2015, May: Ghost Photographed at Torquay Museum

The Torquay Museum in Devon, England, hosted a special "Night at the Museum" in May, 2015, during which representatives of the group "Real Investigators of the Paranormal" told stories of their past adventures. During this evening, photographs were taken throughout the museum, presumably for having publicity shots for later museum use. It wasn't until July that one of the museum's staff, Carl Smith, was going through the pictures and discovered the following strange photograph which was taken in a section of the museum called the 'Old Farmhouse':

Ghost of the Torquay Museum [Larger version here]

        The story was released in the Herald Express website, a newspaper local to Torquay, on July 17. Every statement from both Carl Smith at the Torquay Museum and from the 'Real Investigators of the Paranormal' make clear that there was no one in the room when the picture was taken. Carl Smith, from Torquay Museum, is quoted as saying: "It appears to be a woman, and from the angle of the photograph it looks like she is submerged into the floor, almost like she is below floor level." Her relative position to the floor is not clearly shown in the photo at all; but according to Smith, the red object is the fire in the 'Old Farmhouse' display area (presumably not a real fire!), and that coupled with a knowledge of where the camera was pointed likely allowed them to figure out her position in the floor.

Some Questions & Things to Note

        The museum event does not sound like it was a controlled investigation. Carl Smith was also quoted as saying: "We were very excited about the picture, as we were taking photos all over the place, and it wasn't until afterwards when we examined them more closely that we noticed it, which was quite spooky." Given the unsupervised nature of the photography, and the clear intention to try to produce a ghostly phenomena, I'd be interested in knowing who took the pictures -- if it was one person, or a larger group of people -- and who exactly was present when the picture was taken.

        Having a ghost reported as standing at a level that a floor previously held -- and therefore being seen either partway in the floor or a bit above -- is a behavior that has turned up in many accounts; so it's interesting to see it claimed here. The 'Old Farmhouse' display is on the third floor of the museum though, so arguments that a ghost is standing at an original floor level seem unlikely.

        Smith also pointed out that the equipment and furniture that is on display in the 'Old Farmhouse' area was mostly donated by just one person, and has some pieces that date back three-hundred years... so, by implication of Smith's mentioning this, the ghost might have been donated to the museum along with the old items.

        Months later, a second "Night at the Museum" brought a claim of the appearance of anomalous fingerprints within a display case in the musuem... which many news services were quick to blame on the ghost above, now nicknamed "Britain's sexiest ghost." No, really. ['See Also' below]

Skepticism and Ghostly Sightings

        In October, 2015, a noted member of the 'Committee for Skeptical Inquiry', Ben Radford, put forward his opinion in an article in the Huffington Post that the Torquay picture of a 'ghost' was likely that of a guest that evening, perhaps taken near a glass window in a display and therefore being a reflection of the person. He also stated his opinion that the official statement that no one was present at the time of the photograph must be mistaken. Radford offers no proof of these ideas other than his own long distance opinion, however, as he already believes the picture cannot be that of a ghost... therefore he felt his point was proven just by suggesting possible alternative explanations.

        I wanted to know what the area the picture was taken in looked like during day hours, so I did some digging and got lucky. On the devon2mother website [Link Here], the author had visited the Torquay Museum in November 2015, and had taken two photos of the 'Old Farmhouse' displays on the third floor of the museum. One of the pictures matched the features of the fireplace in the ghost photo. So, lining up the fireplace in the ghost photo and the fireplace in the display photo, I was able to produce this composite that shows the position of the figure in the room when the shot was taken:

Ghost in FarmhouseRelative position of figure in the 'Old Farmhouse' room [Picture sources here]

The placement of the pot where the figure could be kneeling may have happened after the ghost photo was taken; the farmhouse room photo was taken six months after the ghost photo was taken, so furniture could have been re-arranged. The main thing to note here is that the figure doesn't need to be standing in the floor; if the figure was kneeling, the same placement in the room could be accomplished, which means it is possible that it is just a photo of a person... possibly with their face lit up by a cell phone.

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