The Orbs Issue in One 1910 Photo

Orbs are a hotly contested topic. Are they ghost orbs… or something less interesting?

ghostly orbs at gilson road cemetery
One of my own orb photos

My message today is: In ghost hunting, the most reliable person is yourself.

When anyone (including me) assures you that something is true, verify it.

Most orb debates would resolve quickly if people routinely tested their own cameras to see what dust, pollen, rain, fog, reflections, breath, and insects look like in those photos.

Do this yourself. Test every camera you use for ghost hunting. Deliberately stage “false orb” conditions.

Then, analyze those photos. Could you confuse them with truly anomalous orbs?

When I stumbled onto this discovery, I was embarrassed by how simple it was. For nearly 10 years, I’d kept insisting that most orbs were caused by dust, pollen, insects, reflections, and so on.

Then, after a heated argument with a long-time friend who insisted that all orbs are ghosts, I was irked. I set out to prove my theory. I really wanted to show him that he was wrong.

But then…

I discovered that it’s more difficult to create convincing, fake orbs — with dust, pollen, smoke, insects, etc. — than I’d realized.

The key word is “convincing.” Until you know what you’re looking for, most orbs can look alike.

I’ll explain more about this in the future.

For now, I’ve stumbled onto a great, old photo that shows some easily identified issues, as well as orbs that might be ghostly.

The following is a photo of the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery. The picture was taken in 1910, when photography was very different from now. But, the issues remain the same.

Sunrise at Custer Battlefield Cemetery - orbs

I’ve enlarged some of the orbs to show what might be an anomaly — also called a “ghost orb” — and what’s probably a glitch in the photo.

Processing Mistakes

First, an obvious glitch. In the photo above, the following area is in the lower right part of the picture, to the left of the white writing.

chemical spatters

That photo was processed in a lab. Chemical splashes and spatters could happen. That’s the most likely explanation for those irregular, somewhat circular areas.

Even in the 1990s, when I was taking film photos at haunted sites, I still had to examine the negatives for splashes and lab errors.

False Orbs – Dust and Insects

The next enlargement shows what could be pollen and insects, as well as some possible anomalies. In the original photo, this area is in the lower half of the picture, and just left of the center.

Orb #1 includes a clear dot. In a color photo, it might be yellow or orange. When it is, the orb is almost always caused by pollen.

But, I see other similar, small dots nearby. So, the orb might be real and the dots might be a glitch from the developing or printing process, or damage to the print during storage.

Solution: When you’re taking photos, ask a friend to stand to one side and in front of you. He or she can tell you if anything in the air looked highlighted by your flash.

Orb #2 is an odd shape, and part of it is more solid looking. That’s often a flying insect.

Solution: When you’re ghost hunting outdoors, regularly look up at streetlights, or have a friend leave a flashlight on for several minutes. Many insects are attracted to light.

If you see bugs flying in front of a light, keep them in mind when you’re analyzing your photos, later.

Miscellaneous Items

The next enlargement is from the sky area in the Custer photo. It’s near the top and to the right of the middle.

Irregular shape #1 is probably damage to the print or something that spilled on the negative.

Shape #2 could be almost anything, including an insect or two, or a printing glitch.

Possible Ghost Orbs

After ruling out things that look like false anomalies, I still see several orbs I can’t explain. Not entirely, anyway. (I am mindful that sunlight may have been streaming directly towards the camera.)

I’ve indicated a few possible orbs from the sky area of the photo. But, a closer examination of the original photo may reveal more.

ghost orbs at custer battlefield cemetery

Of course, they could be processing errors from the darkroom. They could be insects or pollen, or something else that’s perfectly normal.

I have no idea and, frankly, no one can be sure whether anything I’ve said is accurate about this photo.

We’d need to test the camera the photographer used.

That’s my point.

For the past several years, I routinely test every new camera. I want to see how dust, pollen, moisture, breath, smoke, and other issues may affect my photos.

It’s a semi-scientific approach to ghost photography. More importantly, testing each camera is the only way we can tell whether our photos include possible anomalies… or probable dust, insects, and so on.

This is important, as well: Even after those tests, we’ll have unanswered questions.

Never to assume that the logical, normal explanation is the only explanation. Something that “looks like dust” could still be an anomaly.

And, even if it is dust, you may have another mystery: What causes dust in that area, but nowhere else at that location or nearby?

In other words, the orb may not be the anomaly. Maybe the weird dust is.

The Westford Knight – Why he may be important in ghost hunting

In yesterday’s Hollow Hill article (about haunted Haverhill), I mentioned the Westford Knight. I’m not sure that Westford (Massachusetts) site is actually paranormal, though it might be worth checking out.
 
