Jason Dowd is an award-winning photographer and the owner of Dowd Studios. He creates beautiful art photographs, many with a supernatural theme, including the series “Dreams, Nightmares, Fears and Fantasy.” He is also a paranormal investigator, as I am too. I recently had a chance to talk with Mr. Dowd, and his answers to my questions were so interesting that I asked him to answer them via email so that I could make sure that I got everything he told me down correctly. Here is the result of that interview.
Tell me a little about yourself and your photography.
My father was a hobbyist photographer who loved taking photos. Throughout my house in Connecticut there was camera equipment, a developer, and all kinds of other fun things to get into. I loved watching my dad take photos, and I loved playing with his equipment even more. After I kept touching his very expensive equipment, my parents decided to get me my first camera; that was in 1986. It wasn’t much; it was an 18mm with flash cubes. I loved that camera, and I took pictures showing depth and started to compose pictures at the age of seven.
I started taking private art lessons under Becky Kempton after I moved to Florida in 1990, since I didn’t have many friends yet. There I honed my skills in the fine arts. In 1997 I walked into Portfolio I Honors in High School, bypassing all prerequisites to take the class based on my skills. I graduated the class with a 4.5 GPA.
In 1997 I submitted a photo I took with a point and shoot camera. It won first place [in] the county, [in competition with] other photographers in the area. Had they known it wasn’t shot with a professional camera, I probably would not have been picked on by those photographers.
In 2003 I continued to pursued the arts. I started my studio taking portraits and weddings,but also got into hand restoration of photos. In 2009 I actually died for a few moments suffering from a low blood sugar attack. When I woke up I saw things differently and that sparked my “Dreams, Nightmares, Fears and Fantasy” photo collection. The collection is in its fourth volume, and has been on display in San Diego, Macon, Tampa, Hong Kong, and more.
How did you get interested in the paranormal?
In 1987, I was coming out of school and was supposed to go home to get ready for trick-or-treating and my birthday the next day; but we took a detour home. I stopped by “The Green Lady Cemetery” – its real name is “The Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery.” It was almost right around the corner from my first home in Burlington, CT. I was nine at the time of this incident.
Every time I went in the cemetery I had a blood-rush feeling from the moment I stepped past the colonial stone wall till the moment I left. It vanished that quickly! Anyway, outside of the wall, I felt something strange. I looked back to see a green mist form into a female. She walked around the stone then on the last pass she looked up and saw me. She walked towards the wall but couldn’t pass. She pointed at me and disappeared. I never saw it again.
Because of my religion – I am Lutheran – we didn’t believe in human spirits. I went to a Lutheran school so I was forbidden to speak of it and the adults [who had gone] with me [to the cemetery] denied the whole thing.
In 1996 when I went back home to visit my family, my aunt had a book called Haunted Connecticut. Inside there was the story about the Green Lady and it validated exactly what I saw. For the first time in over nine years I didn’t feel like I lost my mind! I had proof now, and I never wanted anyone else to go through what I did. So if I can help prove to them whether they have something paranormal or not, I am all for it! I go on scientific evidence though, and I try to find a reasonable explanation for things, especially photos and video.
In 1988 I delivered papers to the neighbor of the home that was featured in the movie A Haunting in Connecticut. I lived two streets away. I heard about all the horror that went on in there because it made [the] news with both TV and print. It made the front page of the newspaper I delivered. I never met them because they moved out before I could, but her son and I went to the same hospital in 1988. I shattered my arm and needed to have it rebuilt and I went through physical therapy there. He went through cancer treatments.
In 1993/94, I had an actual demon living in my home. It picked me up, scratched me, choked me and did other horrific things to me. My family saw it, my friends did too – many refused to ever return to the home. In 1994 I stood up to it because I was sick of the horror it put on me. I took the Bible and demanded it go back to Hell in the name of Jesus. It left, the house grew happy again and things went back to normal. The “Demon vs. Angel” series of “Dreams, Nightmares, Fears and Fantasy” Vol. 1 depicts that night.
I also have psychic abilities and I’ve seen and communicated with ghosts for years.
There has been endless controversy in the paranormal community about orbs, or circles of light, in photographs. Do you believe orbs are ever paranormal?
Yes and no. An orb is a disembodied mass of energy. Like any energy it emits light and heat. I truly believe that if you can see an orb with your own two eyes, and you don’t need flash to have it appear, then it’s a real orb. Lightning, arching electricity in outlets, and other forms of energy are visible, orbs are no different.
In the realm of photography, I can capture an orb every day, any time of the day. The reason is flash. Flash is a very powerful concentrated light source with NO heat. When the flash strikes it comes out and travels in a cone shape, illuminating everything. In doing so, the power of the flash is so strong it tends to leave shadows because it doesn’t bend.
When you take a picture with flash, you may think nothing is there, but really you are shooting into a dust bowl. Those dust particles can be made of silica or other microscopic particles that have three dimensions in some cases. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it can’t reflect light.
When the flash hits these particles, if the object is turned to reflect a few surfaces, you get an orb. Because of its size the light source isn’t vibrant. These are always blue or white, the color of your flash. They look like an onion or the eye of a fly if you were to look at it close enough. It’s always in a cone shape because it’s mimicking your flash off your camera, coming off at a cone shape as natural light flows.
Bugs are often a problem. Because you are shooting at night you can’t always see them. They have a tough shiny exoskeleton that makes a great mirror and reflects light back. These orbs will be bright and vibrant and usually white or blue.
