By Jeff Danelek

Can Ghosts be Captured on Film?

Newby Church Monk

Beliefs about life after death and the crossing over of spirits into the world of the living have been a part of the human equation for thousands of years. Ever since the Greek author Aeschylus first introduced a character named Clytemnestra, a ghost who seeks justice for the son who murdered her, in his play Oresteia—first performed in 458 BC—humanity has been fascinated with ghosts and spirits in general. The problem has been in trying to prove that they exist.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the new and mysterious medium of photography meant it was possible to obtain evidence of their existence for the first time. Ghosts could be taken from the realm of mythology into a possible source of scientific study. Things did not start out well. Unscrupulous photographers realized there was money to be made. They manipulated photographs with double exposures and heavy-handed retouching of photographic plates to produce “spirit photos”, and sold them to a superstitious public, desperate for evidence that their departed loved ones still existed, if only in ethereal form. Much damage was done to the credibility of the whole field of paranormal research . Spirit photos combined with faked seances and scam mediums, made the subject more a source of fun and ridicule than anything approaching serious science.

In the twentieth century as the technology behind photography improved , more serious-minded investigators began entering the scene. From the earliest potentially authentic photo of what may be the ghost of Lord Combermere, captured in 1891, the quest to produce photographic evidence of spirits has blossomed into a major area of paranormal study. Today the internet is virtually awash in purported ghostly images caught on film and, even more impressive, on video.

Corroboree Rock

Legend and myth, or scientifically credible phenomena?

Skeptics readily dismiss these “evidences” as crude hoaxes, or simply camera anomalies being misidentified as proof of the supernatural, and this claim is not without merit. The majority of what is purported to be corroboration of the paranormal is neither. Most can be refuted as Photoshop trickery, or wishful thinking on the part of well-meaning but easily duped photographers.

Just as most UFO sightings can be explained away as hoaxes or misidentified astrological objects, a small core of sightings defy traditional explanations, and this is it true of spirit photos. Not all are easily refuted, especially when you consider that some of the most compelling photos were shot long before the introduction of Photoshop. You would be ill-advised to assume that there is no good, solid evidence that ghosts can be, and have been, caught on film, bringing them firmly into the world of scientifically credible phenomena.

Decide For Yourself

As a writer who has been writing and studying this phenomenon for almost fifteen years, I am often sent photos of what the senders believe are spirits or evidence of the paranormal. Most of these can be explained as hoaxes, (5 to 10%), simple photo anomalies (40-50%), or pareidolia, the brain’s tendency to “see” things in random patterns of light and shadow that simply aren’t there (30 to 35%) . But, about 1 to 2% remains inexplicable, evidence of “something” outside the venue of our material reality.

Barrow-In-Furness 2012

I’ve collected these few photos into a gallery that I’ve made available on my website ( for the public to ponder. I can’t prove these are ghosts of course, and I am aware that even the most careful investigator can still be fooled. I am content to leave it up to the viewer to decide for themselves. Is the world we perceive with our five senses all that constitutes reality? Or is there more out there that we are only just beginning to become aware of, and what does that mean to us personally as mortal human beings?

Intrigued? Join Jeff for Spooky Fun on October 30th at CFU

Ghosts Caught on Film: A Look at Spirit Photography

In this balanced presentation, we’ll look at how difficult it is to create a believable hoax and examine common camera anomalies. We’ll take a look at authentic ghost pictures, including ones from Jeff’s private collection. J. Allan Danelek is a paranormal researcher and author of the book The Case for Ghosts.

Jeff also offers a new class at CFU, Do You Have a Spirit Guide? Learning to Connect with the Divine.