Gilbert Sanctuary

Article Number 13
Article Number 11 (Part 1): Psychic Photography at Scole – via loaded 35mm SLR Cameras in Total Darkness

These final three new articles on the work we did during the ‘Scole Experiment’ in the 1990’s will deal with one of the most interesting and evidential aspects of all the Scole sessions. The subject matter can easily be split into three different phases. This first article will cover our initial photographic experiments – carried out with SLR cameras that were loaded with ordinary 35mm film in the normal way (but used in total darkness). The final two articles will concentrate on our results obtained on 35mm Polaroid film that had not been removed from its plastic containers, and on the results of ‘Project Alice’ which involved the use of Video Cameras.

To begin with, it was at a Scole session on February 21st 1994 that we held as a special ‘Patrick Night’ especially for our Spirit Team member ‘Patrick McKenna’ when the subject of photography during Scole sittings was first brought up. One of the then group members – Ken Britton – was ‘pushing’ the Spirit Team hard to get them to agree to allow him to film during Scole sessions using a Video Camera. Although the Spirit Team carefully explained to Ken that it was far too soon for that to happen at such an early stage, Ken was extremely persistent in pressing for permission to ‘follow his own agenda’ with a Video Camera and finally (perhaps partially because of the Spirit Team’s frustration with Ken’s demands), it was agreed that a one-off experiment using Ken’s Video Camera over a 5-minute period might be permitted. ‘Patrick’ did, however tell us that a compromise was possible, and that in the ‘very near future’, we would be able to experiment with an SLR camera. In addition, we may soon be asked by the Spirit Team to leave a new photographic film on the table (without a camera) to see if the Team could impress images onto it.

As it happens, the ‘very near future’ came much sooner than we could ever have imagined!! At our next session just one week later on February 28th, Ken set up a video recorder in the cellar on the strict understanding that this was to be switched on only when specific permission was given by the Spirit Team. We knew that the main focus of this sitting was to be on Spirit Photography using a 35mm SLR camera so – when Ken was finally given permission to film with his video recorder for 5 minutes, it was no surprise to us that nothing was captured on the video film! However, at the start of this session my 35mm camera – loaded with conventional 35mm film (but without a flash facility) – was placed on a wooden chair beside Bernette, who had been briefed by the Spirit Team to ‘take photographs’ with the camera whenever she was asked to do so by the Spirit Guides and helpers. A few ‘snapshots’ in total darkness were taken in this way and at one point, a small but bright spirit light – whilst travelling through the air – paused and ‘posed’ briefly in front of the camera, so that its presence could be recorded on film.

After a while, when there seemed to be no more requests from the Spirit Team, Bernette placed it back on its original wooden chair. Before long, we all heard it taking further pictures by itself – without any human help whatsoever – and then winding itself on. This continued until the film in the camera was finished. When the 35mm film in the camera was developed the next day, we were in for a shock!! The results were startling!! So much so that it was difficult at first to believe that the pictures were actually from OUR camera!! The first shot, nevertheless, proved that indeed it was – as there was a photo of our garden from our window, that had been taken when I had loaded the camera prior to our sitting. In addition, there were 11 frames with definite attempts at photographs – some quite clear, whilst others varied in their quality. In itself, this was a minor miracle!! Since all of these ‘photographs’ had been taken in total darkness, by rights – the film should have been entirely blank!

There was a copy (included here) of the famous photograph of St Paul’s Cathedral in London during the Second World War ‘Blitz’, with smoke all around it. The second shot was of the same subject – but was shown sideways. The third picture at first looked like two camouflaged wartime guns, although we subsequently discovered that it was actually a photograph of a ‘blitzed’ wartime bus, whilst the fourth picture showed that same subject sideways. The fifth image (included here) showed the front page of the ‘Daily Mirror’ newspaper, dated 16th December 1936. The sixth photograph showed a group of wartime soldiers from the First World War; these consisted of two officers and seven men. We did wonder if one of the Officers was our Spirit Team member ‘Edward Marshall’ who had been killed in the First World War. At a later session, however, we were told by ‘Patrick’ and ‘Edward’ that one of the pictures was of ‘Patrick’s’ uniformed brother. The original of another of the shots had been taken personally by ‘Edward’, and actually showed his colleagues during the First World War.

The seventh picture showed a brilliant spirit light – presumably the one which had obligingly ‘posed’ in front of the camera. Pictures 8, 9, 10 and 11 were much fainter, but represented various groups of people; one of them appeared to be a wedding photograph, with the bride holding a bouquet. We were unable to find out much about the pictures immediately, but we did send off to the ‘Daily Mirror’ for an actual copy of the newspaper on the photograph. When it came, the front page was almost identical, but there were subtle changes, which would suggest that the copy we received from the newspaper was of a different edition on the day in question. At a later Scole session, we were told that the photographs we had received so dramatically in this first experiment with psychic photography were all copies of photographs that already existed somewhere in the world. However, we were led to believe that eventually, we would be receiving original photographs that did not exist elsewhere – and that these would include some images of the Spirit World.

