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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? Come explore these strangely surreal photographs and decide for yourself.

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