Photographing the Paranormal

Interview with Leonore Sweet

With Connie Johnston
February 2005

Lee's Biography

Leonore Sweet is a life-long spiritual seeker whose pictures of a dog's apparent 'spirit' launched her on an incredible journey into the world of paranormal photography. It enriched her life with new meaning and became the topic of her doctoral dissertation in Esoteric Studies for American Pacific University, and of her book, How to Photograph the Paranormal.

Dr. Sweet began writing as editor-in-chief of two student newspapers. After working her way through college and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Portland State University, she worked in personnel; mini-farming; legal administration and investigation; and her familyıs retail furniture business, church-hopping all the while.

Leonore has had one near-death experience, is certified in clinical hypnotherapy and Huna (an ancient Hawaiian healing art), and has studied under many of the current spiritual leaders. Better at asking questions than delivering answers, she does not claim expert status in either photography or the paranormal. A lifetime of reading and research has given her an overall view of light forms that needs to be shared. These lights have been with us all along, holding the key to life's greatest mysteries, but now seem eager to be seen and understood.


CJ: Dr. Sweet, as a reader of Crystalinks, you understand the interest many will have regarding your spiritual journey. Let's begin with you near-death experience (NDE) and how it changed your perceptions.

LS: I have enjoyed Crystalinks for years as a tremendous source of hard-to-find information. I.m flattered to be asked to contribute.

My early years were spent sincerely trying to swallow the idea that only Protestants, and very possibly just Missouri Synod Lutherans, knew the path to God. When I 'died' for two minutes in a car accident when I was twenty, I had given up hope of making sense of my church's teachings.

The NDE left me with sense that I am unconditionally loved, that I need not fear death, and that I had been in that peaceful realm before and would be again. It led me to the study of reincarnation first, then channelers, the 'bibles of current and ancient religions, hypnosis, manifestation, many churches and even more classes ­ anything to feed my spiritual hunger. Still craving answers thirty years later, I enrolled in a doctoral program in Esoteric Studies. As if on cue, when it came time to decide upon the topic of my dissertation, I took two undeniably paranormal pictures and became a woman obsessed. I found these light forms appearing in pictures worldwide to be mystically tied to the spiritual answers I had been seeking all my life.

CJ: You are a practitioner of the 'Huna Art of Healing'' that incorporates mind, body and spirit. Please expand upon this approach for the readers.

LS: Actually, I'm not a practitioner of Huna. I have studied it with rapt attention, but I've also studied other healing arts and have come to believe that success in Huna, like everything in life, is a product of intentional thought fueled by belief. As the new physicists are discovering, thought, intention and emotion create everything in this universe. Belief works equally well within all spiritual practices, be it spontaneous healing, speaking in tongues, Reiki, Huna, spoon bending ­ even witchcraft. If one believes (consciously and/or unconsciously) their prayers will be answered, they will be.

As Christ said, "If you believe you can move a mountain, it will move."

The labels you give your belief systems don't matter. They just help in the teaching process and keep your intentions and the intent of a group focused. Miracles happen everywhere, not just within the walls of certain churches. The impossible is possible when people believe it is.

CJ: As a clinical hypnotherapist, can you explain to us how hypnotism works?

LS: Again, I am a certified hypnotherapist, but I studied it only to understand hypnotism, not to practice it. Not an easy task. The miracle of hypnosis is such a mystery. Just recently it occurred to me that manifestation and hypnosis may operate in the same way.

Manifestation causes things to happen, such as miracles, when one imagines it as if it is already accomplished for a period of time.

It is what Gregg Braden calls the 'lost mode of prayer.'

By focusing intently on what you want to happen as if it already has, the thought reaches the primitive part of your brain that obeys your every thought. It then creates the world it thinks you want because you spend so much time dwelling on it, whether it is sickness and disaster or success and happiness.

This is precisely why positive thoughts are so powerful and negative thoughts so destructive. The trance state of hypnosis, I suspect, reaches this same part of the brain, and the so-called 'unconscious mind' obeys the suggestions of hypnotist. Hypnotists must also be careful not to phrase suggestions negatively as in, "When you awake, you will not smoke."

The unconscious mind interprets that as, "Grab a cigarette as soon as you wake up."

I think it's high time people realize how thought creates their reality so we, individually and collectively, can construct better lives for ourselves.

CJ: Photographing the paranormal is a fascinating subject. I have always called the orbs found in so many of my pictures 'my energy friends'.

LS: You're right. Orbs are made of energy, just as everything is, and they are your friends if you believe they are ­ or at least that's what I believe, so that has been my experience.

Looking back, my spiritual journey and my search for paranormal photos have been a confirmation of the biblical promise, "Seek and ye shall find."

Years of studying everything spiritual and seeking answers led me to the orbs, vortexes and ectoplasm. They have shown me how absurd I was to ever think I knew diddly squat. They have persuaded me that they are all around us but no one knows for certain what they are. They may even be products of our individual and collective thoughts and intentions (the elementals of ancient religions) and be the very mechanism by which we create our own realities.

CJ: What is your motivation for exploring this phenomenon.

LS: I had to know what these critters in my photographs were. Nothing and no one could have stopped me!

CJ: As you began investigating, what discoveries emerged?

