Happy Halloween! As everyone knows there’s nothing scarier than breaking your schedule and posting two days early OOOOOOH SPOOKY!
In all seriousness though, I wanted to do a special post for Halloween. I’m not much for the dressing up in costume type stuff, but I do enjoy the stories and the general atmosphere that pervades the holiday. So with that in mind, today I wanted to share some ghosts stories with you. Generally speaking, I don’t technically believe in ghosts, but I enjoy the tales nonetheless. So let’s get started.
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
Raynham Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England that was built in the 1600s and is the seat of the Townshend family. It may or may not have been the first of its kind in England, as the builders choose an Italian style rather than the native one.
It is certainly something to look at. But Raynham Hall’s fame extends beyond its architecture, as it is also the sight of one of the most famous ghost photographs of all time. The story goes like this: two photographers from Country Life magazine, Captain Provand and Indre Shira, were on assignment at the house taking pictures for the magazine in September of 1936. They had just finished taking a photograph of the stairs when Shira says he saw a veiled figure descending the stairs. He called out to Provand, who was focusing for another exposure, to take a picture quickly as he flashed the light.
This was the photograph they caught:
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve seen this image before, as it is one of the most famous ghost photographs of all time. Now, is it necessarily real? No. It is possible that the image is a double-exposure, especially considering the photographers had just taken a shot of the stairs moments before. But the age of the photograph makes it highly unlikely to be a fake in the sense that they staged it (although some have suggested that maybe Shira walked down the stairs himself or smeared grease on the camera lens). To me it is likely a genuine article, although whether or not it’s actually a ghost is debatable. Nevertheless, it is one of the more well-known photos out there, even today.
The supposed ghost is called the Brown Lady because of the dress she wears. According to legend the ghost is that of Lady Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Robert Walpole who is considered the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. She was married to Charles Townshend, a man who was apparently known for a violent temper. When Townshend discovered that Lady Dorothy was having an affair, he grew angry and locked her into her rooms in the house. She officially died of smallpox in 1726. Her ghost was seen a number of times, although the sightings grew less frequent following the 1936 photo.
The Lord’s Chair
Next we have another old photograph, this one from the 1890s. But first, a little background.
Combermere Abbey is a former monastery and country house in Cheshire England that was built in the 1130s, making it nearly 900 years old. After its dissolution in 1538 it was bought and held by the Cotton family until 1919. Ever since then it has been in private ownership.
But the tale we’re interested in takes place in 1891. In that year the second viscount (a viscount is a British nobleman ranking above a baron but below an earl) Lord Combermere passed away after being struck by a horse-drawn carriage. At the time his funeral was taking place, Sybell Corbet (Lady Combermere’s sister) decided to take a picture of the abbey library. The exposure of the camera took about an hour. And this is what showed up:
If you look at the bottom left of the picture, you’ll see what appears to be the transparent figure of a man sitting down in the chair. Many believe the figure to be that of Lord Combermere. Now, due to the long exposure time, it has been suggested that one of the staff may have stepped in and sat in the chair. However, the staff and family at the time refuted this, saying that all of the staff were attending the funeral miles away from there.
Does this mean it’s a true and blue ghost? Again, no. It could simply be another case of double-exposure, like in the case of the Brown Lady. It could also be our brains taking in visual data from the photo and arranging it in the form of a face. You see, we only actually see a certain percentage of what’s around us (around sixty percent or so, maybe even less). The rest of it is filled in by our brains, which recognizes patterns and smooths over the gaps for us. So what we see as the ghost of a man might simply be a trick of the mind.
Or maybe it really is a ghost. Who knows?
The White Lady
This story is interesting, because unlike the last two there is no known possible identity to the mysterious figure that appears in the photo below:
She is known simply as “The White Lady of Worstead Church”. Worstead Church itself resides in Norfolk, United Kingdom. Initially the White Lady was believed to be a malevolent spirit of some kind who would appear on Christmas eve, and that anyone who witnessed her would suffer an untimely death. A story goes that a man in the 1830s heard of the rumor, laughed it off, and decided to spend the night in the church to debunk it. When he didn’t return, his friends went looking for him. They found him huddled in the corner of the belfry, shaking with fear.
