Bob Shell: Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020


Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

Do You Believe in Ghosts?


Do I believe in ghosts? I’m not sure. Since, like the original Christians, I firmly believe in reincarnation, I’m not sure ghosts fit into my cosmology. But, I’ve had experiences that certainly seem to indicate the existence of something like the traditional ghost.

My first photography studio was an old country store building that was part of the small farm we bought in the early 70s. In front, with double doors opening onto a big front porch, was one large room, which, after I took out the counters, gave me a large, unobstructed working area. The only limitation was low ceilings, only about eight feet, that made certain lighting effects impossible. There was a second floor that I didn’t use, so I thought of taking away part of the floor to get my lights higher, but wasn’t sure. of the structural integrity of the building if I did that. The upstairs was where the people who once ran the store had lived.

There was also a back room downstairs that I made into my darkroom.

A staircase in that room led to the upstairs. Having spent as much time as I have in darkrooms, I’m certainly not afraid of the dark,.but that room used to spook me because I’d be working making prints or developing film and I’d clearly hear someone coming down those stairs, or going up them. It got so bad that I took out the staitway and closed the opening to the upstairs. Did I ever see anything? No. Nothing ever touched me, either. Not that time.

Years later, my late girlfriend, Marion Franklin, whose untimely death put me in prison, used to spend a lot of time, with me and solo, just hanging out in my photo studio on Main Street in Radford, Virginia. She loved it there, and was learning to work behind the camera as well as in front as a model. I’d made plans to enroll her in a photography school to learn the nuts and bolts of the business.

Anyway, it was not unusual for us to just hang out in the studio, even when we didn’t have any active photography projects.

Several weeks after her death, I was just sitting in my studio, head down, eyes closed, feeling very depressed. Not only had she died, but the local cops and prosecutor were blaming me for her death. I was in a real funk, not knowing what my future held, or even if I had a future.

I felt a soft hand on my shoulder. When I opened my eyes and looked up, there stood Marion, dressed in her usual blouse and jeans, smiling down at me with love in her big brown eyes. To say it freaked me out would be a major understatement. She stood there a few moments looking into my eyes, never said a word, and walked away.

I was completely stunned, didn’t know what to do. I think I called out, “Don’t go!” or “Come back!” But, when I ran into the office where she had gone, it was cold and empty.

Over the next few weeks she came several times, always when I was most depressed, and then I never saw her again.

Famous physicist Sir Roger Penrose, whose books I recommend, says he has evidence that the soul survives bodily death as a “packet of information stored at the quantum level,” an idea borne out by research at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Germany. It is only recently that some real research into the nature of the soul has been done.

After my arrest for things that never happened I began seeing a therapist recommended by my doctor. I was having problems over Marion’s death and being falsely blamed for causing it. The therapist was a very kind woman whose regular sessions helped me survive the four years between my arrest and trial. When I told her of my visits from Marion, she told me that in her experience as a therapist, it was a common experience.

But what did I see and feel? I wonder to this day if I’d picked up a camera and snapped a picture, what would have been recorded. Nothing, perhaps, if it was merely a projection from my mind borne of longing. But, maybe, just maybe, it would have recorded an image of what I saw, gentle Marion returning to my studio that she loved so much. I’ll never know, and,.after several manifestations, she never reappeared. These occurrences were in the daytime.

Whitley Strieber has written of his experiences with his late wife, Anne, and even ‘coauthored’ a book with her spirit. I don’t dismiss his writings as fantasy, as so many have. I think we’ve removed the spiritual from our sciences to our detriment. We’ve tried to convince ourselves that there is no difference between living and dead matter, kicked the soul out the window. Slowly, I’m seeing that change, as a new generation of people take over the sciences. Maybe one day we will have a science of the soul and understand how the universe really works. I hope I live to see it.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on

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