Since I’ve already covered unicorns, UFOs, and time machines, I thought I’d throw a ghost in for good measure — a ghost featured in one of the most famous ghost photos of all time, to be precise. Provand and Shira’s photo of the Brown Lady on a staircase in Raynham Hall, Norfolk, England, appeared in Country Life magazine in December 1936. The faint, humanoid wisp has been called a ghost, a grease smear on the lens, a light-leak in the camera, and a double exposure.
I used this higher resolution image as my source. I filtered a Fourier Transform of three overlapping areas, then transformed them back, pasted them back together, and then overlayed the resulting enhanced ghost image over the original staircase to get this:
The head and neck area were particularly hard to clean up because of the chaotic nature of the background, so any features you imagine seeing there should be taken with a grain of salt.
It’s not grease on the lens, because the surface of the lens can’t be at the focal point, and thus the image of anything on it gets smeared over the entire image. The enhanced image suggests that it was an image of something real, perhaps a person wrapped in a cloak, shawl, or sheet. I favor the double-exposure hypothesis, although the scientist in me wants me to point out that it is impossible to disprove the existence of ghosts. Of note is that there is obvious doubling in the photo, which can be easily verified by looking at the horizontal lines on the wall at the top of the stairs – they come in pairs. This could suggest vertical movement of the camera during the exposure, which is quite possible considering the camera had a bellows, the film was exposed by the rather crude method of removing the lens cap, and the exposure was purportedly 6 seconds. It could also mean two different exposures were taken pointed in almost exactly the same direction. This Unexplained Mysteries page is surprisingly informative on the subject, and is recommended for further reading.