Calling All Smartphone Users: Paranormal Researchers Need YOUR Help!

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Technology is a tricky mistress. Just when you think she’s reaching out to help, her other hand whips up to smack you round the face.

In theory, smartphones should be fantastic news for serious researchers of the strange, combining as they do portability, ubiquity, and increasingly high-quality video and photographic capabilities. These days, more than ever before, anybody stumbling into an odd -- and possibly paranormal -- situation, is likely to be carrying the means of recording what happens to them. So, if ghosts and other such manifestations truly exist and can be filmed, we should be seeing more and more good evidence of the fact.

Shouldn’t we?

Perhaps not.

Maurice Townsend, of the UK’s Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP), is looking into how to deal with a growing problem. I asked him to explain what’s going on:

So, Maurice, what is it about smartphones that’s causing trouble for researchers?

There are now smartphone apps that can modify your photos to add a “ghost” figure. Some of these “ghosts” can look quite realistic. It’s always been possible to add such figures to photos on a computer, but that required learning how to use something like Photoshop. Now it is easy, just using an app on a phone.

At ASSAP, we analyse apparently paranormal photos regularly. Only a tiny percentage of the photos we look at are manipulated but that number is increasing because of app ghost photos. As a result, we’re not analysing many smartphone photos any more, simply because it takes a lot of time and effort to spot a manipulated one.  We’d prefer to spend our time on genuinely strange photos.

What’s being done to combat the problem?

We would like to find out if there is an easy and quick way to spot photos produced by these ghost photo apps. We want to examine photos before and after they’ve been changed by the apps. We’re hoping to find obvious clues that photos have gone through this process so that we can quickly tell when someone sends us one.

I understand you’re appealing for help from as many people as possible. How might readers of The Morton Report be able to help you?

If any of your readers have a smartphone with one of these ghost photo apps on it, we want their help. Please email a copy of a photo BEFORE the app has been used and another one AFTER it has been used. Just send both photos, as attachments please, to me here, with the name of the app used, if possible. Please don’t edit or alter the photos in any other way.

Thanks, Maurice. I'm sure we can help!

So, if you ever wanted an excuse to play with one of these apps, this is it!

The ASSAP researchers urgently need as many examples of these ghost app photos as they can possibly get, and so I urge you all to mention this article to everyone you know who uses a smartphone.

Let’s send Maurice those photos!

Ghost girl photo: dionhinchcliffe at Flickr.

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James Clark is a freelance writer based in deepest, darkest south London, UK. His latest book, "Haunted Lambeth", exploring ghosts and legends from the London Borough of Lambeth, is due out in February 2013.

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