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Spirit Photography - ghost pictures and communication.
Capturing ghosts or spirits with a camera for the purpose of communication.

Article and Photographs By Jim DeCaro
Editor's note: This page may take several moments to load, but it's worth the wait! The images in this article are slightly large in file size in order to preserve as much picture quality as possible. All text and images are copyright 2001, Jim DeCaro and

It has been almost two years since I photographed my first unexplained apparition. During that time I have spent countless hours seeking to reproduce the elusive formula that induces apparitional images on film. Although I am satisfied with the results of my endeavors having captured several hundred unexplainable spirit images, I have come to realize it is not an exact science and the formula continues to remain elusive.

What is Spirit Photography?
Simply stated, spirit photography is the capturing of unexplained natural or supernatural images using a camera and film. What takes place between photographer and subject is a form of electronic spirit communication. The link between electro-magnetic energies and machines is becoming clearer to those who look to communicate with energies identified as spirits. There really is no scientific explanation as to what it is I'm communicating with, nor do I attempt to make one. I have heard several possible explanations of why these images appear on film and at the same time are not visible to the naked eye. I prefer not to lose myself in the "scientific" exploration of why; instead I choose to explore the "spiritual" aspect of why.

History of Spirit Photography
In 1839, the first publicly available camera, or "Daguerreotype," was introduced to the world. This cutting-edge invention could actually capture what the eye saw and reproduce it on a plate. The new invention was an instant success, and people around the world were scrambling to get one.

Spirit photography got its start about two decades later when in 1861 Boston-based photographer William H. Mumler took a picture of himself and "discovered" a ghost had appeared in the photo with him. Mumler began charging his customers for a sance/photography session and was making quite a bit of money in doing so. He was later exposed in the courts in 1872 as being a fake. Early cameras required the subject to sit motionless for periods of 60 seconds or more while the camera shutter remained open. During this time, the photographer's assistant, dressed in a flowing robe or cloak, could sneak into the scene behind the subject for ten or 20 seconds and then leave. When the picture was developed, a semi-transparent apparition would appear.

A Mumler ghost photograph circa 1868.
A Mumler photograph circa 1868 entitled
"Mrs. French of Boston with Spirit Son".

Other effects used by Mumler were simple double exposures--where two pictures are taken over the same piece of film--as well as other basic darkroom tactics. Mumler was a fake, but he did bring the subject of spirit photography into the limelight in the late 19th century. Spirit photography became almost a fad by the 1890s--some photographers were charlatans like Mumler, but others were capturing unexplained images simply for the sake of research--true ghost hunters.

Over the last century the equipment and technology has improved greatly. And just like 100 years ago, photos can still be faked--which is why it is crucial to follow a scientific method when performing spirit photography.

My Beginnings in Spirit Photography
I have had several supernatural experiences in my life that gave me the creeps. I saw my first ghost when I was around 17 years old and the experience really freaked me out--there was a man's face floating in the corner of the ceiling. The entity was twice as large as a normal face and glowing white, almost phosphorous. I had a few other experiences, such as hearing the occasional voice from nowhere, but there were no other visual sightings until I started taking photos for purposes of spirit contact.

In the spring of 1999, my friend Jeffrey Wands, who is an extremely talented psychic and the host of the "Higher Minds" radio show on WLIR, was insistent that I take my camera to a cemetery and begin taking photographs. Being the classic procrastinator that I am, it wasn't until June of that year that I took a late-night venture to a local graveyard. Camera in hand, I drove about ten miles to a local cemetery that was reported to be haunted. Total time on site was about 15 minutes--longer than I expected, since there is an ordinance throughout Connecticut prohibiting entrance into cemeteries after dark.

I took about two dozen pictures with my digital camera and drove home to view them on the television (digital cameras are great for that). I was not really expecting to see anything other than some headstones, but as I began to scroll through the pictures, I made a discovery. Around the ninth or tenth picture, I saw a glowing, circular, three-dimensional object positioned about two or three feet above the headstones. My heart jumped a little as I realized what this could be. I was now racing through the remaining pictures to see if there might be others.

After scrolling through the remaining pictures, I realized there were several that required closer examination. The two dozen or so photographs had produced several of these unusual objects. I quickly downloaded the digital images to my computer in order to examine them on my 21-inch high-resolution monitor. Not knowing what to look for, I was now examining every picture for anything that seemed out of place. At least five or six of the pictures contained more glowing objects. My first expedition produced results far greater than my furthest expectations. Although I couldn't actually determine what the glowing images in my photos were, they were definitely there.

I gathered together the pictures with the objects and e-mailed them to Jeffrey Wands. Even though this is a man who sees and talks to spirits every day, I had no doubt he would be as excited as I was to see the images.

After Jeffrey had gone through the photographs, I sat through the "I told you so" speech. He was able to quickly discern what the images were in the photographs and identified the objects as spirits. More than that, they were the spirits of several children, and they were playing when I took the picture. Having known Jeffrey for several years, I know he is a truly gifted psychic--I had no doubt they were the spirits of children.

Later that same morning I returned to the cemetery. Using the pictures, I was able to find the exact spot where I was standing the night before. I began to walk amongst the graves where the objects had appeared in the pictures. I read the headstones and found that within a twenty-foot radius there were graves for no less than six children under the age of ten. I remember my excitement giving way to an odd feeling of sadness when the reality hit me. They are spirits, they are children, and they are right here--there were more graves of children than a person would want to see.

Over the next several days I made other trips to various cemeteries. I was getting good at parking my truck and walking down the street, taking pictures as I went. It may seem funny, but I was more concerned about getting caught by the cops than coming face-to-face with a ghost! I would walk down the outside of the cemetery, holding my camera over the fence: stopping, shooting, and walking. When I got to the end I would turn around and do the same thing going back. By this time I was taking 50 to 75 shots per night. As a conservative estimate, 50 percent turned out to contain some type of spirit activity. On some nights I could have as many as 80 percent of the photos containing some kind of spirit energy. Within five months, I accumulated several thousand photographs.

The picture above shows many orbs. Sometimes, several orbs can constitute a single spirit.
The picture above shows many orbs. Sometimes, several orbs
can constitute a single spirit.

Some time around week four or five, I wanted to take spirit pictures, but I didn't feel like going for a drive, so I went in my backyard and started snapping away. I was getting as much activity in my backyard as I was at the cemetery. I think the main reason for my high rate of success was that I was more relaxed because there was no chance of getting arrested by the police--I could go outside anytime I wished. By week seven I began getting shapes in the pictures--human shapes--faces, smiling faces, sometimes with an amazing amount of detail. Shapes of bodies, shapes of animals, large animals, small animals, sometimes skeletal figures all began appearing in my photographs. I also captured streaks of light, three-dimensional orbs, and colored orbs. There were spirits that were becoming easily identifiable--whether they were a mist (ectoplasmic) or 3-D orbs. I began to recognize them, and there was an odd sense that they recognized me as well. Were we becoming known to each other? My journey into spirit photography was getting very interesting.

Spirits have made themselves known to me in a variety of ways. Their ability to become physical is truly amazing. Spirits can move objects, ring doorbells, open or close doors, and manifest a physical appearance. They can also make audible sounds. I have heard them walking, whistling, howling, and calling my name. Imagine standing alone in the middle of a field at 2:00 AM and hearing a voice call your name. Then take your camera, snap a picture, and see a large cloud of wispy smoke at arm's length in front of you.

A ghost mist.

If my experiences were phenomenal before, they were mind-blowing now. It wasn't long after this that my perception began to change. I was more aware of the things happening around me, both day and night. I believe the spirits were allowing me to sense them for what they were, or rather how I thought they were. And I can't actually say they were controlling the camera, but on numerous occasions, wherever the camera was pointing there was an appearance of some sort. To me this shows an uncanny intelligence on their part. So much so that I can't even attempt to render an explanation of how they do it. But they do.

Ectoplasm mist forming into an upper-torso.
The ectoplasmic mist shows the outline of the
upper-torso of a spirit.

