For just about as long as we humans have been around, there’s been a fair percentage of us who believe in ghosts. There’s enough research into the belief that die hard investigators have different names for different types of ghosts. You have Crisis Apparitions – ghosts of recently departed loved ones who show up to say so long – and Poltergeists – ghosts who have been around so long they’ve become less human and more trickster with the possibility of getting really angry. You have your Intelligent Haunting – a ghost who will interact with you – and Repeaters – ghosts who are like recordings, running through the same motions again and again. We could go on and on.
While we’ve always had a love for ghosts, it was the birth of the camera that created a whole new ghost craze. Coming at the end of the Victorian Era, a time when people were already really into seances and spirits, the camera brought an entirely new way to see the dead…ghost photography.
There’s a serious creepiness to vintage ghost photography, even though we know that most, if not all, of it was faked. In these days where everyone has a camera on their phone and Photoshop on their computer, the idea of falling for a picture of a ghost seems crazy, but when cameras were new, almost no one knew you could mess with the image.
Here, to help you stay up all night, are some of the spookiest, creepiest, and weirdest vintage ghost photos. Be warned, while most of these have a logical explanation…some don’t.
15. Lincoln’s Ghost
Mary Todd Lincoln was a big supporter of spiritualism. She lost her second son, Edward, to tuberculosis in 1850, and her third son, William, to typhoid fever while living in the White House. Mary Todd believed that the spirit of William still hung around the White House, and she would occasionally hold seances to try and communicate with him.
After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd’s mental health suffered greatly, and in 1871, her youngest child, Tad, died. He was just eighteen. Mary Todd was desperate and looking for any port in the storm that was her slipping sanity. In 1872, she met the famed spiritualist photographer William H. Mumler.
While we know full well that Mumler was a con artist who used double exposure tricks to create his ghost photos, Mary Todd and many like her had no idea at the time. For decades, the photo of Lincoln’s ghost, his hands on his wife’s shoulders, stood to many as evidence of life after death.
14. The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
The Brown Lady, named so because of the brown brocade dress she wears, haunts Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. This ghost shot to stardom in 1936 when Captain Hubert C. Provand captured her on camera while doing a photo shoot of Raynham Hall for Country Life Magazine. The photo was published in the December issue of the magazine, then picked up and run in the January 4, 1937 edition of Life Magazine.
While skeptics have offered a number of explanations on how Captain Provand could have faked the image, believers are still pretty sure it is the real deal. Helping keep the photo in the minds of fans of the paranormal is the repeated sightings of the Lady of Raynham Hall. Some believe that the spirit belongs to Lady Dorothy Walpole who was held captive by the Countess of Wharton until her death in 1726.
13. Elderly Couple With A Young Female Spirit
William Hope was one of the best-known spirit photographers in the 1920s. His fans included such well known, and well respected, people as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike the fictional detective that he had come up with, Sir Conan Doyle was quick to believe in the fantastic.
And while we can look at Hope’s photos today – and you’ll see more of them in a bit – and laugh, there is something very creepy about them. In this one, for example, there is a great sadness in the floating face of the young woman. We don’t know who the elderly couple is, but following the usual format of spirit photography, it is safe to say that the spirit woman is meant to be someone dear to them. Could Hope be playing with their emotions and milking the poor couple out of their money as they hope to see their child just one more time?
12. Freddie Jackson
In 1919, a squadron of men who had served in World War I at the HMS Daedalus, a Naval Seaplane Training School in Hampshire, England, gathered together for a photo. In 1975, Sir Victor Goddard shared his copy of the photo with the world.
Sir Goddard noticed that in the top row, fourth from the left, there seemed to be a man standing almost directly behind another member of the squad. Sir Goddard was sure that this man, the one who was peaking out, was Freddie Jackson, an air mechanic at the school.
11. Tulip Staircase Ghost
Rev. Ralph Hardy, a retired clergyman from White Rock, British Columbia, was looking to take a picture of the Tulip Staircase at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. The elegant spiral staircase was often photographed without incident, but when the good Reverend developed the photo in 1966, he discovered that he had been photobombed by a ghost.
The photo and the negative have been examined by a number of experts, including some from Kodak, and they all came to the same conclusion: the Reverend Ralph Hardy did not tamper with the image.
Over the years, many people have reported seeing spirits at the National Maritime Museum – including a pale woman frantically mopping blood at the bottom of the Tulip Staircase – but this is the only photo that has held up to scrutiny.
10. The Back Seat Ghost
As an endless amount of old jokes tell us, husbands don’t get along with their mother-in-laws. For whatever reason, the two of them, as far as comedians are concerned, are natural enemies. In truth, the premise is overdone.
Still, I can’t imagine Mr. Chinnery was very excited when, in 1959, his wife snapped a picture of him sitting in the passenger seat of the car, only to later discover the image of his dead mother-in-law in the backseat.
Mrs. Mabel Chinnery took the picture as she walked back to the car from visiting her mother’s grave and didn’t see anything amiss. It was only after the roll of film was developed that the Chinnery’s found the spirit of Mrs. Chinnery’s mother. Supposedly, the photo was examined by a photographer and deemed legit.
9. Specter of Newby Church
Also known as the Newby Monk, the Specter of Newby Church had its picture taken in the Church of Christ the Consoler at Newby Hall in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom by Reverend K. F. Lord in 1963.
The image appears to show a shrouded man who would be inhumanly tall, standing nearly nine feet. It is believed that the spirit is that of a 16th-century monk, his face covered with a sack to hide the damage done by leprosy or to obscure a random disfigurement. Skeptics believe that the image is nothing more than a trick played by Reverend Lord with some nifty double exposure and the help of a friend wearing some sheets and standing on a box to appear taller.
