Polaroid Camera Ghostwriting

 

One of the most fascinating cases I’ve read and studied was about the “polaroid writing entity” in a quaint, cozy home in the outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles.Mt. Washington is a district in the northeast of Los Angeles. About a 10-15 minute drive from where I currently reside in downtown Los Angeles.

For John Matkowsky, this was a perfect suburb of L.A. to live. He acquired a modest home on a hill side in 1985. After moving in, John would claim to have heard noises around his house that would raise an eyebrow.A friend of John, John Huckert, had recently acquired a polaroid camera. Taking snapshots around the house, they both soon started seeing anomalies in the instant photos. At first it came as odd, spectral images but soon they became words. Odd as it may seem, whatever was in his house, was able to communicate.All of John’s friends that would visit the house would describe an eerie feeling. A feeling of a presence about the rooms. John Matkowsky said that at times, he felt a strange tingling around his arms or neck.

The house was built around 1906, so chances that the house could harbor energy or spirits was great. As it seems like older homes, resonate images and feelings of the past.When both Johns learned that by snapping polaroids around the house, you could capture feather like spectral energy all over; they quickly set out to debunk it.Suspecting that the film was damaged, they bought new film and tested it. To their surprise, the images came up on the new film. A friend of theirs was in their home for a party they had thrown. When John shows his friend, Ross harpold, the images they had captured, Ross laughed and dismissed it as a joke. Unconvinced that these pictures were not doctored, Ross picked up the polaroid and asked “Are you here?” and took a snapshot. When the picture was ejected from the polaroid camera, in front of the 3 men that were standing over it, the word “YES” appeared.  When John Matkowsy asked “what is your name” and then proceeded to snap a picture, as the polaroid started to develop in front of him the name “Wright” appeared. They were hesitant about the authenticity of what they were experiencing. So they started asking Wright more questions like “Are you a good ghost?” “Are you a bad ghost?”. Wright would answer “Friend”.
Within the next few months, John Matkowsky and John Huckert were taking pictures daily and capturing what seemed like a prophetically and well versed ghost.Some of the questions they asked Wright were: “Where do you go when you are not here?”  Wright’s answer: ” FLUX”

Another question they asked Wright, was who was he. The respond still sends chills down my spine: ” Et alia corpus delicti””Among other things, A murder victim” John Matkowsky was so intrigued by this entity that he wanted further answers as to what or who it really was. Around that time in the early 90s, there was a popular show called “Sightings” that was produced and broadcasted by FOX television. Sightings was a show about the unexplained and the supernatural. Being that John could not get an explanation as to what was causing this, he decided to contact the show’s correspondent and ask if they would be interested in investigating this phenomenon. John was not really feeling like this was the best move on his part, since it would bring in unwanted attention. Sightings put together a team of researchers and it’s production staff and headed for the small home in the hills. Kerry Gaynor was among the research team. Mr. Gaynor had previously investigated the famous “Entity” case in Culver City, CA.

Upon their arrival at the house, they setup a controlled testing experiment, were they had brought their own cameras and film that was tagged and logged to prevent tampering. After several hours, no evidence was captured. It seemed like Wright was either shy or reluctant to create a circus attraction of itself. Several hours into the investigation, Marty Elcan, a friend of John Matkowsky attempted to get some evidence. He asked Wright: “Are most spirits good spirits or bad spirits?” SNAP! a picture was taken. As the polaroid developed, in plain sight of all the researches and the TV crew a message appeared: “There are numerous remedial lemurs.” Not knowing if Wright was playing a joke on them about monkeys from Madagascar, John Huckert looked up lemur in a Latin dictionary. The definition of a lemur in Roman mythology was that they are the night-walking spirits of the dead.

The excitement in the room was palpable. Nervous laughter masked the tension. Kerry Gaynor was impressed, but wanted further controls. “You have to establish a chain of evidence. You have to be able to observe the phenomenon from the beginning to the end. So, we have to load the film from a sealed pack, show that it’s our camera. We have to fire it. We have to control the film as it comes out.” Following Kerry’s suggestions, Sightings trained one of its video cameras on a new Polaroid brought to the house by photographic expert Edson Williams. A sealed film package was opened and a new cartridge was inserted directly into the Polaroid. A member of the Sightings team posed the question “Are you here for John or for the house ?” A picture was taken. It was placed on a table in full view. After thirty seconds, a message appeared. “Genius loci.” Kerry Gaynor looked up the word in the Latin dictionary. The exact translation of genius loci is “the guardian spirit of a man or a place.” More pictures were taken in the same manner. The messages alternated between English (“Time travel,” “Anything is possible,” “John relax and learn”) and Latin (“Ad litteram”). Edson Williams had never seen anything like it in his twenty years as a photo analyst. “I actually watched them eject out of the Polaroid. There was a moment where I thought, Oh, my God, and I was in one of the Polaroids, which made it even spookier. It made me feel that there could be something in the house.” Near the conclusion of the night-long investigation, Marty Elcan asked, “Wright, will you be with them for a long time?” The Ghost Writer replied, “Sed haec prius fuere.” Translated, the phrase means “All this is over now.”

