Top 20 Times Real-Life Ghosts Were Caught On Camera
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
These terrifying images will shock you! For this list, we'll be looking at photos of mysterious figures that just might be spirits from the great beyond. Our countdown includes Toys “R” Us Ghost, The Original Photobomber, The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, Freddy Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and more!
Top 20 Times Ghosts Were Actually Caught On Camera
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Times Ghosts Were Actually Caught On Camera.
For this list, we’ll be looking at photos of mysterious figures that just might be spirits from the great beyond. At least that’s what some believe.
Do you think ghosts are real? If not, let us know if this video changes your mind in the comments.
#20: W. T. Stead
British medium Richard Boursnell rose to notoriety with his spirit photographs. While many were considered fraudulent, Boursnell’s most famous photo featured William Thomas Stead and a supposed spirit. A newspaper editor and one of the earlier investigative journalists, Stead was also an outspoken spiritualist. Investigating a case, Stead posed for this photo, which he deemed the real deal. Resembling the Ghost of Christmas Present, the mounting figure next to Stead was identified as Piet Botha, a Boer soldier who died in the South African War. Although Stead claimed that Botha wasn’t known in England, others found articles from several years earlier reporting his death with a photo including. It’s also been theorized that the “spirit” was taken from a photo of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
#19: Three’s a Crowd
In the early 2000s, a couple of girlfriends had a stranger take their photo in Manila, Republic of the Philippines. An unexpected third party popped up in the pic, however. The transparent figure appears to be grabbing one girl’s arm, although neither sensed another presence in their midst. While the figure’s body seems to be human, its head looks like a cross between a monkey and a house-elf. The photo was taken on a cell phone camera, which explains the low quality. It also might explain the figure, which could be a result of double exposure. However, we like to believe that a lonely ghost was looking for a girls’ night out.
#18: Ghost on the Train Tracks
Complete with a nighttime backdrop, train tracks, and a small, phantom-like being, this photo has all the hallmarks of a classic ghost story. Speaking of which, the photo’s backstory sounds like something you’d hear around a campfire. According to legend, a school bus stalled on the San Antonio tracks in the 30s or 40s. Suddenly, a train charged into the bus, resulting in the deaths of several children aboard. In one version, the bus driver survived the crash. Overcome with guilt, the driver attempted to take their life by waiting on the tracks for another train, but the ghosts of the children pushed their car to safety. This photo from Andy and Debi Chesney suggests that the intersection is grounded in tragedy and the supernatural.
#17: Robert A. Ferguson’s Brother
Even when a family member dies, it can sometimes feel like they’re still looming over your shoulder. This photo takes that notion quite literally. At an L.A. spiritualist convention, Robert A. Ferguson took to the podium while someone in the crowd snapped his photo on a Polaroid. Ferguson wasn’t alone in the picture, as another man resembling his brother Walter materialized beside him. Here’s the thing, though. Walter died during World War II in 1944. This photo wouldn’t be taken until November 16, 1968. We can only assume that this heightened Robert’s belief in the supernatural. He’d go on to write the 1977 book, “Psychic Telemetry: New Key to Health, Wealth, and Perfect Living.”
#16: Toys “R” Us Ghost
Growing up, few things were more enthralling than browsing Toy “R” Us for Transformers, Barbies, and… ghosts? At a Sunnyvale, California location, a foreboding figure appeared in the background of this photo, although he apparently wasn’t present when it was taken. Some believe the Sunnyvale store is haunted with various employees and patrons reporting strange activities. As legend goes, the store was built where the Murphy farm once stood. A preacher named Johnny Johnson fell in love with Murphy’s daughter Elizabeth, but she fancied a lawyer. Johnson later died in an accident involving an ax, although his spirit still roams the land according to psychic Sylvia Browne. Whether or not it’s Johnny in the picture, we guess Toy “R” Us is technically a ghost now.
#15: Come Play with Us at the Stanley Hotel
Of course “The Shining” would lead to some real-world ghost stories. The Stanley Hotel in Colorado inspired the Overlook from Stephen King’s classic horror novel. Although Oregon’s Timberline Lodge was used for exterior shots in the 1980 film adaptation, the 1997 miniseries was shot at the Stanley Hotel. While taking the hotel’s spirit tour, John “Jay” Mausling snapped a photo on his phone. Investigating the photo, John and his wife Jessica noticed a little blonde girl who wasn’t present on the tour. Although some believe this is the work of photoshop, John claims that he isn’t the most tech-savvy person. Former FBI agent Ben Hansen also found no clear signs of doctoring, calling it “one of the best photos of possible paranormal evidence [he’s] seen.”