Westford Knight site, Westford, MA (templars)
The Westford Knight, in Westford © 2004 Matthew Trump

In my ley lines (for ghost hunting) research, I include the Westford Knight site because it has a weird (and credible) enough context.

 
Of course, between age, vandalism, and decades of acid rain, the artwork on the Westford Knight grave marker is barely visible now. (30 years ago, it was still fairly impressive. Today, it’s more likely to evoke a big yawn.)
 
So, here are references that may explain my enthusiasm when the Westford grave shows up on a ley line.
 
First, here’s a link to a lengthy history supporting the Westford Knight theories. (Illustrations aren’t so great.)
 
 
Instead, look at the photos with this not-as-informative article:
 
And here’s an article that shows a grave marker from a related era, in a similar style, with an equally fascinating history.
 
Whether or not you take the Westford Knight history seriously, it stands out as an anomaly. It’s something weird and incongruous in an otherwise typical, lovely New England town.
In the future, I’ll talk more about ley lines and how useful they are to ghost hunters. But, for now, the Westford Knight is a great example of a not-necessarily-ghostly point that increases the potential of any ley line that crosses it.
That includes the haunted Haverhill ley line.

Haunted Haverhill – Article

Haverhill is haunted. In fact, it may be one of New England’s most overlooked — and reliable — haunted communities.

Haunted Haverhill articleThat makes it a great location for ghost hunting.  But, many of the best locations are off-limits at night, or require a fee to explore.

Don’t let that deter you. Haverhill’s ghosts can be worth the extra effort.

In 2017, I was interviewed for an article that describes many of Haverhill’s best haunts: Haunted in Haverhill, by Alison Colby-Campbell, in the October 2017 issue of Haverhill Life.

Here are some of my notes from my research for that interview.

My early Haverhill ley line research produced two maps.

The first included points related to known haunts and suspected ghosts.

Haverhill Ley Lines - First draft
First draft of Haverhill ley lines. I was NOT convinced these were strong lines.

In that map (courtesy of Google Maps), you’ll see two triangles.

In the first triangle, dashed lines connect the Northpoint Bible College site (former location of Bradford College) and Buttonwoods/Pentucket Burial Ground area to Hilldale Cemetery.

In the second triangle, the solid lines connect the same initial points to St. James’ Cemetery instead of Hilldale.

Anything within the two, overlapping triangles might be worth extra research. Those areas have a greater likelihood of ghosts.

Maybe.

The problem was: when I was working with that map, it just didn’t feel right.

That’s difficult to articulate, and it’s one reason I’m rewriting my ley lines book.

At this point, it’s simplest to say that some of my ley lines work is intuitive. Further, if I keep working on the troublesome map that “guesswork” almost always rings true.

That was the case with the Haverhill map.

On a whim, I took a fresh look at the map. I studied everything in the area, and thought about weird news reports and nearby paranormal sites.

That’s when I remember the Westford Knight. (That site is in Westford, MA. I’m not sure it’s still worth visiting, but — many years ago, when I first saw it — it definitely looked like a primitive, medieval knight’s burial.)

Haverhill ley lines map, revised
The Westford Knight > Haverhill > Isles of Shoals ley line.

When I connected the dots between the Westford Knight site, Northpoint Bible College, and Buttonwoods, it went through Walnut Cemetery and over the Isles of Shoals.

That line made more sense to me. It hit more major weird/paranormal sites.

  • Westford Knight? Weird.
  • Northpoint/Bradford college? Weird and haunted.
  • Buttonwoods? Very haunted. I’d go back there just for another look at the haunted mirror in the parlor.
  • Walnut Cemetery? Strange. Something was odd (not just haunted) when I investigated it. It seemed as if the cemetery amplified unhealthy impulses among the living. (Yes, I know how bizarre that sounds. It’s more likely my imagination was working overtime.)
  • Isles of Shoals? Over two centuries of weird legends and, of course, ghosts.

If I were scouting haunted locations for a TV series (something I’ve done in the past), I’d focus on that line. I’d follow it exactly, and ask questions at any shops, restaurants, or other public sites along the way.

Frankly, that line is so strong, I’d stake my reputation on it leading through some other very weird (and probably haunted) locations.

It’s just a matter of looking, and asking questions of enough people. That takes persistence, patience, and a little audacity at times. But, it’s usually worthwhile, if you’re looking for unreported haunted places. You might find some so dark and weird, people avoid talking about them.

So, yes, if you’re a ghost hunter, Haverhill can be a goldmine of investigation sites, with very vivid ghosts.

Ghosts in the News: Oct 2017 [1]

‘Tis the season… for news about ghosts and haunted places.

It’s an interesting way to look at haunted places.

