4 Easy Ghost Photo Mistakes – Even pros make them!

It’s easy for anyone – even pros – to make mistakes with ghost photos.

That includes me. (Yes, really. Even now, it’s far too easy to blunder with ghost photos.)

Ghost Photos Mistakes

Here are the four biggest mistakes I’ve seen in the field:

  1. Thinking everything “weird” in a photo is a ghost. Sometimes, normal explanations apply… sometimes they don’t.
  2. Not taking enough photos. Each time you take a picture, take a second one, or more. Those extra photos can help you separate what’s normal from a genuine anomaly.
  3. Thinking we can explain all ghost photos as dust, bugs, rain, etc. No, we can’t. Some really are paranormal.
  4. Ignoring the context. Context and personal impressions may be the single most-important part of ghost research… and they can be the easiest to overlook.

Let’s go through those four points, one by one.  They’re things I’ve learned over decades of trial-and-error research at haunted sites.

Thinking Everything Is a Ghost

We can explain some orbs. The #1 culprit is flying insects.

Those orbs are usually an irregular shape, like an oval instead of a nearly perfect circle.

Indoors or out, regularly look at lights – streetlights, flashlights (briefly turned on), and other lighting. See if any insects are swarming or flying past.

If you see flying insects, be especially aware of orbs in your photos.

Even better, have a friend (or team member) stand to the side, but a little in front of you. Have him/her look for anything highlighted by your flash, when you take the picture.

And then, be sure to note that, either on a notepad or with a voice recording.

Likewise, dust happens. 

The way to identify something that might be dust, is to see if – in sequential photos or video – it falls straight down because of gravity.

A straight line across the photo could be a camera glitch, or a flying insect, but it’s unlikely to be dust.

On a humid or rainy night, you may see several dozen orbs in your photos. If all – or most – of your photos show a massive number of orbs, maybe it’s the weather. (Just one or a few orbs that show up now & then…? They could be paranormal.)

The weather isn’t the only culprit when you see a lots of orbs, or a fine (but mysterious) mist. It could be your breath, even if the weather isn’t especially cold. (Don’t exhale until after taking each picture.)

I wish I’d known the breath issue when I took the following Gilson Road photo. I might have done some on-site debunking, right away. (Instead, I’ll never know if this was a genuine anomaly.)

Weird photo from Gilson Cemetery

Always consider normal explanations, even if they seem a little weird at first. And test your cameras (including your phone) at not-haunted sites, to see what dust, pollen, reflective surfaces, and humidity look like.

The two worst culprits are flying insects and your own breath as you exhale. In photos, either of them can produce cool, weird, ghostly looking anomalies.

Not Taking Enough Photos

At any haunted location, it’s essential to take two to four pictures in rapid succession. Try not to breathe or move, in between those photos.

Then, you can compare one photo with another, to see what – if anything – changed. The changes might help rule out false anomalies.

Ghost Photos - context mattersAlso, be sure to pause regularly and take photos to your right, to your left, and in back of you. Later, they’ll help you identify sources of false anomalies.

(They may also show you unexpected anomalies. Not all ghosts strike a pose for the camera. Some might flee in the other direction… in back of you.)

Indoors, take photos in other, nearby rooms.

Outdoors, walk a few hundred yards away – or up the road – and take photos.

One of the big questions to ask when you see an anomaly in a photo is: Why this anomaly, at this location?

If the anomalies show up everywhere, even 1/4 mile up the road, it might be dust or humidity or insects.

If you see few (or no) anomalies anywhere else, and there’s no easy explanation… it might be a ghost.

Thinking All Orbs Can’t Be Paranormal

Ghost orb at Fort GeorgeMany skeptics (and ill-advised investigators) insist that all orbs are dust, pollen, humidity, rain, reflections, and so on.

I know because, before I tested how likely those explanations are, I insisted we could explain most orbs. (At the time, it seemed logical.)

Yes, I was wrong.

I feel terrible about misleading people about orbs, even if it was unintentional. Please accept my apologies if I misled you.

Today, we can’t just brush them off as dust, rain, etc.

Six years of testing, under a variety of conditions, showed me that. (Yes, I was so sure I was right, I kept testing. And testing. And testing… until I had to admit I was wrong.)

Here are a few of my test photos.

NOLA - Pirates Alley, on a foggy, rainy night
Rainy, foggy night with bright lights. No orbs.
Flash reflected in glass. Lots of glass & metal objects in shop windows. Traffic cone with reflective surface. No orbs.
Toulouse Street, New Orleans.
Another damp, foggy night. Lots of bright lights. No ghost orbs.

Where’s the Proof?

