Ghost Boy Photo Hoax

“Ghost boy” appeared in a widely-publicized photo in late February 2010.

The story was: A British builder took the photo at a school in England that was being demolished. When he reviewed the pictures he took of the demolition process, he saw the image of a little boy in one photo. The builder claimed that the hairs on the back of his neck went up.

The school was Anlaby Primary School, near Hull, East Yorkshire, in the U.K.  Part of the original 1936 building was being demolished.  (The rest of the school is still in use.) The site has long had a reputation for being haunted.

At least two major UK newspapers considered the picture newsworthy, The Sun and the Daily Mail. (Click on the Daily Mail screenshot, below, to see the full-sized image and article.)

Daily Mail news story

However, this photo was a fake… one of many hoaxes we’re seeing online.

This particular photo was created with a 99-cent iPod/iPhone app called Ghost Capture.  The image of the little boy is at the center of the app screenshot below, in the second photo row from the bottom.

iTunes sold this app for 99 cents

This kind of nonsense is among the reasons why I don’t analyze or critique “ghost photos” for readers.

People send me photos all the time; reporters and journalists are especially eager to get me to say that a “ghost picture” is real, when they know it isn’t.  (I’m pretty sure they want us to look gullible or stupid.)

While we want to assure readers when their genuine photo shows an image that they find comforting, we can’t confirm that ghostly images in pictures are really ghosts.

Any photo can be made to look like it has an anomaly.  From 99-cent iPhone apps to Adobe Photoshop, these pictures can look utterly fake or convincing.  Anyone can be fooled.

I’ve said it before: A ghost photo is only as reliable as the expertise and integrity of the person who took it.

If you want to learn how to evaluate ghost photographs, browse my articles on the topic. I don’t know anyone else who’s spent nearly as many years as I have, trying to make sense of “ghost” photos.

Generally, ghost photos don’t show crisp images of people.  At best, the ghostly images are blurry, indistinct, and sometimes difficult to identify unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.  (The same can be said for many EVP recordings.)

Though I’m delighted when I see an eerie image in my own ghost photos, many strange photos can be explained as tricks of the light or something natural, rather than an actual haunting.

It’s smart to rule out the normal explanations, before placing ghost photos online.

Possessed? Need help?

“I am possessed. Please help me.”  “My sister needs an exorcism.”  “I think my house has a demon.”

That’s what’s in my email most days.

Unfortunately, replying to those emails takes time away from my real research: Documenting and predicting phenomena that could explain ghosts, hauntings, and other possibly related anomalies.

(My work does not include demons, alien abductions, or Bigfoot research. I doubt that it ever will.)

So, I cannot answer emails or comments about dark, malicious, or demonic entities and possessions.

Here’s what you need to know…

Demonic possessions are very serious.  The good news is, they’re also rare.

Other things can look like demons or possessions.  In the vast majority of cases, the person is not possessed, is not tormented by demonic entities, and the best help does not involve an exorcist.

Devil possessions and demonic possessions — two different things — have been studied for centuries from a variety of theological and practical viewpoints.

Generally, no one wakes up one morning and is suddenly possessed.  It doesn’t happen.  There were always many warning signs of increasing intensity, and they built up over a period of time.

What you can do

If someone does transform overnight, suspect a medical issue.  Call the person’s doctor.

If the person seems to be transforming gradually, and turning from happy and normal to dark, brooding or even malicious, you’ll still want to alert the family physician.  The cause might be something physical, such as a reaction to food or a medication.

However, I also recommend contacting a professional in the spiritual/religious community.  It doesn’t have to be someone at a church that you (or the victim) go to… or even believe in.  It simply needs to be a traditional and/or mainstream church:  When you might be dealing with a malicious spirit, you need someone with spiritual experience.

Was a Ouija board involved?

In most cases, the problem started with a Ouija board — or some other divinatory technique — in the hands of someone who didn’t understand the risks.  (I’ve already weighed in on that subject, in other articles.)

Whatever you do, do not burn the Ouija board… or anything else that might be possessed.

Consult a demonologist about how to dispose of it, safely.

Are you in danger?

Are you afraid for your personal safety, or the victim’s?  If this issue has been building for awhile, but you thought it’d go away on its own, contact a demonologist, a priest or a minister right away.

