Blog 5: Second-hand Ghosts and Phantom Orbs

  1. Introduction:

In this blog, I present further early experiences in my investigations of the paranormal that convinced me of the reality of paranormal apparitions such as ghosts and luminous orbs.  I have to confess although I have never seen such phenomena with my own eyes, I have been overwhelming convinced by the testimony of highly credible witness who had everything to lose and nothing to gain by relating their amazing experiences.   Most were highly qualified and successful professionals who struggled to reconcile these paranormal encounters with their Christian beliefs and feared ridicule and adverse comments on their mental health if their accounts were made public.

In my investigations, I have found it useful to divide the paranormal experiences I have documented into five types adopting the system of the kinds ‘close encounters’ used by researchers into possible encounters with extra-terrestrial visitors.

Close Encounters with Ghostly Apparitions of the: Characteristics Example in this Blog
First Kind Apparition not detected by the human senses but by scientific instruments sensitive to changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields. Episodes of the ‘Ghostbusters’.
Second Kind Apparitions detected by thermal imaging using infrared- sensitive cameras, still photography or on closed-circuit (CCT) and standard video-recording equipment. The Irish monk in a coracle.  Hampton Court CCT.
Third Kind Nebulous or orb-like apparition which are seen by a human observer.  No clear image outlines seen. Light orbs in the Sancreed Church Graveyard, Cornwall, UK.  The investigations of the Dover Paranormal Research Team
Fourth Kind Encounters with ghost-like images with clear human features.  Silent encounters with no auditory component. Ghostly Aztec battles in Andean Skies.

The Dover Paranormal Research Team

Fifth Kind A ghost like image with clear human features who communicates meaningful information to the observer. A Cornish fogou and three ghostly monks




All the events described in this blog are totally genuine but,  in two cases, the names of witness have been changed to protect their confidentiality.  These amazing second-hand ghostly encounters , together with the six cases of reincarnation reviewed in early blogs, have convinced me that in spite of my scientific training and forty years of university research, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet so eloquently put it  “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

  1. A Cornish Fogou and Three Ghostly Monks.

Although it was midsummer, it had been a chilly, damp three hours crouched at the end of the Fogou’s twenty-meter-long tunnel beneath the massive granite slabs that have roofed this mysterious Iron Age structure for at least two thousand years.  This underground dry stone-walled tunnel is at the centre of ancient village of Carn Euny with its standing sacred stones and mysterious stone circles.

Fogou 1

The surrounding verdant fields that carpet this central region of the Penwith Penisula in the far west of Cornwall where the humanoid map profile of the United Kingdom dips its granite –clad toes into the turbulent grey-green waters of the Atlantic have yielded many Neolithic tools which are four times the age of Fogou I had come to visit in the middle of the night.  The watery pinkish light of dawn began to light the entrance to this strange underground world helping me pick my way up into bright freshness of a new dawn.  Sadly, I had to admit my mission had been a complete failure because I had neither glimpsed, nor photographed, the phantom orbs of light that numerous witnesses had seen perhaps retracing the pathway of ancient pagan rituals along the chamber’s central pebble-strewn pathway.  Collecting the last of my gear from the fogou’s entrance, I retraced my muddy footsteps back to my car and drove the five miles to my holiday chalet in the picturesque  grounds of Sancreed House in the hamlet of Sancreed – originally a monastic settlement founded by Saint Creden at the site of  Saint Uny’s holy well.  Parking the car, I walk past the Hiberno-style Saxon cross that confirms the link of this original monastic centre with early Christian churches in Southern Ireland.

I was sad that my summer break at Sancreed House, owned by friends of my father, artist and English film actor John and potter Michael Truscott, before taking up a university appointment abroad would soon be over.  Sancreed and all of West Penwith is certainly a magic place in which the spiritual traditions of centuries past continue to influence receptive visitors in the more secular present.

Deciding to check my mail in the letter rack near the door of kitchen, I was surprised to see I wasn’t the only guest to be up this bright and early.  Hunched over the long oak table in front of the Aga, the wood burning cooker which, with its shinning copper dome-capped hobs, extended down the length of the granite stone wall, sat a famous BBC television producer and author, Duncan Forsyth, in his dressing gown. He was taking a week’s vacation away from his stressful London-based life style.  His white, shaking claw-like fingers clamped round a mug of steaming black coffee as if it was a chalice filled with some life-restoring elixir.  Unlike me, it looked as if Duncan had had an eventful night.

