2018, January 24: The Eynsford Castle Ghost Photo

The story first hit the news in the Daily Mail website, which does not usually bode well. In any case, the story was published online at the Daily Mail on January 24, 2018.

        At least a week earlier -- the exact date is never specified -- a man named Jon Wickes took his 12-year-old son Harry to Eynsford Castle in Kent, England. Harry was learning about medieval castles at school, and the ruins of Eynsford Castle is a easily explored tourist site, so the Wickes walked around and took pictures. It was only later they noticed that one picture included something it shouldn't.

The photo
An odd figure?

Closer
A closer look. [Larger versions here]

        Wickes was unsure of what the black figure was; but he was pretty sure no one else was around when he'd snapped the shot. So he did some online research about the castle and discovered that in 1130 the man who held the castle for the Archbishop of Canterbury, named William de Eynsford, was believed to have retired to be a monk. Further, Wickes read that a black monk had being spotted in the area of the castle previously.

        Still, he wasn't ready to label the image a ghost, so Wicke posted the picture online to an unnamed paranormal group to see some other opinions and guesses. Many felt it was a ghost; but some in the group suggested the 'figure' was actually just a dark hole in the wall ahead of the shot.

        After this, Wicke decided to show the photo and tell his findings to paranormal investigator Alan Tigwell who, as it worked out, lives reasonably close to Eynsford Castle. Tigwell traveled to the castle on Thursday, January 18, to examine it and, because he knew of the theories from the online paranormal group, he was especially careful to look for openings that could create the shape in the photo. Referencing the photo, Tigwell lined himself up at the back of the castle in what he felt was a good workout of where the photo had to have been taken from... and, to quote Tigwell: "all I can say is that there wasn't anything in the castle itself that could explain that picture." Tigwell stated the picture was "fantastic," assuming, of course, what Wickes said about how the picture was taken was true.

A Strange Story Further

        As an additional oddity, though Wickes was unsure about what the figure in the photo was, if it was a ghost it wouldn't be his first encounter with the paranormal. In 1995 Wickes had been in a motorcycle accident that had literally killed him... he was revived, presumably by the efforts of a hospital and or emergency team.

        In his brief moment of being dead, Wicke told the Daily Mail "...I saw my grandfather telling me to go back to the other side. You never know." He also admitted the vision could be related to being on a lot of morphine as well.

        The Daily Mail article ends by telling us that "English Heritage, who manage Eynsford Castle, did not wish to comment."

Double-Checking the History

         So the reason I mentioned that the Daily Mail as source for this matter didn't bode well is because the Daily Mail is a British news service that has a reputation for both spicing up stories and just plain inventing them. They've gotten so notorious for it, as a matter of fact, that as of February 2017 the web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia has stated it will no longer accept the use of the Daily Mail and related sites/publications as information sources for their online articles! As such, the details do matter quite a bit in this case, so I double-checked what the article presented about the history of the castle among other things.

        The Eynsford Castle was built by William de Eynsford sometime around 1085CE to help protect the lands owned in the area by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was occupied by the Eynsford family until 1261CE, and the descendants in control of the castle were all named William as well... numbers I through VII to distinguish them. William I, builder of the original castle, did indeed retire to become a monk sometime in the 1130's.

        Having said that, I have been completely unable to find any earlier mention whatsoever of either a ghost attached to the castle, or specifically any sightings of a 'black monk', as the Daily Mail reports Wicke claiming. So this current matter appears to be a one-off occurrence, and not part of an ongoing phenomena as implied.

A Doorway or Hole?

        As mentioned, one going theory that was guessed at was a doorway or hole in the castle that simply appears to be shaped like a figure; certainly, this was the first conclusion of many skeptical sites examining the claim after the news hit the internet in general, despite Tigwell stating he'd check the matter. So let's be clear: the shape is not a hole, as shown by two pictures culled from the Google Maps website.

Back view
A view from the back, March 2017 [Larger version here]

        This view of the back of the castle was posted to Google Maps in 2017; it's not the same angle as the 'ghost' photo, but it does show that there is a great distance to the proposed wall that any hole or doorway would be in. This shot also demonstrates that the figure in the 'ghost' photo is in fact about the right size for a person standing near the top of the stairs, judging from the person in blue to the left side of the picture.

Overhead
Overhead view of the castle, May 2015 [Larger version here]

        As you can see from this overhead shot, the actual wall being shown in the pictures from the back is a great distance from the stairwell and platform (the square area on the left). Any opening that might create the shadow would be visible to the left of the main opening with the wooden bridge; but there is no hole or doorway that would coincide with the location of the shape in the 'ghost' photo. In fact, given the distance to the back, any such hole or doorway would have to be very large indeed to appear to be human sized in the photo.

        Close examination of the second photo above (the closer view of the black shape) shows that the shape is located on the lawn area past the square at the top of the stairs because the low wall surrounding the square area can be seen in front of the object. All of which seems to mean that some object is actually being shown in the 'ghost' photo... but what?

        Frankly, I was surprised to find a source outside of the Daily Mail that confirmed Alan Tigwell's involvement which, in turn, confirms he was approached by Wicke on the matter... it wouldn't be beyond the Daily Mail to create the whole story. I suspect that the claim for previous 'black monk' sightings at the castle were something sprinkled into the article by the staff of the Daily Mail, rather than by Wicke himself.

        So we're really left with only two possibilities at the moment. First, we assume that Wicke is lying, and the shape is a person wearing black in the photo. Or second, we assume Wicke is telling the truth, in which case the object shouldn't be there and is very interesting indeed.