They say seeing is believing. And while in this day of digital image manipulation that might not be as true as it once was, these photographs are considered by many to be the real deal – photographic evidence of ghosts.
The Brown Lady
This portrait of “The Brown Lady” ghost is arguably the most famous and well-regarded ghost photograph ever taken. The ghost is thought to be that of Lady Dorothy Townshend, wife of Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount of Raynham, residents of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England in the early 1700s. It was rumored that Dorothy, before her marriage to Charles, had been the mistress of Lord Wharton. Charles suspected Dorothy of infidelity. Although according to legal records she died and was buried in 1726, it was suspected that the funeral was a sham and that Charles had locked his wife away in a remote corner of the house until her death many years later.
Dorothy’s ghost is said to haunt the oak staircase and other areas of Raynham Hall. In the early 1800s, King George IV, while staying at Raynham, saw the figure of a woman in a brown dress standing beside his bed. She was seen again standing in the hall in 1835 by Colonel Loftus, who was visiting for the Christmas holidays. He saw her again a week later and described her as wearing a brown satin dress, her skin glowing with a pale luminescence. It also seemed to him that her eyes had been gouged out. A few years later, Captain Frederick Marryat and two friends saw “the Brown Lady” gliding along an upstairs hallway, carrying a lantern. As she passed, Marryat said, she grinned at the men in a “diabolical manner.” Marryat fired a pistol at the apparition, but the bullet simply passed through.
This famous photo was taken in September, 1936 by Captain Provand and Indre Shira, two photographers who were assigned to photograph Raynham Hall for Country Life magazine. This is what happened, according to Shira:
“Captain Provand took one photograph while I flashed the light. He was focusing for another exposure; I was standing by his side just behind the camera with the flashlight pistol in my hand, looking directly up the staircase. All at once I detected an ethereal veiled form coming slowly down the stairs. Rather excitedly, I called out sharply: ‘Quick, quick, there’s something.’ I pressed the trigger of the flashlight pistol. After the flash and on closing the shutter, Captain Provand removed the focusing cloth from his head and turning to me said: ‘What’s all the excitement about?’”
Upon developing the film, the image of The Brown Lady ghost was seen for the first time. It was published in the December 16, 1936 issue of Country Life. The ghost has been seen occasionally since.
Lord Combermere’s Ghost
This photograph of the Combermere Abbey library was taken in 1891 by Sybell Corbet. The figure of a man can faintly be seen sitting in the chair to the left. His head, collar and right arm on the armrest are clearly discernable. It is believed to be the ghost of Lord Combermere.
Lord Combermere was a British cavalry commander in the early 1800s, who distinguished himself in several military campaigns. Combermere Abbey, located in Cheshire, England, was founded by Benedictine monks in 1133. In 1540, King Henry VII kicked out the Benedictines, and the Abbey later became the Seat of Sir George Cotton KT, Vice Chamberlain to the household of Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII. In 1814, Sir Stapleton Cotton, a descendent of Sir George, took the title “Lord Combermere” and in 1817 became became the Governor of Barbados. Today the Abbey is a tourist attraction and hotel.
Lord Combermere died in 1891, having been struck and killed by a horse-drawn carriage. At the time Sybell Corbet took the above photo, Combermere’s funeral was taking place some four miles away. The photographic exposure, Corbet recorded, took about an hour. It is thought by some that during that time a servant might have come into the room and sat briefly in the chair, creating the transparent image. This idea was refuted by members of the household, however, testifying that all were attending Lord Combermere’s funeral.
Interesting side note: Lord Combermere is connected to another well-known paranormal story: the famous “Moving Coffins” of Barbados. The coffins inside the sealed vault of the Chase family are said to have been moved about by unnatural forces. The heavy coffins were repeatedly put in proper order, but often when a new coffin was added to the vault, the coffins were found strewn about. Lord Combermere, while governor of Barbados, had ordered a professional investigation of the mystery.
This intriguing photo, taken in 1919, was first published in 1975 by Sir Victor Goddard, a retired R.A.F. officer. The photo is a group portrait of Goddard’s squadron, which had served in World War I at the HMS Daedalus training facility. An extra ghostly face appears in the photo. In back of the airman positioned on the top row, fourth from the left, can clearly be seen the face of another man. It is said to be the face of Freddy Jackson, an air mechanic who had been accidentally killed by an airplane propeller two days earlier. His funeral had taken place on the day this photograph was snapped. Members of the squadron easily recognized the face as Jackson’s. It has been suggested that Jackson, unaware of his death, decided to show up for the group photo.
Interesting side note: In 1935, Sir Victor Goddard, now a Wing Commander, had another brush with the unexplained. While on a flight from Edinburgh, Scotland to his home base in Andover, England, he encountered a strange storm that seemed to transport him through time into the future. You can read more about his experience in the article “Time Travelers” under the section “Flight Into the Future.”
Tulip Staircase Ghost
Rev. Ralph Hardy, a retired clergyman from White Rock, British Columbia, took this now-famous photograph in 1966. He intended merely to photograph the elegant spiral staircase (known as the “Tulip Staircase”) in the Queen’s House section of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Upon development, however, the photo revealed a shrouded figure climbing the stairs, seeming to hold the railing with both hands. Experts, including some from Kodak, who examined the original negative concluded that it had not been tampered with. It’s been said that unexplained figures have been seen on occasion in the vicinity of the staircase, and unexplained footsteps have also been heard.
Interesting side note: This photo isn’t the only evidence of ghostly activity at the Queen’s House. The 400-year-old building is credited with several other apparitions and phantom footsteps even today. Recently, a Gallery Assistant was discussing a tea break with two colleagues when he saw one of the doors to the Bridge Room close by itself. At first he thought it was one of the lecturers. “Then I saw a woman glide across the balcony, and pass through the wall on the west balcony,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I saw. I went very cold and the hair on my arms and my neck stood on end. We all dashed through to the Queen’s Presents Room and looked down towards the Queen’s Bedroom. Something passed through the ante-room and out through the wall. Then my colleagues all froze too. The lady was dressed in a white-grey colour crinoline type dress.”
Other ghostly goings-on include the unexplained choral chanting of children, the figure of a pale woman frantically mopping blood at the bottom of the Tulip Staircase (it’s said that 300 years ago a maid was thrown from the highest banister, plunging 50 feet to her death), slamming doors, and even tourists being pinched by unseen fingers.
The Back Seat Ghost
Mrs. Mabel Chinnery was visiting the grave of her mother one day in 1959. She had brought along her camera to take photographs of the gravesite. After snapping a few shots of her mother’s gravestone, she took an impromptu photo of her husband, who was waiting alone in the car. At least the Chinnerys thought he was alone.
When the film was developed, the couple was more than surprised to see a figure wearing glasses sitting in the back seat of the car. Mrs. Chinnery immediately recognized the image of her mother â the woman whose grave they had visited on that day. A photographic expert who examined the print determined that the image of the woman was neither a reflection nor a double exposure. “I stake my reputation on the fact that the picture is genuine,” he testified.
The Ghost of Boothill Cemetery
“This is the photo that changed my opinion about ghost photos,” says Terry Ike Clanton, who runs the TombstoneArizona.com website. Clanton is an actor, recording artist and cowboy poet, and is also a cousin of the legendary Clanton Gang who clashed with the Earps and Doc Holliday at the famous gunfight at OK Corral. Clanton took this photo of his friend at Boothill Graveyard. The photo was taken in black and white because he wanted Old West-looking pictures of himself dressed in Clanton’s 1880-period clothes. Clanton took the film for developing to the local Thrifty Drug Store, and when he got it back was startled at what he saw. Among the gravestones, just to the right of his friend, is the image of what appears to be a thin man in a dark hat. By height, the man appears to be either legless, kneeling… or rising up out of the ground.
“I know there was no other person in this photograph when I shot it,” Clanton insists. And he believes the small figure in the background is holding a knife. “We thought this was a tie at first, but after further review, it appears to be a knife,” Clanton says. “The knife is in a vertical position; the tip is located just below the figure’s right collar. If you’re not convinced that something is weird here, look at my friend’s shadow in the photo. It appears to be going back slightly to the right of him. The figure in the back should have the same shadow, but it doesn’t!”
Ghost in the Burning Building
On November 19, 1995, Wem Town Hall in Shropshire, England burned to the ground. Many spectators gathered to watch the old building, built in 1905, as it was being consumed by the flames. Tony O’Rahilly, a local resident, was one of those onlookers and took photos of the spectacle with a 200mm telephoto lens from across the street. One of those photos shows what looks like a small, partially transparent girl standing in the doorway. Nether O’Rahilly nor any of the other onlookers or firefighters recalled seeing the girl there.
