April Abercrombie

I was Case Manager for Denver Paranormal Research Society for nearly 4 years. While on the team, I primarily conducted investigations for clients of their private residences. I have since left Denver Paranormal to pursue my own research and conduct investigations of haunted locations. I now focus mostly on historical places.

Author's posts


By: April Abercrombie

Lately people have been submitting photos (screenshots) containing weird faces from their Snapchat apps, which they are concerned may be paranormal in nature.

The Snapchat app has a facial recognition feature built into it that allows the app to map your face, creating a mask. This allows the user to add various silly faces and effects to their image. These masks are completely animated, and will move and react with your facial expressions. It is just for fun, but the technology really is quite remarkable.

How the filters work:

The facial recognition software uses your device’s camera to scan for your face, looking for contrast areas (areas that are lighter or darker in color tone), which tells it where to place a series of points. Once it places these points, it matches them up to its pre-programmed facial features, adjusting them where necessary to match your own unique facial features as closely as possible. It then creates a mask based on this data, which is fully animated and can move, and in some cases, emote with you.

It is not perfect. In all of that mapping and image comparing, it doesn’t always work as expected. You might get a mask that doesn’t fit quite right. Also, it can only find your face straight on front view. If you turn too far to the side or tilt the camera too far, it will lose sight of your face. Lighting is also a factor. Because it is looking for high contrast areas, if your image is too bright or too dark, it will have problems locating your face.

When the software loses track of your face, it tries to relocate it, and then redraws the mask. The problem is, it doesn’t always relocate your face. It can locate another object in view, and be tricked into thinking that is your face.

In other words, just like the human brain, it can experience cases of pareidolia. It may map a face on a ceiling, furniture, a light fixture, etc.

There are a series of different face masks you can choose, one in particular allows you to pick another person’s face out of your existing photos and it will place that face over your own. This can appear very creepy if it manages to map the face where you wouldn’t expect it.

I am including a sample screenshot taken from my phone where the face mask mapped onto a lamp behind me, when I panned the camera too far.

Could this Snapchat filter phenomena ever be considered paranormal?

The reality of it is, most likely not.

Firstly because there have never been any confirmed photos of ghosts. It may not even be possible to catch a ghost in a photo, even if they do exist.

Secondly, there are far too many variables involved with the facial recognition technology employed by Snapchat, not to mention all the variables that go into photography itself, to ever say for certain that your Snapchat filter has found a ghost.

So in closing… even with it being as creepy as it sometimes can be, weird snapchat filter images are completely normal and explainable.

No automatic alt text available.


By: April Abercrombie

This question comes up quite often – Do we have any authentic photos of ghosts that we can show? The answer is unfortunately no.

For the following reasons, no matter what any expert has said, there are no authenticated ghost photos in existence:

FIRST – Ghosts are not proven to exist. It is impossible to say there is definitely a ghost in a photo if we are not even sure they exist. Until we have proven scientifically that ghosts exist, we can’t say there is one in a photo.

If we ever do get that scientific proof, it is ONLY then that we might be able to photograph a ghost, which would give us an authenticated ghost photo with which to compare.

SECOND – It is impossible to say for sure that a supposed photo of a ghost is genuine and unaltered. There are tell-tale signs of a fake, but if those signs are absent, we still can’t be sure. With the quality of the softwares and talented graphic artists we have today, there can be some really convincing fakes. If only they would use their powers for good! 🙂

THIRD – Even if there is a strange image in a photo that we can’t explain and we are sure the photo is not fake, we STILL cannot say it is anything paranormal. There are so many variables that go into still photography of which we have little control, such as light values, angles, motion, air particulates and other environmental factors, etc. Due to these variables, sometimes we will get weird images in photos – weird, but completely normal images. This is especially true of cell, computer and tablet cameras, which are even more notorious for creating weird images.

We hear it quite often – someone will say they had their photo authenticated by a photo expert.

Well…what does that really mean? – No expert of any kind can do this. No seasoned investigators and not even a professional photographer can do it.

What can they do then? – Experts do have knowledge of known factors that create certain anomalies in photos. They do have softwares to use that can scan a photo for irregularities and they can look at the EXIF info of the photo. All of these methods CAN give some clues as to the authenticity of a photo, but these methods are not fool proof by any means.

