Investigating Britain’s Sexiest Ghost

torquay selfie (1 of 1)

The day I arrived in Torquay was the sunniest we’d had yet in 2016. People lined the sea front in their holiday clothes and ate chips and ice-cream. The breeze from the sea ruffled through, providing an occasional release from the unrelenting heat, spinning rainbow pinwheels and tumbling seagulls around the sky as it went.

A man with a sweeping brush drew complex patterns into the sand, moving in a way that suggested this was a form of meditation for him. Elsewhere children ran around just because they could, sticks at the ready to poke in the sand. Boys with kayaks fought the waves, a photographer carefully stalked a group of sandpipers up and down the shore. It was charming just as the British seaside always is but I didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it. I was on a mission to investigate Britain’s sexiest ghost, and ghosts wait for no man.

sexiest ghost Torquay
The ghost

That ghosts are even real is a subject of much debate but Torquay museum insist they’ve got one, and not just any old ghost at that. Theirs is the sexiest one. Part of me is alarmed that you can still be objectified once you’re dead but that’s a different conversation for another day.

Last October their ghost made the headlines when it left fingerprints inside a glass case which houses a mummy. It hasn’t been established just how a ghost could leave fingerprints on glass without having physical hands but let’s humour this idea for a moment.

Just prior to the fingerprints being discovered it is claimed ‘the female ghost was seen creeping between the artefacts. She was wearing old clothing showing off all her assets as she emerged from the floor and cast her eyes down towards a light.’

In July 2015 the ghost was photographed in the Old Devon Farmhouse exhibition, leaning forwards slightly and showing off her cleavage. There has been speculation online about the cause of what is seen in the photo. Some people believe it to be staged, others suggest it is the reflection of someone in a window pane among other theories.

I was contacted by US paranormal researcher Benjamin Radford who wanted to know if I (as a British paranormal investigator) had heard anything through the grapevine about this particular case. The grapevine is a valued asset to paranormal researchers and it’s usually through word of mouth that tip offs come that help solve cases. After a long discussion I agreed to visit Torquay to have a look at the room and to take detailed photographs so that a cause might be established once and for all.

Ghost photos that are genuinely interesting are rare; they generally tend to be bad hoaxes, random blurs mistaken for something, photographic errors, or nothing at all. There was certainly something in this photo which made it stand out in my mind. There are times when an investigator can work out what is happening without an on-site visit, but more often than not actually being on location is beneficial and eye-opening. The answer can slap you right in the face when you thought you’d need hours of sleuthing. You might meet the “ghost” in person and be able to kill your afternoon in the pub instead (this has happened.)

Upon arriving at the museum and venturing onto the top floor where The Old Devon Farmhouse exhibit lives one thing became apparent straight away. The ghost was not caused by a reflection as many had suggested. I found all of the reflective surfaces in the room and took photos of the fireplaces through them from different angles to try and replicate what is seen in the original photo but it wasn’t possible.

Photo 21
The things I do…

As I inspected the area I saw that there were small benches next to one of the fireplaces that were in the right position for the ghost to have been seated on at the time. Therefore it is my conclusion that Britain’s sexiest ghost  was actually a living person sitting in the dark next to one of the fireplaces. It almost looks as though her face is lit by the screen of an electronic item such as a camera or phone.

The small benches in question
The small benches in question

After my inspection of the exhibit I found staff members and volunteers on the ground floor and inquired with them about the ghost. They explained that many people took part in ghost hunt events in the museum and had strange experiences. One of the women I spoke to explained that a whole shelf of books had flown off of the shelf in the gift shop one afternoon as she spoke with customers. That was the one original activity that any of them could recall – everything else was related to these ghost hunting events.

This is problematic because people taking part in a ghost hunting event have primed themselves to interpret things that they experience as most likely to be paranormal. When a haunting is largely based on the experiences of people who have paid to have a paranormal experience it isn’t a very reliable or interesting case and eye-witness testimony is not useful evidence or data.

I inspected the mummy case while at the museum. Remember, this mummy made headlines in October 2015 when ghostly fingerprints appeared on it during a ghost event.

Photo 98
Can you see the fingerprints?

