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Myst Photography captures the unknown

Alex Bennett photographed a visitor at Mountain Quest Institute with a Myst formation which seems to be interacting with the woman. Photo courtesy of Alex Bennett
Alex Bennett photographed a visitor at Mountain Quest Institute with a Myst formation which seems to be interacting with the woman. Photo courtesy of Alex Bennett

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

There are times in life when experiences open our minds to believe in the unknown and a higher power.

For Mountain Quest Institute co-founder Alex Bennett, that experience took place three years ago.

Bennett has always had a spiritual life, but it was something she kept to herself.

“I have a very strong belief set but that’s always been an internal thing,” she said. “Even though I would like to think I was open, quite honestly, I’ve been to school for so many years and working with the Department of the Navy, and I don’t think I would’ve been open.”

Bennett talked about an event that she calls a miracle.

“It’s one of those things that happens in your life that really causes you to pause and re-look and rethink everything,” she said.

It began with her husband, David, and a routine medical procedure. It was preventative medicine and everything went fine, or so it seemed.

Five days after the procedure, David woke Alex early in the morning. He was bleeding profusely and needed immediate medical assistance. As the couple sped to Lewisburg, David’s condition went from bad to worse and Alex began to pray.

“I screamed out and said, ‘I need help now,’ and I demanded it,” she said. “Just everything went out of my mind, and I just started driving. I got around an S-curve and in the road was an ambulance, fire rescue and fire engine.”

The fire department had been called out by a false alarm and was headed back to the station when it stopped to check on a tow truck picking up an abandoned car.

“I pulled over and screamed, and they came running,” Alex remembered.

A member of the department told Alex that he did not know why the group had stopped when it did until their encounter with the couple.

David survived the ordeal and after three days in the ICU, he returned home with Alex.

“The next month we really had to take care of ourselves and it was the best thing that could have happened because it forced us to stop,” Alex said. “We’re workaholics and it forced us to stop our work and care for each other, and reflect – ‘what just happened?’”

A month later, Alex attended a retreat at The Monroe Institute in Faber, Virginia, where she encountered her first orb photo.

“It wasn’t even my picture,” she said. “It was somebody else who took the picture and I saw a face in it. It’s funny, I’d seen the pictures before and it never really meant anything to me, but this time, I looked at it and I got excited. When I came back, I ran out and got a camera.”

With her new camera in hand, Alex went outside that evening to see what she could capture.

“I went out that night and the sky was so beautiful,” she said. “It was one of our nights that we have only in this county. I was so filled with joy and love that David was alive and that we were okay that I just started singing. The stars were so close and so full I felt like I could reach up and pull them down. Then I just started taking pictures of nothing. There were orbs in them.”

Every night, Alex would go outside with her camera to sing and see if she could get more pictures.

“That summer, I catalogued about ten thousand orbs,” she said. “It was just a hobby, and I called it orbing.”

Because she got such a great response from the orbs when she sang to them, Alex tried to communicate and ask for specific shapes and colors.

“I’d ask for a red orb in a tree and there would be a red orb,” she said. “I’d ask for blue orbs to be there and there would be a bunch of blue orbs in front of me. I see a lot more animals than I see human beings. I think that makes sense because we’re on farmland.”

Visitors to the Institute and Inn began to take notice of Alex’s nightly “ritual” and asked if they could join in or have their pictures taken with the orbs.

“I told them ‘I can’t take pictures unless you are laughing and joyful because that’s the only time I get pictures, when I’m feeling joy,’” she said. “It was really cool. These people would start cracking jokes and they’d start laughing, and sure enough, I’d get orb pictures around them.”

Not only did the orbs participate in the photos, it seemed they would form certain shapes. One couple who celebrated their honeymoon at the Inn had their picture taken with orbs that formed the shape of a love bird.

While most spirit photographers and ghost hunters believe orbs are manifestations of the dead, Alex thinks they are much more than that.

“I think they’ve always been here,” she said. “I think energies are always around us, but I also believe we’re living in unprecedented times. I’ve been in contact with people around the world that are having a similar phenomena. One of them is a priest who was working at the Vatican. He has one hundred, fifty thousand pictures. He’s been able to answer some of my questions.”

As well as showing up individually, the orbs group together to create larger forms, or Myst, as Alex and David refer to it.

“I said to them [the orbs], ‘my husband’s a scientist so I need to have more evidence because he would never believe this.’ I really do believe there is some intelligence behind this and I said, ‘could you form the shape of an animal?’” Alex said. “So I turned around and took a picture of my llama and you’ll see hundreds of orbs came together which formed a llama over top of my llama.”