The fact is, if you set things up “just so,” you can mimic almost everything we consider paranormal. That includes:

  • Apparitions (tricks of the light)
  • Shadow people (didn’t notice a light source & reasonable shadow)
  • Doors that open & close by themselves (bad carpentry or the building’s foundation shifted over time)
  • UFOs (experimental or low-flying aircraft)
  • Bigfoot (big guy in a costume)

… and so on.

(But ghost orbs…? Not so easy.)

My point is: if you’re looking for 100% irrefutable proof that something is a ghost – or that ghosts exist, at all – you’re likely to be disappointed.

For now, the only real proof is how the experience affects people, or if – in the light of day – they can explain whatever-it-was with confidence.

Ignoring the Context

If your memory isn’t perfect, take notes during the investigation.

The context matters. What else was going on, when you took those photos?

Was everyone bored or unimpressed by the location?

If that didn’t change around the time you took the unusual photos, it decreases the likelihood .

However, if several things happened at once – to you, or those near you – like chills, an uneasy feeling, an unexplained noise – take your photos more seriously.

In recent years, people have relied heavily on evidence in the form of gadgets – ghost hunting equipment, usually electronic. They’ve paid less attention to their personal experiences and observations.

Or worse, they’ve dismissed them altogether.

The biggest mistake in ghost hunting – not just ghost photos – is ignoring what your own five (or six) senses are telling you.

Pay close attention to them, and you’ll be a better ghost hunter… and take better ghost photos.


Related articles at this website:

More ghost photos articles, online:

Ghost Boxes – Where Do the Words Come From? And Can You Trust Them?

Those eerie, ghostly voices we’ve heard during ghost investigations, in real life or on TV… are those voices real? Who’s talking to us, and how…?

You’re probably familiar with the kinds of equipment we’re talking about. You’ve seen it on ghost hunting TV shows, and perhaps in real life.

Ghost boxes (and related ghost hunting equipment) include real-time EVP devices, Shack Hacks, and Frank’s Boxes. I’d also include Digital Dowsing equipment like the Puck and Ovilus.

How Do Ghost Boxes Work?

Different ghost communication devices work in different ways.

Some – like the Puck and Ovilus – have a built-in vocabulary. In theory, those are the only words those devices can say.

Well, maybe.

I’ve heard an Ovilus – in dictionary mode – say my name (Fiona Broome) when “broom” was in the vocabulary list, but “Fiona” definitely wasn’t. So I haven’t a clue how that happened.

I’ve witnessed other investigations where the words weren’t in the vocabulary. So, it wasn’t just that one time. (That first odd experience was at the Salem Inn, in Salem, MA, in one of their most haunted rooms.)

We hear words – aloud – when EMF spikes/surges occur. In theory, the words come from the built-in vocabulary, at random.

So, when words (or phrases) are relevant – or repeated too often – maybe intelligent (like a ghost) energy is involved.

Some ghost boxes – like Shack Hacks and Frank’s Boxes – use radio stations’ broadcasts.

Those boxes cycle through lots of radio stations in succession – maybe half a second, each – and grab words or parts of words, at random.

I’ve heard those devices speak clearly, in full sentences, even though the clips were brief and strung together in real time.

When My Late Mother Talked to Me

Skeptical refusal to believe in ghosts - can lead to shockA Frank’s Box produced my late mother’s voice, complete with her regional accent, and “she” said something relevant to me.

There is no way anyone would have known exactly how she spoke, to fake the voice/message. It was her accent, he speech cadence, and the words she’d use.

That happened two days in a row in Ontario (Canada).

The first time was at a haunted site investigation. The second was the next day, at a not-haunted hotel site hosting a ghost hunters’ conference.

But, adding a little geek-skepticism here: Is it possible that people – consciously or inadvertently – can use some weird form of psychokinesis to control the words coming through those devices…?

(Psychokinesis is the supposed ability to move objects by mental effort alone. I’ve seen it happen in real life. So, I believe it’s real and may explain some poltergeist activity.)

It’s the only possibility I can think of.

I’m Still Skeptical… Are You?

I know, without a doubt, that I heard my mother’s voice.

I’m also certain that some people have an unexplained connection to ghost boxes.

Years ago, at the Edith Wharton mansion, at least 20 people gathered around a Shack Hack. They asked a few questions, but mostly waited patiently for a spirit to speak “through” the Shack Hack.

For a very long time, nothing happened.

Then, John Zaffis (of “The Haunted Collector”) entered the room, and the Shack Hack started talking like it was welcoming an old friend.

I’ve never seen anything like that, before or since.

It was enough to convince me that John has unusual connection with the spirit world, and the forces behind that Shack Hack recognized it.

