This article was originally published on the on January 18th 2012 on the London24 website by Kate Ferguson (reporter). You should be warned however, that It starts off quite clichéd. Here is a small excerpt:
“A bolt of light flashes across a corridor, and the illuminated face of a young boy appears out of the dark. This is the mysterious image which ghost hunter Leonard Low says proves that something paranormal lies beneath the Whittington Hospital in Highgate”.
See what I mean? Of course, none of these things would have actually happened, it is called dramatic licence. It is quite obvious, that these “details” were chosen to flesh-out the back story of the image after Leonard, or perhaps Kate viewed it (whoever had creative control of the article). This is quite normal in dramatic storytelling, and we have experienced a similar situation with The Feeley Case. Here is the original article for those interested.
Here is the image that Leonard Low took
So what happened, and what is the story behind this image? Well it seems Leonard was visiting a friend (ex partner) who was having surgery at the hospital when he was “told by nurses of a strange presence in the 19th Century arches deep underground”. Quite how that particular conversation arose, I don’t know. So “Armed with his camera and accompanied by a curious Whittington administrator, he descended down to the basement to investigate the paranormal tales”.
Leonard was quoted as saying:
“Nobody had been in this area for years,” said the 44-year-old. “The ground was crystallised like snow. We began walking down this long corridor with files all around us. We walked for around five or six paces when we saw something down the corridor moving. There was something hovering in front of us and getting closer and closer. We saw this trail of light – it was flashing all over the place. Then I saw the ghostly image of the young boy.”
I think we can add a modicum of rationality to this story, the “snow” that Leonard saw, was undoubtedly formations caused by the capillary/wicking action of the concrete, and subsequent salt precipitation. The rest of the tale, I have a really hard time believing. Hovering and moving objects? Trails of light? Flashing? The timely appearance of a ghostly child?
You can clearly see what has happened here in this photograph. After it was taken, something looked odd in it. So an entire tale was constructed to bolster the story into something far more dramatic. You see there are several flaws in this story. In the image, we can clearly see a dark corridor, with a light source at the end. It first appears to be an open doorway (but the image is cropped). The “trail of light” appears to be a motion blur of the light at the end of that corridor. This would be caused by taking the image while moving and having an incorrect ISO setting for those lighting conditions. Alternatively, it could even be a long exposure with motion. Here is a great example of that:
We can also see that the details of the “head of the child” is actually a light fitting on the ceiling, and the area that would be the “eyes” is the lower edge of the lampshade. There is also a large volume of light from the flash being returned to the lens, from the nearby filing system on the right. This adds even more light pollution to the camera aperture. However, this is all but obscured by the amazingly bright yellow light, which is the flash reflecting off a metallic surface, which appears to be a box of some description that has been placed on top on a step ladder (see larger image).
The full unedited image would be invaluable in establishing exactly how this was achieved, but unfortunately, the only image readily available is quite small, edited and overly compressed.
That should be enough information to help you to “make up your own mind” about this image, but what I am most disappointed by, is the decent into sketchy historical references to provide a basis for this “apparition”. We are used to seeing this type of pseudo-history from Most Haunted, and what makes it completely unnecessary, is that hundreds of people die in hospitals every day.
“The Whittington hospital is steeped in history, dating back to the 15th Century when a leper colony was founded there. Mr Low believes the ghostly apparition of a young boy who appeared before him was the spirit of a child called William who lost his life there in these early years”.
One might ask how Leonard knows this to be true?.
This story was also published on the thisislondon.co.uk website, where they add additional details as to where Leonard got this information.
“With the help of analysis from mediums, he believes that the pictures depict a 10-year-old boy called William suffering from leprosy. He said: “I would love to go back. I’m fairly convinced it’s a ghost, the place is haunted. The stories I’ve heard were from nurses who have been there for 40 years.”