8. The Man And The Work Colleague
Another classic William Hope image, this one is unlike the previous in many ways. For one, it has no “official” title but it does have a bit of story that goes along with it.
Supposedly the man in the photo, after seeing it, believed that the spirit woman, who looks like she would be a better fit in a Kabuki theater, was a woman he worked with thirty-two years earlier.
The way that the man and the spirit woman’s heads come together creates a sense of closeness – it makes it seem like they had a special relationship, one that they both miss. It also suggests that the man was in on the con. He is leaning in a rather unnatural fashion, almost as if he is trying to hold a position as directed by Hope himself. Then again, maybe the man in the picture isn’t in on what Hope was doing, maybe he was taken in by the con man as well.
7. Cemetery Ghost Baby
The Andrews family of Queensland, Australia suffered a great deal of loss. Some would say that they suffered more than any family should. In 1942, William and Mary Elizabeth lost their son, Sgt. Cecil H. Andrews of the RAAF. Three years later, their seventeen-year-old daughter, Joyce Elizabeth Andrews, passed away.
Joyce was buried in the same plot as her brother at the Ma Ma Creek Anglican Cemetery. As you can imagine, William and Mary visited the final resting place of their two children often. So it was that Mary came to snap the above photo in 1947. The ghostly baby didn’t appear before Mary – she did not see it until the film was developed – but once she saw the child, she knew it was weird.
6. The Amityville Boy
In 1976, professional photographer Gene Campbell joined a group famed ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren along with a few other specialists for a night of investigation at what the world would come to call the Amityville Horror House. During the night, as Loraine tried to contact the spirits that were supposedly causing quite a lot of problems for the Lutz family, Campbell went around taking pictures.
In 1979, George Lutz revealed one of Campbell’s pictures to the world while on the Merv Griffin Show. The photo was taken by an automatic camera that was set up to monitor the second-floor landing and it appeared to show the ghost of John DeFeo, one of the children murdered in the house by Ronnie DeFeo.
Skeptics believe that the person in the photo is actually Paul Bartz, a fellow paranormal investigator who was at the house that night. If they are right, the white eyes are nothing more than an effect caused by the night vision setting on the camera.
5. The Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove
Paranormal investigator Judy Huff-Felz was visiting Bachelors Grove Cemetery with her group in 1991. This was well before ghost hunting shows were all over TV, and Judy did this not for the hopes of getting a show one day, but because she honestly hoped to show the world proof of the unknown.
The cemetery was a known spot for investigators, and Judy’s group, the Ghost Research Society, had been there before. On this night, the goal was to teach new members what to look for and what feelings to pay attention to. As Judy walked through the grounds with her Olympus automatic 35mm telephoto, she sensed that she was not alone and she began taking pictures. Once developed, one photo showed what appears to be a woman sitting on a bench. The photo was run in the Chicago Sun-Times and quickly became one of the best-known images of a spirit. Debates on the authenticity of the picture continue to this day.
4. A Woman Mourns For Her Husband
The final William Hope photograph is a really creepy one. Yes, it is certainly fake – all of Hope’s work was faked – but that doesn’t make it any more spooky.
The image, appearing to show a spirit that likes to hang around the Chapel of Rest during wakes, could be mistaken for the soul of the dead man, but it could also be taken as Death, his stark white face, bald head, and what appears to be a black cloak, sneaking into the picture, sliding in between the grieving widow and another man. Perhaps it is Death and he is there for the soul of the dead man. Or maybe it is a third unrelated spirit who is just photobombing at a really inappropriate time.
3. Ghost of Lord Combermere
The second Viscount Lord Combermere died in 1891 after being struck by one of London’s first electrically powered motor cabs. On the day of his funeral, while the Combermere family, as well as all the servants, were paying their last respects to the man, Sybell Corbet set up his camera in the library of Combermere Abbey and set the exposure for one hour.
When he developed the film, Corbet found that his photo of the library showed none other than Lord Combermere sitting in a chair. The photo appears to have captured the head, collar and right arm of Lord Combermere, while the rest of his body is seemingly invisible.
Skeptics believe that the image shows a house servant who came into the library and sat down for a moment while the hour long exposure was taking place, but with Lord Combermere’s funeral happening four miles away, the only person in Combermere Abbey at that time would have been Corbet.
2. The White Lady of Worstead Church
On a hot day in August of 1975, the Berthelot family ducked into the St. Mary’s Church in Worstead, England to get out of the heat for a few minutes. Certain that they weren’t interrupting anything – the church was empty – Diane sat in the pews while her husband and son looked around the church, taking pictures as they went.
When the Berthelots had their photos developed, they discovered that in a single image of Diane sitting in the pew, there appeared to be a woman in a white gown and bonnet sitting behind her.
Some believe that the bonnet wearing woman is none other than the White Lady of Worstead Church. As the myth goes, the White Lady would show up in the church every Christmas Eve, and anyone who saw her would suffer an early death. Luckily, none of the Berthelots died after their visit.
1. Boothill Cemetery Ghost
Being that this picture was taken in the mid-1990s, we’re pushing the idea of vintage here, but to be fair, the 1990s were last century, and jelly shoes are considered vintage these days.
The picture was taken by Terry Ike Clanton who was snapping a shot of his pal dressed in 1880-period clothes. Well, the clothes are really more like 1980s pretending to be a cowboy period clothes, but hey we can’t all be perfect at cosplay.
When Clanton had the pictures developed, one of them seemed to have a special guest in it. Sitting in the tall grass among the aged tombstones of gunslingers long since past was a man in much more period proper attire. Either Clanton and his pal had captured the image of an Old West ghost, or they got schooled in dress-up.
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