8 Famous Ghost Stories Debunked (And 7 That Defy All Explanation)

It doesn't matter if you believe in ghosts, spirits, demons, or anything of the kind. There is something truly amazing about ghost stories and the photos that appear to capture the paranormal. There used to be a time when we were innocent and naïve. We heard stories, we looked at photos, and we believed in them. Then came the Cottingley Fairies and other stories and photos like it. In 1917, two cousins staged photographs with fake fairies and gained national attention. Everyone thought they were real. They even duped Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. After they were shown to be fakes, it seemed that everyone wanted to try and fake their way to paranormal fame. This was the beginning stage of a mass skepticism in all things ghostly. These days, if we hear a ghost story, we roll our eyes. If we see something strange in photographs, no matter how chilling and unexplainable, we don't believe it. There must be a reasonable explanation. Well, that isn't always the case.

We often think to ourselves that if ghosts existed, we would have incredible amounts of proof by now. Hell, ghosts would likely have their own Facebook page. It's difficult these days to argue the existence of such things, but there are some photos out there that still don't make a whole lot of sense. Sure, some are just curious and too old or too unique to ever explain. That doesn't necessarily prove that ghosts exist, but it does make for an interesting story. Now, since stories alone are essentially unprovable, we'll be dealing with photographs here and the backstories that accompany them. We've gone through some of the most famous and interesting photos, and we'll share if and how they've been debunked. Here are 8 Famous Ghost Stories Debunked (And 7 That Defy All Explanation).


15 Debunked: The Hospital Demon

via debunked

Although some details appear to have been added in the time since this picture was first uploaded online, this one does paint an interesting plot. Here's what was presented, “This picture was taken of a nurse’s viewing monitor. On the monitor, this black figure appeared standing on top of the patient who was lying in the bed. The patient died within a few hours of this figure appearing.” So what does this photo show? Sure, it looks like a Mare, the sleep demon that was probably inspired by sleep paralysis. It also kind of looks like lipstick face from Insidious. Well, it turns out it's nothing. It's eye trickery. The demon's lower legs are the patients' own crossed legs. The head and arms are a coat in the background and the upper legs are the bed rail. Nothing to see here.

14 Debunked: Ourang Medan Ghost Ship

via Reddit

One of the more famous ghost stories from sea revolves around the Ourang Medan Ghost Ship. In 1952, U.S. papers printed a story about a ship that was sending SOS signals somewhere in the Strait of Malacca. When rescue ships got there, they found a grisly scene. The entire crew was dead, and they were all staring wide-eyed with open mouths. There was no hint of what killed them. After that, some possible explanations were thrown about, such as a chemical leak or something paranormal, but the truth is that it never even happened. This story was taken from a 1948 Dutch article, which was taken from a UK story from 1940. Each of these stories point to a different origin date. This one is baloney.

13 Debunked: Brown Lady Of Raynham Hall

via Independent

The so-called "Brown Lady of Raynham Hall" is one of the best-known paranormal photographs in the world. In 1936, this photograph was released, which was said to capture the image of a ghost, and not just any ghost, that of Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert. She died mysteriously, and the house owners swore they felt her from time to time. Then, they got her in a picture. You know what they say about lies; it's all in the details, or rather, in too many details. Well, experts have claimed with certainty that this photo is just a malfunction of the camera. First, it is a double exposure. The railings don’t line up properly, which is your first clue. The camera may have leaked some light onto the photographic plate as well, which accounts for the spectral image.

12 Debunked: The Solway Firth Spaceman

via debunked

In 1964, Jim Templeton, a fireman and photographer, was out and about taking pictures of his daughter. After having the pictures developed, Templeton saw something in one that, allegedly, wasn't there when the photo was snapped. "I took three pictures of my daughter Elizabeth in a similar pose," Templeton claimed. "[I] was shocked when the middle picture came back from Kodak displaying what looks like a spaceman in the background." What Templeton didn't say was that his wife was there as well, and she was wearing a pale blue dress. In the overexposed photo, the blue dress in the background looks white and the details are hard to make out, making it seem like a spacesuit. When the photo is darkened, it really isn't all that mysterious.