LS: At first it seemed clear that these light forms showing up in my photographs were ghosts or spirits and they definitely appeared most often when I visited places of the dead.

Then I considered the possibility of their being guardian angels, and they began appearing around my grandson when he was in danger, and they seemed to be pictures of the same orb with the same markings appearing repeatedly.

When I became bored with orbs, more interesting ectoplasm and vortexes made appearances.

At times the light forms seemed to be toying with me, appearing in comical spots in photographs. Often I found myself doubting their existence and dismissing them as pictures of dust, moisture, lens flare, spider webs and such ­and many of them definitely are camera flukes.

My pictures would then become practically orbless.

My faith was restored when I found references to light forms everywhere ­ from religious and esoteric texts to childrenıs movies.

Orbs, vortexes and ectoplasm are found near crop circles, in near-death experiences, and are described by hypnotized subjects to be the form we take between lives on Earth.

Psychics have been seeing and describing these light forms for centuries. It was as if I was being led to all the possible explanations, one by one, and I felt duty-bound to write about my discoveries.

CJ: In Texas we have a phenomenon known as the Marfa Lights. The lights seem to appear year round and are said to bounce around in the sky, vanish and reappear, and are considered a mystery by those who witness them. Are you familiar with this manifestation?

LS: Visible lights displaying many of the characteristics of the invisible spheres in photographs have been seen throughout history in every country.

I found nearly 200 names they have been given, including ball lightning, Earth lights, ghost lights, Will-o'-the wisps, fairy fire, UFOs, ball plasma, and Foo Fighters.

I found all these lights to be more alike than different. The Marfa Lights are one of the most famous of all the lights that appear consistently at the same location. They are placed in the earth light category and don't display as much intelligence as others, such as ghost lights. Earth lights are the most likely of all the categories to be due to natural causes.

Near Roros, Norway, the Hessdalen Valley Lights are similar and have been appearing since 1981. A group of Italian physicists and Norwegian engineers have been studying them for years and have drawn many of the same conclusions that photographers have come to about orbs. The Hessdalen lights are elusive and unpredictable. They blink on and off constantly, pulsate, change shape and eject smaller balls of light. These lights and the invisible ones could well be the same phenomenon except the visible ones are somehow able to emit enough light to be seen, whereas the lights appearing in photos are thought to dwell in the infrared and/or ultraviolet ranges that the human eye cannot see. Digital cameras, some film cameras and many animals, though, can see these 'invisible' lights.

CJ: "Let there be light" has taken on a whole new dimension. Recalling the spiritualists and their manifestation of ectoplasm, would you put this in the same classification as the energy forms photographed?

LS: "The eyes of the Lord are always upon you" also has new meaning to me! Yes, I think the ectoplasm of today is the same phenomenon that was associated with mediums during the spiritualist era. As with everything paranormal, though, a few cases of fraud discredited all ectoplasm to the general public who, out of fear of the unknown, will believe any reason not to believe in the paranormal. Decades ago, no one believed in UFOs because there were no pictures of them. When photos were presented, the skeptics demanded videos. Now that videos are a dime a dozen, they continue to demand more proof. I donıt feel the need to persuade anyone of anything, but I resent anyone who tells me what I should believe.

CJ: For those interested in pursuing this form of photography, what suggestions would you give to them?

LS: To get paranormal photographs, you need to seek them and believe they are there to be gotten. The only emotions are love and fear. Don't fear the unknown ­ embrace it! Take your head out from the sand and reach out to the unseen world. Buy an inexpensive digital camera and take pictures of everything, everywhere with the flash on.

Dark backgrounds will increase your chances, but don't limit yourself to night pictures. Experiment with your camera to determine how dust, moisture, hairs, spider webs and such appear when they are close to your lens. Take pictures of your pet when he seems to be paying attention to or batting at nothing. Use your intuition. Don't think about where the light forms are. Feel where they are. There is an exciting other world to explore and enjoy. Seek it and ye shall photograph it.

CJ: What do professional photographers think the lights and orbs are?

CJ: It depends entirely on which photographer you ask. Ed Vos of the Netherlands, who has taken photographs professionally for over 30 years, runs a website called Dutch Light Orbs" and claims he has never gotten a light form in any picture on the job, but often gets them when he is intentionally seeking them.

The photographers who have seen my photos, including an entire club of pros, could think of no logical explanation. The camera manufacturers have no consistent answers regarding the light forms. One claims orbs are the result of the digital camera filling in missing pixels. Another blames random white spots on the internal flash being closer to the lens causing "lens flare", especially in dusty environments. Yet another can find no explanation for the "image quality problem".

Orbs can indeed be portraits of dust, moisture and such, but certainly not all, especially those with a bright mantle and substance inside the orb. No explanation I have heard explains vortexes and ectoplasm, aside from camera straps, spider webs and breath on a cold day. One Dana Point professional in California concluded one picture of ectoplasm was caused by an unexplained energy discharge - that is, a paranormal anomaly. In other words, no one knows for certain.

CJ: Thanks so much for sharing with your knowledge our readers. I know many will be exploring this new photographic technique with great interest.

Please visit Dr Lee Sweet at her website

Photographing the Paranormal