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.
Faking ghost photos through double exposure and in-the-lab trickery has been around as long as photography itself; and today, computer graphics programs can easily and convincingly create ghost images. But these photos are generally thought to be untouched, genuine portraits of the unexplained.
1. 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.
2. Lord Combermere
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 fact: 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.
3. Freddy Jackson
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 fact: 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.
4. 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 fact: 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. A few years ago, 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.
5. 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 – 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.
6. 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!"
7. Madonna of Bachelor's Grove
This photo was taken during an investigation of Bachelor's Grove cemetery near Chicago by the Ghost Research Society (GRS). On August 10, 1991, several members of of the GRS were at the cemetery, a small, abandoned graveyard on the edge of the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, near the suburb of Midlothian, Illinois. Reputed to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the U.S., Bachelor's Grove has been the site of well over 100 different reports of strange phenomena, including apparitions, unexplained sights and sounds, and even glowing balls of light. GRS member Mari Huff was taking black and white photos with a high-speed infrared camera in an area where the group had experienced some anomalies with their ghost-hunting equipment. The cemetery was empty, except for the GRS members. When developed, this image emerged: what looks like a lonely-looking young woman dressed in white sitting on a tombstone. Parts of her body are partially transparent and the style of the dress seems to be out of date. Other ghosts reportedly seen in Bachelor's Grove include figures in monks' clothes and the spirit of a glowing yellow man.
8. Railroad Crossing Ghost
A strange legend surrounds a railroad crossing just south of San Antonio, Texas. The intersection of roadway and railroad track, so the story goes, was the site of a tragic accident in which several school-aged children were killed - but their ghosts linger at the spot and will push idled cars across the tracks, even though the path is uphill. The story may be just the stuff of urban legend, but the accounts were intriguing enough to have a closer look. The article included a photograph submitted by Andy and Debi Chesney. Their daughter and some of her friends had recently been to the crossing to test the legend, and she took some photographs. Inexplicably, a strange, transparent figure turned up in one of the photos. "They had no idea that it was in the picture until the next day when I printed out the picture and showed them," said the Chesneys. "It was really freaky. It appears to be a little girl carrying a teddy bear." Other readers who have viewed the photo think it shows a little girl with a dog sitting at her feet. What do you think?
9. Ghost of the Seven Gables
While touring the historic House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts – the birthplace of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne – 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.
10. 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 – 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!
11. Ghost in the Choir Loft
In 1982, photographer Chris Brackley took a photograph of the interior of London's St. Botolph's Church, but never expected what would appear on the film. High in the church's loft, seen in the upper right-hand corner of his photograph, is the transparent form of what looks like a woman. According to Brackley, to his knowledge there were only three people in the church at the time the photo was taken, and none of them were in that loft. According to London Paranormal Database Records, "Mr. Brackley was later contacted by a builder who recognized the face of one that he had seen in a coffin in the church." See a close-up of the apparition.
12. Grandpa's Ghost
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.
13. Robert A Ferguson
This photo was taken on November 16, 1968 when Robert A. Ferguson, author of Psychic Telemetry: New Key to Health, Wealth, and Perfect Living, was giving a speech at a Spiritualist convention in Los Angeles, California. Faintly appearing next to Ferguson is a figure that he later identified as his brother, Walter, who died in 1944 during World War II. At first glance, this might seem to be a double exposure or some kind of darkroom trickery, but this photo is a Polaroid (one of several taken of Ferguson at the time), making any kind of hoaxing quite unlikely.
14. 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.
15. Godfather's Pizza Ghost
Several unnerving instances of ghost and poltergeist activity were reported by the management, staff, and customers of the Godfather's Pizza restaurant in Ogden, Utah in 1999-2000, prompting an investigation by Utah Paranormal Exploration and Research (UPER). Phenomena included:
The sighting of several spirits, including those of a man, a woman, and two boys
A jukebox that played by itself, even when unplugged
A tile floor that inexplicably bulged up as high as ten inches, then leveled itself; a later examination showed nothing out of the ordinary beneath the tile and the concrete was intact
As many as 40 fluorescent light tubes flew out of their boxes and smashed on the floor
Mysterious whistling was heard from the kitchen several times.
UPER's investigation found that the restaurant might have been built upon a very old pauper's field — a cemetery for the poor. It also resulted in this photo, taken by Merry Barrentine, UPER's general manager, in 2000. This misty apparition was actually seen with the naked eye for a few seconds as it materialized in the middle of the room.
16. Ghostly Grip
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.
17. Haunted Bureau
This early 20th Century photo of a beautiful Queen Anne style bureau was taken at the request of a furniture dealer by Montague Cooper, a well-known and respected photographer of the day. Cooper was at a loss, however, to explain the transparent hand that appears to rest near the top of the bureau. Is it the ghost of a previous owner who was reluctant to let it go?