“Are you OK Mr. Forsyth” I asked venturing across the kitchen’s threshold.  “You look as if you have seen a ghost.”

After a minute’s hesitation,  he lifted his head up staring, not at me, but with a blank expression out of the kitchen window at the banks of rhododendrons and azaleas whose last  late blooms where shedding a blizzard of white petal snow across the manicured greenness of the back lawn.

“Yes – three ghosts to be precise.  Never believed in ghosts, but I do now,” came the producer’s reply.

“Do you mind if I join you.  It would be great to hear what happened”, I replied.  I went on to tell him my interest in the paranormal since my university days and my unsuccessful three-hour vigil in the Fogou.

“Ok, but please don’t tell anyone about what I’m about what to tell you or people will think I’ve gone mad – particularly after what happened to the crew the BBC sent film a series on the Aztecs in the high Andes Mountains.  After that debacle, the BBC are mighty sensitive about the subject of ghosts. I must, however, tell John about  my ghostly encounter as soon as possible.”

After taking a few final invigorating gulps of coffee, he began his story, hesitatingly at first, but speeding up like a run-away train until I found it difficult following his rambling recollections.  No, he was completely sure it was not just a bad nightmare.  In fact, he had been jolted awake in a cold sweat with the strange sensation that the hairs on his hands and arms were standing on end.  Suddenly the ghostly blue-grey figure of monk  – he hesitated for a minute realizing for a moment how mad it sounded – walked literally out of the wall followed a short distance by two ghostly monkish acolytes.  Strangest of all, Duncan commented, only the top part of the ghostly figures above their waists were visible, their legs that were carrying them into the now icy-cold room seemed to be under the tiled chalet floor.


“It seemed to me, I have no idea why, that the first older figure was an abbot followed by two more junior monks,” Duncan continued with a stronger voice now in full flow. “I heard a voice that seemed to emanate from the abbot saying – ‘I have an important message that you must relay to John Miller before his meeting this morning’.  If you don’t mind I’ll not repeat the message since it is of rather … hmm.. a delicate financial nature which I don’t understand.”


At that point, I am sure my eyebrows jumped up to my hair line.  John had told me yesterday about the crucial ‘make or break’ interview he and Michael were due to have with their not-so-friendly Penzance bank manager about the amount of red ink the bank was having to use to print out their recent statements.  Helping drug addicts and other wayward souls recuperate was proving to be an expensive charitable exercise and seemed to be leading to imminent bankruptcy.


“No let’s keep the message confidential,” I agreed explaining the remarkable fact that John and Michael were due to be interrogated by the bank manger that very morning.  “While the memories of your encounter are fresh, could you describe or sketch for me the clothing – the habit that the ghostly monks were wearing ?” I asked retrieving a pencil and notebook from my bag. “I’d like to investigate this further – in strict confidence of course.”


I watched as the producer anchored his now empty coffee mug down on the long oak table and began to sketch a typical medieval black cowl – a long, hooded garment with wide sleeves gathered in at the waist by a knotted rope. As an afterthought he added a large crucifix slung from his neck at the end of a long, multi-linked chain.


“That’s the best I can do,” Duncan concluded dropping the pencil and washing his mug up in the sink.  “I better go and get dressed before I see John.  Remember please no word of this to anyone – I don’t want them think I am crazy.”


I gave him a final assurance that my follow up would be totally confidential.  This would be the only close encounter with an apparition of the fifth kind that I have personally investigated.  As a passing comment, I asked him if he knew that there a small monastic community settled here on this Sancreed site over a thousand years ago with links to similar settlements in the south west of Ireland.   He shook his head but seemed to take this piece new information as further evidence he was not hallucinating.


My follow up proved interesting:  checking in the archives of the local library I found that the details of the monk’s habit he described were very similar to those thought to have been worn by Saint Creden and his followers.  It seemed I had also found an explanation for the lower missing parts of the monk figures.  Consulting archived architect’s plans drawn up when Sancreed House was first built, I traced an ancient pathway that lead from the holy well near Sancreed Church up the gentle slope intersecting the position of the holiday chalet in which Duncan was staying.  I also confirmed by a small trial excavation in the middle of a rhododendron groove that during chalet construction, about a metre of soil had been tipped on the underlying bedrock to level the site where the holiday chalet’s were built. The ghostly abbot and his three acolytes were apparently not walking on the modern surface, but had their feet on the ancient pathway that now runs unseen beneath the chalet.