The most any expert can say is that a photo does not appear to have been manipulated. In that statement, there is quite a bit of wiggle room.

Any person that calls themselves an expert and then tells you your photo definitely has a ghost in it is not really an expert. Any person who has real, extensive knowledge of photography and photographic softwares would NEVER tell you this.



By: April Abercrombie

The purpose of this demonstration is to show how you can get streaking in your photos, even if you are using your flash. You do not need a long exposure to have this happen.

The photos provided are a couple of shots I took with my iPhone 5s. I have included screen shots of the EXIF data from both photos. Notice how the exposure time is the same for both photos.

With the first photo, I held the phone as still as possible. In the photo with the streaks, I moved the phone slightly as I took the photo. It takes only a very light movement to cause streaking from any light sources in the distance.

If you are walking around outside at night snapping photos here and there, it is very easy to unintentionally have your camera in movement as you take a photo.

April Abercrombie's photo.
April Abercrombie's photo.


Dust Is Everywhere


When people are asked why the orb in their photo is paranormal and not just a dust particle, many answer with “The house was clean. There was no dust.”

The problem with this explanation is that dust is everywhere. If there is an atmosphere, there is dust. It does not matter how clean an environment is, there are always airborne dust particles.

Some scientist and industrial companies spend thousands of dollars on air filtration systems to try and create a dust free environment. While they are able to remove a very high percentage of dust contamination with these systems, they still will not cannot guarantee that there is absolutely no dust particles in the air.

I recorded the video demonstration attached to this article with my iPhone 5s. Immediately prior to this recording, I had vacuumed my entire home. All I do here is pound the carpet, and many dust particles are seen flying around.

In a typical investigation situation, people are walking around the environment, which can stir up dust, even in a clean house.

Dirty Camera

d1First, as always, let me start by saying that I do not recommend still photography for paranormal investigations. Still photos will almost never stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Having said that, if you want to use your still camera for investigating, ALWAYS make sure your camera is clean inside and out first before your investigation begins.

We see many photos presented as evidence that are really the result of a dirty camera, either a dirty lens, or dirt on the camera’s sensor.

If you notice a dark, shadowy spot or black spec that is in many photos, that does not change position from photo to photo, it has to be something from your camera.

Notice the photos attached. The photo showing a piece of paper is an example of dirt on the lens, and the other photo of the sky is an example of dirt on the sensor. The dirty sensor photo is an extreme example, and you will probably never have your sensor this dirty, but a few specs are not uncommon.

d2Make it a habit to clean your lens every time you take it out, even if you just cleaned it the last time you had it out. Dirt, dust and finger prints accumulate rapidly. Dirt and dust can accumulate on your lens even from inside your case. Any where there is atmosphere, there is dust.

Check you camera’s sensor for dirt regularly by taking test photos against a plain background, such as a clear sky, a plain piece of paper, etc. Make sure you clean your lens first to ensure that any dirt spots are on sensor, not on the lens.

If you find that you do have a dirty sensor, be very careful in how you go about cleaning it. Check your camera’s manual and follow the directions CAREFULLY. Do not ever spray anything or stick anything, such as a cloth or q-tip, into your camera unless you are instructed to do so by the owner’s manual. Some cameras have onboard automatic sensor cleaning, but they aren’t perfect. If you are not comfortable cleaning your camera’s sensor yourself, you can have it professionally cleaned at most camera stores.

* Dirty camera sensor photo courtesy from vogeltalksrving.com

Back Lit Cell Photos and Shadow Figures

priWhen you are taking a photo, and there is a bright light in the background, such as sunlight coming through a window, strange results may occur. This can happen with any camera, but it is especially prominent with cell phone cameras. Cell cameras are just not as good as regular cameras at rendering photos, mainly because of their image aliasing, and their generally poor ability to compensate for different lighting conditions.

When taking a photo in a back lit situation, people in the frame in the background can become dark, shadowy and blurred, giving the appearance of a spooky “shadow figure”.

I have included a photo that I took with my iPhone 5s, in my own home. I have not adjusted the photo post-camera in any way. It is straight off my phone, with no filters applied. The “shadow figure” is my daughter, alive and well. She is completely dark and shadowy, and her movements are blurry and distorted.

