Matiere Opaque : Ghost Stories Greeley's Rancho Arcana

The Whaley House Photo Album

The Question...

You've read the story, you have some expertise in color photography or the physical properties of light, and you're ready to take this photo on. Great. Glad to have you aboard. But before we start, we need to agree on the assumptions in play:

#1. The film in the camera picked up light inside the room.
#2. Some of the light in the room was outside the visible spectrum.
#3. The resulting photo seems to have captured light from both the visible and invisible portions of the spectrum.

The first assumption is pretty solid, otherwise there would be no photo to examine.

The second assumption is also pretty solid. It's not a stretch to say that light from the invisible portion of the spectrum was present in the room (take infrared for example). Note that we're not going to assume anything one way or the other about the sources and direction of such light.

The third assumption is based on the fact that I didn't see the image by the bed when I took the photo and there was nothing in the room to account for it, therefore the film must have picked up something beyond my range of sight. This is subjective, as I was the one who didn't see anything--your experience might have been different, but as far as I know, there is nothing unusual about my eyesight. In any case, this is the weak assumption and it's the one we want to challenge before going further.

You'll note that we severely limit our assumptions about nature of the image by the bed to it not being visible. That may be a fantastic assumption in itself, but the truth is we don't really need to consider it right now in order to proceed. We're only going to consider the light in the room, the film in the camera, and the resulting photograph. That's it.

Now we're ready. There are a handful of questions we can ask, but first we have to challenge assumption #3, and the challenge may have two parts. We need to establish that it's possible that the film picked up light that is invisible to the eye. If we can't establish that possibility, then we can toss assumption #3 and call it quits. There'd be little point in proceeding further.

So, for all you experts out there:

-- What kind of naturally occurring light is invisible to the naked eye, but can be picked up on Kodak CP 100 5094 film?

It's a simple question that hopefully yields a simple answer. But it occurs to me that film that picks up light beyond the visible spectrum is not going to be very useful to the average consumer, as this sort of thing would appear as a 'defect' in the resulting photo; therefore, most if not all commercial manufacturers would probably work to remove this 'defect' from their film stock, if they hope to sell keep selling film and stay in business. So it may very well be that this kind of film does not, under normal conditions, pick up any light beyond the visible spectrum.

So if the answer is "none," or "not under normal conditions" then perhaps we can ask if conditions played some sort of role:

-- Did the camera flash, or the plastic panel, or both, contribute anything to the film picking up something from the invisible spectrum of light?

The term 'polarization' comes to mind, but I must admit that I know very little about the subject.

How we would go about answering this second question, I haven't a clue. The mechanics and geometry involved are way beyond my knowledge and skill. But I bet someone out there knows something about this kind of thing and how likely or unlikely it is to occur, and maybe they can provide examples.

 

+ - + - +

 

If we can't support the assumption that light from an invisible part of the spectrum managed to show up on the film, and did so in a reasonable way, then we're stuck. There would be no point in proceeding further because we would only be left with increasingly unlikely or even fantastic explanations that are not supported by known properties and processes. If we can't establish that it's possible, using a hard-headed approach to theory, then we may as well forget about the whole thing.

But if we can support that assumption, then we may have a basis for proceeding with the other questions we may want to ask.

If the resulting photograph shows light from the visible and invisible portions of the spectrum, then:

-- Are there any other examples of this phenomena out there that doesn't involve 'haunted houses' or 'ghosts'? Ex: astronomy, industrial engineering, etc.

-- Can anyone demonstrate this sort of thing repeatedly? Under controlled or measurable circumstances?

-- Can we narrow down likely range or wavelength of the light? Do the 'colors' of the object(s) suggest anything? Can we measure this kind of light with precision?

Finally, if we can answer those questions, then we can move on to perhaps the most important question that remains:

-- What is the possible source of this particular kind of light?

That's it. Simple questions involving mundane things like light and film stock. No ghosts, no convoluted requirements or qualifications, no metaphysics.

Any takers out there?


You're Invited...

Those who understand these questions and have the expertise to provide meaningful answers are invited to share their knowledge, comments, and suggestions with the rest of the world by emailing:

In the subject line, include the acronym 'WPL'

Objectivity is important! All replies that are composed objectively and that stick to the questions will be posted here for the review of others (email addresses will not be published.) My goal is to develop an on-line dialog among the qualified to help nail down the answers to these questions. If I receive enough responses, I will set up an on-line forum to automate the process.

Please note: Answers to questions not asked, or that rely on metaphysical or arcane processes to explain what's going on will not stand much of a chance of being published here. If you just want to comment on the photos, or anything else related to the Whaley House, that's perfectly fine. Those kinds of letters are welcome--but they will be posted elsewhere.

Can I Do This Confidentially?...

I recognize that, given the topic and the general tone of websites that deal in the subject of 'ghosts,' a person with real expertise, standing, and credibility in their field might be reluctant to have one's name plastered all over the Internet in a forum dealing with a 'ghost' photo.

Never fear. If you want to participate but wish to remain anonymous, please compose your message in a way that protects your identity to your satisfaction and also be sure to request anonymity in the message body. All such requests will be honored and I will post only the body of your message. If you want to share something important but don't want anything published on line at all, let me know and I'll honor that request as well--but unless you have something you think I really need to know, your message won't do anyone else much good. This is a collaborative effort.

Ready? Let's go.

Here are the basic facts, assumptions and questions, one more time:

Basic facts:

The photo was shot in 1985, using a cheap Vivitar 35mm camera loaded with Kodak CP 100 5094 film, also known as Kodacolor VR 100 Gen 1 (the batch # is Z 1 3 8  1 5, I think).

The resulting photograph shows something that was not visible to the photographer at the time the photo was taken.

There was nothing in the room or nearby to account for the image on the film. It is not a reflection on the clear plastic panel through which the photo was shot.

Assumptions:

#1. The film in the camera picked up light inside the room.
#2. Some of the light in the room was outside the visible spectrum.
#3. The resulting photo seems to have captured light from both the visible and invisible portions of the spectrum.

Primary question(s):

First, what kind of naturally occurring light is invisible to the naked eye, but can be picked up on Kodak CP 100 5094 film?

and/or

Did the camera flash, or the plastic panel, or both, contribute anything to the film picking up something from the invisible spectrum of light?

Follow up questions:

-- Are there any other examples of this phenomena out there that doesn't involve 'haunted houses' or 'ghosts'? Ex: astronomy, industrial engineering, etc.

-- Can anyone demonstrate this sort of thing repeatedly? Under controlled or measurable circumstances?

-- Can we narrow down likely range or wavelength of the light? Do the 'colors' of the object(s) suggest anything? Can we measure this kind of light with precision?

And finally:

-- What is the possible source of this particular kind of light?

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