And what about of the meeting with the bank manager?  A smiling and relieved John Miller and Michael Truscott returned later that morning from the bank full of the news that they had been given a reprieve after they outlined to the manager an ingenious business idea that had been suggested by  – they hesitated in relating this news – a very unexpected source.  I turned my face away from them for a minute to hide the intrigued smile that washed across my face.


  1. Ghostly Aztec battles in Andean Skies


That early morning account of Duncan Forsyth’s encounter with three ghosts in a Sancreed holiday chalet reminded me of the story I had been told by four of Duncan’s BBC colleagues during an earlier visit to Sancreed House three months during my Easter Vacation.  In those days, the house had become a Mecca for the British Broadcasting Company presenters and producers -the equivalents of the present day CNN’S Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.  That Easter, four of a BBC team that were filming in Peru and Bolivia for a planned documentary on the Aztec civilization, had been given a month’s sick leave to recover from what they claimed was a horrific experiences over a couple of days high up amongst Inca ruins in the high Andes.  Three other members of the team had decided to gravitate to the Canary Islands to try and get their heads around what had happened on that ill-fated filming assignment.  When I asked if they would be willing to describe what happened to them in the high Andes, I was surprised that they saw this as a cathartic opportunity particularly since their bosses back in London had put the whole episode down to mass hysteria triggered by altitude sickness.  I managed to interview each of the four witnesses independently and build up a precise timeline of what, and where, they saw their remarkable apparitions.


The first day apparently was by far the worst. In the later afternoon, the sky clouded over forming a curtained backdrop to a daylight ‘sol luminaire’ enactment of a gruesome battle between two ghostly Aztec armies.  All three agreed that by far the most horrific aspect of this ghostly re-enactment of an ancient battle in the sky were the sounds of battle, the clash of metal weapons, and the agonized cries of the wounded and the dying. After ten minutes, the vision faded, the clouds cleared and the sky returned to its high altitude deep violet blue.  To take their minds off what had happened, they continued filming into the early evening.  The next morning a thick mist descended on the ruins of another Inca city curtailing their planned filming session.  This time, it was not the ghostly image of a battle that played out on a cloudy canvas, but gruesome images of human sacrifices and rolling severed heads that materialized out of the mists before them.  Once again all three agreed the echoing sounds around were the most terrifying part of this second apparition.  Fearing they were losing their minds, they packed up and headed down the mountains to escape back to England three days earlier than planned.  Their reception back in London was rather unsympathetic since the BBC top brass were not impressed by the limited evidence of the ghostly events they had managed to film.  One of the most impressive facts of the case was the close agreement between the witnesses’ accounts as to what they had seen, and the order in which the visions had unfolded.  This was the most convincing apparition of the fourth kind I have ever investigated


I was particularly impressed by the Aztec ghostly battles since it reminded of the highly unfortunate consequences by an overnight visit to a famous Anglo-Saxon battle ground in Sussex, England by two undergraduate members of the London University’s Student Union, Paranormal Society.  The two took with them then state-of-the-art sound recording and filming equipment not expecting to record much of interest during their overnight camp on the site of the ancient battle near present day Lewis.  According to one of the observers I was able to chat with on his return to the university the next day, they were just dozing off into a bored sleep when an unworldly cacophony of sound echoed across the field on which they were camped followed, as in the Aztec story by grizzly ghostly battle images in the sky.  Both of the observers were down-to-earth students who played in university jazz band and well known for their enthusiastic drinking and rugby activities.   The after effects of their experiences were, however, very serious since both needed to take nearly a term off their university studies to recover. Sadly, the most badly affected member of the team suffered a mental breakdown and dropped out of university and disappeared without trace.  The case of a close encounter of the fourth kind is a sad reminder that dabbling in the occult and paranormal is not without its dangers.


  1. A Ghostly Irish Coracle.

Sancreed’s  monastic connections with Southern Ireland reminded me of a ghostly apparition of the second kind I had investigated when I commuted regularly to London during my post-graduate Ph.D. research.  I mentioned these commutes in the first of my reincarnation articles (“The Tibetan Tea Cup”).    Another of my regular travelling companions had just returned from a family holiday to Southern Ireland and one morning asked me to have a look at perplexing holiday photograph.  At first glance, it appeared to be an innocuous holiday snap of him sitting on the banks of a Lake near the ruins of the ancient Glendalough Monastery, County Wicklow, with some impressive woodland and mountain scenery as a backdrop.

“Look at the bottom left – next to my leg” he prompted.

I at once saw what he was referring to.  There stood a knee-high clearly defined ghostly figure of a monk standing in a coracle with a paddle in his right hand.  Although the figure was transparent clearly showing the bank vegetation behind the family group, the details of the image were amazing.

