Newby Church Ghost
1963

Does this famous, eerie photograph capture the moment a phantasm from the past appeared in front of a church altar? Or is it more mundane: a hoax or a mere simulacrum formed by defective film?

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Newby Church Ghost

Newby Church Ghost

This 'too good to be true' classic photograph 1963 was taken by Reverend Lord inside the church of Christ The Consoler, which lies within the ground of Newby Hall near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The church is relatively modern - dating back only to the 1870s, and was built as a memorial to Patrick Vyner. Captured and ransomed by Greek brigands, he was murdered by them before the ransom could be paid. His heartbroken mother used the money to build a small church in his memory.

The photograph itself looks, to most eyes, incredibly 'stagey.' The cowled figure, with its sinister cloak and menacing black eyes is highly suggestive of a fancy dress costume of some kind - although this, of course, does not logically mean that it must therefore be a hoax.

One interesting point that has been raised is that the church itself is so relatively modern. With no burial ground, cemetery or recorded history of haunting, it is surprising that a phantom should choose this particular spot to make its presence known. This question, of course, begs another in assuming that ghosts are spirits of the undead - a proposition without proof.

The sharp-eyed among you may also have noticed a couple of oddities about the photograph (aside from the mysterious figure in black!) Firstly, it is claimed that this was a formal picture of the altar - and indeed, the altar does appear to be well dressed, with floral arrangements and generally neat layout. But if you look at the step on which the ghost is standing, you might notice that on the left side there is a cushion (the type on which people knee to pray). On the right hand side, there is also a cushion, but it is not at all in a symmetrical position. In fact, where it 'should' be is the exact spot in which we find our ghost. To some people this suggests a deliberate staging. They argue that were the photograph genuinely being taken just to record the altar, then efforts would be made to present it in its best, most perfect light: i.e., with symmetry.

Secondly, the photograph also 'leans' to the left. While hardly unknown for photographs to be misaligned so, one wonders how it is that the photographer managed to be so off-kilter when supposedly taking a formal shot. To a sceptical eye, this suggests that actually it is a result of cropping to make a 'better' shot of the ghost - or to give the ghost itself an upright stance.

Another suggestion advanced - and one which assumes no suggestion of deliberate trickery - is that the ghost is actually the result of water damage to the film. The distinctive 'drooping' look to the figure - including its eyes and general shape is suggestive of water or liquid flowing down over the film. While it might seem incredible that a chance event like this might result in such an apparently clear image, it is worth reflecting that literally billions of photographs  and thus by chance alone an amazing-looking 'fluke' is bound to have occurred somewhere.

Finally, there remains the possibility that this was, in fact, a real visitation to the church by the spirit of some poor unfortunate soul...

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 27th February 2015 | © Weird Island 2010-2017
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