#14: Jason Griffiths’ Grandfather
Two years after Jason Griffiths’ grandfather, Alan Price, died, his family continues to feel his presence… or at least a ghostly presence. Jason’s uncle moved into the house that Alan and his wife once occupied, claiming that he saw a murky man lurking in the garden. Jason and his fellow amateur ghost hunter, Steven Richards, dropped by to investigate the bizarre activity. Of all the footage they caught on camera, the highlight was what appears to be a face gazing through the kitchen window. Jason not only noticed a resemblance to his grandfather, but the so-called ghost appeared to be wearing his hat as well. If the house is indeed haunted, at least the Griffiths are keeping it in the family.
#13: Man in Black at Sefton Church
Since churches are such spiritual places, it only makes sense that they would get a few ghosts. Constructed in the 12th century, Sefton Church still stands in Merseyside, England. In September 1999, two people at the church took this photo, which was published in Brad Steiger’s “Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places.” Although the two don’t recall anybody being in their shot, the photo reveals a blurry man wearing black. Given the figure’s dark attire, some have speculated that this might be the ghost of a minister. Of course, devils have also been depicted in black getups. Whether he’s from above or below, the person in this picture definitely looks otherworldly.
#12: The Original Photobomber
If you were to just look at one half of this photo, it might seem like a pleasant moment shared between two mothers and their children. Zooming out, however, you’ll find something straight out of a gothic horror story. Supposedly taken in the 50s, the photo depicts a figure hanging upside down while the others gaze unsuspectingly into the camera. The figure almost blends into the background with its shadowy arms and a head that’s nothing but a black void, almost like Slender Man’s. Where Slender Man wears a dark suit, though, it looks like this figure is wearing some sort of one-piece long underwear. While that kind of takes away from the creep factor, we still wouldn’t want this faceless figure photobombing us.
#11: Ghosts on the Tulip Staircase
The Queen’s House in Greenwich, which is now part of the National Maritime Museum, has what might be the first self-supporting spiral staircase in the UK. Known as the Tulip Stairs, these historic steps caught the eye and the camera of Reverend Ralph Hardy in June 1966. Observing the photo, Hardy noticed an eerie figure clinging to the railing. A séance was held by the staircase and others tried to capture the supposed spirit on film, but no luck. Hardy’s photo appears to be an anomaly, although it’s not the only report of supernatural activity at the Queen’s House. In any case, this photo is further proof of why the spiral staircase is the most spine-chilling staple of any haunted house.
#10: The Works of William Hope
William Hope was one of the first individuals to specialize in spirit photography, putting together a portfolio of otherworldly images. He even served as the founder and leader of the Crewe Circle Spiritualist group. Some of Hope’s spirit photos were proven to be fake and many believed that he was a fraud in general. Even so, Hope would give us some of the most iconic photos in all of ghost hunting. In a photo of Charles Tweedale and his wife, the spirit of her late father can allegedly be seen in the background. A similar photo supposedly reunited Mr. and Mrs. Gibson with their late son. Arguably the most famous photo Hope took was of Mrs. Hortense Leverson as her departed husband loomed over her.
#9: Terrifying Terrier
Losing a cherished pet is never easy, although it wasn’t just the owners who had to bid farewell to this terrier. The bigger dog in this other photo, which was taken a few weeks after the loss, was the terrier’s playmate. The terrier’s death took a noticeable toll on the big dig, but the pooch’s little friend might’ve been closer than anyone thought. If you look closely at the photo, you can spot what looks like the terrier levitating over the big dog. Was this a photography trick, a similar-looking dog, or was the terrier not ready to go to the big fire hydrant in the sky? In any case, the story was fascinating enough to make it into a 1939 issue of Life magazine.
#8: Ginevra King
“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” That’s one of Daisy Buchanan’s most memorable quotes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, “The Great Gatsby.” It’s widely believed that Daisy was inspired by socialite Ginevra King, who was briefly involved with Fitzgerald during their youth. King passed away in 1980, but could the green light still be burning at the end of the dock? This photo taken by Kristie Ranieri in 2018 seems to suggest so. Ranieri was outside King’s old summer home in Lake Forest, Illinois when she captured this eerie image. King believes that the strange face in the photo is King’s ghost, noting a haunting resemblance to the late heiress.