While this makes for a very creepy photo, it is not paranormal. Sometimes people can be in your photo frame without you even realizing they were ever there. Next time you see this type of image in a photo, compare and see if any of the above factors fit the situation.

Flash Reflection and Effects

This article will focus on the type of flash reflection that occurs when an object is directly on or extremely close to the camera’s lens. It is not referring to the flash reflections commonly seen in photos where mirrors or other reflective surfaces are in view.

When any object is directly on, or extremely close to the camera lens as the flash fires, the flash can illuminate the object (or not) in odd, unexpected ways.

Please look at the 3 photos posted with this article. These photos were taken during the day, indoors. Natural light was the only light source in the room, other than the camera’s flash. I had the blinds closed to insure it was dark enough that the flash would fire. The camera I used was a compact point ‘n shoot, Canon PowerShot ELPH300 HS, 12.1 MP. The photos were taken in full auto mode.

Photo #1: The object is directly on (touching) the camera lens. Notice how the background is well lit and in focus, but the subject is very dark. When an object is on the camera’s lens, the camera cannot focus on it. In auto focus mode, since the camera could not focus on the object, it focused on the background, and metered accordingly. The result was a dark shadow effect on the object. This will happen no matter the color of the object. We commonly see this effect when there is an insect or piece of debris on the lens of the camera.




f2Photo #2: The object is just slightly away from the lens, within ½ inch. At this range, the camera still could not focus on the object very well, so again the camera focused on the background, and metered accordingly. At this distance though, the object is in the “orb zone” or range where the flash will bounce off the object. When this happens, the flash is reflected back into the camera lens, and the result is a washed out effect on the object. In some circumstances, the flash reflection can wash out the entire photo, giving it a cloudy or foggy appearance. We commonly see this effect when someone takes a photo, not realizing their finger, or a camera strap, or some other object was near the camera lens. This would be the same as taking a light and shining it into your eyes.

f3Photo #3: The object is sufficiently away from the camera and out of the “orb zone”. The flash does not reflect off of the object and back into the lens. At this distance the camera was able to focus on the object, and metered on the object. Notice now how the background has become dark and out of focus. These results and their severity will vary from camera to camera, but all cameras, especially compacts and cell phones, are susceptible to this effect.

Sharp J-SH04 Mobile Phone

Courtesy of:  http://www.puntainversiones.com


Sharp J-SH04 is a mobile phone which was created by Sharp Corporation and released by J-Phone in November 2000. At that time, this mobile phone was only available in Japan and it became the Japan’s first ever phone which was equipped with a built-in camera. This camera had a 110.000 pixels resolution and a 256 colors display so you can get excellent photo result.

It was not the first mobile phone with a built-in camera in the world because Samsung had also released a mobile phone, called Samsung SCH-V200 in several months earlier in South Korea. This Samsung’s mobile phone was equipped with a VGA (Video Graphics Array) camera.

Sharp J-SH04 is able to save up to 500 phone numbers and it is compatible with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) card. It uses a dual band to support its performance. This 127 x 39 x 17 mm product which is available in silver color has a 74 grams weight. This mobile phone is able to save last 20 incoming calls, outgoing calls, and missed calls.

This Japan’s first camera mobile phone which uses a directional pad is supported by a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery which is able to survive up to 310 hours in standby mode and up to 2 hours in talking mode. For its price, it was sold for USD 500 in 2000 and for the time being you might get difficulty to find this product again.



Nippon Kogaku Nikon F

Courtesy of:  http://camerapedia.wikia.com

niknThe Nikon F was introduced in 1959 with a comprehensive range of high quality lenses and accessories. During its lifespan, new items were continuously added, comprising bulk film magazine, electrical motor drive, viewfinders, focusing screens, close-up and scientific attachments, flash units, remote controls, and even a Polaroid back, the Speed Magny, as well as a wide variety of exposure meters, both separately available or as part of the finder prism, the latest of those being TTL meters, known as the Photomic.


