3 Infamous Ghost Photos – Fact or Fakes?

Ghost photos – love ‘em or hate ‘em, their ability to divide the paranormal community is unparalleled. I for one, think they’re great fun, but like it or not, we can’t believe everything we see.

In this modern day, it’s easy to create convincing ghost photos at the mere click of a button. Even without expensive photo editing softwear, it’s easier than ever to cry “ghost!” thanks to apps and group trickery, and don’t even get me started on orbs.

It seems the most convincing photos come from good ol’ film-processed cameras, but even these can be deliberately forged. So, let us cast a scrupulous eye over some of our favourite, famous ghost photos and see if they can stand the test of time.

The Brown Lady Of Raynham Hall

The Brown Lady, 1936 by Captain Hubert C. Provand & Indre Shire

In 1936, Captain Hubert C. Provand and his photography assistant, Indre Shira, were tasked with photographing a country house in Norfolk, known as Raynham Hall, for Country Life magazine, which still graces coffee tables today. As the two went about capturing the staircase in all its glory, Shira saw, what was described as, “a vapoury form gradually assuming the appearance of a woman”, gliding down the stairs towards them. With the camera already some-what in place, the two hurried to captured the photograph which has become one of the most famous in paranormal history.

The photo and account of the ghostly event went on to be published as a stand alone feature in Country Life’s 26th December issue. This was not the first sighting of The Brown Lady.

Recorded sightings of the ghost began around Christmas 1835, and was dubbed “The Brown Lady” due to her brown brocade dress. In some instances, she has been reported as having a glowing face, with eerily empty eye-sockets. 

She is thought to be the ghost of Dorothy Walpole, who allegedly passed away from smallpox in 1726. I use the term, ‘allegedly’, due to the suspected mystery shrouding her death. Dorothy was said to be imprisoned in Raynham Hall due to a supposed affair, with further rumours of a mock funeral being held to hide her punishment from the prying eyes of the rest of the English aristocracy. If these tales are true, is it any surprise that her ghostly impression lingers in Raynham Hall?

Of course, when one party submits it’s evidence, the other is ready to rip it apart, and skeptics are quick to claim the image is the result of a double exposure, or pre-photoshop trickery. Some say the head of the supposed ‘ghost’ resembles the covered head seen commonly in statues of the Virgin Mary, suggesting it may be superimposed. 

Others claim the “bright lines” above each of the stairs and banister are evidence of a double exposure. Although double exposures – either accidental or deliberate – can’t be completely ruled out, I’d suggest the “bright lines” may be a result of the camera flash reflecting on the dark wood of the stairs. The flash was confirmed to be activated by Shira. 

Although the late 1800s and early 1900s was rife with fraudulent spirit photography, could we expect a pair of professional photographers, on an assignment from the well renowned Country Life take time from their busy schedule to hoax a ghost photo? 

Harry Price, infamous for putting the kibosh on the spirits, interviewed Provand and Shira, and examined the negative, declaring the photograph to be devoid of any deliberate fakery. Although Price’s integrity is not entirely unquestionable, he was renowned for exposing so called “spirit photographers” at the time.

Creep Factor: 💀💀 – Unnerving, but unthreatening

Believability: 💀💀 +1/2 – Ghost is too similar to a Madonna statue to ignore, but would the photographers risk their credibility to hoax a ghost photo?

Tulip Staircase Ghost

The Tulip Stairs Ghost as photographed by Rev. Hardy
The more commonly reproduced black and white image

The grand spiral stairs, known as the Tulip Staircase, is located in the Queen’s House, Greenwich. The former royal residence is now part of the Royal Museums of Greenwich, but it is best known amongst paranormal circles as the location of one really creepy photo.

In 1966, a Canadian reverend and his wife were disappointed to find the famous staircase roped off from visitors. Never the less, the Rev Hardy pointed his camera up and took the now infamous picture you see above. 

It certainly seems to show a hooded grey figure climbing the stairs, with both hands clutching the railings. If the figure was in situ, would the top of its bowed head be illuminated in the light above it? If it’s a ghost, maybe not, but then again, the same could be said if the image was doctored. 

The figure itself seems to interact more than The Brown Lady does to her surroundings. The hands and lower arm are solid, appearing behind the railings.

The next year, The Ghost Club, a group of paranormal investigators, spent the night in the Queen’s House, but found no evidence.

Although a Gallery Assistant reported spotting a figure in a long grey dress, little else is known of the Tulip Staircase Ghost. Given the house’s long history – being built in 1616, then partially demolished during the Civil War, and rebuilt again and used as a Naval College and school, before its current use as a museum – it’s almost expected that some residual energy be left behind, but as for the image itself? Who knows.

Creep Factor:💀💀💀 – Hooded ghosts are extra scary. Can almost hear a wail of distress.

Believability: 💀💀💀 – If we take the Reverend at his word, it’s pretty weird. Could be hoaxed with accomplice, but little point as location isn’t renowned to be haunted.

The Back Seat Ghost

The Back Seat Ghost, taken by Mabel Chinnery, 1959

Now, truth be told, this photo always gave me the creeps. 

Taken by a woman named Mabel Chinnery in 1959, the photo shows what she believed to be the ghost of her dearly departed mother in the backseat. 

The story goes that Mabel and her husband, pictured in the driver’s seat, had just visited the mother’s grave, when she seemed to hitch a ride in the back. 

Skeptics are quick to suggest the ghostly hitchhiker is no more than a double exposure or reflection – both of which are distinct possibilities. The physical arrangement of the two is unnatural. If someone, or something, climbed in the back seat, they’d need to be sitting in an oddly forward angle to appear in the gap between Mr Chinnery and the window. 

Some claim this in itself is enough to debunk the photo, but I’d argue that a non-corporeal being wouldn’t give a spook about physical seating arrangements. Then again, that’s not to say this image is hard and fast proof of a spirit.

Whether we like it or not, pareidolia, double exposures and reflections may be a more likely explanation than capturing a true ghost on a 1959 film camera. Even so, that’s a peculiar set of coincidences, isn’t it?

Creep Factor:💀💀💀💀💀 – Have had nightmares about those glowing eyes.

Believability: 💀💀💀💀 – A Personal biased. Could be an accidental double exposure, but maybe things happen for a reason?

The problem with ghost photos is that, even with the best will in the world, we can never be certain that the story behind them is true. Does the possibility of duplication through deliberate actions mean we should discount every item we’re presented with?

That’s for each of us to decide. 

Do you have your own ghost photo you’d like to share? Send them my way on the links below and follow The Hawthorn Files on social media for more and keep up to date with all manner of strangeness!

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