Saturday, January 31, 2009

My First Documented Phenomenon

I won't count the time I was 10 and taped the sound of the booted footsteps in my childhood home. After all, I was immature enough to leave my father's recorder in my room where mother picked it up and put it back on his desk and he taped a lecture over top of it.

This proof, I still have. In fact, it's on a 35 mm negative.

It was 2003 and I had just started ghost hunting with camera in hand (no other equipment yet). There wasn't a lot of helpful info on ghost hunting at the time (this was pre-"Ghost Hunters" show), but I did know enough to nix my camera straps on all my cameras. I cut them right off because I didn't want any false positives. I also tied my hair up behind me. I avoided cold, damp, rainy, dusty, windy nights. Having done all I can to avoid false phenomenon, I decided to go with my ghost hunting buddy and my son to a beautiful cemetery in Phoenix where my son's grandmother was buried. In my unquestioning "ghosts are definitely souls of the departed" mentality, I figured grandson bait might work.

We arrived and were so distracted (my hunting buddy is the artist who designed my tattoo and I'm an artist wannabe) by the beauty around us that we kept taking photos for our own records for potential paintings in the future. We're morbid enough about the beauty of cemeteries to make a series of arts/crafts reflecting these burial grounds and their peacefulness. We thought we'd go right to my mother-in-law's grave by my memory of where it was in location to trees, only I didn't notice the last time I was there for the grandfather-in-law's burial that there's a heck of a lot of trees in this desert-located cemetery.

It was getting dark and this cemetery was very highly guarded by men in golf carts. They warned us we had to leave asap because the sun was going down. Damn! At least it was dim enough for flashes to go off. As we were walking through the cemetery back to our car, in my mind I kept repeating over and over again, "Betty, we're here. Your grandson and daugher-in-law are visiting. Please let us know where your grave is. Show us the way." As we were walking, my son out of the blue said, "mom, can you get a photo of me here." It was a statue of praying hands and my son was an artist, so I figured he'd want a picture near one of the amazing statues, but not one so simple. It seemed very odd that he chose this one when we had passed much more impressive and "hardcore" looking anguished statues.

So, we stopped and I had him stand in front of it. He picked the spot he wanted to be in and I picked up my 35 mm thinking this wasn't a ghost hunting shot, only a shot for his records. I remembering thinking we were very close to the car and about to leave and I begged my mother-in-law one more time to please show us where she was before we left. My son posed, I lifted the camera, and took the picture.

I didn't think anything of it as we left, except let down that I couldn't find her grave. We got home and I sent the photos in for developing. In that time, I talked to my father-in-law and said, "where is Betty's grave?" He replied. "It's a few hundred feet from the praying hands statue." He told me.

In this unbelievably huge cemetery that was made up of several cemeteries, covering an enormous plot of land that an amusement park would envy, we somehow managed to be drawn to that statue. At least, my son was. That intrigued me to no end as I awaited the photo developing.

When they came back, I sat in my car, staring at this crazy streak on the photo. It bothered me so much, my son and I went back to the cemetery and found out where the grave was. It was about 300 feet over his left shoulder. Right about where this streak appears to be coming from as it comes in a position which appears to be right at me. This might also explain the strange sudden lump in my throat when I took the picture and the anguish that my son wouldn't know my mother-in-law (she died long before he was born).

If you look at it closely, the streak is more sheer at the top and solid at the bottom. As a debunker, I'd say the object if there were an object (which I have absolute certainty there was not) was further away or part of it was moving causing the sheer look and the closer it was to the camera, the more solid it would appear. The problem was that at the time I was absolutely a crazed person when it came to taking any shots. I was terrified of getting something and then someone telling me it was hair, dust, or any other means. The shot was taken with me controlling the situation completely, even the timing of the breeze. Another explanation: whatever was moving had zoomed from the top of the picture towards the camera. Even using all logic and explanation, this picture still baffles me. Perhaps because there was no camera strap. My hair was tied back. There was nothing else of this world I can imagine would have possibly made this streak and yet it shows up on the negative, as well as the photo.

I keep this filed away in an unexplained pile. Every now and then I pull those out and look at them, but even with more experience in the field, some things continue to baffle.

This is one of them.

Note to ghost hunters: If you do have a camera strap and don't tuck it in, most camera straps are braided and you'll get a spiral look in the photo. If you get something like this above but it looks spirally, you have a camera strap in your shot. I suggest either removing straps from cameras, although some folks like being able to dangle it in their hands, or you tape it down for ghost hunts. Hair is a huge culprit and it's so easy for it to get wound up in your hands or camera or dance in front of you. You can usually tell hairs by the way they look like a clear streak with some color to it which happens to match your hair color. See my coming blog about explainable shots for more, but I'd suggest you take photos with your hair and your strap in the way so you can have them for reference when debunking in the future, also get rain, breath mists, dust, and other situations for reference.


  1. I miss a lot when I do not keep up with your blog! I really do have my mind on too many different subjects right now-what a fascinating post! very nice of you to give advice to people who might want to do this-I was going to comment on your tatoo before-i am not very big on tatoos-but I love yours! If you can tell-and i totally understand if you cant-especially as it involves family-name the cemetery in Phoenix? again no probs at all if you can't-I have always been tempted to go to one with my old 35mm camera (i do not have digital-and with money wont be getting one anytime soon)I often enjoy the feel of looking at photos of cemeteries and the like (memorials etc) on the web-some of them seem so peaceful and some are downright beautiful! I hope i am able to post this comment-best to you as always!

  2. I agree about tatt's. I got this one because it's totally my symbol. I love feeling like it just fell off a tree and I carry autumn with me everywhere. The cemetery is called Greenwood. It's probably the prettiest one in the Phoenix area, huge, green, lots of statues and trees. The most active one is Double Buttes at I-10 and Broadway. The most creepy moody one is probably St. Francis at Oak and 48th St. It's a Catholic one and very very ornate and probably more bodies per square foot and energy than anywhere. It is also a very active cemetery, but that's also the one I got locked inside of, so don't highly recommend being there after dark. It's overrun by wild housecats which makes it even weirder. I'm well acquainted with most of the cemeteries in Phoenix and a lot of them in AZ. They fascinate me to no end. I love the peace and comfort I feel and the memorials remind me what's good about people--their ability to love for eternity. If you want to see more cemetery photos, check out MySpace. I'm there under the display name "autumnforest ghosthunter." I'm still in the process of putting up more pic's there, but it gives you a good sense of where to go in AZ for what kind of picturesque inspiration and spookiness.