At our next session the following week – buoyed up by our previous success – two 35mm cameras were placed in the cellar prior to our sitting. Ken’s video camera was once again prepared and – additionally – a plain unopened new 120 film was placed on the central table. None were used or experimented with on that occasion. Instead, the Spirit Team were busying themselves with other experiments. On March 21st, we again placed two 35mm SLR cameras in the cellar for use by the Spirit Team. Both were heard to take a few ‘snapshots’ by themselves in total darkness; then wind themselves on after each ‘snap’. However, when both films were developed after the event, one of the films had just one image on it, whilst two frames of the second film had been influenced. All three images in total showed pictures of a ‘sepia’ nature – and were virtually identical in content. They all showed a photograph of a spirit light sitting in the centre of the picture, which appeared to be surrounded by a ‘spiders web’ type of structure that we assumed to portray the ‘canopy’ of energy we had been told was constructed over our heads each time we sat, under which the Spirit Team were able to produce ‘energy-based phenomena’. Interestingly, we had not witnessed any spirit lights whilst the ‘photographs’ were being snapped by the cameras.

It was not until the session of March 28th that we had further amazing successes with the spirit photography. Having finally persuaded Ken to abandon for the time being his determined personal efforts to try and achieve results on his video recorder before the Spirit Team were ready to work with that piece of equipment, we started the session with just two fully loaded 35mm SLR cameras in the room, as before. Part way through the sitting, Sandra was asked specifically by ‘Raji’ to pick up one of these SLR cameras. ‘Raji’ then instructed her to ‘aim’ it towards the central table in total darkness, and to take a ‘photo’ whenever he said “Now!”. This she did, until the whole film was used up. At the same time as this was happening, the second SLR camera was levitated by the Spirit Team. We could clearly hear it moving around the room in mid-air; clicking as it took ‘snapshots’, and then winding itself on. Both cameras had brand new 36-picture, 35mm conventional films in them when we started, and neither was equipped with a flashlight. Since the films were at no time exposed to light of any kind, logic told us that they could not possibly have contained images when they were developed. But this was certainly NOT conventional photography!!!

Each of the two films contained 11 assorted images, giving a total of 22 photographs!! These had somehow been projected psychically by members of the Spirit Team and their helpers onto the films during our experimental session. Every image was different and the subjects were quite varied – depicting people; places; objects; statues and several architectural features from all over the world, and the subject matter was spread over decades of time. For instance, there was a picture of a religious procession of a Catholic nature. One shot (included here), showing the River Seine, was obviously taken from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and shows one of the Cathedral’s steeples. There was also a very clear full-face image of an Indian or possibly Afghan gentleman (included here), complete with turban and a friendly grin!! Was this ‘Raji’ we wondered? Regrettably, we were told on another occasion that it was not – in fact – ‘Raji’. Further scenes came from India and the East. One comparatively clear image showed Asian men – apparently on a railway platform. Another was of an Indian mounted soldier on his horse.

A street scene of Amsterdam in the 1920’s or 1930’s was featured, together with a statue in Belgium of Charles de Lorraine. The interesting list of subjects continued with a picture of a Native that had a ‘South American’ look about him. Once again, we speculated that this might be a picture of our Spirit Team member ‘Manu’ but – sadly – it was not. Two of the photographs showed parts of a map, and we later learned that this was a picture of the very first map of French Canada to ever be produced! The Spirit Team confirmed at a later date that in these early test experiments (as we had previously been told), all of the received images were actually copies of photographs or printed material that already existed somewhere in our world. Nevertheless, none of us had ever seen the ‘originals’ of these photographic images before and – even today – we have still not succeeded in tracking any of them down. A number of them were used as illustrations in the quarterly Spiritual Scientist bulletin we later published.

So it was at these three experimental sessions – on February 28th 1994; March 7th and March 28th 1994 that our first phase of psychic photography experiments working in liaison and cooperation with our Spirit Team was started and concluded. Whilst we later went on to receive more complicated and amazing results on shop-wrapped film without a camera and on a video recorder, we never again experimented with fully loaded 35mm SLR cameras in the group. It was not until our session of September 12th that year that ‘Raji’ came to discuss the new photographic experiments that the Spirit Team had on their agenda. We were asked to put out a sealed film on its own on the central table in the next sitting on September 20th. We were also told that we might be able to use Polaroid films for further experiments. We duly put out a shop-sealed (in its plastic pot) 35mm film (not in a camera), but the film was not used on that occasion. The following Friday, ‘Patrick’ told us that for these new photographic experiments, the films really needed to be flat, and we were asked to try different ways of providing films in this flat condition for the team to experiment with.

