Fortean Photography: Haunted Hounds

Sue and Mia.

Sue and Mia.

Sue Radigan of Wythall, England, was walking her dog Mia on what seemed to be an ordinary night. This changed, however, when her loyal companion started barking at what appeared to be nothing. Instinctively, Sue took out her phone and snapped a photo in the direction the dog was barking. When she looked to the screen to see the photo she had just captured, she was spooked by what appeared to be an image with ghostly dogs and a couple human figures. Sue says she did not hear or see anyone, but let’s examine this situation.

Are these paranormal pups, or just a faulty frame rate?

Are these paranormal pups, or just a faulty frame rate?

I do feel that, yes, Sue did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary for her.  Sue not hearing anything could just be her mistaking common outdoor noise for silence.  It’s never completely quiet outside, but we usually filter it out and ignore it. Also, the human eye does not adapt to darkness well, but that is not as true for dogs. Mia was barking at something; but maybe she was startled by something Sue found innocent, or with her superior dog senses, she could have heard--or even smelled--something mundane beyond what Sue could detect.

Cell phone cameras handle light better than one would think.  The camera adjusts its frame rate to a slower speed to try and capture whatever light is available.  If the frame rate is slower, the movement is captured at a slower rate.  This leads to a blurring effect that can create ghostly images, known in photography as motion blur.

In addition, many point-and-shoot cameras like the technology in a cell phone will have various shooting modes to assist the average casual picture taker with various situations. There are modes such as portrait, landscape, sport, and nighttime. Though these settings are helpful, the camera is making a guess and choosing its own settings to capture the best exposure.  This can lead to a slower frame rate than the user might expect.  

If I were to go out in the field with my DSLR (digital single light reflex) camera, I would be able to manually choose those settings. When it’s an automatic, computed process these guesses might not be incredibly accurate. For instance, if I were to go out and photograph dogs in the darkness, I would put my camera on a tripod to reduce handheld blur while my camera’s shutter is open to allow more light in. You won’t get that kind of stability on a cell phone.

Good news for Sue, there likely aren’t ghost dogs roaming about her neighborhood. However, if there are ghost dogs and ghost owners, I’d like to think of them as friendly neighbors.

Impossibly Yours,


ghostsTobias Wayland