Don’t keep searching the Internet for answers.  If anyone is in danger, contact someone in your community today. If they don’t have enough expertise to deal with the issue, see my Recommended Resources list, below.

If your house may have a demonic entity

If something odd is going on and you feel in great danger, get out of that house.

Never stay in a situation where you feel in danger.  Even if it turns out to be something normal — such as EMF issues from unshielded electrical wiring — your safety must come first.

If the problem at your house has been going on — at a low (but annoying) level — for awhile, read the free edition of my book, Is Your House Haunted?

It covers the step-by-step measures to take first, to rule out normal explanations for your problems.  Then, if it is a paranormal issue, I explain what to do next.

Possessions are rare

Remember, the answer to strange behavior — especially sudden and dramatic personality changes — is rarely anything demonic.

If you aren’t sure, contact someone who can determine your level of danger.

Recommended resources

I recommend* only a few demonologists and exorcists with whom I’ve worked in the past:

John Zaffis – http://www.JohnZaffis.com and PRSNE (203) 375-6083

Carl Johnson and Dina Palazini – http://www.beyondtheveilparanormal.org/

NEAR – http://www.nearparanormal.com/ – I recommend Keith Johnson.

Note: Either of the Johnson brothers can help.  Each has a different approach. You may prefer one more than the other, but both are experienced and skilled, with unique insights.

Also, if you might be dealing with a poltergeist rather than a demon, and especially if a teen or a child is involved, contact Peter Haviland.  He’s worked with both kinds of cases. He travels to meet with clients, and he’s based in Texas.  Lone Star Spirits – http://www.LSSPI.org/

When you contact a demonologist, expect them to eliminate normal (if odd) issues, first.  This may include consulting a medical doctor or other professional.  That’s routine.  Just like a “haunted” stairway might simply be out of alignment, some “demonic” activity can be triggered by drug interactions, a food sensitivity, etc.

The demonologist isn’t trivializing what’s going on.  He or she is simply ruling out the odd (but normal) things that can look remarkably like something demonic.

*I’m sure there are other excellent professionals in this field, but I only recommend people I know well and have worked with in real life.

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UPDATE: As of March 2017, this article is closed to new comments. My best recommendations are listed, above.  Dark, malicious, and demonic possessions are outside my expertise. If you think you’re possessed, contact experts in that field. Stop looking for answers, online. Get help now.

Exorcisms and Demons

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski, Poland - SXCExorcisms date to earliest times.  The belief in demons and demonic influence is documented in many pagan cultures, beliefs and practices.

However, not all demonic possessions were attributed to evil spirits.  For example, in classical Greek,  daimonan merely means to be mad or insane.

The treatment for that kind of demonic problem is less than — and very different from — the rituals used to drive out malicious entities or spirits.

As I explained in Possessed? Need help?, the vast majority of so-called demonic possessions have nothing to do with demons… or even ghosts.

Before deciding that you’re dealing with demons, calmly evaluate the situation.

What you’ve seen on TV is often created to make the show more sensational and increase ratings.  That’s entertainment, not reality.

Modern and historic exorcisms range from simple to complex, but they generally have one element in common.

Pagan and earth-based rituals often involved salt and/or water, or herbs, or some blessed object, plus a casting-out ritual invoking the name and assistance of Deity.

Modern-day rituals also use holy objects plus the name or names of Deity to empower the rite.

In other words, most traditions recognized that spiritual assistance is necessary to cast out — or reject the influence of — an entity with evil intentions.

Development of exorcisms

Over many centuries as religions emerged,  very precise and effective exorcism rituals were developed.  In the Jewish faith, exorcisms were fine-tuned and included specific names, varying with the situation.

From the 1913 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia:

“The chief characteristic of these Jewish exorcisms is their naming of names believed to be efficacious, i. e. names of good angels, which are used either alone or in combination with El (= God) … it was considered most important that the appropriate names, which varied for different times and occasions, should be used.

“…It was a popular Jewish belief… that Solomon had received the power of expelling demons, and that he had composed and transmitted certain formulae that were efficacious for that purpose.” (emphasis added)

In other words, there are specific rituals that work.  Others can do more harm than good.  That’s important to keep in mind.