The orbs also form shapes of beloved animals that have edpassed. Both of Alex’s dogs, Sashi and Kumo, have been in the Myst.

Another imagery that appears in the Myst are Native American guardians. Alex said the farm at Mountain Quest is situated on the Cherokee Hunting Trail which explains the strong connection.

“We had a Cherokee shaman come and do a little ceremony,” she said. “She pointed out something in the pictures that I wasn’t aware of. She told me they are guardians of the land. You’ll see several people here who call this a sacred land. That doesn’t just mean Mountain Quest, that means this area. When the shaman came, she felt the energy and she believed this is where they camped.”

Alex and David have written two books about the Myst Photography and what they have discovered through the studies they conducted. Last year, the orbs revealed how they form the larger shapes of Myst.

“Finally they showed me how they formed,” Alex aid. “We had already guessed that little orbs are electromagnetic energy. Everything is. It’s one of your four major forces. Then we began to think they were picking up the moisture in the air. That’s not too far off because there’s so much water in our bodies and everything else. Then we started getting some proof of that.”

Alex managed to get photos of the orbs joining to create a larger image.

“They’re individuated and yet they come together in form,” she said. “We began figuring out different textures. David and I, we’re both very logical so we said, ‘if we can’t understand the phenomena then maybe what’s behind it is God. Of course, God is behind everything. We’re all connected. We’re all one and what is amazing to me about these photos is you can see the individuation of the orbs and how they come together and create a larger thing. What an example for us as people. How we’re individuated and if we could come together and create something really beautiful and larger, how wonderful that would be. I think it’s a great model for us.”

With the photos on display and books available, guests at the Inn and Institute began to ask Alex to help them capture their own Myst photos.

“I had a little girl come who had been a twin and her twin had died early,” Alex said. “She was with her parents. She was maybe eight or nine. She came in and saw these pictures, and she ran to get her mom and dad. She said, ‘Mom, Dad, I see these all the time.’ I don’t think kids have as many boundaries as we have and they’re more open to things than we are. So that night I went out with them and I showed her how I took the pictures and I gave her the camera. I backed out of the way and her mom and dad were right behind. She started singing a little bit and asking for it to be there. They [the orbs] were right in front of her. She got pictures and she told her mom and dad that that was her sister, her twin.”

While other guests have connected with loved ones, some have just experienced the beauty of the orbs and the shapes they form.

Alex said it seems people are more open to the idea of Myst or spirit photography after they experience it for themselves, David included.

Nuclear physicist David took the scientific approach to explain what Alex is capturing and has expanded his spirituality through the experience of Myst photography.

“I started out as a scientist,” David said. “When I was twelve years old, I wanted to be a physicist and by the time I was twenty-five, I was. I like the scientific approach. For my own view, I thought for a reasonable amount ‘What is reality?’ We interpret things the way we see them at the moment which is a function of how we feel at the moment. Whether we’re scared, happy, tired or active. What we interpret is not what is out there. In fact, it usually is not. It’s what is out there modified by our own internal goings on, so to speak.”

While doing his research, David has kept an open mind and has garnered a larger knowledge on spirituality.

“Our research is predominantly knowledge and knowledge management,” he said. “My personal feeling is absolutely that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge. Because if it exists, it was true thirteen billion years ago when the big band happened and it’ll be true thirteen billion years later and nobody knows that. So we should always say it’s not absolutely right, but it may be right.

“Given that, I’m learning about spirituality,” he continued. “[Alex] knows an awful lot. I know a little bit. But I’m interested in understanding it because I’m interested in reality which includes both. My personal evaluation at this point in time is that one, there is only one reality; two, it can include both science and spirituality. They are not opposites by far. There are many things that science doesn’t know and it changes its level of knowledge every ten years.”

Alex and David agree that both science and spirituality are important in explaining and describing the Myst. Both have conducted studies which were able to explain the make up of the orbs and Myst. There are also elements of the imagery that cannot be explained by science, but only by spirituality and belief of the unknown.

Whether or not people believe in orbs and Myst doesn’t matter to Alex. The experiences are what is important.

“I don’t have anything to prove so it doesn’t matter to me what they believe,” she said. “It may sound funny but I believe everybody is on their own journey. This is a marvelous thing to have happened to me and us, and to all those who have come here and touched it.”

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at

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