Wielding a camera with infrared film, the postmodern ghost-hunter records a bubble of light—an orb.
Going through a near-death experience (NDE), the person sees an effulgent light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Even UFOs are lightships—great spinning vortices clothed in the photosphere of its power—woven out of the substance of the finer ethers. Light—neither wave nor particle, yet both—is our entrée, even here in the sublunary world, to the mystery of life.
Both life and death know Light. Betty Eadie, an NDE author, once related having seen “heavenly beings spinning material out of some bright substance;” whereupon Dr. P.M.H. Atwater replied she believed that “substance to be ‘spun light’.” Spun—or spinning—that bright substance seems ethereal to us simply because of its higher frequency. Sometimes only the camera can see it. Sometimes only the clairvoyant can see it. Sometimes everyone sees it, like the celebrated psychic light produced at a Welsh revival in 1905 which “resembled a brilliant star.”
In the 1950s the science world had been jolted by photographic images of the human aura taken by Russia’s Semyon Kirlian. His high-voltage method of photographing human subjects produced—quite by accident—luminous flares or “fountains” streaking out from the surface of the body. A shot in the arm for the budding field of parapsychology, Kirlian photography had its instant detractors. True to form, the skeptic squad impeached the brilliant images, supplanting the paranormal explanation with boring, “rational” ones: the so-called aura was nothing more than ionized gas that surrounds living things, or the result of “natural” (read: measurable) variables such as grounding conditions, amperage fluctuations, air pollution or moisture. Sweat!
But the camera has its own eye which no amount of “variables” could alter in the capture of the persistent luminous breath issuing from living things: leaves, trees, birds, humans. The age of technology, it seemed, had been destined to ferret out the hitherto hidden forces of nature, often accidentally, serendipitously.
“What we see with our physical eyes comprises less than 10 percent of the known universe.” – Prof. William Tiller
No sooner had the camera (daguerreotype) been invented in the 1840s than spirit “extras” began appearing spontaneously on the plates, sometimes little more than a blotch of light or misty outline of something. (Today, spirit-extras are still seen to appear “in the middle of the photo [as] a bright light.”)
By the turn of the century, radio waves, X-rays, radiation, etc., came into view as “scientific” evidence of earlier constructs such as “odic force,” the animal magnetism of the Mesmerists, or even the halos of saints, like the brilliant light that surrounded St. Ignatius Loyola or the dazzling cloud of gold enveloping St. Colomba.
By 1908, London’s Dr. Walter J. Kilner was using specially developed filters which captured on sensitized plates a luminous field embracing the human form. It looked like a blue-tinged haze. Experimenting with different colored screens, Dr. Kilner would pioneer the diagnostic (medical) applications of aura reading. Then, a decade after the New York Times applauded Dr. Kilner’s rediscovery of “the legendary aura,” quartz lens photography came along, enabling the camera to pick up yet other “psychic structures…beyond the range of our optical capacity.” Indeed, fluorescing lights and “psychic rods” now appeared on exposed plates of experimenters. The “rods” were now seen as the heavy lifters as well as the knockers and pushers behind assorted levitation and PK events. At the Goligher Circle in Ireland, for instance, it was thought that the table was levitated “by an invisible substance which streamed out of the medium’s body and became more or less solidified into psychic rods… [Though] invisible, the ends were sufficiently dense to be palpable.”
There have been many times when only the camera, faster than the eye, could see these rods or shafts. At Glastonbury Abbey, England, visitors to the Chalice Well “have been astonished by the photographs they have taken here…show[ing] inexplicable shafts of light.” The famous cloister, with its ley lines to Stonehenge, megalithic stones, and “spiritual engineering,” has also been the site of automatic scripts, UFO sightings, spectral monks (both seen and heard), and visitors reporting a strange feeling of weightlessness and even teleportation.
Spirit lights, obviously, do not occur in a vacuum. Other “clues” are always there, other signs and prodigies. Frequently, though, only the camera can see what we have missed. Experimenting with infrared film in 1971, friends of Ingo Swann photographed the acclaimed medium during one of his out-of-body journeys. The image showed distinct “balls of light.” Similarly, a modern exorcist once decided to film a session; watching his video later, he observed something the naked eye had not seen: “I saw spirit energy, perfectly round, transparent balls.” Miniature moons. Orbs.
At a so-called haunted mansion in San Francisco, pictures were taken showing a “lightning flash…[with] two indistinct forms,” while other prints revealed “light coming from some unknown source…[and] a woman’s ghostly figure.”
Nor do the psychic phenomena surrounding autistic children occur in isolation. These clairvoyant youngsters, as their spokesman Bill Stillman has amply demonstrated, are natural conduits between the seen and unseen worlds. Precognitive and “exquisitely sensitive” to invisible forces—their households prone to PK and other paranormal happenings—these clairvoyant kids also attract spectral lights in camera shots. A picture of Gabriel showed “a cloudy mist” over his head; a group shot with Kyle in it revealed “streaks of light” around the boy.