His last words before he died were “I’ve seen her…I’ve seen her……”
But a more recent story would seem to show the White Lady in a better light. In 1975 a woman named Diane Berthelot was traveling in Norfolk with her husband and son. It was a very hot day, and the family decided to take a rest inside the church. Diane was sick, and so decided to sit down on one of the pews and rest while her husband took photos. It wasn’t until after they returned that they saw the white figure in the picture, a figure that none of them saw that day. When they returned to Norfolk the following summer they showed the picture to a vicar at the church who told them of the White Lady and said that she was a healing spirit. After being told this, Diane realized that her illness had abated somewhat, something she traced back to that hot summer day the year before.
An interesting story, and an exercise in how beliefs can change over time, given how the White Lady went from being a death-dealing spirit to being a healing one instead.
Good Life Ghost
I started with older photographs because in the modern era, photographs are very hard to take at face value. With the advent of Photoshop and other image editing software, it’s far too easy to edit photos and pass them off as real. But this next one I feel is a good example of a modern ghost photo, regardless of whether or not it’s a fake:
This was taken at the Good Life music festival in Australia. Now, it might be hard to see, but if you look at the far right of the picture you’ll see what appears to be the transparent image of a little girl hovering over a building of some kind. Here’s a closer view:
Now, the Good Life festival actually made an official statement on Facebook, which reads as follows:
“Good Life Management have been made aware of a photo from Good Life Brisbane 2016, showing what appears to be the ghost of a young girl holding a teddy and hovering on the roof of a building over looking the festival. We have checked with the photographer who took the photo and the original image from the memory stick also shows the girl. We have since spoken with the Brisbane Showgrounds who have revealed that ground staff refuse to go near one of the old warehouses after repeated sightings of a young girl. It is rumoured a little girl named Lucy died at the site in the early 1900’s and has haunted it since.”
Interesting stuff. They later released an update that said they couldn’t find anything that corroborated the story about Lucy, but that they still believe that the ghost in the picture is genuine. Now, it could still be a fake, perhaps some kind of marketing ploy by the festival itself. But like I said, these days it’s very hard to tell.
Oklahoma Car Impound Ghost
I thought I’d end with something different. This time, we have a video to look at, instead of just a picture.
Here’s the story: back in July of 2005 a worker at a car impound lot in Oklahoma spotted something moving around the lot on one of the cameras. Thinking there might be an intruder and confused about why the alarms had not been triggered, she sent another employee to go see what it was. But of course, they never found anything, and by that time the figure had disappeared off the cameras as well.
Now, much to my chagrin, I was unable to find a good version of the clip. There was one that just had the video itself, but for some reason the person who uploaded it put some kind of hard rock/heavy metal track in the background. So rather than make your eardrums bleed, I’ll share this video of a story a local news station did on the event instead:
It’s an interesting clip, and one I’ve actually been aware of for a long time. I first heard about the story back when I was in high school actually, and in doing this post, I was reminded of it. Could it have been faked? Probably, although I can’t see what the car lot stood to gain from doing so aside from perhaps some brief publicity. In any case, some people believe the ghost belongs to one of three car wrecks that were there that day which were involved in fatal accidents. Some went further, saying that the ghost may have been that of a 33-year-old woman named Tracy Martin, whose pick-up truck had been one of those involved in a deadly crash.
Skeptics have suggested that perhaps, among other things, someone dangled a doll on a string in front of the camera, replicating the effect of a moving figure. But like our other stories, neither side gains a victory. And so the footage will likely remain inconclusive, now and forever…
Well thank you for reading this special post. Before I go, I do want to say that I feel that the line between skeptics and believers is often too harsh. Skeptics often call believers stupid, and vice versa. Now, I am a skeptic when it comes to these things, but as I said before I still enjoy the stories. They’re almost like small nuggets of folklore in a way, telling tales about the people of the region who have come and gone. And sure, it is probably possible to fake every single entry on this list, but just because it is possible doesn’t mean it is so. That doesn’t mean that they necessarily show actual, factual proof of ghosts. It just means that there are other possibilities that don’t involve deceitful intent on the part of the photographer or other parties. Believers need to take things with a grain of salt as well though. Far too often their need to believe is so strong that they’ll ignore what is right in front of them, the same way conspiracy theorists will ignore any evidence that doesn’t support the story they want. And they often mark skeptics as “arrogant”, simply because they dare to question things.
Ghosts or no ghosts, we can all just enjoy the stories themselves. And can’t we all just admit that it’s a little arrogant of human beings to assume that we know all the ways in which the world works?
Anyways, happy Halloween everyone! Have a great holiday and I will see you this Wednesday for my regularly scheduled post.