Spirit photography has long been a subject of debate. Can one truly capture an image of the deceased? Most vintage ‘spirit photography’ was simply double-exposures, created for the express purpose of profiting from the loss of the deceased’s grieving family. With the advancement of technology, those who would attempt to capture the “Unseen World” have at their disposal an array of options. Infrared cameras, heat sensors, etc. lend themselves to these types of endeavors. Yet, at the end of the day, the most desired outcome is still to produce an identifiable photograph of a deceased subject.
With this increase in technology also comes an increase in forgeries. With the introduction of digital image editing software, forged spirit photographs have become commonplace. Most of the photographs in question are produced for entertainment—as pranks or ‘proof’ of urban myths. Some of these forgeries are quite difficult to identify, especially those that have gone to the extra lengths of producing physical photographs. Methods that produce degraded, weathered photographs such as Mordançage seem to be a favorite among forgers of spirit photography. The “Harris shutter” technique also tends to produce images that, once further doctored, gray-scaled, and printed, may pass as vintage spirit photographs.
Most true spirit photographs are simply orbs, though there have been cases in which a full-body apparition has allegedly been captured. The problem with these photographs is that no one can prove their validity beyond a shadow of a doubt. Spirits that have been captured in such photographs can also be captured as orbs, or simply not appear in photographs at all. Theories for this include weather conditions, equipment conditions, and perhaps most notably, the state of the spirit themselves. It has been theorized that spirits must harness large amounts of energy to appear in photographs. The spirit may leach energy from electronics, natural sources such as lightning, or even directly from the living. For obvious reasons, these theories remain unproven.
Perhaps the true argument is not whether or not a spirit can be captured in a photograph. Many will agree that, occasionally, a photograph surfaces that contains a subject that is unexplainable. Perhaps the debate we should be having is not ‘can we?’, but ‘should we?’. What do we have to gain from capturing the deceased on film or bits and bytes? If we were really meant to know what lies on the “Other Side”, in the “Netherworld” or the “Afterlife”, surely we would have found our answer long ago. Against our curious human nature, occasionally it is better to leave ‘well enough’ alone. The realm of the dead may mingle with that of the living, but there is an evident boundary separating the two—one that is obviously in place for a reason.