“Abnormal”—as our case studies pile up—often betrays the paranormal. Multiple personalities, for example, are often psychic; in the case of Kit (a multiple with seven “alters”), all the photographs taken of her “had hazy lights in them.” The troubled woman, not coincidentally, could also perform certain feats of PK such as levitating a pen simply by holding her hand above it.
Context is key: Whether we are looking at “hazy lights,” “cloudy mists,” orbs, or an “aura of lights,” the glowing apparition is hardly an isolated event. Taken piecemeal, the unexpected luminosity is swiftly dimmed, if not entirely eclipsed, by the skeptic’s battery of prosaic explanations. Taken in context, though, the paranormal is undeniable. Ghost lights, if you care to peruse their documentation, appear always in tandem with other outbreaks. And they are physical.
Sixty miles from London, villagers near Suffolk’s Borley Rectory still see the window of Room No. 7 light up at night, though no one resides there. Rats in the wall? Squirrels in the attic? Overactive imagination? Sweat? I don’t think so. But human sensitives in the rooms—Yes! The phenomena, it was noted, “are more numerous and more violent when a person possessing some psychic faculty is in the house.” This link is actually well known. Spirit communicators have described the psychic or medium as—“for us a lighthouse…kind of little windows.” Mrs. Travers Smith’s controls once stated “that a bright light attracted them [to her]… a clear white fire” which grows more vivid as the medium gets into better touch with the spirit world. So vivid was the heightened aura of the great physical medium D. D. Home that, even without a camera, on occasion the naked eye could see the top of his head glowing “with lights as if a halo surrounded it.” The “tongues or jets of flame” issuing from Home’s head would presage the “fountains” of light captured on film 75 years later by the art and science of Kirlian photography.
And why is spirit so drawn to this effluvium of mortal light? More than a window or “lighthouse,” it is an energy source! Ghost-hunters will tell you that orbs take on shapes more easily when there is static electricity in the atmosphere. Why do orbs hang around electrical systems, power cables, radar stations? Why is heat loss (ghost cold) such a sure sign of a presence? Why do appliances go on the blink in orb territory, and why do ghost-hunters have to pack so many extra batteries?
Drawing energy from available sources, the apparition is typically attracted to lively human activity, especially children. Observed fact: when the people—i.e., the power supply—leave, the orb leaves.
The more clairvoyant, i.e., psychic, the operator, the more readily can he “host” the disembodied. Exhaustion, headaches, difficulty walking, undiagnosable illnesses—are all occupational hazards suffered by the ghost-seeker or medium. After the great English medium, Stainton Moses, produced glowing globes of light in the séance room, “the drain on Moses’ vital strength was too great.” The history of mediumship is chock full of trance-mediums prostrated by their sittings. The sitters themselves, if en rapport, also contribute some of the “vital energy” essential to manifestations, and may come out of the experience utterly drained.
“Do you make them [tables] move?”—the question was once posed to a spirit. “Yes,” came the answer, “but I’m not alone. There have to be people round the table. We’re all together.”
This subtle rapport between the seen and unseen worlds was recently confirmed by a NASA scientist whose wife, quite by chance, captured “hovering” orbs of light in photos taken at a gathering of healers. Armed with digital camera, the couple decided to test the mysterious effect, only to find (what ghost-hunters have known all along) that the shimmering circles of light may appear on demand, i.e., “if they asked the apparitions to make themselves visible to the camera. And they found this method worked particularly well when…photographing spiritual gatherings.”
In Spanish, orbs are called canoplas, cousin to the sky canopy in English. “Tiny pinpoint dots of light” seen where spirits gather can actually be viewed on any clear day. Look up. The myriad of fragile bubbles high in the sky are not spots on your eyes. They are canoplas. And when we ourselves leave our present abode for spirit country, that self-light may also be seen, liberated now for the upward journey.
Tradition portrays Buddha glowing with light just before his death. But you don’t have to be Buddha to glow, as John Edward has recently recounted the sudden passing of a friend’s father: Watching TV in the living room, the father suffered a massive, fatal heart attack. His wife “saw a brilliant glow around [him] and then a light shoot out of him to the ceiling.”
It was not coincidence and it was not sweat and it was not imagination when the wife of Bishop Jim Pike watched, in etheric sight, as a “filmy, almost vaporous, cloudlike substance” left her husband’s body. Tragically, Bishop Pike, of California, had gotten lost in the Judean desert on a dream trip—no less—to the Holy Land. The vigorous search was in vain. “He’s dying,” Mrs. Pike, startled awake, now knew. “I can see him beginning to leave his body now…His spirit is very light in color – white…I can see his spirit leaving.”
“Out from the head of the corporeal body the spirit is born!”
The vapor departed through his neck. But wait—now it left behind a trail of the same filmy substance just as it “seemed attached to, somehow, or floating out of, his head.” At the same time, the form became a column of light and it connected his spirit to his body.
Then it rose up, drifting to the top of the craggy, deserted canyon.
And even though it has no distinct features, as Diane Kennedy Bishop recalls her most unforgettable vision, still—it is Jim, and “I can tell he is smiling.”
Susan B. Martinez, Ph.D. is author of the new book, The Psychic Life of Abraham Lincoln.