Famous Ghost Photos And The Stories Behind Them
The Ghost Book's selection of alleged ghosts caught on camera. Is there any truth behind the claims, or are they elaborate hoaxes? Let's find out.....
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Famous Ghost Photos

Famous ghost photos

Famous ghost photos claim to prove the existence of spirits. Some seem beyond believable, whilst others are a little more subtle and appear more credible.

With many modern, digital photos it is all too easy to assume that they have been altered using certain programs to mimic ghosts. Also, as camera technology develops, so do the chances of producing photographic errors. However, some photos seem to stand the test of time, and still have us questioning them to this day. 

Despite all this, it’s easy to take a photo on face value and form an opinion. But what about the stories that go with the photos? When it comes to making a decision about the authenticity of a photograph, a little background information can make a huge difference. And that’s where I can help you out….. 

I should also point out that many of the photos in this article were taken with an analog camera, before the digital came along to complicate things. 

Lord Combermere's Ghost
Lord Combermere's Ghost

Taken: 1891

Location: Combermere Abbey, Cheshire, UK. 

This is one of my favourite famous ghost photos.

In 1891, 73 year old Lord Combermere was visiting London when he was hit by a moving horse drawn carriage. He was a good age for the times and the accident obviously had a huge impact on his health. His legs were badly damaged. Despite this, he seemed to be making a good recovery. Lord Combermere, who’s full name was Wellington Henry Stapleton-Cotton, had an unknown blood clot forming on his heart. His sudden passing on 1st December came as a surprise.

His body was taken back home to Combermere Abbey in Cheshire see image below, and his funeral was held four days later. This photo was taken of the library of the abbey by Sybell Corbet at the time the funeral was taking place. The house was almost empty, except for a few staff including a butler and two footmen. The rest of the household were attending the funeral.

Around eight months later the photo was developed. The faint image of a man could be seen sitting in the chair, a physical impossibility. Some friends and family noted the striking resemblance to Lord Combermere. Others were sure it wasn’t him. After all, he was being buried at the exact time the photo was taken. Could the photo be the result of a long exposure image of a man sitting down at the chair and leaving again? This was suggested, but the clothing didn’t match the style worn by the staff in the house at the time. Sybell was certain that the pre-packaged plates she was using for her photography had not been damaged or prematurely exposed.

The photo remains a mystery to this day. You will notice that the legs on the image are missing. The result of long exposure during which the subjects legs continued to move? Maybe. However, it remains a chilling detail as Lord Combermere’s legs were badly damaged in the accident. Personally, I’m happy to grant this photo a place amongst the famous ghost photos. 

Ghost Hunt Locations
The Boot Hill Ghost
Boot Hill Ghost

Taken: 1996

Location: Tombstone, Arizona, USA.

I have to admit I am a big cowboy fan, and this photo has always intrigued me. It was taken at a cowboy graveyard ‘Boot Hill Cemetery’ in Tombstone, Arizona, USA in 1996.

Ike Clanton took the photo of his friend, posing appropriately for the shot. However, on review of the photo, a figure can been seen further behind Ike’s friend. To me, it looks like a young boy, but others say an old man. Ike also believes the figure to be holding a large knife, with the blade pointing upwards.

Ike revisited the cemetery a little while later to re-enact the photo in an attempt to find an explanation. When a friend stood in the same position as the figure in the original photo, his legs could clearly be seen. How is it that this ghostly figure appears to be waist deep in the earth!?

Blake Smith of skeptic.com believes this figure could be explained as being a half mannequin. Certainly, this is something that could easily be sourced in the surrounding saloons and buildings of tombstone, wearing the appropriate historic western gear. Was this a clever hoax by Ike Clanton to drive publicity towards his business? A plausible explanation but not one I readily want to believe in. For now, Boot Hill Ghost can keep it’s place in the famous ghost photos. 

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Taken: 1936

Location: Raynham Hall, Norfolk, UK.

As famous ghost photos go, I think it’s fair to say we’ve all seen this one before. It’s a golden oldie, and we’ve probably all assumed it’s a fake. However, according to paranormal investigator Harry Price, who interviewed the photographers, claimed the negative was clear of any tampering.

The story goes that in September 1936, photographer Captain Hubert Provand and his assistant Indre Shira were taking images of Raynham Hall in Norfolk for Country Life magazine. Whilst photographing the grand staircase, Provand captured this image. Apparently Shira saw the phantom gliding down the stairs and told Provand to quickly take the photo. Under the camera cloth, he said he didn’t see the figure for himself.

“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?'”

Sightings are frequent and date back as far back is the 1800s. King Charles IV even reported seeing her by his bedside during his stay. It is believed to be the spirit of Lady Dorothy Townshend, formally Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister. She was a beautiful socialite, but there are some darker stories that surround Dorothy in life and death.

It seems some kind of adulterous relationship conspired between Dorothy and Lord Wharton. As a result of this, she was held prisoner in a room at Raynham Hall until her death. Some accounts place her husband as her captor, other suggest it was Countess of Wharton. Accounts say she died from smallpox in 1726. A funeral was certainly held for her but there is some belief that her death was faked, and that she remained captive until she died as an old woman.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Either way, there seems to be a good chance that she haunts Raynham Hall. This photo, however, is now highly doubted to be legitimate. There are suggestions of lens flare and double exposure. The most interesting one, and one that I can’t refute, is the likeness of the phantom to the ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’ image, otherwise known as The Virgin Mary. What do you think? Has this photo lost it’s place in the collection of famous ghost photos?

Freddy Jackson
Freddy Jackson's Ghost

Taken: 1918

Location: Portsmouth, UK

This photo is believed to show the ghost of R.A.F. mechanic Freddy Jackson. You can see the apparent spirit peeking round from behind another, living officer.

During the First World War, Freddy worked as a mechanic for the Royal Air Force at HMS Daedalus, an airbase near Portsmouth in the south of England. After the war, he continued to serve at the base. Story states that in late 1918, he was killed in an accident involving airplane propellors. This photo was taken on 11th November 1918 by Victor Goddard, days after Freddy was killed, and on the day of his funeral.

The photograph was pinned to a notice board at the barracks to allow those in the photo to have a look, and write their names below. Members of the squadron pointed out Freddy as soon as they saw the photo. It seems he wanted to make one lasting impression, to be seen in one more squadron photo.

When discussing the photo, Goddard claims the negatives were examined for signs of tampering and were given the all clear. Blake Smith of of the site Skeptic.com put in a great amount of research into who Freddy Jackson really was. Whilst the name cropped up in listings, and indeed proved that a man with the same name died on 30th October 1918, he was discharged in March of the same year suffering with heart failure, and died in an infirmary.

Is this the same Freddy, and the story of his demise has simply ‘altered’ over the years? Or did this alleged spirit indeed die an untimely and tragic death, but perhaps has had his name forgotten and changed as the story passed through the years? It’s a tricky one to debunk but I think it will continue to stand the test of time amongst famous ghost photos. 

Newby Church Ghost
Newby Church Ghost

Taken: 1963

Location: Newby, North Yorkshire, UK.

This photo appears to show what looks like the ghost of a monk standing by a church alter. To me this photo has always been nothing more than a fake. Analysts say that the figure is too posed for it to be a genuine photo. Every time I look at the photo, all I can see is what looks like a creased sheet with eye holes cut out, under a cloak.

However, the photographer, Reverend Kenneth F. Lord, says there was no one there at the time. It was taken in 1963 in Newby, North Yorkshire, England. Experts have apparently examined the photo and ruled out any double exposure. The reason for my disbelief in the credibility of the photo has been explained by others as being a shroud worn by the monk in life to hide leprosy or a disfigurement. A possible explanation but one that still doesn’t sit well with me.

Comparing the figure to its surroundings, analysts have said the spectre is standing at 9 feet in height. An abnormally tall monk? A change in the original surroundings? Church of Christ The Consoler, as it is officially called, was built in the grounds of Newby Hall in the 1870s. Perhaps there was an older church or abbey on the site? However, the monk looks quite at home on these alter steps. You can even see the bottom of the cloak draping over a step edge. Or maybe the photo is a fake, and a prop used to heighten the alleged ‘ghost’? Experts have struggled to find an explanation for the figure in the photo, but I still remained unconvinced with this one. Famous ghost photos will always be questionable. What do you think?

Christ The Consoler
The Hanging Man
The Hanging Man Ghost

Taken: 1950s

Location: Texas, USA

If this photo was genuine, it’s probably the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously, what the hell? The people sitting at the table, said to be the Cooper Family, are smiling happily for the photo, blissfully unaware that someone has dropped in for the photo. The story goes that they bought a farm house in Texas and this photo was taken on the first night in their dream home.

Sadly, with the improvements in technology, we have to take every photograph we see with an air of caution. People like to compose photos, pretending to have captured something paranormal. Reasons for doing this escape me. Without the ability to take credit for producing a fake photo that has swept across the internet, what really is the point? Anyway, whilst I was researching this photo, I came across the site metabunk.org. There was an article written by Mick West about this photo, and thanks to Mick, I can tell you that this photo is a fake. Famous ghost photos can strike this one from the list, but I’m sure it will always creep up. No pun intended….

Robert Copper, the younger boy in the photo had this to say:

The Hanging Man Ghost Quote
The Hanging Man Ghost Debunked
The Back Seat Ghost
Back Seat Ghost

Taken: 1959

Location: England, UK

Mabel Chinnery and her husband had been to visit the grave of her mother. Mabel had been taking photographs, and snapped this one of her husband in his car. Upon developing the film, they were shocked to see a figure sitting in the back seat of the car, where none had been on the day. The figure is said to be the spirit of Mabel’s late mother.

This is one of the famous ghost photos I remember spooking myself over as a child. Many experts have determined that the photo has not been doctored. However, this does not rule out the possibility that the image is a result of double exposure, a common occurrence with old 35mm cameras. I can find little else about this photo to make a decision about its authenticity. As many like to get the bottom of such photos, and I can find no further scrutiny of this photo, perhaps we can lean towards the conclusion that it is a genuine photo…….

Worstead Church Ghost
Worstead Church Ghost

Taken: 1975

Location: Norfolk, UK

Peter Berthelot and his wife Diane visited Worstead Church in Norfolk. Peter took this photo of his wife sitting on a pew. After the film had been developed, they noticed a person sitting behind Diane, but there was no-one there at the time the photo was taken.

Despite the age of this photo, it’s one of the lesser documented famous ghost photos. This spirit is referred to as The White Lady and has been reported as far back as 1830. She is said to appear every Christmas Eve, or when people are ill. She is said to be a healer. On this particular day, Diane said she was feeling unwell, and was taking medication for an infection. At the time the photo was taken, she remembers feeling unexplainably warm and comforted.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium Ghost
Waverly HIlls Ghost Nurse

Taken: 2006

Location: Kentucky, USA

Waverly Hills is an abandoned tuberculosis hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a haven for paranormal investigators and has an abundance of stories of hauntings. There are estimated to have been thousands of deaths at the hospital before its closure in 1961.

The spirit allegedly caught in this photo is said to be the nurse Mary Hillenburg, she is named on other sites as Mary Lee. Stories say she fell pregnant to a doctor at the hospital, who later shunned her. As a result, she is said to have hanged herself in the hospital, outside room 502 in 1929. There are even those who believe she was actually murdered, and had a chair kicked from under her when the noose was around her neck. As one of the more recent famous ghost photos, the authenticity of the photo faces more hurdles as technology improves and editing becomes easier. 

However, I can find nothing online questioning the authenticity of this photo. It seems everyone is happy to accept this as a genuine spirit caught on film. However, I do have an issue with the photo that is being attached to this story. The photo which allegedly shows the nurse in question seems do take around the 1940s/1950s looking at the style of clothes and hair. Yet Mary is said to have died in 1929. I don’t think the lady in this photo is our nurse.

Waverly Hills Nurse
Toys R Us Ghost
Toys R Us Ghost

Taken: 1978

Location: Sunnyvale Toys R Us store, California, USA  

The store, which closed with the collapse of Toys R Us in 2018, is said to be haunted by Johnny Johnson, whose real name was Johann Yansen. The store was built in 1970 on land that used to be a ranch. Johnny, nicknamed by his colleagues, had an accident with an axe when chopping wood and bled to death before he was found. Extensive research done by others suggests this account, fuelled by apparent psychic’s reports, is in fact a fabrication. Others suggest the facts in the story of Johnny can be backed up by historical documents. Either way, there was several other deaths that occurred on the land when it still functioned as a farm, so the chances of a haunting are high either way.

The poltergeist activity was so strong that investigations were held in the store, one lead by psychic Sylvia Browne. An American TV series called ‘That’s Incredible’ wanted to film the seance as a feature. This image was actually captured on a video camera using infrared technology. At the same time, a photo was taken with a 35mm camera, and that apparently showed no such apparition. To me, ‘Johnny’ looks like he’s wearing flares, fitting of the time of the seance and perhaps is just another attendee, but I love this ghost story and I want to believe the image is genuine. Others certainly seem to think so, whoever the spirit might be. Do you think this should be in the collection of famous ghost photos?

Grandpa's Ghost
Grandpa's Ghost

Taken: 1997

Location: Unknown 

This photo was taken by Denise Russell of her 94 year old grandma during a picnic in 1997. Nothing unusual about that, but the man in the photo was not present at the time the photo was taken.

Fast forward three years, the grandma had sadly passed away, and during Christmas celebrations the family were reminiscing and remembering passed loved ones. They were gobsmacked to see a man standing behind their grandma, a man who hadn’t been there when the photo was taken, and a man they instantly recognised as their grandpa, who had passed away 13 years earlier in August 1984.

As with other photo’s I have researched, there seems to be a distinct lack of people with much to say in the way of this photo being faked. And that makes me happy. How comforting to imagine our loved ones around us so quietly but so closely. Here is a picture of Grandpa in life. Pretty uncanny I’d say! 

Grandpa's Ghost 2
The Amityville Ghost
Amityville Ghost

Taken: 1976

Location: Amityville, New York, USA  

There is a house in Amityville, USA that witnessed a gruesome mass murder back in 1974. 23 year old Ronald J. DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family with a .35 Marlin rifle. Both his parents and their four other children lost their lives.

The next family to live in the house were the Lutz family, who bought the house at a hugely reduced price. They left after only 28 days in the house, describing extreme paranormal activity such as green slime oozing down the walls, and a pig-like creature with glowing red eyes. As you can imagine, the house suddenly became a haven for paranormal investigators.

Famous investigators and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren visited the house in 1976. They took many infrared photos throughout the night and captured this image, apparently showing the spirit of John DeFeo who died aged 9. For various reasons, this whole story has lost a lot of it’s credibility. Despite this, there is every chance this house is haunted considering the horrendous events that occurred there. I find this photo photo quite sad.

Many people have discredited this photo, saying that the image looks like one of the crew in the house that day. This is a picture of John DeFeo. I certainly say the image in question looks a lot more like a young boy than a grown man.  

John DeFeo