But, are all messages through ghost boxes real, or could some be wishful thinking and audio pareidolia?

I’m not sure, yet.

After decades in this field, I still default to skeptic mode when I first witness phenomena. And, even with some compelling evidence – like my mother’s messages to me, via a Frank’s Box – I’m not ready to say that all ghost box messages are from ghosts.

You’ll need to decide for yourself.

Ghost Box Resources

Shack Hacks

Frank’s Box

Here’s a demonstration of a Frank’s Box. (Note: I can vouch for Chris being gifted in terms of his use of a Frank’s Box. Other than that, I’m uneasy recommending Chris, based on a few red flags that bothered me.)

More Resources

  • Digital Dowsing – Some of this equipment works very well. I’ve used a couple of models of the Ovilus EMF device. Another research I respect has said that the Puck is even better. You may have seen some Digital Dowsing tools in use on ghost hunting TV shows.
  • Ghost Box Hacks – Open Source Paranormal’s plans and tips. The site hasn’t been updated in some time, but the information is still useful.
  • Halloween Ghost Box Tips (2016) :

If you have questions or insights about these kinds of devices, I hope you’ll leave a comment at this site.

How Much Should I Budget for Ghost Hunting Equipment?

Some bloggers will try to sell you expensive ghost hunting equipment, right away.

I won’t.

In fact, if you’re a beginner, save your money!

First, make sure this will be a long-term interest, hobby, or profession.

With experience, you’ll know what kind of ghost hunting you enjoy. Also, you’ll have seen others’ equipment, and know what works best where you investigate.

But, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, never invest more money than you can afford to lose.

Expensive Mistakes with Ghost Hunting Equipment

trees and moonlight in haunted settingAfter you’ve been investigating for a while, you’ll know the risks with expensive ghost hunting tools.

For example:

People drop things when they’re startled.  In the dark, you might not find what you dropped.

(The problem becomes worse if you drop what you’re carrying, and run away in terror.)

– If you drop a sensitive $5k camera or a $2k heat sensing device, it can break the same as a $40 camera or a $15 digital thermometer.

If you didn’t buy a replacement warranty, or it doesn’t cover that kind of mistake, you may have wasted thousands of dollars.

Electronic equipment can fail in extremely haunted settings. In fact, unexplained equipment failure can indicate intense paranormal activity.

I think EMF spikes are to blame. Most electrical devices will glitch or fail when exposed to intense magnetic energy. That’s reasonable, unless it’s remarkably well shielded.

If your expensive camera or other device won’t work when you’re ghost hunting, you’ve wasted your money. Worse, it can be difficult to return that equipment if it shows any wear, or if you can’t demonstrate how it fails.

Instead, focus on just one aspect of ghost hunting.

If you like ghost photography, invest in photographic equipment.

If you like divinatory tools, buy or make specialized dowsing rods or pendulums.

As a New Ghost Hunter on a Budget…

If I were starting fresh, today, I’d probably spend $100 or less. Maybe far less.

I’d use the camera in my phone. It’s good enough. I wouldn’t bother with a fancy ($$) after-market lens attachment, either.

For many investigations, that’s all you need.

Later, if I decided I really liked taking ghost photos, I might get a good camera.

Not long ago, I bought a couple of used, refurbished point-and-shoot digital cameras. They’re great… but they use specialized batteries.

So, I keep going back to my trusty Nikon Coolpix camera.

For photo-processing software, I’d use Photopea, GIMP, PhotoScape X, or something else that’s free. (Today, I default to Photoshop and Affinity, among other photo tools, but free programs work well enough to tell if you’ve captured an anomaly.)

I’d make dowsing rods from coat hangers. (If you’re not sure how, see my Homemade Dowsing Rods article, for instructions.) A pendulum is a fine alternative, if you’re intrigued by tools like this.

– I’d use the voice recorder on my phone, or buy an inexpensive one at an office supply store or warehouse. (Make sure the microphone is omni-directional, so it picks up sounds all around you, not just in one direction.)

– I’d buy an inexpensive flashlight with a metal case. I’d make sure the light bulb housing unscrews easily, to test yes/no responses when the housing is loosened.

– I’d get a set of good surgical-type masks that protect me from toxins, bacteria, and viruses around me. (Remember, some ghost hunters have died from exposure to toxic fumes, rat droppings, etc.)

Since Covid, you’ll find lots of good options. For ghost hunting, I like disposable masks, but be certain they’re actually good. (Many free masks at doctors’ offices are designed to contain germs inside the mask… not keep bad things out. Make sure your mask actually protects you.)

– I’d put all of that in a backpack with several pockets or dividers (to find things in complete darkness).

