Written by Debra Pickman
Over the years Tony and I have made ourselves available to anyone who has questions about our case or the paranormal in general. Mostly we get correspondence from those who feel they are having paranormal activity, concerned with an evil presence in their home or who have no other place to turn for advise when they are terrified by activity they feel is paranormal.
We certainly welcome this communication and the opportunity to help others understand or rectify problems, as it is not something we had available to us when we were going through our own terrifying experiences and it is difficult at best to go through these experiences alone.
With that said, I recently had a few weeks of frustrating emails with an individual who perceived that she was having disturbing activity in her home. Along with her correspondence about EVP she had reportedly captured, she included video and photographs with unsettling spirits in them.
Now I know from experience that it is unreasonable to simply discount anyone’s claims of paranormal activity, no matter how weird or off the wall the claim might be. After all, there is a lot that Tony and I have experienced that no one in their right mind would believe, not even us, unless it was experienced firsthand.
I also will not easily succumb to believing there is a paranormal aspect to any given situation based solely on the presentation of photos, videos or EVP without a good attempt at analyzing the media myself, or getting a second opinion if warranted.
Regarding this most recent contact, I analyzed the first video clip she sent and determined that the black mass she was concerned about was a bug crawling across the camera lens; you could tell by the constant and defined shape as well as the mannerism of the movement. The second video seemed to have a quick black but very slim disturbance on the left of the screen.
My first impression was that the camera operator’s hair had grazed across the camera’s line of sight. This seemed to be confirmed when the long haired individual entered the video footage on the left and from what would have been just behind the camera.
The third video was of a quick moving black mass near the ceiling in what seemed to be the next room. When I asked about a ceiling fan or other objects in the room that might have generated a shadow, they were ruled out. This footage remains, in my opinion, unexplained and would warrant further observation under a more controlled environment.
Ok, so here is where the correspondence became frustrating. The next item with claims that they contained disturbing spirits were several photos. One was rather odd and I was not able to explain the image in question. The subject of her greatest concern were photos of a door in the house where she adamantly claimed to see several spirits. I tried to explain in my correspondence, that it was hard to make a determination because I had no reference of the area or subject.
Whatever she was seeing in them was not apparent to me or a few others I had enlisted for their opinion. I replied to her saying so and explained that rule of thumb in any investigation was to take at least 2-3 photos at any given time or of any given subject (before and after photos to compare what would be normal and what perhaps was not).
She then sent several more photos, from different angles, of the same door and claimed spirits were in each photo. She was rather perplexed when I replied that I still could not see them. What I did see, and which became more apparent after I used a basic photo viewer and adjusted the contrast and brightness, was the brush strokes of the painted door. I explained that certain subject matter in photos lend the mind and eye to matrixing (ie. Leaves, grass, window or door screens, painted or textured surfaces etc…) and that this is what I felt she was experiencing.
Adamant that she was not “seeing matrixing”, she attempted to research the topic and postulate scenarios asking if they would be considered matrixing. It took a while to impart on her what exactly matrixing was.
For those who need a more complete perspective for their own personal understanding, I present the following:
“The actual scientific term for this human characteristic is called Pareidolia. Simply put, it is the human brain’s way of making sense out of nothing, or making what is unfamiliar, familiar. Ever recall lying on your back as a child and looking at up at the clouds? Remember the shapes you would see? I remember seeing all kinds of things like dragons, ships, and eagles to mention only a few.
This behavior is called Pareidolia, or Visual Matrixing. Without this human trait, we would have never known the faces or our parents growing up, and it’s the first skill we ever learned as infants. This skill is so fundamental and programmed that we still use it as adult.
It’s the way we determine what is familiar and what isn’t. When we are presented with random sets of patterns, our brains will attempt to make sense of what we are seeing automatically. This is what we paranormal investigators call Visual Matrixing, and it plays a huge role when it comes to analyzing potential evidence.”
OK, moving on…
At one point her emails led me to believe that she had finally understood what matrixing was and how analyzing possible evidence was necessary before assuming something was paranormal. I then I received one more another photo.
This one was almost all black with a rather bright and odd shape in the lower left corner. She was very upset and scared that something very bad or demonic was in her house and around her family. “There was nothing at all that could have made this!” I think she felt that the photo proved the demonic presence she felt was there. She stated that it looked like the undetermined anomaly that I had identified in one of the photos I analyzed previous and to which I referred to above.
The only information she gave me about this photo was that it was taken on her ramp. I did not know if it was taken indoors or outdoors nor what might have been in the background. I didn’t know who took the photo, what type of camera was used or whether a flash was used.
My first act was to zoom in on the area in question and attempt to lighten it up with the brightness and contrast adjustments within the Microsoft Office Picture Manager I was viewing the photo in and which is a basic component available on almost any computer. The initial assessment of all who looked at this photo was that it looked like a beer can with an exploded side. All of us swore we could even see the top rim of the can.
Still not able to make much out in the photo and not wanting to make further adjustments that might compromise the photo, I took the photo back to its original state and clicked on the “auto correct” button within the picture viewer program. The results were amazing. You could clearly see two parked cars, the front grill of one car was almost center and to the lower left (where the claimed demonic face was) was the car’s headlight.
It should be noted that these simple and slight modifications to any photo do not alter the content of the photo. They simply enhance what is already there making it easier to see. It can illuminate the background, better define shadows, or make more prominent slight anomalies that are hard for the naked eye to detect on its own. It’s the first step and goes a long way to determine the validity of a potentially paranormal photo.
This whole scenario proved several things. First, that one should know what subject matter is in a photo before automatically assuming it is paranormal and that controlled photography is necessary to compare plausible and implausible subject matter.
Additionally, the initial assessment of potential evidence, no matter how experienced, could be in error. Seasoned investigators or not, we are all prone to matrixing; allowing our minds to attempt making sense out a set of unfamiliar visual stimuli. This is why it is so important to be as objective as possible when looking at evidence and to utilize all resources available to help make a proper and scientific assessment in the end.
Lastly, it allows a better understanding of why it so important for an investigator to be on-site, of why having control, or at least a comprehensive understanding of the surroundings when evidence is obtained, and how crucial it is to analyzing the data collected. This goes for photos, videos and audio recordings.
Unfortunately, when asked to give a professional or educated opinion on a piece of evidence that is not your own, it’s very difficult to make a comfortable determination without asking a lot of questions; questions which unfortunately might be taken by the presenter as skepticism or non belief. It was certainly not my intention to disprove this woman’s evidence or her claim that anything paranormal was going on in her home, but in the same breath, I don’t ever want to mislead someone to think there is paranormal where there is none. Likewise, and based on inadequately analyzed evidence, I would hate to jump to a quick conclusion that there is not a level of paranormal activity when there is.
My overall assessment of this woman’s situation was that a few pieces of her evidence had the earmarks of being paranormal and further investigation would certain be warranted to make a better determination.