Oh, I doubt many (perhaps most) assumptions about New Orleans’ LaLaurie Mansion. I’m not sure it’s especially haunted. (Several residents said it’s not.) Also, some of the legends don’t fit the owners’ real history.

But, the original LaLaurie Mansion was certainly the site of traumatic events and a horrible (and fatal) fire. So, some ghosts may linger.

In the Seattle Times article, like the following quote from Colin Dickey, author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places. (I’m reading that book, right now. It’s not what I’d expected. Lots of history. Lots of folklore. All of it connected to famous — and infamous — haunts.

Here’s the quote I like:

“Ghost stories in many ways are a way for us to approach our own history,” Dickey said, “and our own history is complicated.”

I’m going to think about that. At first glance, I’ll admit that most serious ghost investigators are not simple, take-life-as-it-comes people. Most are unusually bright, well-read, and interested in a wide range of topics.

The related podcast is thought-provoking. Though I disagree with Dickey on some points, he has some fresh views worth considering: https://apnews.com/afs:Content:1446410075/Episode-23:-What-haunted-houses-tell-us-about-ourselves

What interested me are the 28% who said they have lived in a haunted home. (I’m in that group. I’ve lived in two that might be haunted, plus a third that was absolutely bizarre.)

I may try a survey like that, myself, to see how many people pursue ghost hunting because they’re already familiar with life in a haunted house.

  • Next, this may not be the world’s only haunted canal boat ride — and I’m not sure if it’s genuinely spooky — but if I were around Richmond, Virginia, I’d happily spend $2 for the experience: Haunted canal boat rides in Richmond.
  • After that, reading the latest ghost-related articles, I realized I’ve never questioned the word “boo!” Maybe I should have.

Fortunately, Mental Floss may have an answer. In their article, Why Do Ghosts Say ‘Boo’?, they report:

“…the word had a slightly different shade of meaning a few hundred years ago: Boo (or, in the olden days, bo or bu) was not used to frighten others but to assert your presence.”

And later, in that same article, explain a more recent use of the word:

“And by 1738, Gilbert Crokatt was writing in Presbyterian Eloquence Display’d that, ‘Boo is a Word that’s used in the North of Scotland to frighten crying children.’ “

  • And then there’s the video filmed earlier this month (Oct 2017) inside a Cork City (Ireland) school. It’s been viewed over 7 million times.

I laughed out loud at one point. No, this isn’t what a real haunting looks like, though it’s entertaining.

But, a Today.com article offers an explanation for the school’s haunted reputation:

“‘The school is built on a site known as Green Gallows,’ Wolfe said. ‘In the 19th century, criminals were hanged here. We only found that out on Monday. The pub nearby is actually called the Gallows.'”

A leading Irish education site calls it Gallows Green, but — no matter what the name — it’s adequate reason for ghosts at the school.

They’re just unlikely to manifest in such preposterous ways.

Those are the ghost-related articles that interested me today. I’m sure there will be more as Halloween approaches.

If you find any fascinating news articles, I hope you’ll leave the URLs in comments.

More Americans Believe in Ghosts, Not Fewer

Full moon - ghostly sceneA decade ago, most scholars claimed that about 50% of Americans believed in ghosts or related paranormal phenomena.

Since then, those numbers may have increased. Here’s the news story:

MSU Professor: Belief in Ghosts and Other Paranormal is Strong – KEYC

“Studies indicate that 75% of Americans believe in at least one of the supernatural phenomenon surveyed, and while scholars over the last century have been predicting that believes in things such as ghosts and hauntings would dissipate as a result of the increasing efficacy of science, technology, and education. That’s just not proven true at all,” said Sociology Professor, Dennis Waskul.

Read more …

I wonder if the recent focus on “fake news” makes people less confident about supposedly reliable resources.

Left to trust their own instincts, perhaps some people realize that ghosts might be real, after all.

One intense encounter — or even an eerie experience — may be all it takes to tilt the scales from “skeptic” to “believer.”

ghostbat

Also in the news: Syfy may have cancelled Ghost Hunters, but other ghost-related shows continue to feature lesser-known haunts.

It’s smart to know what will be featured on TV, if you want to investigate a site before the energy is diluted by a fresh stream of eager, aspiring ghost hunters.

Here’s a former Ohio school that sounds interesting.

Haunted old Butler County school to be featured on national TV – Hamilton Journal News

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:27:04 GMT

Hamilton Journal News – Haunted old Butler County school to be featured on national TV. Poasttown Elementary, a former Madison Twp. school building that is now the home of Darrell and Brenda Whisman, will be featured on…
Read more …

Of course, I still recommend your own local research, to find unexplored haunts with powerful ghostly energy.