05.23.2010 · Posted in Ghosts

Wem Town Hall fire. Photo by Tony O'Rahilly.

The famous “Wem Ghost” photo from 1995 has been debunked.

Tony O’Rahilly, the photographer who took the photo of the burning Wem Town Hall in Shropshire, England, on November 19, 1995, died in 2005 and denied ever doctoring the image. Local resident Brian Lear, however, says he has proof to the contrary.

There is a postcard showing a picture from 1922 that depicts a street scene with a little girl standing on the sidewalk who looks a lot like the little girl from the Wem Ghost photo.

Wem postcard by M Audin-Wood

Postcard image. Copyright © limited 2010.

Some people were of the opinion that the ghostly girl was 14-year-old Jane Churm, who caused a fire in the town hall in 1677 by accident. Of course, no one had any photographs of young Ms. Churm for comparison.

Greg Hobson of the National Media Museum in Bradford said the process used to make the phony photo was similar to partial-exposure techniques used for fraudulent “spirit photography” from the Edwardian era.

It seems this was just one more faked photo in the long history of “ghost” photographs made for attention or profit. It’s too bad that people will take advantage of the desire of others to have their belief in spirits validated, because that belief usually stems from a desire to be more comfortable about what happens after our own deaths or the deaths of our loved ones. Then again, if people ever stopped using other people’s vulnerabilities for their own gain, that might be more paranormal than any existence of ghosts.

– Julie


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