11 Debunked: Backseat Ghost

via skeptic magazine

While the photo goes by many names, there's a good chance that you've seen it before. It was taken by Mrs. Mabel Chinnery, in 1959 in England. The story goes that while visiting her mother's grave, Chinnery snapped the shot of her husband in the car. She noticed, after developing the photo, that her dead mother was in the backseat of the car. Sadly, this one isn't real either. There are two explanations and both work independently or together. First, there is certainly a double exposure going on here, but it might not explain the face of the "ghost." You can see that the alleged collar of the ghost actually overlaps the steel frame of the window slightly. That's the major clue. The ghost is sitting too far forward to be in the backseat as well. Now, the face could also be a double exposure, but it might be just as likely to be a trick of the eye. It could be a tree trunk in the background that, along with a double exposure and shifted photo, appears to be a face.

10 Debunked: The Enfield Poltergeist

via YouTube

After the release of The Conjuring 2, there's been a renewed interest in the famed Enfield Poltergeist. The elaborate research and the accompanying photos, videos, and audio make this case seem legitimate, but we wonder how it ever got this far. By simply watching the interviews with the people involved, specifically the children, it's quite clear that this is all an elaborate ruse. We have recordings of the poltergeist, "Bill," apparently speaking through one of the kids. But this is silly. That exact same kid is seen in an interview speaking in that same fake voice and laughing. The kids can't seem to get their stories straight either as they recount events. It's actually kind of laughable that these interviews are treated as anything more than kids playing games.

9 Debunked: Ghost In The Burning Building

via YouTube

Sometimes called the ghost of Wem Hall or the ghost in the burning building, this story is still considered to be of interest to many, even though it's been thoroughly debunked. In 1995, Wem Hall in Shropshire, England caught fire and burned down. This nearly century-old building was a local landmark, so townsfolk came around to watch it all happen. One of these onlookers, Tony O’Rahilly, took a photo. Later, he noticed a little girl standing in the doorway in the photo. Legend says that this was Jane Churm, a young girl that started a town fire in Wem back in 1677. Many believe this image to be of Churm even though they had no idea what she looked like. Allegedly, the photo negative was examined and didn't show any signs of tampering. But then someone saw something interesting. When a resident saw a postcard from Wem displaying a street scene from the town in 1922, they noticed a striking similarity between a little girl in the photo and the ghost of Wem Hall. They are very clearly one and the same.


8 Debunked: Ghosts Of The SS Watertown

via scared yet

The story behind this famous photo tells of two crewmen aboard the SS Watertown that were instructed to clean a cargo tank. The details of how they died vary, but most assume they were overcome by fumes of some sort. Either way, they died. The captain, Keith Tracy, then set up a sea burial for the men. The following day, the shipmen claimed they saw the two dead men in the water. They even snapped a photo of the faces bobbing along in the water. Plenty have looked at the photo and many see it as a true example of paranormal phenomenon. There is a problem with the photo, though. When the photo was reproduced by an investigator using the SS Watertown's sister ship, it was revealed that the faces in the water were not just larger than normal faces; they were larger than normal human bodies. For these faces to be photographed in this way, they would have been gigantic heads. You would think one of the crew members would have said something about the sheer size of the heads in the water.

7 Unexplained: Lost In The Catacombs

via the 13th floor

The Catacombs of Paris are creepy. Without any ghost story or legend or monster attached them, this is a scary place. Years ago, ABC Family released a special on The Catacombs. As part of that, they aired the alleged found footage of a man getting lost in the Catacombs. In the video, we see the man get spooked by something he hears or sees, and he begins to run. He drops the camera and is never heard from again. This might just be a panic attack or maybe he saw something. It might be a hoax, but interestingly, no additional information about this film has ever been released. So many years later, you would expect that we would have learned that this was staged or the name of the actor, but there is nothing. As much as we would like to debunk this, we can't.