Lens Aperture: Instant-return type, with focal depth monitoring button (stop-down button)

Mirror: Automatic instant-return type with lock-up facility available as necessary

Viewfinder: Interchangeable with waist-level viewfinder

Focusing screen: Interchangeable with waist-level viewfinder

Shutter: Titanium foil focal-plane shutter

Self-timer: Variable duration type

Flash Synchronization: Variable according to time lag, sync. with Speedlight at a high speed (1/60 sec.), with JIS B type clip contact

Dimensions: Approx. 147x98x89mm (with 5-cm F2 lens)

Weight: Approx. 685g (body only)



Graflex “Pre-Anniversary” Speed Graphic

Courtesy of:  http://camerapedia.wikia.com

graflexThe famous press cameras of Graflex were made in a number of variants and in several formats.

The earliest models were available in 3×4, 4×5 and 5×7 formats. By 1939-1940 the 5×7 format was dropped and the 2¼x 3¼ format was added. Focal plane shutters were available from the beginning until 1970. Models with a focal plane shutter can use lenses mounted in shutters or barrel lenses (without shutters). The Pacemaker Crown Graphic, introduced in 1947, was the first model available without a focal plane shutter.


Pre-Anniversary 1928-1939: 4×5 and 5×7, (also 3¼ x4¼ from 1935 to 1939) Had larger lensboard. Focal plane shutter.



Pareidolia and Photos – Am I seeing Things?


We have heard it here in this group many, many times…”It just pareidolia”, which is the tendency for the brain to perceive meaningful shapes, especially faces, in random visual or audible stimuli. The good news though is that we have the ability to override this natural instinct of ours.

If we as paranormal investigators want to actually present real proof of paranormal events to the world and further the fringe sciences, we need to remain purely objective when analyzing our evidence.

We need to detach ourselves from our evidence completely, and be willing to debunk it.


First and foremost before we even get into looking at images in a photo, we need to be sure the photo is a suitable candidate for analysis. We need to perform a quality check:

– The photo needs to be in good focus. No blurry or poor quality, badly pixelated photos.

– The exposure needs to be reasonably correct. It cannot be too dark, nor too bright. If the photo does not pass this quality check, then it cannot be offered as evidence to the world at large. It’s just not good enough to stand as any type of proof. This is because blurry or bad photos give alot of fodder for your brain to use to make all sorts of
wonderful, or horrific, images.You have to let it go! Keep it for yourself if you wish, but do not submit it as evidence to anyone else.

If the photo passes the initial quality check, we can then analyze any images it contains.


When analyzing an image we see in a photograph, we need to observe its qualities closely, without bias. We MUST be able to leave our beliefs and wishes at the door.

Study the image in question. The image should be an actual object – it should be separate and apart from anything else in the photo, with a distinct shape. It cannot be inside a bush, in tree branches, in the shadows etc. It also MUST be clear and obvious. If you have to draw circles or outlines, or zoom in to see it, it is not good enough to be considered. Zooming into a digital photo causes pixelation and digital artifacting, which can add to the pareidolia effect.

We need to set aside any impressions we get and look at it purely objectively. Look ONLY at what is ACTUALLY there. For instance, we can’t call 3 ovoid shapes and a curvy line a face. For it to be a real face, we need to see actual eyes, a nose and a mouth. If it only *seems* like a face, then we have to let it go.



Looking at the photo below, ask yourself:

Is the image made of vague shapes that only resemble a face or figure? Is the image composed of other elements in the photo, such as branches, shadows, leaves, reflections, patterns on wood or other
materials, etc?

Does the image look like an actual object existing independently in the photo? This photo is of a brick on my fireplace. My house is not haunted. This is not a face.


If we really want to find proof of the paranormal, there is no other way – we must be objective always. We must debunk, debunk, debunk. When in doubt we must be willing to throw it out. This goes for every piece of evidence we analyze whether it be visual, audio or other, whether it be yours, mine or ours.

If we hold ourselves to these standards, and come across something we cannot debunk, that makes for strong evidence, and that is the ONLY way we will further the fringe science of paranormal investigating.

Camera Lens Reflection

Your camera lens is basically a piece of glass. As such, it is subject to picking up reflections on it’s surface of things in the environment in which you are photographing. This is especially prevalent when taking photos in low light conditions, when bright light sources, such as candles or lights, are present. It’s exactly the same as having reflections on your house windows, TV screen or any other reflective surface.

When objects reflect on your camera lens, the reflected images can actually appear in your photo when the angle and light conditions are right. I have seen reflections occur not just of light sources, but with people and other objects as well. This occurs with still photo cameras and video cameras alike. Any camera with a glass lens is subject to picking up reflections.