Today, many exorcists rely on the rituals documented in church history.  Whether they believe in Jesus Christ or not, many exorcists note that the use of Jesus’ name seems to be among the most effective for banishing a demonic presence.

However, inexperienced ghost hunters and paranormal researchers usually don’t know the difference between a demonic possession and the far more dangerous devil (or Devil) possession.

They are two different issues, and must be treated differently.

Types of Christian exorcisms

Christian exorcisms trace their roots to the ministry of Jesus.

There are three kinds of exorcisms in the historic church:

  1. Baptismal exorcism, performed when someone is accepted (baptized) into membership in the church.
  2. Simple exorcism, including the blessing of a house.
  3. The Rite of Exorcism, used to cast out demons or the Devil from a human.

A traditional baptismal exorcism includes phrasing that is the basis for many other kinds of exorcisms.

The following text is from the 1894 book, The Glories of the Catholic Church – The Catholic Christian Instructed in Defence of His Faith.

Then the priest proceeds to the solemn prayers and exorcisms, used of old by the Catholic Church in the administration of baptism, to cast out the devil from the soul, under whose power we are born by original sin. ” I exorcise thee,” says he, ” O unclean spirit, in the name of the Father,  and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that thou mayest go out, and depart from this servant of God, (name of the afflicted) ; for He commands thee, O thou cursed and condemned wretch, who with His feet walked upon the sea, and stretched forth His right hand to Peter that was sinking. Therefore, O accursed devil, remember thy sentence, and give honor to  the living and true God. Give honor to Jesus Christ His Son, and to the Holy Ghost, and depart from this servant of God.”

Those kinds of prayers and rituals were developed over many centuries, and refined to work as quickly and effectively as possible.

Other religions and spiritual traditions may use different approaches.

However,  most demonologists explain that exorcisms rarely work on the first try.  The person may seem to be free of the demons, but relapse later.  It’s not unusual to require ten or more rituals of exorcism, and each one of them can be excruciating and exhausting for everyone involved.

In addition, treating a non-demonic situation as if demons are involved can be dangerous.  It can trigger mental, emotional, physical and spiritual issues that weren’t a problem before the attempted exorcism.

For this reason, physical and mental illnesses must be ruled out before an exorcism begins.  No one, including the afflicted person, should have to go through an exorcism if other treatment — medical or pastoral — is more appropriate.

Experience matters

Even it appears that a demonic entity is the cause of the problem, the solution isn’t always simple.

In the hands of someone inexperienced, exorcisms can go horribly wrong.  The methods and rituals that can drive away malicious spirits that were once human, and cause lesser demons to cower, can make things worse if a more powerful presence is involved.

Currently, the biggest liability is the example set by TV show and movies.

Even when they’re presented as “reality” shows — a loophole that allows networks to pay far less than an actor would earn in a regular TV show — what you’re seeing may not be reality… or anything even vaguely like it.

Waving a cross and walking briskly through a “possessed” house is not a Rite of Exorcism.

In addition, deciding that something is definitely demonic after just one visit… that’s not what really goes on in this field, either.

One of our biggest concerns is the number of people who see something on TV and think that’s what real paranormal researchers do.

They either emulate what they’ve seen acted-out on TV, or — if they’re clients — they expect the team (or expert) to do what was shown on TV.

Both are unhealthy approaches, and they can even be dangerous.

For that reason, we recommend contacting an experienced demonologist if someone is dealing with a potentially dangerous possession.

Remember that a demonologist is someone with expertise in the field of demons.  A demonologist may also be an exorcist, but many demonologists work with exorcists and do not initiate the rituals themselves.

Exorcists must know how to identify an actual possession — since most cases appear to only mimic possession — and which rituals and practices to use at each level of actual possession.

Recommended resources

I recommend only a few people with whom I’ve worked in the past.

John Zaffis – http://www.JohnZaffis.com and PRSNE (203) 375-6083

NEAR – http://www.nearparanormal.com/

Also, if you might be dealing with a poltergeist rather than a demon, and especially if a teen or a child is involved, contact Peter Haviland.  He travels to meet with clients, and is based in Texas.  Lone Star Spirits – http://www.LSSPI.org/

Photo credit: Michal Zacharzewski, Poland – SXC