18. 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 – 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.
19. 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."
20. Coventry Spectre
On January 22, 1985, the Coventry Freeman organization were having a dinner event at St. Mary's Guildhall in Coventry, U.K. Everyone in the group had her or his head bowed in prayer when this photo was taken -- including a towering, mysterious figure standing top left. The strange cowled spectre appears to be wearing clothing much like a monk's frock from another time. Lord Mayor Walter Brandish, who was present at the dinner, said there was no one at the event who was dressed like that, and he could not explain the presence of the interloper in the photo. St. Mary's Guildhall dates back to the 14th century and served as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots.
21. The Watcher
This photo was taken at Corroboree Rock at Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia in 1959. What does not seem to be a trick of light and shadow is a human form, semi-transparent, wearing what looks like a long white dress or gown. More curious, the figure seems to be holding something in the manner that a person holds a camera or binoculars. One possibility is that this is a double exposure of a living person. In 1959, this image would have been captured on film. If it is not a double exposure and this is a spirit captured on film, then a number of questions arise: What is the entity looking and why? Do they have cameras and binoculars in the afterlife? Or is this an instance of a time slip in which the camera has recorded a scene from a different time? It has even been speculated that this figure might actually be a time traveler or interdimentional being, who has been photographed in the act of watching us!
22. The Phantom Pilot
Mrs. Sayer and some friends were visiting the Fleet Air Arm Station at Yeovilton, 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.
23. The Pink Lady of Greencastle picture
These photos were taken by Guy Winters when he and friend were investigating the O'Hare mansion in Greencastle, Indiana. They were told about the old abandoned house by another friend who said he and his girlfriend were scared away from it by some ghostly entity. So with permission of the owner, Guy and Terry went to explore the property. Armed with video and film cameras, the team spend a couple of days, in both daylight and at night, looking for evidence of possible haunting activity. The above photos are the remarkable result of a picture Guy took of one of the upstairs windows. The image of a vaporous pink ghostly woman is rather clear. Guy did not see the figure at the time he snapped the photo, but saw it only after the film was developed. An analysis of the film determined that the image is present on the film's negative. The bottom right photo is a digital enhancement, which reveals a skull-like appearance for the ghost's face. Several other anomalies and paranormal activity were experienced there by Winter's team.
24. White Lady of Worstead Church
In 1975, Diane and Peter Berthelot along with their 12-year-old son visited the Worstead Church in north Norfolk, U.K. Peter took a photo of his wife sitting and praying on one of the church benches, and when they reviewed the developed photos some months later, a friend of Mrs. Berthelot asked, "Who's that sitting behind you, Di?" The figure in the photo Mrs. Berthelot appears to be wearing light-colored, old-fashioned clothes and a bonnet. The Berthelots returned to Worstead Church the next summer with the photo and showed it to Reverend Pettit, the church vicar. He explained to Diane the legend of the White Lady, of whom she had never heard. It is said that the ghost is a healer who appears when someone near is in need of healing. When she visited the church at the time of the photo, Diane was in ill health and was taking antibiotics. Reports of the ghost date back well over 100 years. According to one story, on Christmas Eve of 1830 a man boasted a challenge to the White Lady. He said he would climb to the top of the church's belfry and kiss her if she would appear. So up he went. When he failed to reappear after a time, however, friends went to search for him. They found him in the belfry, cowering in a corner, terrified. "I've seen her," he told them, "I've seen her...." And then he died. For a time, Mrs. Berthelot said she felt a calming tingling sensation whenever she looked at the photo, but that feeling has since subsided. Today, the church has been remodeled into a pub.
25. Electric Chair Ghost
Engineer Fred Leuchter was hired by the state of Tennessee to evaluate, modify and update its electric chair, which it used for executions. The heavy oak chair was made from the wood that was once a part of the state's old gallows. Leuchter offered his services to modify the old equipment to make the chair both more effective and more humane. The state of Tennessee sent the chair to Leuchter's home, where he intended to work on it in his basement workshop. He took several photos of the chair before he started work to document his progress. This is one of the photos. When the photo was developed, Leuchter noticed several anomalies. Apart from the orb-like shapes, a few ghostly images can be seen. The orbs can most likely be attributed to the overhead light source reflecting on the camera lens. And the "face" on the back of the chair (enlarged on the top of the photo above) could just be interesting pareidolia. A little harder to explain, perhaps, is the ghostly hand image at the end of the right-hand armrest of the chair (enlarged on the bottom of the photo above). This, too, could be pareidolia, but its resemblance to a limp hand exactly in the place where an executed man's hand would be is striking. Could it be the ghost of an executed man? Leuchter points out that the chair and its occupants were subjected to strong electromagnetic forces. Could they have imprinted it with these haunting images?