Camera lens reflections should not be confused with lens flare, although both can occur simultaneously. The difference is that Lens Flare occurs when a very bright light source, such as the sun, shines directly into your lens and washes out parts of your photograph, causing a “flare” effect. Lens reflections however are images reflected from the environment onto the surface of your camera’s lens.


To test if you have picked up a lens reflection, take several shots of the same scene and compare. If the anomaly in question does not change in shape, and stays consistently present, and moves only in relation to the movement of the camera, then you have a lens reflection.

I am including example photos of lens reflections. The 3 landscape oriented photos were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR. The 3 portrait oriented photos were taken with an iPhone 5s. With the Canon photos, I used my tripod and swiveled the camera from photo to photo. I hand-held my cell phone for the iPhone photos.

Canon (click to enlarge)

Canon (click to enlarge)

Canon (click to enlarge)

Canon (click to enlarge)

Canon (click to enlarge)

Canon (click to enlarge)

iPhone (click to enlarge)

iPhone (click to enlarge)

iPhone (click to enlarge)

iPhone (click to enlarge)

iPhone (click to enlarge)

iPhone (click to enlarge)


Notice how in each photo the anomalies stay consistent in comparison with each other, and they move as a group as the camera was moved. Also notice how small in comparison the reflections are in the cell photos. One reason for this is because the lens on the cell phone is much smaller than the Canon’s lens. However, even though cells have very small lenses, they can pick up reflections just as well as regular cameras.

Kodak DCS 420

Courtesy of:  http://en.wikipedia.org


The Kodak DCS 420 manufactured in 1994 was a 1.2-megapixel digital SLR based on a Nikon F90body.

The Kodak Digital Camera System is a series of digital single-lens reflex cameras and digital camera backs that were released by Kodakin the 1990s and 2000s, and discontinued in 2005. They were all based on existing 35mm film SLRs from Nikon and Canon. The range included the original Kodak DCS, the very first commercially available digital SLR


  • Image storage on removable PC cards,Type III
    12 bits/color
  • 14 mm x 9.3 imager magnifies focal length of the lens 2.5X SCSI interface
  • ISO-equivalent settings of 100 to 400 for color model, 200 to 800 for monochrome model
  • Burst rate of 2 images/second for 5 images, enabling 5 images in just over 2 seconds from camera to capture
  • Records approximately 400 images per battery charge, with 1 hour to recharge, or unlimited number with AC battery adapter/charger
  • AC adapter/charger power requirements: 50/60 Hz, 110, 120, 220, 240 V AC
  • Size: 6.7 in. W x 4.5 in. D x 8.2 in. H (170 mm x 114 mm x 208 mm)
  • Weight (without lens): 3.75 lbs. (170 kg)
  • Certified FCC Class B, UL, CSA, TUV



Specs: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/professional/products/ekn017457.jhtml

Minolta Disc-7

Courtesy of:  http://camerapedia.wikia.com


The Minolta Disc-7 manufactured in 1984 was one of the better cameras designed for disc film. In common with other disc cameras, the Minolta had a flat, compact design, but a limited range of photographic features. The lens was fixed-focus, although it had a macro mode, and there were just two shutter speeds.

The Disc-7 had one remarkable feature which stood it apart from other disc cameras. In the center of the front plate was a small convex mirror, which could be used by the photographer to compose a self-portrait. The tiltable, telescoping carrying strap was used as a focusing aid, as its length corresponded with the optimal focus distance of the macro lens – a similar focusing system was later used by Olympus for the Olympus XA4 Macro.

Type: compact camera
Manufacturer: Minolta
Year of release: 1983 Films: disc film with speed 200 ASA
Lens: 1:2.8/12.5mm Shutter: speeds 1/100 and 1/200 sec.
Aperture: CdS-controlled
Self-timer: with control LED
Flash: guide number 9
Weight: 200g dimensions: 129.5×78×21mm
Power: lithium batteries which have to be replaced by the manufacturer

The Minolta ac 301 Courrèges was designed in conjunction with French fashion house André Courrèges.[1] It carried the Courrèges logo, with a cream-white front, a gold-coloured frame, and an attractive soft case. A similar exercise was carried out with the Minolta Disc-5, which became the Minolta ac 101 Courrèges.