It was felt that our best bet to begin with would be to work with flat Polaroid films, that had been mentioned already by the Spirit Team, but there was a slight problem in that a system of tight rollers such as were found in a Polaroid ‘Land’ Camera were needed to activate the encapsulated developing chemicals in each film for us to be successful. However, during our session on September 26th 1994, we did – in fact – stretch out an unexposed 120 film on a wooden board to keep it flat in total darkness at that next session, and spread out a couple of flat Polaroid films face down. When the 120 film was developed later, there was nothing at all on it to suggest psychic interaction or spirit activity, so we abandoned that crude method for future photographic experiments. The flat Polaroid films we attempted to develop (quite unsuccessfully) with a kitchen rolling pin!!! we realised immediately that we needed a more sophisticated method for the Polaroid films in order to continue our experiments.

During our sitting on September 30th, our photographic experiments were a bit more organised. We had put out a new 35mm film that was still in its round black plastic box, with the film never having seen the light of day. We also put out two flat Polaroid films – face down. By this time we had perfected a way to take two Polaroid films out of their cassette film container in the dark, and to return them into the cassette container again before the light came on at the end of our session so that we could develop them by passing them through a Polaroid Camera with its lens totally blacked out. At the end of the sitting, ‘Raji’ told us that the Spirit Team had been able to get into the 35mm film whilst it was still in its container, fully rolled up – so there would never be the need again to unroll films and present them to the Spirit Team in a totally flat condition. They believed that they could influence these films in the future whilst they were still rolled up (in brand new condition) in their plastic film boxes. This would also be much more evidential in our future work. When we developed the two flat Polaroid films, there was definite evidence on them that they had been influenced by the Spirit Team during our session, with definite shapes in different colours appearing on them.

From then on, and in addition to placing a new 35mm film in its plastic container on the central table, we adopted the habit of taking two or three flat Polaroid films out of their ‘cassette’ in darkness when our sessions started; placing them face down on the central table, and then re-loading them into the ‘cassette’ at the end of the session before the light was switched on. We were then able to run them through the Polaroid Camera with the blacked-out lens after the sessions, and examine the results. On October 4th 1994, ‘Raji’ spoke to us during the session about the photographic experiments at that sitting. It was felt by the Spirit Team that all the films should be developed afterwards. When this was done, the new 35mm film appeared to be mainly green along its entire length – apart from one image in red, that was made up of a shape consisting of three different shades of red. This was an interesting result and showed that the film (which should have been totally blank) had definitely been influenced by the Spirit Team. The two flat Polaroid films used in our experiment had also been influenced. One of these showed a yellow expanse all over the film, whilst the second also had a yellow background – but contained a green rectangular image in its centre.

On October 10th, when the films were developed after our session, the two flat Polaroid pictures again showed good evidence of having been worked with – both had mainly green and yellow backgrounds. One of these additionally showed a definite image, with a tree-trunk like column of smoke or energy. The 35mm film was returned from the chemists with 9 frames printed. These once again had a yellow background, with four frames showing promising results. Two had small white and red patches on them. Another (similar to the flat Polaroid image) showed what seemed to be a column of smoky energy. The final 35mm ‘shot’ portrayed two definite shapes against a green and yellow background. The next photographic experiment took place on October 24th, when two flat Polaroid films and a 35mm film were placed on the central table. When developed, the 35mm film proved to be grey all over (it should have been a blank black!). The two flat Polaroid pictures, however, were much more impressive – as they both showed a mottled pattern of mixed colours. At our sitting on October 31st (our last before our first public seminar at Felixstowe on November 4th) there was no work done by the Spirit Team on the 35mm film, but once again we had two excellent results on the flat Polaroid films we had used.

This was just as well, because the following day, Alan, Ken and I had an appointment with the Editor of the in-house journal (also their Publicity Officer) at Polaroid UK in St Albans, Herts. For some time, we had wondered if Polaroid themselves could give us any normal and rational explanations for the results we had been obtaining on their flat cassette films. Additionally, we did think that they might be interested which had occurred on other (35mm) films under what could seem like impossible circumstances. We had imagined that we might be treated like ‘cranks’ but, to our great surprise we found the lady we met – Pat Wallace – to be agreeably interested in the story we had to tell, and in the scientific aspect of our work. During a most pleasant interview (and over lunch), Pat asked us if we were aware that Polaroid – in addition to the flat films – also produced a number of different 35mm films. In fact we had not known about this, and Pat suggested that she might help us in our experiments by providing for us a number of the flat Polaroid cassette films for our continued use, together with some 35mm Polaroid films.

These 35mm films required an extra piece of equipment (also supplied by Polaroid) – a black box that developed the films on the spot (each 35mm film came with a cassette of chemicals to be used in the development process). Pat generously offered us one of these developing units free. True to her word – about a week later – we received a delivery from Polaroid of a couple of very large boxes full of Polaroid films and a developing unit for the 35mm ones. We were extremely grateful for this help, donated by Polaroid and – as you will see in the next article – it contributed greatly to some wonderful photographic results. Polaroid films were very expensive to buy. At that time, a cassette of flat Polaroid films cost somewhere in the range of £10, and a Polaroid 35mm film, complete with its cassette of chemicals, cost about £25.

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