#7: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
The only thing more chilling than this photo is its backstory. The ghostly figure is supposedly Lady Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Prime Minister Robert Walpole and the second wife of Charles Townshend. As legend has it, Townshend learned that Dorothy had an affair with nobleman Thomas Wharton prior to their marriage. Holding a fake funeral for her, Townshend locked Dorothy up at Raynham Hall where she remained until her passing in 1726. While much of that story is based on rumors, this photography is all the proof some spiritualists need. Taken by Captain Hubert C. Provand in 1936, the photo supposedly shows Dorothy’s ghost wandering down the stairs of Raynham Hall. She was apparently wearing a brown dress, hence the nickname “The Brown Lady.”
#6: Spectre of Newby Church
In 1963, Reverend Kenneth F. Lord snapped this photo inside the Newby Hall’s Church of Christ the Consoler. The church’s beautiful architecture is largely outshined by a dark figure hanging out in the corner. Wearing what appears to be a hooded robe and a white shroud, the ghostly figure came to be known as the Newby Monk, as well as the Spectre of Newby Church. Where some people believe this to be a nine-foot-tall 16th-century monk, others claim that it’s merely a costumed accomplice standing on a box. It’s also been theorized that the figure is a product of double exposure, which is when multiple images are placed over each other to create a single image, although a few photography experts would beg to differ.
#5: Ellen Hammell
We’ve all heard the stranger in the backseat urban legend, and this spine-chilling photo only gives you more reason to keep an eye on the rearview mirror. In 1959, Mabel Chinnery took a photo of her husband in the driver’s seat of their car. Chinnery’s mother, Ellen Hammell, can supposedly be seen in the backseat. The thing is, Mrs. Hammel had died a week earlier and the photo was taken shortly after visiting her grave! What’s more, Chinnery’s mother liked to sit in that exact spot whenever Mr. Chinnery drove her around. Again, double exposure might be the most obvious explanation for this alleged hitchhiking ghost. However, at least one photo expert believed it was genuine according to Parade magazine, which published the story.
#4: Freddy Jackson
At first glance, this photo of a Royal Air Force squadron might not seem like anything out of the ordinary. It stands out for two reasons, though. First, it was taken by Sir Victor Goddard, who fought in both World Wars. Second, you can allegedly see the ghost of air mechanic Freddy Jackson in the background. Two days before the photo was taken in 1919, Jackson tragically died in an airplane propeller accident. Those who knew Freddy couldn’t help but notice his resemblance to the ghostly face in the photo. Some like to think that Jackson was unaware of his passing and thus joined in the group pic. The photo was later published in 1975, and the exact nature behind it continues to baffle.
#3: Lord Combermere
In 1891, the 2nd Viscount Combermere was laid to rest. If this photo is any indication, however, Lord Combermere might have been absent from his own funeral. Shortly before the funeral, Lord Combermere’s sister-in-law, Sybell Corbet, arranged a camera at the Abbey Library and took an hour-long exposure. Combermere Abbey was four miles away from St Margaret’s Church where the funeral was being held. When the photo was developed, an apparition resembling Lord Combermere was found sitting in his favorite chair. The most logical explanation is that one of the staff members stayed behind and sat in the chair, although they were apparently all at the funeral. Perhaps Lord Combermere was taking a brief rest before moving on to the Great Beyond.
#2: The Amityville Ghost
Ronald DeFeo Jr. was infamously responsible for the deaths of six family members in 1974. Thirteen months after the murders took place, the DeFeo house was purchased by the Lutz family, who left after 28 days due to alleged paranormal activity. This would all provide the basis for “The Amityville Horror” books and films, but is the house truly haunted? Who better to find out than Ed and Lorraine Warren, two names you’ll recognize from “The Conjuring” movies. Investigating the house a few weeks after the Lutz family departed, the Warrens walked away with a photo of a bright-eyed little boy. There were apparently no children in the house, leading some to believe that this was the ghost of nine-year-old John Matthew DeFeo, Ronald’s brother.
#1: Abraham Lincoln
Before there was William Hope, there was William H. Mumler, widely considered the first spirit photographer. Although many believed Mumler to be a fraud, this photo would forever engrave his name in the paranormal history books. Mumler’s subject is Mary Todd Lincoln and the ghostly figure putting his hands on her shoulders is allegedly President Abraham Lincoln, who was, of course, assassinated in 1865. It’s been said that this photo was taken in 1869 and Mumler didn’t know until after it developed that Mrs. Lincoln had been in his presence. Another account claims that Mumler took it in the 1870s and Mrs. Lincoln approached him under a pseudonym. As for the photo’s legitimacy, maybe it’s fake, but only Honest Abe himself would know for sure.