartment. The place lives in my mind even now. When I close my eyes I can-- I don't want to go there!
There used to be a great second-hand store on the south side of Camelback Road, just west of Central Avenue --Pink Flamingo. It was the mother of all second-hand stores. It's been torn down now to make room for the light rail system. But a few years ago, Jerome and I went there to look for a lamp for The Haunted Apartment, in an effort to disperse its engulfing darkness.
We found one alright. It's one of those midcentury freeform tree-like things. It was a lot less expensive than similar ones I'd seen in antique shops-- only $25. It's truly vintage though as can be seen from the cord and old-fashioned plug. Both prongs on the plug are identical and you don't see appliances with that feature anymore.
We had no idea the lamp was paranormal when we brought it back to our dismal digs. The orbs were the first supernatural beings we discovered in our haunted home. Those initial interior shots in the old apartment nearly drove me over the edge. After that, in order to convince myself that it all was real, and I wasn't crazy, I madly rushed from room to room taking digital photographs.
It was then that we discovered the most definitive of all the spirits who shared our home with us. It seemed this individual had attached itself to the second-hand lamp from Pink Flamingo. There it was, in the background of some of the orb photos, emitting its sci-fi mystery beam.
You can clearly see that the bulb itself is emitting the beam, which is comprised of some sort of digitized matter.
Living in a haunted home does bizarre things to one's psychology. Some of you reading this will know that it's true. After a while, I came to think of this creepy appliance as a new addition to our little family. It posed quite compliantly for many portraits.
From Roomfull Of Phantoms:
Crouching in the corner of the bedroom, the view that I saw between several open door frames was spellbinding. There was the Haunting Lamp, just sitting up on the dining room table, perfectly framing itself in the crack between the worlds -- thatís what it looked like. Seen through the length of the dark bedroom, past the shadowy alcove that was the little vanity room, through another doorway and there it was -- shining with its eerie glow from two gloomy rooms away.
I became riveted by that slice of pink light that beamed to me from some other dimension, just the other side of the furthest doorway. How impressive of the Haunting Lamp to present this unforgettable imagery, I thought. Once again, this so-called inanimate object had expressed itself with powerful poignancy.
Sometimes the Haunting Lamp projected its beam, sometimes it chose not to do so.
Sometimes the base of the lamp seemed to shrink and vanish, so that the eerily glowing bulb was all that remained.
It had the ability to affect the surrounding atmosphere, making it appear as though our apartment was submerged in a bottomless sea of loneliness . . .
The Haunting Lamp revealed itself as a very depressed existential human, longingly looking in vain for a like-minded soul. Here it is with another, inanimate lamp. If the beam phenomenon from the Haunting Lamp is actually only a malfunction of the camera's light sensor, then why isn't the ordinary lamp beaming as well?
The Haunting Lamp could move at times. I couldn't see the movement, even though, obviously, I was looking at the lamp through the viewfinder as I photographed it. I think that kind of motion is too fast for our eyes to register. We'll take a closer look at supernatural speed later on in the post.
Notice the stem of the bulb appears unnaturally wide in the photos above and below. The camera captured its movement through space as a single thickened image.
See how the lamp moves, though its pedestal remains stationary, in the image below.
The Haunting Lamp defied the physical laws of our known universe in other otherworldly ways as well. Notice its beam in the image below.
Here the Haunting Lamp sits on a work table in front of the bookcases which are against the far wall of the living room. The work table is approximately 10' beyond the double doorway between the living room and the haunted den, in which I was sitting as I photographed this phenomenon. And yet, the very solid beam of the Haunting Lamp passes uninterrupted past the upper frame of the folding doors and rises to the ceiling. According to our present understanding of physics, the top of the door frame should block the beam and we would only see it in front of the door frame if the Haunting Lamp were sitting directly under the door frame, between both rooms, or else sitting in front of it, in the haunted den. In other words, light from a 40-watt household bulb does not normally bend.
Sweet: I believe orbs, vortexes, ectoplasms, and apparitions are all made of the same stuff, and most authorities say that is some sort of low-energy plasma. Plasma, called the fourth state of matter, is a collection of ionized particles that produce light from the movement of its atoms' electrons. The light forms are capable of taking different forms depending upon the energy available to them, just as water, ice and steam are all water but their forms are dependent upon temperature.
The photo above, and the twenty embeds that follow, were all taken from the same vantage point, as I sat in the exact same spot in the tiny haunted den. As you will see, several light forms manifested themselves there. My observations bear out Sweet's contention that light forms are capable of taking different forms, as it seems these five different manifestations -- the electronic burst, the orbs, the ectoplasm, the Bright Things, and the TV spirits, all had the same source.
The first to show itself was the intense burst of electronic energy.
Very early in my paranormal studies (it was four years ago, so I don't remember where), I read that the first appearance of a spirit in a highly charged atmosphere will often be a dramatic light display, such as the above image. Sort of an excited hello. Indeed this was the very first picture I took from inside the haunted den looking beyond to the living room. The air crackled quite audibly as I clicked the shutter, and the viewfinder lit up like a light show. I also captured one of these displays the first time I pointed the camera into our bedroom at the Haunted Apartment, as I wrote in the text accompanying Roomfull Of Phantoms.