If you see something that powerful in front of you on film, don’t you think you would have seen it with your own eyes? A camera only captures what you see, so if you can’t see it with your own eyes, it’s not an orb. I truly believe any orbs you catch with flash should be thrown out. You will get more fake orbs if you are outside. Remember that dust still comes into your home, so you may get a few floating around your home.
When an orb forms, a real orb mind you, it will chill the air around you because it absorbs the heat. If you can see it and get a chill around you, it’s probably a real orb. Is that a spirit? I don’t know, I can’t answer that and won’t be able to until I die myself.
What about other shadows and light anomalies?
They exist. The demon in my home appeared as a shadow, but I saw it plain as day with no lights so no shadow should have been present. However, they can be often be easily explained too and most of these are matrixing.
In a certified haunted home here in Florida lies a museum where they do ghost tours. If you take a camera and stand in the right spot and take a photo you get a picture of a face in the window. I was like OK… how is that possible? Spirits don’t appear on demand in the same place every time. There had to be some logical explanation.
Then one person in the group took her point and shoot camera and sure enough, with flash, got a face in the window. I was impressed and thought maybe I could be wrong. I took my professional camera and did the same thing. What I got wasn’t a face, but I knew what made it.
There was an old antique lamp on the desk directly 90 degrees in front of the window. When you stand at a 45 degree angle and shoot flash, that flash illuminates the room, and as the light travels it bounces off the far wall behind the lamp and casts a shadow on the window. From afar, it looks like a face because of the handmade glass with ripples. A lesser camera produces a grainy picture and therefore looks like a face. Mine came out crystal clear and seeing the angles I easily could see how that happened, and saw the real “face” was just a lamp. This is a bit of matrixing and the physics of light.
Have you taken or examined photos you believe to be real paranormal photos?
At first, yes, but then looking at it I made the discovery that it wasn’t paranormal. It’s really hard to capture a ghost. I saw a face in the window, but when I looked at it, it was my own shadow. On another it was matrixing.
The reason I knew was that the face was disproportional. Even though a spirit has a low opacity, it will still look like a real human and have equal proportions. You may not see the whole body, but you would know it was a human.
What are some ways that you can tell real from faked? Specifically, what would make you believe a photo is really paranormal?
I receive lots of photos, and many of them are fake. One in particular came to me from a cell phone, an iPhone specifically. Anyway it was an amazing photo, one I wanted to dissect further. After downloading it, I saw that the size was only 12 KB. That was VERY small for an iPhone picture. I looked at Apple’s specs for sending a “Smaller” version of a photo via text or email. The smallest size is 38 KB. This was almost two times smaller. Then I looked at the resolution, 72dpi (dots per inch). This is exceptionally low resolution. Now I almost know it was faked, because:
- If it wasn’t faked the size would still be 38 KB at “worst case scenario” coming from an iPhone.
- 72dpi is low resolution, one you usually put online. An iPhone, like any other device, shoots high resolution of 150dpi or better depending on the camera. 72dpi isn’t industry standard, unless you had a very old camera picture phone, which with this was not the case.
- 72dpi is the standard resolution Photoshop sets upon saving a jpg. You must tell it to make a high resolution copy. I know it went through some kind of editor; that’s also why the size of the photo was cut in half.
- The ghost depicted was a little boy, holding the man’s uranium protection suit – this was shot at work in the locker room of a nuclear power plant. When you zoom in, you can see a female ghost too under the boy. They forgot to get rid of her, and forgot to remove one of the corners of the picture.
To the naked eye, this was a phenomenal piece of evidence. Knowing standards and specs, I was able to tell it was a gaffe, and the person forgetting to delete one of the said ghosts gave it away.
Explain the difference between “paranormal” and “ghost” or “haunting.”
Paranormal: Something paranormal doesn’t mean a haunting. It just means something is happening that is outside of the norm, and can’t be explained. It may defy the laws of physics. We are human, we don’t know all the laws of physics so something may defy these laws. They are only “theories.”
Ghost/Haunting: There are three types of ghosts/hauntings.
- Residual – This is not a ghost, it’s a haunting. What you are witnessing is energy trapped and playing itself over time and time again. This usually occurs at the same time in the same spot and it never interacts. Houses or places built near high tension lines or quartz-rich soil can experience this, even lime rock. There is no explanation; it’s just a movie that keeps repeating itself. It’s completely harmless.
- Intelligent: This is a ghost of some sort. This is where you may see a full apparition, glowing orbs, and something that interacts with you. You might get touched, you might see things disappear, hear things, see things move and fly, or reappear in places that object shouldn’t be. This is what I would consider a haunting, not just seeing orbs alone.
- Diabolical: This is the presence of a demon or non human. These are very dangerous and they will follow you. You can always tell when a spirit like this is around because of the heavy and hateful feeling they bring to an establishment.
What camera do you recommend for others interested in trying to capture paranormal photos? How do you feel about IR, UV, or full-spectrum cameras?
Any one of them really works, from a cheap point and shoot to full professional cameras. The important thing is understanding how light works.
Any other ideas for paranormal-photo-taking techniques?
Know your surroundings and see if anything could interact with the photo, like light bouncing, etc. Someone in the room can cast a shadow. Review your shot before you move from the spot you took the photo from. This will help you understand what may be the culprit. If you can’t figure it out by looking around, then go do further research later.
You can learn more about Jason Dowd’s photography, including “Dreams, Nightmares, Fears and Fantasy” and other series inspired by the paranormal, at his website.