It was the last message the Ghost Writer would send. After the field investigation, Edson Williams brought many of the photographs back to the Brooks Institute for analysis. Using a digital scanner, he was able to move in on the ghost writing and noticed that there appeared to be individual fibers in the text. He concluded that the writing might have been created using pulled strands of cotton. In his laboratory, Williams attempted to duplicate the ghost writing. “The initial step was to shoot pulled cotton with a 4 x 5 camera using E-6 film. The next step was to preexpose the Polaroid film. I removed the cover sheet of the Polaroid pack, inserted the transparency, and exposed the Polaroid to the text. I then removed the transparency, reinserted the cover sheet, and loaded the film normally.” Using this method, Edson Williams was able to duplicate the ghost writing; however, his method took over an hour to complete and required manipulation of the film, which would have been impossible to hide. Howard Worzel, a photographic analyst at Polaroid’s corporate headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts, was also at a loss to offer a scientific explanation for the ghost writing. “We have never encountered this phenomenon and we’ve been selling film for fifty years now to billions of customers,” Worzel noted. Parapsychologist Kerry Gaynor concurred. “I personally have never come across anything like this in the twenty years that I’ve been doing research. I’m quite familiar with the literature, and Eve never seen anything like this in the literature either.” While the scientific investigation continued, Sightings contacted world-renowned psychic Peter James and asked him to visit the house and give his psychic impressions of the site. Peter has a long history of exploring and documenting cases of hauntings that are not understood by science, but he also has been involved in cases he has exposed as obvious frauds. At first, Peter was also skeptical about the Ghost Writer. “In all my years of delving into the paranormal world, I’ve never seen an entity present itself in this fashion, but I will say that all things are possible,” Peter remarked before entering the house. Once inside, however, the feeling that he was not alone was instantaneous. His legs began to shake. He felt a vibration throughout his body that Peter claims to feel when he is in the presence of spirits. He also began to receive several names telepathically. “I received the name of Gilbert. There is a Robert. Amelia is throughout. I am getting an essence of all three of those names vibrationally,” Peter told the assembled group.

The two Johns were awestruck. They had already researched the names of the home’s previous owners. They had not showed this list to anyone, especially Peter James, and yet Peter had correctly named Gilbert, Robert, and Amelia — three of the names on the list. Peter did not think that any of these three people were the Ghost Writer. As he walked around the house, Peter stopped in one spot he called a “spiritual vortex,” a kind of doorway through which he felt spirits were entering the house. “I feel a very strong vibration. Something is definitely coming up from the floor,” he reported. “I get a tingling sensation. It’s also very cold here. My legs are trembling. It feels like something is coming from below and it’s going through my entire body.” John Matkowsky snapped several pictures of Peter James standing in the vortex. Strange ghostly images appeared to surround him. Peter felt two distinct spirits at this time. One he described as the spirit of an Indian tribe that had once used the land surrounding the house as a kiva, or ceremonial center. The other spirit he described was that of man who had been murdered and could be buried under the house. After Peter James’s psychic reading, John Matkowsky and John Huckert decided to investigate Peter’s theories.

They began to dig small test holes through their hillside property. In one of these holes they made an amazing discovery — shards of pottery that appeared to be Native American in origin. An archaeologist from the nearby Southwest Museum examined the site and found the artifacts significant enough to warrant a larger dig on the site. It was proof to Matkowsky and Huckert that Peter James had been right about the kiva. As for the body under the house, the men have no doubt that it is there, but digging for it would be impossible without moving the house. And perhaps it is for the best. Years of living with Wright have made the two Johns philosophical. They know that when the Ghost Writer feels the time is right, he will appear again. Ghost photographs have a long and dubious history in the world of paranormal investigation. In the late 1800s understanding of camera technology was rudimentary, and something as simple as a double exposure could easily fool the general public. The first known “ghost” photograph is the famous Lincoln photograph, in which the shadowy form of Abraham Lincoln is apparently standing behind his widow, Mary Todd Lincoln. It was ruled a hoax in the early 1900s. Today, with advanced technology and computer scanners, legitimate ghost photographs are extremely rare. After the Sightings investigation, Michael Weber, one of the best close-up magicians in the world, claimed that he could duplicate the ghost-writing phenomenon. In a closed studio in the presence of Sightings host Tim White and a camera crew, Weber was able to produce a photo with the words “We are here” printed across the front. However, Weber was quick to point out that his ability to duplicate the ghost writing did not disprove that it could have been caused by supernatural forces. It only proved that the same phenomenon could be reproduced under similar conditions. Weber reviewed the videotapes shot inside the house and said he did not notice any of the trademark movements — called “tells” — that would have indicated that either Matkowsky or Huckert was a professional magician.




On Friday, February 5, 1993, the Fox TV reality show SIGHTINGS examined what may be a landmark discovery in parapsychology: convincing evidence that ghosts exist and can actually communicate with us. Two residents of an old house in the hills of Los Angeles began receiving ghostly messages in Polaroid photographs. The pair started taking photos inside the house in the hope of obtaining a picture of the entity they believed haunted the house.

After first capturing a ghostly image on film, the men discovered that if they asked questions about the entity and why it was inhabiting their house, words and messages appeared in response on their film. So far, more than 1000 photos have captured messages – photos taken not only by the residents but by paranormal researchers and other outsiders. A photographic expert at Polaroid has no explanation for the messages. An expert at California’s Brooks Institute of Photography can suggest an explanation, but it requires a lengthy set up process and hours of lab work.

  
  
  

The ghost or spirit calls himself “WRIGHT”. He shows signs of erudition and intelligence, writing many of his messages in Latin. The ghost first appeared on film in March 1992 after one of the residents kept hearing unexplained noises throughout the house. After a door opened mysteriously, he took a series of photos, several of which revealed a classic ghost-like shape, including dark shadows at the eyes and mouth. The messages began to appear on film in June 1992. The first was in response to a friend’s question about the ghost, “Is he here now?” The photo revealed a barely discernible “yes” in cloudy white shapes. After that, the writing became far more legible.

  
  
  

They were skeptical at first, suspecting a bizarre prank by the film’s manufacturer or local distributor or some other technological trickery, such as projected holograms or shaving cream sprayed on cellophone. The paranormal research teams, similarly skeptical, used their own cameras and their own film to take photos in the house. Their photos also yielded answers to specific psychics, visiting independently of each other, agreed that not only this spirit but three others reside inside the house. A Polaroid Corp. representative, Howard Wurtzel, examined the photographs and could not find no physical evidence of tampering. His only explanation for the writing was that it was some form of radiation created by a high energy field.

Renowned spiritualist and psychic Peter James was called in to explore this phenomenon, in addition to three other psychics who also lent their insight to this investigation. James visited the house numerous times and believes that it is situated on the grounds of an ancient ritual site and that spirits are definitely trying to communicate with the living.

...As he walked around the house, renowned psychic Peter James stopped in one spot he called a "spiritual vortex," a kind of doorway through which he felt spirits were entering the house. "I feel a very strong vibration. Something is definitely coming up from the floor," he reported. "I get a tingling sensation. It's also very cold here. My legs are trembling. It feels like something is coming from below and it's going through my entire body." Someone snapped several polaroids of Peter standing in the vortex. In the photos, strange ghostly images appeared to surround him...


Many of the photographs on display were taken before Photoshop, digital imaging and cell phone cameras changed photography. Each Polaroid is original and unique. They show familiar rooms with wispy, feathery tendrils and misty tufts of white substances and, amazingly, cloud-like writing. Even more extraordinary is the relevance of the words to whatever questions had been asked. Usually a response came in English, but sometimes it appeared in Latin. For example, after questioning the identity of the answering spirit, a response came in Latin; “Et alla Corpus delicti,” (among other things, a murder victim). The words floating in midair were invisible when the photo was taken.

SEEING THINGS explores the boundary between the known and the unknown. It asks whether something as simple and functional as photographs of record — people at a party, an empty room, an open door — can be a gateway to something more. These startling photographs challenge perceptions of reality and art. Is the image of the room with the ghostly writing the way we see ghosts, or is it the way ghosts see us? Who is seeing things, after all? Explore these strangely surreal photographs and decide for yourself.

 

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