This overwhelming display used the whole picture frame, because it spread across the entire viewfinder. Yet not a trace of the scene directly in front of me, the one you'll see in the next nineteen shots, was visable. Just this compelling electronic greeting.
Here we go with a living room orb. The living room was actually our art studio -- many artists can relate to that -- and the orbs seemed fascinated in whatever Jerome and I were putting together. We had a sense that they were always there, looking over our shoulders.
This apparition is the closest thing to ectoplasm that we've captured, though it doesn't have that dispersed irregularity so typical of other people's ectoplasm photos. It looks something like a surging light being. Interestingly though, it's not using any light source, but is self-illuminated.
It was in the same space, by the double folding doors between the den and the living room, where the Bright Things made their visitation. Night after night, week after week, I would be wakened in the haunting hours. As quickly as possible, I fumbled my way through the scary vanity alcove and into the miniscule kitchen. Then turned the light on and started some coffee, though my actions did little either to dispel the darkness or warm the place. I knew they were waiting for me . . .
I went to take my place in the den. Huddled in a comforter on the floor, I reached over and turned on the international news for mute companionship. Then picking up my camera and turning it on, I looked through the viewfinder. The Bright Thing was still there, glowing on the door frame before me.
This was one phenomenon that was visable before the photograph was downloaded, before the picture was even taken, as a matter of fact. That was one of its aspects that made it feel so alive. Or maybe not alive so much as intelligent. It was some kind of being alright -- a Blue Light Being.
Also adding to the impression that the Blue Light Being was intelligent, with intent, was the fact that it moved through space,
from the wall to the folded door.
As it became more familiar with our earthly terrain, the Blue Light Being moved off the folded door to hover in midair. This small step was actually a giant leap forward, as it clearly indicated that the Bright Thing was unattached to any surface; reflective or otherwise.
I became so frightened that dark, haunting hour when the second Bright Thing joined the scout. Now there were two aliens observing me!
Together they maneuvered like miniature craft from some other world, there in the deep space between our haunted den and living room.
Here's the original Blue Light Being, looking so crisp you could count its pixels, even as it's submerged in supernaturalism. And the second Blue Light Being has transformed itself into an orb . . .
The Blue Light Beings traveled on after a month or so. I guess they had other realms to explore. Because they felt so alien and distant, Jerome and I chose to represent them as a double spiral galaxy in our Ghost Photo Art. We printed out hundreds of photos of the Bright Things, cut them out around their contours, arranged them in this swirling motif and glued them down on deep indigo velvet to make Things Bright and Beautifull.
Did you notice that the Bright Things look like thermal images of pressure points? That's very much what they felt like, too. As though some extraterrestrial spirits were poking their phantom fingers into the mouth of our earthly cave, touching the veil that separates us and saying "See, we're here! and here! and here!"
I feel like them with my art-making and my writing -- invisibly persisting.
Electricity- compare light display, beam and bright things
I guess I'd have to call myself a sensitive, because I feel things. The atmosphere in the tiny haunted den would become almost unbearably frightening when the TV spirits were manifesting themselves. Jerome may have been right in front of me, in the living room, working on some art project. Yet it felt as though a million miles of black space separated us. When that very scary charge filled the den, I knew the TV spirits were ready to be captured.
Now, I have already confessed in several postings, that I watch a lot of TV news -- especially since 9/11. I feel that the spirit world is very concerned about current events. After all, the news comprises the very substance of our lives and times. Maybe the TV spirits were using my feelings, and fears, about this dark era and amplifying them.
I've seen some other people's TV spirits on internet sites. As I recall, their TVs are usually turned off when the ghosts appear on the screen. The phenomena I captured were different. It seemed the spirits were manipulating the look of the active screen as well as the feeling evoked in our spooky little den. This next image is a beautifull example of the dark atmosphere that would overcome the apartment, the Haunting Lamp, the TV and me as I became one with my environment and slipped away, untethered, into some profoundly desolate space . .
Some readers will be familiar with The Tears of Thing's pink series -- It's Not a Rose-Colored World, and Wearing Pink Won't Make It So(link). For just about one full year, Jerome and I have taken hundreds of photographs of pink-clad newscasters, and never captured anything even remotely spooky-looking, like I did with my screenshots from the Haunted Apartment.
The image below could be the spirit of a man choosing to make himself visible on our TV. Who knows for sure? I can tell you that the screen is displaying more than what was being broadcast.
Here's a closeup. Is it a portrait of a dead man? Because it's not Jerome's reflection. He was behind the TV, in the living room, working on some art.
There's the Haunting Lamp in the background of every one, looking like the cat who ate the canary. Coincidence?
It seemed to be affecting the atmosphere, maybe even directing the scene. Sometimes the Haunting Lamp set up that submerged look . . .
at other times it focused supernatural spotlights on eerie omens of hard times yet to unfold.
