The spirit world and UFOs are two of life's many mysteries,
but I've had first-hand experience with only one of them.
This must have been back in the 1980s when I attended some event or
other. It was a clear summer night, and I was standing outside and talking
with a group of people a fair distance from the building. I was idly
looking up at all the stars, which were numerous since we were somewhere
in the country and away from city lights. Then I noticed that one of
the stars was moving.
From my perspective, it was moving slowly. It was the size of a star,
but it wasn't twinkling. Instead, it gave off a steady, white light.
The light was not a plane or helicopter; there were no landing lights
nor were there red and green position lights. It wasn't the International
Space Station, because that wasn't orbiting the Earth until 1998.
I simply figured it was some kind of aircraft until it did something
odd. Without stopping or slowing, it made a 90-degree change in direction.
Not an arc; a sharp, right-angled turn. I'm no expert, but I don't think
we had anything then that could do that, and I doubt we do now.
I'm sorry that's all there is to the story. The object was flying and
I couldn't identify it, so that was my UFO.
My other example – this one of the spirit realm – is completely
bogus, but it takes a slightly better than average knowledge of photography
to spot it.
The above image is not the bogus one. That's just a fun one I took of
myself back in the 70s. I look like ghost, but it's not a double exposure,
the method of choice of a lot of early charlatans. It's a time exposure.
I put the camera on a tripod, locked the shutter open, walked over and
leaned against the tree for 15 seconds, then walked back and closed
the shutter. The total exposure time was 30 seconds, and my walking
in and out of the frame doesn't show up because I wasn't in one place
long enough and it was night.
I'm betting that most people looking at the shot have a pretty fair
idea how it was done and that it's not a spirit photograph. The next
example, however, relies on some fancy explaining and a lack of knowledge
of photographic chemistry.
This image is from a book I won't name even though it came out way back
in 1974. The author lays down a fast ramadoola about how someone was
experimenting in the darkroom and managed to get – gasp!
– spirit energy to manifest itself on the film in the form of
It's not spirit energy; those white arcs are called crimp marks. You've
seen a black and white negative, right? Everything in the scene that
was light is dark and vice versa. That comes from developing chemicals
darkening the silver halide salts in the film's emulsion that were hit
by light coming through the lens during exposure. Enough of that; it's
all you need to know. But– getting the roll of film onto the developer
reel requires gently crowning or bending the strip of film. If you bend
it too much, a dent or crimp will form. Developer pools and collects
in that divot and darkens it more than the surrounding area. When you
make a positive print, it comes out light. That's all it is and no more.
Back in the later 1800s and early 20th century, when photography was
maturing, it didn't take long for its practitioners to start playing
tricks with the first special effects: Double and multiple exposures
for example. Because of the low sensitivity of wet and dry plates back
then, photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron used multiple exposures
on one plate to tell a conventional, i.e. non-ghost, story.
However, some sneaky types made "spirit" images depicting
ghosts, fairies, gnomes, and other non-corporeal beings. Many people
believed that the fairies and sprites the photographs showed were real.
These believers even included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But as far as
I know, he never saw a UFO.
Jay Speyerer has never seen a ghost. To his knowledge.