Getting Started
Initially, you should seek to learn and understand your instruments and environment. In my opinion, smoke from a cigarette does not resemble perespirit, ectoplasm, psychic mist or a spirit apparition at all--for your own peace of mind, attempt comparative shots to see the differences for yourself. There is also a distinct difference in fog density that you learn from experience. If you capture a spirit in the shape of a recognizable figure, that pretty much puts the sun spot theory to rest. I have never seen fog or cigarette smoke take the form of a human being or an animal. But I have taken photographs that show forms of humans and animals whose origin I cannot honestly explain. In my opinion, they are a form of spirit energy.

The best place to start taking spirit photos is a cemetery. But once you are comfortable with what you are doing, you can shoot almost anywhere. You really need to be tuned into what you are trying to accomplish and why you are doing it. I am not psychic, but I try to be aware of my environment.

I prefer to use a digital camera because I don't want to wait for film processing. I use two Olympus c2000 cameras set to AS400 film speed. And 99% of my pictures are taken at night, so I use a flash. No special lenses or shutter speeds-just stock equipment.

Spirit photography is an aided type of mediumship--that of using the camera to communicate with spirits, or rather, using the camera to let spirits communicate with you. When, how, or why the spirits choose to appear or make contact is of their doing.

Experience and intuition eventually become a major part of spirit photography. You will not only begin to recognize what you have captured on film as spiritual in nature, but you will sense the presence of the spirits around you at the time you take the picture.

This craft can also have its pitfalls--by opening or attempting to open a communicative path to the spirits, you are exposing yourself to a powerful force of nature. There are spirits who do not possess the best of intentions, and those malevolent spirits may take pleasure in causing psychological harm to a person. This intention may not always be deliberate but rather the by-product of a suffering or angry spirit. In order to protect yourself from such malevolence, you first have to identify the spirit's intentions. Your feelings and intuition are everything when it comes to identifying the good from the bad spirits.

Ghost mist - ectoplasm.


  • Don't perform spirit photography in a group--it's not a group exercise. Though you can obtain results with numerous persons on site during a shooting session, I believe the individual should exercise restraint from doing so. Spirits can feel the vibrations of those people involved and you would not want to be held accountable for the intentions of someone other than yourself. As I have stated, I approach this as a form of spirit communication, and as such, any successes and/or failures become a learning process for further communicative advancement. To me, this is a very personal process.
  • Don't try using magic or evocations. Spirit photography should be a natural occurrence. Although certain rituals can be used to conjure spirits, there is a certain satisfaction and fulfillment gained from a natural approach. For me, my religious background plays a part in my decision not to conjure. On the other hand, a totally natural approach is something that has been given and not taken. This addresses my moral concerns to any form of spirit communication.
  • Try to bring more than one camera. If you start getting activity, you'll need to shoot quickly because spirits move very fast.
  • Save the negatives or digital film cartridges. If you happen to capture some amazingly incredible shots, you may someday need to produce the originals for authentication. Better to have than to have not.
  • Make every effort to ensure that no other common anomaly is impairing your shot.
  • Behave in a respectful manner and do not attempt to dare, provoke, or intimidate a spirit. Your intentions will be felt by the spirit and returned accordingly.

Ghost photo

For me, spirit photography has been and continues to be a learning experience. I have come to realize with an acute awareness that we are not as alone as we might believe. And although it remains to be proved or disproved, there does exist evidence for an intelligent form of energy we associate with as ghosts or spirits.

I have printed and framed several of my favorite photos. When I look at them, I feel like I'm stepping through a sci-fi novel, but the images show me no fiction. To me, the photos are proof positive of intelligent life beyond physical death.

Visit Jim DeCaro's Web site at:

2014 Haunted New England Wall Calendar by Jeff Belanger photography by Frank Grace
Check out the 2014 Haunted New England wall calendar by Jeff Belanger and photography by Frank Grace!

Paranormal Conferences and Lectures
Don't miss the following events and lectures:

Jeff Belanger and “The Bridgewater Triangle” at Dedham Community Theatre - April 6, 2014 9:00PM

The Spirits of the Mark Twain House - Hartford, Connecticut - April 12, 2014

Paracon Australia - East Maitland, New South Wales, Australia - May 10-12, 2014