Yes, the Haunted Apartment definitely had a spooky feeling about it. When we moved into this little house the atmosphere at home seemed so much lighter and brighter. Well, you can imagine it would, with windows all around us, on all four sides. It's a completely different feeling from being pressed in on the right and left by the dark walls of some strangers' cubicle, like it is when one lives in an apartment.
If I took hundreds of photographs in the Haunted Apartment over those twelve scary months, since we moved here I must have taken a thousand photographs out in the big backyard. It's been such an inspirational studio, whether I set up my subjects outside -- the flowers, the fashion -- or use those that wait out there for me -- the orbs and the other anomalies.
What with the wealth of material outside, I've been reluctant to open Pandora's Box with more inside photography. True, there were some early flower photographs taken just inside the living room window, and all those tight screenshots for the Pink series. But I resisted interiors until a few months ago, and when I finally took some you saw the results with DEPART! and Housefull of Phantoms.
Leonore Sweet says You cannot take double exposures with a digital camera to get a ghostly effect on your picture, either fraudulently or accidentally. This jumbling up of space, the juxtaposing one plane with another that you see in these photographs, really disoriented me. It wasn't like, "Oh, here's our bedroom wall and there's an orb floating in front of it." Or "There's the crucifix with a Blue Light Being beside it." In front of and beside were now amorphous constructs.
Once again I allowed myself to consider I'm not just haunted -- I'm cursed . . . Why us with all the paranormal photography? Are spirits really crowding around everything all the time? Or do Jerome and I attract entities, malevolent as well as harmless ones? I listened to my inner voice, burned sage, and made up my mind to write this post. Thus I helped myself by intensifying my focus.
What is it about doorways? I started pondering this question way back in the Haunted Apartment. My findings thus far indicate that doorways attract spirits and will forever retain their aura of mystery.
A new phase of experimentation had begun. I picked up the camera and backed out of the vestibule through the French doors, so that I was just on the outside, looking in. One of their favorite vantage points. Then I took this shot:
It's almost unrecognizable. But as you look through the vestibule and living room, you can just make out the little chair that sits by the front door and the mirror that hangs above the chair. And there are the chair and mirror again, for good measure.
There are physical doorways and then there are portals . . .
In the next photograph, I have backed further out into the backyard, still focusing on the French doors, which are now closed. There's a dim light inside the house; the house presents a dark silhouette against the twilight of the sky. The sun has set. Therefore, the red arcs in the upper right and the parallel gray bands through the middle of the photograph cannot be lens flare.
Look closely at the parallel gray bands. I have seen similar diagonal flutters in several other portal photographs. These fluttering motifs do not seem to be derived from any objects in the pictures. Sometimes the stuttering haze comes out of nowhere and flies across the vine-covered, and thus light-absorbing, roof.
Or the feathered luminosity soars over the heavy foliage on the stoop.
These backyard portal pictures take on a variety of appearances. Space and gravity ignore all rhyme and reason -- see the red rakes levitating in the photo above?
The doors and windows channel ghostly fire.
We never know what to expect. Conditions could call for a fog of cotton to fall. Then again, sometimes the backyard seems to sink to the bottom of a supernatural sea.
But just once in all the legions of photographs -- it must have been a Blue Moon -- I captured this moody shade:
The next two photographs were taken from the same vantage point as those portals above -- standing before the mango tree looking at the back of the house. But powerfull entities intervened and inserted some alternate universe into that slice of space.
That may be a white lightning spirit snake above, but what is the very substantial jolting bolt of yellow below?
Turning away from the house, one can see that the yard is surrounded on three sides by twenty foot high oleanders. Here are a couple of photographs of the flowering oleanders in daytime.
I call these Oleander Heaven and Oleander Paradise.
The old backyard is about a quarter of an acre. No wonder it's a portal because nothing's ever been built back there -- not a patio, ramada, swimming pool, basketball court, tennis court, guest house, play house, or dog house.
The little mango tree and the spirits have the big backyard all to themselves.
One of the things I find intriguing about this portrait of the mango tree is the way the spirits have taken the red of the rake in the background and trailed it across the image. I mean, the red is just pigment, not a source of illumination, but here we see RED distinguishing itself from the other colors by virtue of its behavior.
Spirits love trees. And being an animist, I also believe that trees have spirits. I went out at dawn one morning and captured this image of the spirit of the little mango tree as it was trembling with the joy of life. Together we gratefully celebrated the beginning of another day in the Land of the Free.
To be continued
by The Tears of Things
You know those irritating little pieces of pop culture that get stuck in your mind like the worst song on the sound track at Goodwill? And sometimes it's something that you see, and you know you've seen it somewhere else before. It's not great art or design, it's not memorable, but there it is sticking in your mind because you've seen its doppledanger someplace before.
"So why do 'creative' people need to copy each other?" And, "Why do cultural institutions and venues pretend that copying is creativity?" You'll have to figure out those questions for yourself. We're just putting forward images of the artists' pieces and letting them speak for themselves (especially since we don't seem to be getting honest answers from the artists, the venues and the institutions.)
Now here's Rebecca Green, another BIG BRAIN:
And here's someone named Paola Zakimi: