From the time man first carved drawings on cave walls to depict events of his life and
the world around him, capturing and recording images has been a favorite and necessary
endeavor for the ages. 'Spirit photography' had its roots in the early 1860s, when a man
simply known as W. Campbell photographed the image of a small boy seated in a chair.
The unusual part of this otherwise ordinary shoot was that it was intended to be a picture
of the chair. The boy was not present at the time.
But perhaps the real pioneer of the field was William Mumler of Boston, Mass., who
while taking a self-portrait, discovered a woman in the picture he recognized as a cousin
who had died 12 years before the shot was taken!
Mumler began to produce more and more photographs of this nature and many people
of means (including former First Lady Mary Lincoln) paid what then were considered very
handsome sums of money to pose for him in the hopes of being joined in the picture by
otherworldly acquaintences. Mumler's work was intensely scrutinized and eventually
exposed in court as fraud in 1872. Slow shutter speeds and the need for subjects to
remain still as long a minute or more to allow the print to finish would allow an
accomplice, undetected, to stroll through the photo at an opportune moment producing a
transparent image in the background. Mumler also became very proficient at what we
now refer to commonly as "double-exposures" by taking photos on plates which already
contained images on them. Strangely (or perhaps not) many people - despite growing
evidence to the contrary - claimed Mumler was the real deal.
Advances in photographic technology now allow for more genuine documentation of
"ghostly" photos, but those advances also allow for any middle school-aged student to
Photoshop an image so real it would take a photographic physicist to debunk it. Despite
such progress (and deception) in the field, there have been a number of photographs -
some taken by simple chance by people who happen to have been in the right place at
the right time - that have been presented as the best photographic evidence of ghosts
ever caught on film.
The vast majority of such photographs have eventually been exposed as hoaxes and
examples of clever manipulation of the photographic process. We don’t present anything
here as conclusive proof, but as examples of photos that have made people at least sit up
and take notice.
This photograph was taken in 1966 by Rev. Ralph Hardy, a retired clergyman from British
Columbia, Canada who was visiting the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.
Rev. Hardy had merely intended to take a photograph of the famous Tulip Stairway in the
Queen's House section of the building. Upon development, this cloaked figure ascending
the stairs appeared in the picture. Experts from Kodak who examined the negative have
ruled out forgery or double-exposure issues with the film. Interestingly, there have been
many other reports of paranormal activity within the building with many centered around
the staircase, including that of a woman who was thrown off the top banister and fell to
her death 50 feet below mopping up blood from the bottom of the staircase.
This photo was taken by the webmaster at Ghosts of Tombstone - Mr. Terry Clanton - a
descendant of the infamous Clanton Gang who shot it out at the OK Corral. He claims:
"I personally shot this photograph of my friend in Boothill Graveyard... We had it
developed at Thrifty Drug Store and I know no one tampered with it! The picture was shot
in black & white, because my friend wanted old west looking pictures of himself dressed
up in my 1880 period clothes. I know there was no other person in this photograph when
I shot it, especially some guy holding a knife! That's right folks, if you look carefully the
person in the background appears to be holding a knife! Look just to the right of my
friend and you'll see a person which appears to have no legs or is coming out of a grave!"
Please note that our own research of the photo yielded no hard photographic
evidence to dispute the author's statement. This excerpt is the same found in most
accounts of the event. It is generally accepted as genuine, but we have to acknowledge
that yes, someone could have wandered into the picture. A re-creation of the shot two
weeks later revealed that a person's legs can indeed be seen through the brush so we will
take Mr. Clanton at his word.
This recent photo of a supposed ghost taken in May of 2008 at Tantallon Castle in
Scotland generated tremendous buzz when it surfaced in March of 2009. Showing what
appears to be a spectral figure in fifteenth century dress peering out of a barred window
from the ruins of the castle, it has been examined by a number of photographic experts,
all of whom confirmed that there is no evidence of digital trickery having been used. Even
ghost sceptic Professor Richard Wiseman admitted to being puzzled. Sent the photo as
part of research project the man was conducting on ghosts at the time, he was quoted as
saying that “the figure appears to be in period costume, but we know 100 percent that
Tantallon Castle is not the sort of place that has dummies or costumed guides; they just
don’t go in for that “I suppose it could be a visitor looking a little bit strange. Perhaps
someone will come forward. Another possibility is an odd reflection of sunlight, but it does
look very like a person. The explanationis not obvious,” the Professor added. Tantallon
Castle, a ruined fortress dating back to the 14th century, was badly damaged in an attack
by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1651 and has stood largely unoccupied ever since
A ghostly image, nicknamed Skeletor, was captured on film by the Hampton Palace
closed-circuit security cameras in 2003. Many believe that this image proves the
existence of one of the ghosts that have long been rumored to be in residence at the
palace. According to the palace security guards, the figure was caught on film after a fire
alarm sounded in the palace near an exhibition hall, alerting them that the doors had
been opened. The camera shows the fire doors opening, and then a figure appears at the
door, reaching out as if to close the doors. When the guards arrived, the doors were
closed and no one was there. The doors had opened at the same time, in a similar
manner, the day before the figure was photographed, as well as the day after. Some
experts claim that the Hampton Court Palace photograph is proof of the existence of a
ghost, while some claim that it is a hoax. The palace guards are believed to be innocent
of any deception and do not enter the area of the palace where the figure was
The old woman in the photo was in her 90s when her daughter took this picture. Her
father, the woman's husband had already been dead for many years. The daughter
reported that her mother was in the early stages of dementia (or Alzheimer's) and had
been heard talking at times to her dead husband. When the film was developed, their
daughter was astonished to find a man who clearly was her deceased father standing
behind his wife. Some pictures of her father are seen above for comparison.
A daytime investigation conducted on August 10, 1991 at Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in
Chicago yielded this startling photograph by Judith Felz . The picture was snapped using
infra-red film and clearly shows what appears to be a young woman, semi-transparent
and wearing period clothing sitting atop a bench in the cemetery. The number of
hauntings reported at Bachelor's Grove number literally in the hundreds and run the
gamut of paranormal variety. It is thought the woman in the photo may be buried next to
her infant son and is also said to wander the grounds with the baby in her arms. Skeptics
have steadfastly refuted the authenticity of the photo, but their explanations have fallen
short in light of professional photographic analysis.
This photo of Sir Victor Goddard's World War I squadron who served on the HMS Daedalus
was taken in 1919. In the back row, fourth from the left stands an airman posing for the
picture like the others, but with a very distinct difference - there appears to be a man
standing over his left shoulder also looking toward the camera. It is said to be an aircraft
mechanic named Freddy Jackson, who had died two days earlier when he was killed by an
airplane propeller. His funeral took place on the same day this picture was taken. All
squadron members instantly and definitively identified him. Apparently he wanted to be
included in the group shot with the others.
This is one of the more famous ghost photos taken over the years and one that is
considered by many to be authentic purely because of the character of the man who shot
the photo. Taken in the Australian outback by a Reverend R.S. Blance at Corroboree Rock
near Alice Springs, Australia in 1959, the photo
has been frequently examined but never explained to this day. The Reverend was alone
when he took the photo and didn’t see the translucent figure until he had the film
developed. Who or what the figure is is unknown, of course, but he appears to be wearing
some sort of flowing robe and is holding his hands in such a way that he is either looking
through some thing or is performing some sort of ritual. According to local legend, the
site was known for being a spot where the Aborigine tribesmen carried out terrible
ceremonies in the past. Could it be the spirit of one of the Aborigine’s white victims? No
way to know. One could almost imagine this being a double exposure if it were not for the
inconsistency of the figure’s transparency, which varies greatly from opaque to
transparent. Certainly one of the more curious spirit photos out there, and still considered
by many to be among the best.
Lord Combermere, a descendant of Sir George Cotten, became the Governor of Barbados
in 1817. Ironically, he was involved in an infamous paranormal event during his
occupancy of that position, the "Moving Coffins of Barbados". Caskets inside the sealed
burial vault of a family named Chase were said to have shifted their positions without any
apparent human intrusion. The caskets would be set back to their original positions and
each time a new member of the Chase family was introduced to the crypt, the caskets
once again would be found in disarray. As Governor, Lord Combermere ordered an
investigation into this phenomena.
The photograph above was taken in 1891 in the Combermere Abbey Library in
Cheshire, U.K. by Sybell Corbett while in the company of her sister. In the chair on the
left, a faint, semi-transparent figure of a man can be seen.
In and of itself, a characteristically compelling spirit photo. However, at the exact
time this photo was being taken, Lord Combermere, along with family and staff were
attending a funeral 4 miles away - his own. Upon scrutiny by family members, it was
revealed that this is the ghostly image of Lord Combermere himself, killed days before in
an auto accident.
Miss Corbett's photographic journal revealed the photograph's exposure time took
about an hour and it was reasoned that some member of the staff may have wandered
through the room and sat in the chair, but given the testimony of the household
maintaining that all servants and family members were attending the funeral, Mrs.
Corbett and her sister were very much alone.
Perhaps the most famous “ghost photo” ever taken, this highly controversial shot, taken
at an English manor in 1936 and allegedly showing the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
descendinga staircase, remains among the most thoroughly examined and investigatedof
them all, giving it a significant pedigree.
What makes it so compelling is that the photo was taken not by a ghosthunter looking to
make a name for himself,but by two men sent by a London magazine to take some rather
pedestrian shots of the architecture of the building. What’s also interesting about this
photograph is that in contrast to most photos in which the figure is not seen until after
the film is developed, the spectral figure of a woman descending the stairway was seen
seconds before the shutter was snapped by Mister Shira. (Apparently Colonel Provand
never saw the figure at the time because he was preoccupied with setting up for the next
shot beneath the camera’s hood and only snapped the shutter upon Mister Shira’s
command.) The negatives for this photo have been scrutinized by literally hundreds of
experts (and no small number of skeptics) over the years, and none have been able to
find evidence of it being either a hoax or a double exposure. It has been, however,
suggested the figure could be the result of a smudged fingerprint or grease of some kind
smeared on the lens, though this seems like a stretch.