6 Unexplained: Dyatalov Pass

via bizarrepedia

In what is now Russian territory, nine ski hikers mysteriously died in the northern Ural Mountains in 1959. The university students were camping one night when something happened. The evidence shows that they tore out of their tents and made their way through the snow without much in the way of protective clothing on. Six of the nine died from hypothermia, one had a crushed skull, one suffered from brain trauma, and the last had their eyes gouged out and their tongue taken. Some blame animals or the military. Some say it was an avalanche. Some say it was sound-induced panic from the wind. Each of these theories work but there is evidence against all of them. While the panic theories seem most reasonable, it seems doubtful that an entire group would experience the same symptoms.

5 Unexplained: Pauline Picard

via YouTube

This story comes from France in 1922. It was here that two-year-old Pauline Picard went missing. After a few weeks, the police got a call about a little girl matching the description. They found her (about 200 miles away from the Picard's) and returned her home. Now, the Picard family was happy, but there were some concerns. The little girl looked the same, but she was different. She didn't even converse in the same dialect that she once did. Then it got weird. The Picard's crazy neighbor allegedly asked if they found their daughter. When they said that they had, he questioned whether it was the real daughter then laughed like a madman. Not long after that, someone found the body of a little girl near to the home. The hands, feet, and head were missing. Next to the body, Pauline's clothes that she was wearing were folded. Another head was found nearby but it didn’t match the body. It turns out that the little girl that the Picard's had was someone else. Who was she? What happened to Pauline? Whose head was found near the body?

4 Unexplained: Netta Fornario

via paranormal

Netta Fornario was a strange woman who died while visiting Iona, Scotland. Fornario was a member of Alpha et Omega, a group of occult enthusiasts. Fornario arrived in Iona with a lot of luggage and plans to stay for a while. She took up lodging with a Mrs. McRae and spent several weeks there. One day in November, Mrs. McRae found Fornario packing her luggage quickly and saying that she needed to return home to London. She said she was being attacked "telepathically." It was then that McRae apparently noticed that all of Fornario's silver jewelry had turned black. Some time later, Fornario said that she had changed her mind and that she would go for a walk. When she didn't return, McRae raised the alarm. A few days later, Fornario's body was found lying on a deeply cut manmade cross in the earth. She had mysterious deep cuts on her feet as if she had been running and deep scratches on her body. The cause of death could have been exposure or heart failure, but no other evidence ever came forth.

3 Unexplained: The Tulip Staircase

via The Sun

The photo of the Tulip Staircase is one of the most famous supernatural photos ever taken. It is also one of the most unexplainable. The photo was taken in 1966 in the Queens House section of the National Maritime Museum. While the photo could be the result of a double exposure, many of the telltale signs aren't visible. The photo has been examined extensively and no signs of tampering could be found. While there may very well be a reasonable explanation, there is not one that is readily available.

2 Unexplained: Freddy Jackson

via YouTube

Although it wasn't noticed until it was published in 1975, the 1919 photo of squadron got a lot of attention when members of the shot noticed that there was another figure standing behind a man in the back row. This, people said, was Freddy Jackson, a mechanic in the squadron who had been killed a couple of days before this shot was taken. While many claimed it was a candidate for a double exposure fraud, others have pointed out that Jackson is hatless, which makes it less likely. Sure, a photo of Jackson could have been shot on the same film and got mixed up somehow, but the clearness of the photo suggests that he is actually there. Now, we just have to trust that the story of the man's death is accurate. If the story is true, the picture could be real.

1 Unexplained: No Face Photo

via anomalies

Here's what we know about this photo: "The photograph was taken in 1943 in Kaposfüred, Hungary. My mother is in the foreground, the photo taken by my father. A little girl standing in the background, has no arms, no face. It’s like a ghost or a demon. I have the original photograph at home." Without anything else to go on, it's difficult to say what's happening here, but the shot is eerie. The little girl's face is not visible and it appears that her arms are missing. It's possible that the camera malfunctioned when taking the picture or the girl's movements made it difficult to capture details, but photo experts suggest that it is to clean to say that for sure. No matter what, it makes for a strange photo.

Sources: Debunked; Paranormal association; Wikipedia; reddit


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