The first examples of spirit photography can be traced back to the mid-19th century when photographic pioneers tried to provide tangible evidence of a world beyond our own. But the paranormal is notoriously hard to capture, if even possible. Today, amongst a rising number of ghost pictures that circulate around the internet, there are a handful of photographs that defy explanation and seemingly provide visual proof of an existence beyond death.
Withstanding the test of time and the experts who have spent their careers debunking some and failing to disprove others, in chronological order, here are the ten most famous ghost pictures ever taken and the spine-chilling stories behind them.
1. Lord Combermere Ghost (1891)
Taken by photographer Sybell Corbet in 1891, the figure of Lord Combermere can faintly be seen sitting in his favorite chair in Combermere Abbey, England. The second Viscount famously died after being struck by one of London’s first electrically powered motor cabs. It’s said that while Corbet was taking the above photograph, Lord Combermere’s funeral was taking place four miles away. Interestingly, while the figure’s head, collar and right arm can be clearly made out, his legs which were badly damaged in the accident are mysterious missing in the photograph.
2. Freddy Jackson (1919)
Freddy Jackson a Royal Air Force mechanic, was tragically killed in a freak accident involving an airplane propeller in 1919. On the day of his funeral, a group photograph was taken of his squadron and Jackson was not going to let his death get in the way of him showing up for the group shot. His face can be seen behind the fourth airman from the left in the back row. When the photograph was made public in the 1970s, retired RAF Officer Victor Goddard came forward to confirm that Jackson had indeed made an otherworldly appearance.
3. The Brown Lady (1936)
Arguably the most famous ghost picture on our list, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England, rose to international fame after the apparition was captured on the main staircase during a photo shoot for Country Life magazine. The Brown Lady is so named because of the brown brocade dress she wears and is said to be the spirit of Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686-1726), the sister of the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.
4. Corroboree Rock Spirit (1959)
Taken by Reverend R.S. Blance in 1959 during a visit the Corroboree Rock reserve in Alice Springs, Australia, this famous photograph appears to show a woman holding her hands to her face, staring off into the distance. Blance claimed he was alone at the time the picture was taken and had only intended to capture the natural beauty of the location. The mysterious apparition was discovered upon developing the film and since then, the photograph has joined the numerous legends surrounding the Corroboree Rock formation, which has long been a place of spiritual importance to Australia’s Aboriginal people.
5. The Backseat Driver (1959)
This notorious ghost photograph was taken in 1959 by Mable Chinnery. After visiting the grave of her mother, Mable turned and took a picture of her husband, who was patiently waiting for her in the car. What Mable didn’t expect was her mother to appear in the photograph sitting in the backseat behind her unsuspecting husband.
6. The Spectre of Newby Church (1963)
Reverend Kenneth Lord claimed he saw nothing out of the ordinary when he took a picture of the altar inside Newby Church in Yorkshire, England in 1963. But after the film was developed, he was surprised to see this semi-transparent hooded figure with a strange appearance emerge. Estimated at standing nine-foot-tall, the masked figure has been scrutinized by photography experts who confirmed that the picture is not the result of a double exposure or the product of other photographic trickery. Adding to the mystery, no previous evidence of paranormal activity has ever been reported at the church which was constructed in 1870.
7. Tulip Staircase Ghost (1966)
The Queen’s House in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, has long enjoyed a haunted reputation. From shadowy apparitions to unexplainable sounds and footsteps, it wasn’t until Rev. Ralph Hardy’s visit in 1966 that the buildings otherworldly residents were finally captured on camera. Intending only to take a picture of the impressive Tulip Staircase, after developing the photos Hardy saw the apparition of a robed figure ascending the stairs. The original negative was examined by experts, including some from Kodak, who agreed that the photo had not been doctored or tampered with.
8. The Amityville Horror Ghost (1976)
The Amityville Horror has inspired books, movies and is easily one of the most famous hauntings in American history. In 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. killed his parents and four siblings in the Dutch Colonial house built on Long Island’s south shore at the behest of a dark presence. A year later, the Lutz family moved in, only to discover that his demons lingered. The Lutz’s lasted just 28 days in the house before fleeing in terror. This photograph was taken by Gene Campbell in 1976 during a paranormal investigation led by Ed and Lorraine Warren. Using an infrared camera on second-floor landing, it wasn’t until Gene looked over rolls of film in 1979 that he discovered this one photo depicting a small ghostlike boy.
Widely believed to be the spirit of John Mathew DeFeo who was only nine years old when he was murdered by his older brother, this demonic looking child is said to be just one of the many spirits to have haunted the house.
9. Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove (1991)
Located in a remote section of Rubio Woods Forest Preserve in Chicago, Illinois, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is home to numerous ghost stories of otherworldly encounters and terrifying reports of paranormal activity. Closed down and left abandoned in 1991 the Ghost Research Society of America decided to pay a visit to see if the haunting rumors were true. After getting some unusual readings on their equipment the group began taking pictures of the area, and although invisible to the naked eye, an apparition appeared in one of the photographs. The figure appears to be a woman sitting on a gravestone, perhaps in prayer. The photo was dubbed the “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove” and was published in both the Chicago Sun-Times and the National Examiner propelling it to international fame and earning the reputation for being one of the most compelling paranormal pictures ever taken.
10. Waverly Hills Sanatorium Spirit (2006)
Waverly Hills Sanatorium, the former tuberculosis hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, is well-known to be one of the most haunted locations in America. Opened in 1910 it’s believed as many as 64,000 people who were admitted to Waverly Hills died there over the years before it was closed down and left abandoned. Today, the site is open to visitors who regularly report strange goings-on. The above picture was taken by Tom Halstead, a professional photographer and member of Missouri Paranormal Research. During an overnight paranormal investigation, Halstead began to take photos of an area commonly known as “the death tunnel” and captured this eerie figure standing in the darkness.
Widely believed to be the spirit of Mary Lee, a nurse who hung herself in room 502 after being impregnated by a doctor who later wanted nothing to do with her. There have been some questions as to whether this photo had been doctored. Halstead passed away in 2013, but shortly before his death he was asked about this photograph, his reply “I have nothing to prove to anyone.”
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