A Painful Lesson Learned in Paranormal Photography, on the USS Hornet

overlooking the area in question.
This shot also shows the area in question, moments before the photo in question was taken. Nothing dark hanging on any bunks

It’s every single paranormal investigators dream to capture, every homeowners unwanted visitor, and every child’s nightmare. The FBA. The full bodied apparition.

Some people go their whole lives working to document this exact phenomena with absolutely nothing to show for it but thousands upon thousands of awkward camera angles, shot somewhere in the dark, in the dankest of places. We buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment, with absolutely no positive result- no matter the fancy name or price tag. We spend thousands of hours wasted in locations that are claimed to have the “highest activity” of any in a given place, only to go home exhausted and empty handed.
That is, until you’re taking a photo leisurely, just to show family and friends, by blindly flashing your camera into the dark. You’re not serious about the photo, just clicking in the dark, waiting to set up for an investigation. No intentions of capturing anything paranormal, and BOOM! It happens.

You go back and look at your photos and you notice something that absolutely blows your mind. You know for a fact you were the only one present for the shot. You know nothing like clothing, was hanging in the location of the shot to cause confusion. But yet, all you’re left with is one single photo, that you have absolutely NO supporting evidence to prove what you feel in your heart you may have caught. Something which you cannot explain. Where to go from there? How do you present it? Do you forget it and toss is aside? Do you talk about it? Send it to professionals? Go to your peers? What do you do to share this with people without looking like an absolute buffoon? These are questions, and a situation that came about for a member of our team, Jim Riggi.

On Feb 22nd we investigate the USS Hornet during Grey Ghost Paracon 2014.

During this time we were in the Infirmary/Sick Bay area of the ship.
When Jim sent me this photo, I admit. I stared at it, turned my head a little and tried to make sense of what was happening in the photo. Of course, the first thing I asked was who was in the room with him. Jim explains the situation as, “Everyone had moved on to the surgery wing of the Infirmary and I turned back once everyone was in the surgery room to take a photo of Sick Bay so I could show Shannon (Shannon is his wife) what it looks like” Jim assures me that he scans the room and no one else is present at the time except for 1 person who is sitting to his left on a bunk. I can vouch for the people in attendance on our team, which are in the Surgery room. Everyone is accounted for.
Jim is my teammate, I trust him. I know he is honest. Trust and honesty are something that keeps teams like ours afloat (no pun intended), but I also know the general public doesn’t know Jim from Adam. To ask the general public to TRUST us based on our “word”, just isn’t good enough.

Burden of Proof

As a team, we understand that when we make a claim about something that is allegedly paranormal, the burden of proof falls in our hands. This is one of those cases where we are not able to do this. It’s a PAINFUL lesson of swallowing our pride, and pointing out what when wrong with this scenario.
A couple things happened here:
We are in the underbelly of the ship, no one has seriously started investigating the Infirmary section of the ship just yet, but we have all moved into the Surgery wing. While this photo in question is being taken, we are taking personal photos of the ship with cellphones, which is exactly what Jim was doing. There is absolutely 0 cell phone reception in this area of the ship, as most areas are down there. There has been no notable EMF spikes from cellphone reception, because there is none. Jim IS taking a photo with his cell phone for this photo. At a $150 per ticket there’s no doubt we are photographing everything.
We have examined the EXIF data to ensure nothing has been modified in this photo. We can provide that data to anyone in question of the integrity of digital photo data. (available upon request)

Image Exif Data Value
File Name 20140223_012454.jpg
Date 02/23/2014 01:24 AM
Filesize 1.83M
Width 3264 pixels
Height 2448 pixels
Horizontal Resolution 72dpi
Vertical Resolution 72dpi
Mime Type image/jpeg
Exif Version 0220
Camera Data Value
Make SAMSUNG
Model SGH-T999
Exposure Time 1/15 sec.
Aperture Value 2.76 EV
F-stop f/2.6
ISO 320
Focal Length 3.7.0 mm
Exposure Program aperture priority
Metering Mode center weighted average
Flash Status flash fired
Light Source unknown
Shutter Speed Value 998/256

Because of the nature of the photo, taking a picture just to show someone the room and not expecting to find anything, Jim only fires 2 shots rather than our protocol of 3 per area. This was not being taken for evidence purposes.
Here is where we really lose ground on determining whats happening in our photo here.

