A Paranormal Experience
he girl looked 13 or 14, skinny as a rail,
and she said, 'You have to get permission from the
Holy Mother to take pictures; otherwise they won't
I've been to the Philippines several times and know that some pretty
spooky things can happen there, especially on some of the islands -- of which
I'm told there are about 7,000.
On my last trip to there I had an experience that I
definitely can't explain.
First, you should know that I'm fairly knowledgeable about
photography. I started very early working for daily newspapers back when
cameras used 4X5 sheets of film. (I took a large percentage of the photos on this site.)
Suffice to say, I know my equipment and I stopped making
muddle-minded goofs a long time ago. If a photo situation is questionable, I can
and I either compensate or pass it up.
one trip to an island in the Philippines I visited a well-known "Holy Mother," a
reputed spiritual person -- in this case a middle-aged woman. We'll call her
Mother R was well known for giving advice and she
supposedly had the power to heal assorted physical maladies.
(The ratio of trained doctors to the general population there is
more than 5,000 to one.)
When I got to her spiritual compound I noticed there
was an impossibly long line to see her. The day was bright
and sunny -- very hot with the high humidity typical of the Philippines.)
around a heavy Nikon camera with assorted lenses can get pretty
tiring, so when I had to make long trips under such conditions
and didn't need special equipment,
I switched to a small, sophisticated automatic camera -- auto
exposure, auto focus, shock resistant and completely idiot
I wasn't about to stand in the hot sun for
hours to see this woman, so I just walked around taking
some pictures to document the location.
I had started a 36-exposure roll of film at another location.
On arriving at her compound I took a series of pictures -- probably
15 or so -- on the same roll, checking my camera as I went along. (A habit you develop
when your livelihood depends on results.)
At one point a young Filipina girl came up to me.
She looked 13 or 14, skinny as a rail, and said, "You are
supposed to get permission from the Holy Mother before you take
pictures, otherwise they won't come out."
I dismissed that; after all, conditions were perfect
and I had taken thousands of photos in my life which had "come
out" just fine. Plus, what did a little girl know about
By then it
was mid-day and there was still a two or three-hour line to see
Mother R. The young girl asked if I wanted her to stand
in line for me. That seemed like a good idea (being a native.
she seemed far better equipped for that than I was). But I was
concerned it might all come to nothing because of a language
I asked the girl if Mother R spoke English. She said
"no," but that didn't matter because the Holy Mother repeated what she heard in
her head -- which amounted to whatever language the person in front of her
That was intriguing and about then I spotted a shade tree
with some soft drinks for sale. I said okay; she could stand in line
by and finally the young girl was near the front of the line.
She sent someone to get me and take me to the space she had been
When I sat down in front of Mother R, I asked a question in
English. She seemed to have absolutely no idea what I was asking.
Finally, she awkwardly said some words in English, directly
addressing a major personal issue that was on my mind (that I
had shared with no one). The advice she gave seemed totally wrong
and I dismissed it. It was a year or two later that I was
forced to conclude that I definitely should have followed her
advice -- but that's another story.
I gave the young girl that had stood in line
for me some money for her effort and left. On the way back
to my hotel I took a number of photos at two other locations to
finish the 36-exposure roll.
film was developed, I found that all of the photos before and
after the ones I shot in Mother R's compound were sharp, clear
and perfectly exposed, just like the hundreds, the other pictures I took with that camera.
But the space for the 15 or so photos I shot at
the compound was almost completely black; all I could make out
were very dim and very blurry shadows. Bear in mind that
the sun was extremely bright that day, I shot everything outside,
and photos taken with a pin-hole camera would have come out.
When I got
back to the states I showed the roll to a camera expert where
I had bought the camera. After he examined the film (and
keeping in mind that the camera was designed to be completely
idiot-proof), he concluded that the camera was defective
and replaced it. (It was still under warranty,)
up trying to relate this story to people. They invariably come
up with all manner of explanations that I considered from day
one, checked on, and ruled out.
I often think of what that simple little
Filipina girl said, "You have to get permission from the Holy Mother to take pictures; otherwise they won't come out."
If you want an explanation for this, you won't find it here. I've thought about it a lot and I don't have one.
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