My travel acquaintance knew I had some expertise in photography – I developed all my research the black and white, and colour photographs in our well-equipped departmental darkroom.  As a devout Roman Catholic, my acqaintance could not reconcile this apparition with his religious belief and asked me if I could find a rational, scientific explanation.  I said I would be very interested to investigate the case if I could have both the negative of the film and burrow the camera he used for a couple of days.  I ruled out the possibility of the photograph being a fake since he lacked both the motivation and expertise to perpetrate such a scam.  The possibility that this was a double exposure sprung to mind but on cross-examination, it emerged that he had very definitely not photographed any museum displays featuring monks and coracles – the small light-weight round  boats used in Wales and Ireland in the past.  It is important to stress that this case is from the late 1960’s, firmly in the pre-Photoshop, laptop and i-phone era.

The following day he handed over all the holiday prints and negatives as promised.  The amount of detail in the ghostly apparition was even more amazing when I used a projector to cast a metre-wide image of the negative onto the white Formica bench top.  The folds of the monk’s cowl and habit were recorded in exquisite detail in transparent shades of silver-grey.  I knew of no way of faking the composite image on the negative film in a darkroom.  This opinion was shared by two acclaimed London-based photographs and camera experts I consulted.  They also confirmed that the camera was in very good working order, no worn ratchets – the chances of taking a double exposure on the same negative frame were extremely remote.  My acquaintance was very disappointed when I handed back his camera and photographs to hear that I had been unable to debunk the ghostly image.  The photograph remains, to this day, the best and most convincing example of a ghost photograph I have studied.

On my frequent holiday visits to Sancreed, Cornwall, I asked some residents of the hamlet and the nearby town of Penzance whether they, or their relatives, had ever seen or photographed any possible ghosts or orbs in the Sancreed Church graveyard or grounds of Sancreed House.  Two retirees claimed to have seen ill-defined ghostly shapes and orbs floating between the tomb stones of the graveyard – at best apparitional sightings of the third kind.

The number of ghostly images caught on camera or on video is impressive.  The widespread closed-circuit television coverage (CCT) of historic building has greatly added to this harvest.  One of the most famous of these CCT images is the robbed ghostly figure that appeared to open and stand at one of the doors at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court, London (



  1. Phantom Orbs – A Suitable Case for Scientific Treatment?

One of the most frequently photographed purported apparitions is the orb – a phantom ghostly sphere of light that seems to float, often with apparent intelligent purpose, through the dark of the night.  I believe such orbs provide an ideal opportunity of objective, scientific investigations into the reality of ghostly entities.  I am planning to work, in coordination with Tom Miles of the Dover Paranormal Research Team, on a new approach to the study of orbs.

5.1.  Will-o’-the Wisp.

Travellers through swamps and marsh lands have been alarmed for centuries by phosphorescent orbs of ghostly light that appear to drifting in defiance of gravity above stagnant water surfaces.  This is one of the ghostly apparition that has been successfully debunked by science: the anaerobic respiration of bacteria decaying dead vegetation below the water surface in these location release methane gas that bubbles up to the surface of water.  On contact with the oxygen in the air, the bubbles of released methane can burst into flame by spontaneous combustion producing light and heat.  This type of luminous orb clearly has a natural origin.

5.2.  The Dimension Problem.

It is important to identify the fundamental problem encountered in orb photograph.  Such photographs capture a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional phenomenon.  The photographic image lacks reliable information on depth of field  – the distance of the object from the camera lens.  A millimetre-wide speck of dust immediately in front of the lens can have the same appearance in a photograph as a metre-wide object many meters away from the camera.  I am proposing two new experiments to solve this fundamental problem.

The first idea is to position a long sealed glass or plastic cylinder immediately in contact with the outermost camera lens.   Ideally, the cylinder would contain a vacuum to ensure no dust particles can float across the field of view close to the camera.

3D Cameras 2

The second type of experiment would use two cameras or one three-dimensional camera with two widely-spaced lenses.  The key question is  – do both of the cameras used to take a photograph at the same instant of time show identical images of the orb?  By comparing the position of the orb as seen by the two cameras against reference points in the background, it should then be possible to identify, by standard parallax calculations, both the diameter of the orb and its distance from the camera.  As suggested in the diagram below, hanging a series of numbered/coloured-coded strings across the room in a straight line in front of the camera would help these calculations especially if a white disc/sphere of known diameter was suspended midway between the ceiling and the floor.

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