The only problem is that there were fingerprints and greasy hand marks all over the case when I visited. The case is quite low down so that children can see the mummy properly so there’s absolutely nothing to suggest, to me, that fingerprints appearing on this display are out of the ordinary.

Photo 101

To establish that the fingerprints were not inside the case originally, or that they had simply not been noticed before would be an incredible feat. But even if we know for sure that this was true there is nothing to suggest that fingerprints appearing inside a case were caused by a ghost. There are a number of perfectly ordinary scenarios that could result in prints appearing inside the case when they weren’t there before.

I believe that these ghost-related headlines and events are all inspired by falling visitor numbers and are an attempt to to get people through the door and to drive revenue. It’s a shame because this sort of ghost tourism is quite uninspired when there are such interesting exhibits one could use to engage the public with but I think we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. 

It has been reported that ‘council figures show the [visitor] numbers dropped in 2013/14 from 25,957 to 18,743′ and the same report detailed how in 2015/16 the museum faced a 42% budget cut from the local authority. The Austerity that the Conservative government have imposed upon the United Kingdom is slowly strangling art and cultural organisations throughout the country. Museum manager, Phillip Collins said the funding cuts could ‘kill Torquay Museum before we are able to put ourselves on a secure financial footing for the future.’ 

That museums face this challenge is heartbreaking. Please visit your local museum, and not just because Britain’s Sexiest Ghost might be lurking in the shadows. Pervert.


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Mystery Hand Haunts Belfast Mill Workers

the mysterious hand close up

HuffPo have reported that during the creation of a historic gallery by Belfast Live it was noticed that a photo taken in 1900 of some Belfast mill workers shows a disembodied hand resting on the shoulder of one of the women.

photo of mill workers
The Mysterious Hand

Sure enough, if you look at the woman seated on the right of the first row of four she has a hand resting upon her shoulder that appears to have no owner. So, is this a ghostly manifestation? Thing from The Addams Family dropping in to say hi? Or does she literally have a disembodied hand sitting there?

the mysterious hand close up
Close up of the hand

As a paranormal researcher of some experience I can tell you that when it comes to photographs nothing is ever what it seems. Many people believe that photo manipulation was born when the modern computer was created but it pre-dates Photoshop by a long, long time. In fact, as soon as the science of photography was perfected for general use people began to manipulate the photographs they were taking.

Usually this was to correct over-exposures and similar issues by fitting two photographic plates together to create one image, other times this would be for comedic or artistic effect. Photograph manipulation was particularly popular among advertising agencies and also, more controversially, for political propaganda – the most noted case of this being Stalin having opponents erased from or added into photos.

stalin photos
Naughty, naughty Stalin…

People also faked ghostly apparitions in their photographs by creating purposeful double exposures which would result in ghostly figures appearing in the photograph alongside the medium or the customer (who was often hoping to contact a deceased loved one.) American spirit photographer William Mumler is by far the most famous employer of this method of trickery, having been caught out and tried in court for fraud.

Mumler photos
Examples of the work of William Mumler

The mysterious hand in the photo of the Belfast mill workers is most likely the result of photo manipulation. I suspect there were other people in the photo who were edited out, with the hand accidentally being left in place – or proving too difficult to erase cleanly. Today we would call this sort of mistake a “photoshop fail” and there are whole web galleries devoted to left behind limbs. Here are some examples:

catalogue photo error
How many hands does this man have?
miley cyrus photo error
Miley Cyrus appears to have a third hand

 

basketball player photo
Extra hands would be useful in basketball, I guess…

Christine Hamlett’s Pendle Witch Photo: So Wrong It Hurts…

pendle photo

I have a bit of a thing about the Pendle Witch Trials mainly because one of our family legends is that we have some very distant family link with one of the witches and, as a result, I have grown up with their story – it being my first taste of brutal injustice. One of my favourite stories comes from my mum who grew up in Nelson and could see Pendle Hill from her childhood home. As a child she was told stories that you could see the witches flying around the hill on their brooms on Halloween and one evening she was apprehensively looking at the hill through a window with this story in her mind when suddenly some birds flew past the window and sent her running terrified!

In early October various news outlets including The Mirror and The Daily Star wrote about a photo that a self-confessed psychic took that she claims shows the ghost of Jennet Device. Or Jennet Preston – the papers can’t quite decide which Jennet it’s supposed to be. I don’t often read paranormal related news items of this nature ever since I stopped creating the Weakly Ghost Bulletin for this blog. However because I’m soon to be creating The Spooktator I’ve started to read them again and this particular news report got so much wrong that it staggered me when I read it – so much so that I’ve simply got to write about it here and couldn’t wait until November 4th (when we broadcast our first live episode) to report on it.

The woman who took the photo, Christine Hamlett, has appeared on this blog before in Weakly Ghost Bulletin #4 after she claimed she had taken a photo of Slenderman in Cannock Chase and, before that, a “Black Eyed Kid” in the same area. Rubbish ghost photos of bad quality are her thing apparently.

The Daily Star reports that Hamlett is convinced her photo shows the ghost of Jennet Device, ‘She believes she saw nine-year-old Jennet Device, one of the ‘witches’ who was hanged in the famous 1612 trials.’

It isn’t just rubbish photos that are her thing because her information here is completely incorrect. Less than impressive for someone who claims to talk to the dead…

Jennet Device was nine-years-old at the time of the infamous Lancashire witch trials but she played a key role in the prosecution of the people of who were accused of witchcraft in 1612 and would become known as “The Pendle Witches.” Jennet Device may have eventually been tried and hanged as a witch at a later date because a woman of that name was listed in a group of twenty people tried for Witchcraft at Lancaster Assizes on 24 March 1634 but if that was the same person she would not have been nine when she died. She certainly was not tried as a witch in 1612. Jennet Preston was though, but she was not nine-years old.

If Jennet Device was hanged as a witch in adulthood she would not have been buried in what the papers refer to “the infamous Pendle graveyard” which is actually called Newchurch-in-Pendle graveyard as Pendle is a borough and not a hamlet, village or town, despite the Daily Star reporting that ‘the Lancashire town is in the top 10 spookiest places to live in the UK.’ Such a bastion of quality reporting…

In fact, the confusion here has probably arisen due to a local myth that Alice Nutter is buried up against the South wall of the church. Good old Wikipedia reports ‘The “eye of God” is built into the west side of the tower. To the east of the porch, up against the south wall, is the grave of a member of the Nutter family (carved with a skull and crossbones). Local legend has it that it’s the last resting place of Alice Nutter, one of the famous Pendle witches. However, executed witches were not normally buried in consecrated ground, and the skull and crossbones is a common memento mori device used to remind onlookers of their own mortality. So it can be fairly confidently asserted that the legend is in fact a myth.’

This came to mind when I read Hamlett’s claims because when I was a little girl I was told “some people say the eye of God was put on the church to keep watch over the witches who were buried outside of the graveyard.” No wonder I would grow up to be interested in the supernatural…

All in all Christine Hamlett would do well to google stuff before going to the newspapers. It’s embarrassing to get this sort of detail incorrect, but to do so when also claiming to have supernatural insight and the ability to photograph and communicate with the dead? Utter fail.

Hamlett said: “I invite the spirits to reveal themselves to me and take the photographs. My friends call me the psychic paparazzi.”

Yes, I bet they do…

Woman Catches Grey Lady Of Longleat House On Camera… Sort Of…

new longleat image

Don’t ask why but I recently felt compelled to pick up the September 2015 issue of Chat It’s Fate magazine as I wandered through my local supermarket. It’s the magazine for the type of person that I’m not – people who are trying to be at one with themselves and trying to aligning their chakras while cleansing their houses and colons of negative energy. It was full of the usual waffle about miracles, too-good-to-be-coincidences coincidences and spiritual awakenings but scattered throughout were pages on which regular readers could send letters and photos in and, if they were lucky (ha) they might be chosen as letter of the month, pic of the month or spooky photo of the month for which there is a monetary award.

longleat gray lady hoax

Imagine my complete lack of surprise to discover that the spooky photo of the month for September 2015 was a staged ghost photo. According to Diana Barrett who sent it into the magazine on behalf of “a friend” said “friend” has ‘recently visited Longleat Safari and Adventure park in Wiltshire and took some photos in Longleat House. She didn’t notice anything strange until she looked at the pics later. The manor is allegedly haunted by a Grey Lady – and if you look between the two portraits, there she is, clear as day.’

grey lady close up

Diana is right, her “friend” did capture the ghost of the Grey Lady on camera… that is, the projection of the Grey Lady. I live in Wiltshire and I love Longleat House and I would visit the Safari Park often throughout my childhood. Longleat House embrace their gruesome ghost legends and every October host a Halloween festival which includes a ghost walk in the house which I can thoroughly recommend after attending last year. Not only that but in the main hall- where this photo was taken -they have a projection of the Grey Lady which appears in front of a set of wooden doors between two portraits, looks around the hall as though searching for somebody (which is part of her legend), and then she vanishes only to reappear a few moments later. Down in the creepy cellars of the house you might witness the disembodied shadow of a body tumbling down a servants staircase only to run off into the cellars – a hologram of the ghost said to linger in that area of the house. It’s all quite fun, really.

When I contacted the Longleat House media team they confirmed that the projection of the Grey Lady of Longleat was played throughout the year and that this wasn’t the first time that someone has tried to sell such a photo to the press. Hilarious then that the publication to fall for it is Chat It’s Fate and that not only did they publish the photo, they paid the reader for the privilege of doing so.

It’s almost as though it was destined to be…

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #14

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

This week on in the Weakly Ghost Bulletin I will be using The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting to rate the stories I cover. You’re welcome.

Is This Video Shot At SS Great Britain Proof Ghosts Exist?

No. It is not.

Firstly, the video is from 2009 and is being reported in 2015 so we can’t rely on the information being reported. Secondly, in the video someone is filming an exhibit on the SS Great Britain which is now based in Bristol. At the start of the video we are told that the voice of a child can be heard saying “shut up” at the 18 second mark and we are told that no child is present at the time of recording. However, when the video starts you can hear what sounds like children talking in the background, as well as the sounds of people moving around the old ship. I can hear someone say something that sounds like “shut up” in a whisper-like voice but there’s nothing about it that sounds child-like to me. It’s probably just someone who was behind the camera speaking without those focussing on what is being filmed realising it.

On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: Boring.

Ghost In Photo Sparks Supernatural Mystery

supernatural mystery - ghost app

The Welwyn Hatfield Times reports that ‘Vicky Mills was lying on her sofa when her grandson took a picture of her on his phone last Friday. It was only when then looked at it that they noticed the figure. Standing in the doorway to the front room is the figure of what appears to be a woman.’

Oh yes. Another Smartphone Ghost hoax. Pretty unoriginal by now though, to be honest. But wait…

‘Vicky said: “It’s so clear, down to the hand on the arm of the sofa. “I know you can get apps to create these effects but the phone had nothing like that on it.”’

I’ll believe that when I see the exif data from the photo. Until then, if it looks like a smartphone hoax, smells like a smartphone hoax and barks like a smartphone hoax… know what I’m saying?

On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: tedious.

Woman Takes Creepy Photo Of A Ghostly Figure In A Bar

photo at spirit fair

According to the Daily Fail ‘A photographer has been left spooked after capturing a chilling image on her camera of what appeared to be a ghostly figure standing on an empty floor by a bar. And to make the image more eerie, Felicity Cole, from Tasmania, was working at a spiritual, wellbeing, and positive energy-themed event.’

Oh boy.

The photo looks like the camera was simply set on long exposure and someone walked through the room and that’s what we’re seeing. Only… ‘Ms Cole told Daily Mail Australia her camera was set to a slow shutter speed – on a slow exposure – but what she captured has left everyone baffled. ‘On a slow exposure, if a person walked in front of the camera, they would look streamlined and it would show the whole body,’ Ms Cole told Daily Mail Australia. ‘But you can only see what seems to be legs and no upper cut.”

Erm, that happens sometimes but it depends on the settings used. Long/time exposure photography involves a long-duration shutter speed which helps capture stationary elements clearly and sharply while blurring moving elements. If someone moved through a photo set-up quickly you’d should expect to see something like the photo above, whereas if the moving elements of the photo were constant (stars in the night sky or water running over rocks) they’d be more consistent while still being distorted in appearance.

On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: You tried.

 

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Bulletin. If you spot a rubbish paranormal news story why not send me a Tweet? Please also consider supporting the video series exploring the paranormal that I’m currently planning over on Indiegogo. Every donation will help!