  • Cellphone photography- This is generally not used for evidence simply because of the ability of faking things can happen so easily. In the day in age of ghost apps, we know how easily photos can be maipulated. Having been a Paracon we were admittedly relaxed in our photo taking, in between EVP sessions and such. While in investigation mode, we were however very strict in tagging as we would in any investigation. Photography on the other hand is just too “iffy” and its not something we generally rely on heavily while investigating, at least not with cellphones nor flash photography.
  • Scene control- On standard investigations, we are in control of our “scene”. We know where everyone is and it is thoroughly documented. Paracons are difficult for this. We are touring with people who don’t normally investigate, or don’t follow our protocol. In this case all we have is a personal experience and 1 persons detailed account of events. While the rest of our team can vouch that what Jim is saying is true, due to the nature of the situation and moving in between areas of the ship, and lack of DVR footage, we have no way to prove this to the general public. This poses a huge problem. If we can’t prove our claim, we have nothing.
  • Angles- We have no other angle in this moment of time. The following photos that come after are not at quite the same angle unfortunately. This one detail, even if we had every other detail in line (whether it be a professional photography camera, infrared, or cellphone, and even our DVR system), we have nothing to compare this photograph to in that exact moment. Protocol while on scene is 3 photos per space that are identical for comparison. This makes this a closed case. We cannot use this photo as evidence.
  • NEVER GO ALONE- In this case our member had moved on without us. Grant it this is one of those situations that he was not in danger, it was only a few doors down. But this left him alone to experience this on his own without any eye witness. At least with groups of two, there are extra eyes and ears to observe. A personal experience is easier to validate with two experiencers, rather than just 1.
  • Supporting Evidence- No emf spikes. No Evp. The only thing we can vouch for, is this area of the ship for us sensitives is very heavy. How do you put a hunch or feeling into tangible form? We can’t in this case.

 The Unidentified Sick Bay Buddy

So basically what we have here is a very interesting photo that we cannot explain, and a very cool personal experience. It feels wrong to stow the photo away or to simply delete it from memory. To the person who captured this, this is a lesson learned that I guarantee will eat him up forever. This is something that we all dream to catch, but very few ever get the chance to experience, let alone capture. The “what ifs” in this situation will no doubt cause us to step up our game of being on task no matter the time, place or situation. At a Paracon it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the place you are investigating, the people you are with, and the situation at hand.

I’m proud to say that given the situation of the event, our team did an excellent job of keeping up with our surroundings. This is a hiccup that no doubt made us all facepalm alittle. It seems in the exact moment of us being off guard, the inevitable happened. I’ve had many seasoned investigators tell me this is exactly when my moment will happen; right when I’m not looking for it.

But the question remains, is this what happened? Is this paranormal? Is this by chance a full bodied apparition, or something else more explainable? This is something that will trouble us forever, but its also something that taught this team a grave lesson:

  • BE ON TASK AT ALL TIMES.
  • FOLLOW PROTOCOL DESPITE: WHO, WHEN,  HOW AND WHERE. THINGS WILL HAPPEN NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE WITH, WHETHER YOU ARE READY OR NOT, AND IT WILL HAPPEN BETWEEN TRAVELING TO LOCATIONS OF INVESTIGATION.
  • USE EQUIPMENT THAT YOU CAN VOUCH AT ALL TIMES, WHETHER IN BETWEEN LOCATIONS OR NOT.
  • TAKE MINIMUM OF 3 SHOTS. THE SLIGHTEST MOVEMENT CAN EFFECT THE DYNAMIC OF A PHOTO DRAMATICALLY.
  • KEEP VIDEO ROLLING TO PROVE YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE.
  • MANUALLY VERBALIZE WHERE ALL MEMBERS OF YOU GROUP ARE. *NO ONE GOES ALONE*

Some people are going to look at this photo and immediately dismiss it and that is OK, that’s the point of peer review. We would, and ARE doing the same. The WORST thing you will ever have to do as a team, or as an individual, is dismiss your own teams work. This very well could have been the Holy Grail of our investigating careers, but instead has turned into a hard earned valuable lesson. Hopefully our experience will also help you and your team as well.

And here it is for you to scrutinized or awe over….our own personal, Holy Fail of paranormal photography: The Unidentified Sick Bay Buddy.

Without prompting what do you see on the right hand side of this frame? The left hand side shows an obstruction of the camera lens, a finger. This is not what it is in question.

WE DO NOT CLAIM THIS PHOTO TO BE PARANORMAL IN NATURE, IT IS SIMPLY UNEXPLAINED AND INTENDED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. 

The second angle, slightly off. Once again the brightness on the left is an obstruction of the lens. This is NOT paranormal.

*Authors note: Jim is also learning not to put his finger in front of the flash! :)

 

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