O’Rahilly submitted the photo to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena which, in turn, presented it for analysis to Dr. Vernon Harrison, a photographic expert and former president of the Royal Photographic Society. Harrison carefully examined both the print and the original negative, and concluded that it was genuine. “The negative is a straightforward piece of black-and-white work and shows no sign of having been tampered with,” Harrison said.
But who is the little girl? Wem, a quiet market town in northern Shropshire, had been ravaged by fire in the past. In 1677, historical records note, a fire destroyed many of the town’s old timber houses. A young girl named Jane Churm, the legends say, accidentally set fire to a thatched roof with a candle. Many believed her ghost haunted the area and had been seen on a few other occasions.
This video, in two parts, looks at some of the other sightings of appartitions in the building, but questions the authenticity of the photo. (Unfortunately, they examined a print of the photo and not the original negative.) See it here: Part 1 and Part 2.
Ghosts of the SS Watertown
James Courtney and Michael Meehan, crew members of the S.S. Watertown, were cleaning a cargo tank of the oil tanker as it sailed toward the Panama Canal from New York City in December of 1924. Through a freak accident, the two men were overcome by gas fumes and killed. As was the custom of the time, the sailors were buried at sea off the Mexican coast on December 4.
But this was not the last the remaining crew members were to see of their unfortunate shipmates. The next day, before dusk, the first mate reported seeing the faces of the two men in the waves off the port side of the ship. They remained in the water for 10 seconds, then faded. For several days thereafter, the phantom-like faces of the sailors were clearly seen by other members of the crew in the water following the ship.
On arrival in New Orleans, the ship’s captain, Keith Tracy, reported the strange events to his employers, the Cities Service Company, who suggested he try to photograph the eerie faces. Captain Tracy purchased a camera for the continuing voyage. When the faces again appeared in the water, Captain Tracy took six photos, then locked the camera and film in the ship’s safe. When the film was processed by a commercial developer in New York, five of the exposures showed nothing but sea foam. But the sixth showed the ghostly faces of the doomed seamen. The negative was checked for fakery by the Burns Detective Agency. After the ship’s crew had been changed, there were no more reports of sightings.
Specter of Newby Church
This photograph was taken in 1963 by Reverend K. F. Lord at Newby Church in North Yorkshire, England. It has been a controversial photo because it is just too good. The shrouded face and the way it is looking directly into the camera makes it look like it was posed â a clever double exposure. Yet supposedly the photo has been scrutinized by photo experts who say the image is not the result of a double exposure.
The Reverend Lord has said of the photo that nothing was visible to the naked eye when he took the snapshot of his altar. Yet when the film was developed, standing there was this strange cowled figure.
The Newby Church was built in 1870 and, as far as anyone knows, did not have a history of ghosts, hauntings or other peculiar phenomena. Those why have carefully analyzed the proportions of the objects in the photo calculated that the specter is about nine feet tall!
Ghost of the Seven Gables
While touring the historic House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts â the birthplace of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne â Lisa B. snapped this remarkable photo. The ghostly image of a small boy seems to be in the shrubbery, peering over the wooden fence.
The most amazing part of the story of this photograph is that she subsequently did some research about Hawthorne and the house. While looking through a library, she came across one of Hawthorne’s books, Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa. On the cover of that book is a portrait of Hawthorne’s five-year-old son, Julian. And as you’ll see by clicking on the photo at left, the portrait of little Julian bears a striking resemblance to the ghost in Lisa’s photograph.
This photo was received from Denise Russell. “The lady in the color photo is my granny,” she says. “She lived on her own until age 94, when her mind started to weaken and had to be moved to an assisted living home for her own safety. At the end of the first week, there was a picnic for the residents and their families. My mother and sister attended. My sister took two pictures that day, and this is one of them. It was taken on Sunday, 8/17/97, and we think the man behind her is my grandpa who passed away on Sunday, 8/14/84.
We did not notice the man in the picture until Christmas Day, 2000 (granny had since passed away), while browsing through some loose family photos at my parents’ house. My sister thought it was such a nice picture of granny that she even made a copy for mom, but still, nobody noticed the man behind her for over three years! When I arrived at my parents’ house that Christmas day, my sister handed me the picture and said, “Who do you think this man behind granny looks like?” It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I was absolutely speechless. The black and white photos show that it really looks like him.
Vacation Party Ghost
These two photos were taken in 1988 at the Hotel Vierjahreszeiten in Maurach, Austria. Several vacationers gathered for a farewell party at the hotel and decided to take a group photo. One of the party, Mr. Todd, set up is Canon film camera on a nearby table and pointed it at the group. (The table is the white band at the bottom of the photos.) He set the self-timer on the camera and hurried back to the table. The shutter clicked and the film wound forward, but the flash did not fire. So Todd set the camera for a second shot. This time the flash fired.