My own backpack is the basic Amazon one. My cameras, Ovilus, Ghost Meter Pro, etc., go in the big pocket. Maps, pen & a notebook, small first aid kit, etc., in the next largest. Spare batteries in the outside pocket. And so on.

I’d also add a small, inexpensive first aid kit.

Don’t spread yourself too thin, in terms of learning or financial investment. Set a firm spending limit and do not exceed that.

It’s easy to get carried away.  Keep your ghost hunting expenses low.

Don’t let ghost hunting jeopardize other aspects of your personal, professional, or family life.

When you’re a beginner, see how well you enjoy ghost hunting, before you spend much money.

Some Ghost Hunting Equipment

Any flashlight with a metal case. First aid kit. Reliable masks.
Still my favorite electronic device. Simple backpack. Optional: pendulum.

Haunted Houses and Carbon Monoxide

How can carbon monoxide affect a haunted house?

When people contact me about a house that might have ghosts, they often say things like:

  • Ghosts, haunted places, carbon monoxide“Sometimes, when I’m in that part of the house, I get shaky, dizzy, and I feel weak all over.”
  • “I get a tightness in my chest, and I can’t catch my breath. Do you suppose the ghost died of a heart attack?”
  • “I’m okay during the day, but at night – especially when it’s cold out – it’s like something floats into my room through the bedroom window, and I can’t breathe.”
  • “The baby gets fussy in that room and seems to be looking at something that I don’t see, and the dog won’t go in there, ever.”
  • “I’m fine all day, but at night, when we close up the house and go to bed, I get headaches, it feels really stuffy in the room, and sometimes I feel kind of sick. I always have to get up and open the window, just to feel the breeze. About an hour or two later, around midnight, everything’s fine again.”

Well, those “symptoms” of a haunting can be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s why carbon monoxide is now the first thing to check in a house that might be haunted. This is especially true if the ghosts started to be a problem when the house was sealed up for the winter, or – in warm climates – for the summer.

The following is an edited excerpt from the first edition of, Is Your House Haunted?, by Fiona Broome.


Before you do anything else…

Check the carbon monoxide levels at the possibly-haunted site.

Carbon monoxide is nicknamed “the silent killer.” Pets and children often react to it first. Carbon monoxide (CO), also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas.

It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities.

It can come from a variety of sources, including gas appliances, woodstoves, car exhaust, blocked flues, and even cigarette smoke.

Some people are more sensitive to carbon monoxide, and may show symptoms before others do.

Any of the following symptoms may indicate high levels of carbon monoxide.

  • Headaches.
  • A tight sensation in the chest.
  • Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • A feeling of weakness.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Fainting and seizures.
  • Flu symptoms.
  • Infants may be irritable.
  • Pets can avoid certain areas.

Carbon monoxide can also affect the heart and central nervous system, and raise blood pressure. Carbon monoxide poisoning can damage the fetus of a pregnant woman.

Many areas in the UK, the US, and Canada have laws recommending (or even requiring) the use of carbon monoxide detectors in homes.

Older homeowners may not realize that. Even if the homeowner has no fireplace or woodstove, and no gas appliances, check the levels anyway.

For example, if a nearby neighbor has a wood stove and you (or the client) sleep with your window open, elevated carbon monoxide could explain some “symptoms” of a haunting.

If you regularly investigate haunted sites, be sure your home has very low levels of carbon monoxide, too.

If you’ve been sensitized to the gas, even low levels might trigger your symptoms at a “haunted” site. It could happen. Rule this out, immediately.

When you’re investigating a potentially haunted house and any symptoms match the warning list, carbon monoxide levels must be checked first.

If the homeowner does not have a carbon monoxide detector installed, and you don’t have a handheld monitor, call the fire department for advice.

Note: Before buying a handheld carbon monoxide meter, be sure to read the reviews.

If you’re investigating haunted homes and you can’t afford a good carbon monoxide detector, don’t bother with a cheap one. Either have the homeowner install carbon monoxide detectors in several places in the home – and use them for at least a week before you investigate – or ask the fire department if someone in the community can test the air for the homeowner.

A carbon monoxide meter that works is important. A cheap one that’s not reliable could put you and your client at risk.

So, either use a good detector or have the homeowner or someone else handle that part of the investigation.

Typical K-II Interactions

This video was a good example of a typical, informal investigation using a K-II meter.  The video was long – over an hour and a half – so I didn’t watch the whole thing.  However, you could learn a few good things in the first five or ten minutes.

Here’s where it was, at YouTube.

http://youtu.be/0f-vpjZE3iA

The video seems to be gone now. (That’s true of a lot of “investigation” videos from when the ghost hunting trend peaked. )

I’m leaving this article online for two reasons:

  1. The video might return…? Maybe, but probably not with that URL. And it may be another spam effort. I’m not sure.
  2. More importantly: my summary, below, may explain the patience ghost hunters need. You can sit for hours with nothing happening.

First of all, this video showed how imperfect real-time communication is with any EMF meter, but especially a highly sensitive meter like the K-II.

There were times when the lights flickered so quickly, it was difficult to tell whether it flashed just once (for “yes”) or two or three times.  In fact, at least once, a team member said he didn’t see it, when the light had flashed quickly.

This video also provided a vivid example of how tedious ghost hunting can be, particularly when you’re focusing on one specific research technique or tool.  Really, by the 47 minute mark, one of the investigators asked, “Is the fourth letter of your last name between the letters A and L?”

Wow.  That’s a very patient investigator.

You might ask, “Why not use a Ouija board, instead? It’s faster.”

The answer is personal safety.  The more people physically connect with the energy – like with a glass or platen that points to letters –  the more risks they’re taking.   With a tool like a K-II – one that requires no physical contact with the device – dangers are reduced.

The K-II results in this video could be pretty good.  I really wanted to like it and give it a very favorable review.  However, I had some major doubts.

The TV

My first concern when using a K-II is variable, environmental electronic energy.

Right away, I saw the TV in this video’s background.  Is that enough to cause normal EMF fluctuations?  Unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out until I’d checked it carefully. I’m not sure the guy in the video did that.

The cat

At times, a cat was on the bed where the K-II was.  I’m not too worried about that because I saw no reaction from the K-II when the cat was nearby.  Also, one of the researchers seemed to sit on the bed with enough vigor that the K-II moved around, but the K-II didn’t react to that, either.

The fan

The rotating fan in back of the EMF meter was a greater concern.  I thought I noticed more flashes after the fan moved to the far left and had just begun the return motion, but I wasn’t sure. (I’m still not sure.)  I’d definitely want to study some freeze-frame shots when the K-II is flashing.

Response synchronicity

I casually checked the frequency of the K-II responses.  In the first five minutes, the timing seemed odd.  In a spot-check near the beginning of the video, I noted K-II flashes at these times:

  • 1:21
  • 2:21
  • 2:28
  • 3:20
  • 4:20

In other words, the K-II was flashing about once a minute, always around the :20 or :21 mark.  If that pattern continued – or even repeated sporadically – I’d discount all of those flashes.

However, the 2:28 response was anomalous and fairly strong, so I’d be more likely to take that response seriously, if no other strong flashes sync with it near :28 marks.

That is the kind of analysis that researchers must do, in more formal investigations. On the other hand, this looked like a very informal investigation.

If I were analyzing this video as part of a formal investigation, I’d be concerned about the TV and the rotating fan.  Also, I’d wonder what else was in the room – or near enough to affect a K-II – that we don’t see in the frame of the video.

And, finally, the biggest credibility issue connected with this video was how it was uploaded to YouTube.

Keyword stuffing

In a misguided attempt to attract more viewers, the foot of the video description was stuffed with keywords that weren’t related to ghosts, such as “epic funny Santa Claus prank Christmas pranks bloopers,” “50 Cent The Voice” and “make money free cash” and “Black Friday Walmart black Friday.”*

I suspect the research team received bad advice about that tactic.  Please, don’t stuff keywords if you want to look like a serious researcher. (On the other hand, if you main goal is to boost your numbers to look popular or earn more money from your YouTube videos… Err, umm, no… what am I saying? That’s never okay.)

Summary

All in all, this was a good video to learn from.  And, the results might be impressive in a different context.

If this were one of several supporting investigations related to a single, haunted site, this might be good, but I’d need far more compelling evidence.

For starters, I’d like to have seen a detailed analysis of the video, especially related to the rotating fan and the timing issues.  Without that, there were too many red flags to trust the results. Also, it would have been simple to eliminate most or all of them, in a follow-up investigation, if they were serious researchers.

Originality  (Doesn’t really apply. It’s a K-II meter.)

2-stars

Credibility (The results were pretty good, but the context — especially the timing issue and the keyword stuffing — were huge red flags as far as I’m concerned, and made the entire effort look questionable.)

1-half-star

* No matter who tells you that keyword stuffing is a good idea to get more YouTube views, don’t do anything like the screenshot below.  It looks spammy, reduces your credibility, and… really, do you want people finding your serious, ghost hunting video using search terms like “prank ghost video” or “swimsuit boys dance gangnam style”?

keywordstuffing-nov2012