The film was later developed, and it wasn’t until one of party members was viewing the photos that it was noticed that the first (non-flash) photo showed a somewhat blurry extra head! (In the sequence above, the second (flash) photo is actually shown first for the sake of comparison.) No one recognized the ghostly woman, and they could not imagine how her image appeared in the picture. Besides being a bit out of focus, the woman’s head is also too large compared to the other vacationers, unless she is sitting closer to the camera, which would put her in the middle of the table.
The photo was examined by the Royal Photographic Society, the photographic department of Leicester University, and the Society for Psychical Research, all of which ruled out a double exposure as the cause.
This interesting photo was taken sometime around the year 2000 in Manilla, Republic of the Philippines. According to The Ghost Research Society, two girlfriends were out for a walk one warm night. One of them entreated a passing stranger to photograph them using her cell phone’s camera (hence the low-resolution picture). The result is shown here, with a transparent figure seeming to tug on the girl’s arm with a firm if friendly grip.
Without further information on this photo, we have to admit that the ghost could have been added with image processing software. But if it’s genuine and untouched, it certainly qualifies as one of the best ghost photos.
Cemetery Ghost Baby
A woman named Mrs. Andrews was visiting the grave of her daughter in a cemetery in Queensland, Australia in 1946 or 1947. Her daughter Joyce had died about a year earlier, in 1945, at the age of 17. Mrs. Andrews saw nothing unusual when she took this photo of Joyce’s gravemarker.
When the film was developed, Mrs. Andrews was astonished to see the image of a small child sitting happily at her daughter’s grave. The ghost child seem to be aware of Mrs. Andrews since he or she is looking directly into the camera.
Is is possibly a double exposure? Mrs. Andrews said there were no such children nearby when she took the photograph and, moreover, did not recognize the child at all â it was no one she would have taken a picture of. She remarked that she did not believe it was the ghost of her daughter as a child.
Investigating this case, Australian paranormal researcher Tony Healy visited the cemetery in the late 1990s. Near Joyce’s grave he found the graves of two infant girls.
Decebal Hotel Ghost
Authorities have warned people to stay away from the Decebal Hotel — because construction was taking place on the 150-year-old building. What they didn’t warn people about was the ghost. The spirit of a tall woman in a long white frock has long been reported at the spa. The hotel in Romania is rumored to hide ancient Roman treasure, and the ghost, it is said, appears to protect it from treasure hunters.
Only anecdotal evidence for this ghost existed until 2008 when 33-year-old Victoria Iovan snapped this photograph, which indeed seems to show the ghostly image of a tall figure in long white garb. “I photographed my boyfriend in the hotel,” said Iovan. “Back home I was shocked to see another woman’s shadow in the picture. She looked like a priestess in long white clothes.”
The Phantom Pilot
Mrs. Sayer and some friends were visiting the Fleet Air Arm Station at Yelverton, Somerset, England in 1987 when this photo was taken. They thought it would be cute to take a picture of her sitting in the seat of retired helicopter. No one, Mrs. Sayer insists, was sitting next to her in the pilot’s seat… although a figure in a white shirt can clearly be seen sitting there. She told an investigator with the Society for Psychical Research that she remembered feeling rather cold sitting in that seat, even though it was a hot day. Other pictures taken at the same time did not come out.
Worth noting is that the helicopter was used in the Falklands War, but there is no information as to whether or not a pilot died in that aircraft.
Tewin Bury Farm Ghost
This amazing photo was taken by photographer and graphic designer Neil Sandbach in 2008. Neil was photographing some scenic shots at a farm Hertfordshire, England, as part of a project for wedding stationery; the couple planned to have their wedding ceremony held there.
Later, Neil was astonished when he examined the digital photo on his computer. There, as if peeking around a corner at him, is a ghostly, white, almost glowing figure of what looks like a child. Neil says he is quite sure there was no one there at the time.
There is further corroboration that this is a true ghost photo. Neil had shown the couple the anomalous photo, and before the wedding they asked the staff at the farm if they had ever had any spooky experiences there. They did not mention Neil’s photo. Indeed, they admitted that the figure of a young boy, dressed in white night clothes, had been seen on several occasions around the barn.
Apparently, this is the ghost that Neil photographed.
The truth is out there…