Mediums? Well that is totally reliable information then, given their previously high success rates. It is almost like the medium might have read this: http://www.whittington.nhs.uk/
“It was not the first time the father-of-two has felt the presence of those beyond the grave. When Mr Low was 21 an apparition of his sister in her nightgown appeared to him – a fortnight after she died”.*
**This does sound remarkably like a Crisis Apparition (Apparitional experience). They are allegedly quite common among surviving family members who are recently bereaved.
“Describing the extraordinary pain he experiences when in the presence of a ghost, Mr Low said: “I get pins and needles in the back of my head and I find it hard to see. It is as if my skin knows there is something there.” NB: (You would be forgiven, after viewing the above publicity still of Mr Low, to assume he may also get those same pins on the forehead).
It seems Leonard Low is not only a “ghost hunter”, but also claiming to be a “medium” or “sensitive”.
I realised that there were several aspects of this story that should be checked, so I called Whittington Hospitals press department, and spoke to their press spokesperson. In the interests of making this article sound as cool as Kate Fergusons, we shall call him Mr X.
I asked Mr X a few questions, and with a blistering efficiency uncommon in the NHS, he researched all of my answers. I asked Mr X “was it really a hospital administrator who accompanied Leonard to the basement area”? The term bothered me, because I assumed that a senior hospital administrator would be a very busy person indeed. Mr X assured me that a hospital administrator had indeed accompanied Mr Low to the basement, but the administrator was actually a secretary.
I asked Mr X, if “a spokeswoman for the hospital said they are aware of reports of a ghost lurking there”? Mr X also assured me this was true, that some members of staff believe the place to be haunted, because they sometimes hear noises they cannot explain. No surprises there. I think this is true of most large public sector work locations. I myself have been told ghost stories by nursing staff.
My final question was perhaps the most important one. You see this is not the first time Leonard Low has been in the press. Way back on April 19th 2008, The Mirror ran an article titled “Hospital in ghost cover-up”. In the article Leonard Low claims that he was banned from the hospital after he photographed a spook in the building’s basement. Mr Low claimed that the Spiritual and Pastoral Care department of the Whittington Hospital had banned him from returning “on religious grounds“.
Mr X spoke to the spiritual and pastoral care department and they remembered Mr Low, but the person who liaised to Mr Low originally has since moved on. After contacting this person, they did not recall Mr low being banned, or banning him themselves. This was quite an accomplishment on the part of Mr X, because this information was from five years ago. The Mirror article goes on to say “Leonard Low took the snap in an area which used to house smallpox wards while researching for a new book. Draw from that what you will, but lo and behold, the tale of the Whittington ghost is explored in Mr Low’s new book, the True Story of the Pittenweem Poltergeist.
By Bob Dezon & Hayley Stevens
On October the 12th 2010, Michael and Sarah Feeley, and a friend called Geoff decided to take a trip to Sutton Park. For those that may not know, Sutton Park is a forest near Birmingham. The reason for this excursion is presently unknown, however whilst they were there, they took several images using mobile phone cameras. The cameras used were the LG KC910 Renoir and the Nokia X6-00. There seemed to be some confusion over what they managed to capture that night, so they decided it would be best to ask the advice of Professor Chris French. Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit’s Department of Psychology in Goldsmiths College London.
We are not quite sure why they would contact a Psychologist to look at their images, but we are glad they did. Chris French has an incredibly demanding and time consuming schedule, so Chris thought it might be best, if BARsoc had a look at these images instead. We are better equipped to handle these type of requests, and he may end up with enough free time to finish his tea (and by tea, we mean Grolsch).
BARsoc were recently contacted by Gavin ‘Fox’ Marriner, a member of ‘The Ghost Club’ and a mature psychology student at Goldsmiths (who works with the APRU from time to time). As a member of ‘The Ghost Club’, which is ‘the oldest organisation in the world associated with psychical research’, Gavin took part on a paranormal investigation held by the club at The Mecca Bingo Hall in Morden, London last weekend.
He reported that he had taken a photograph while sitting in the disused upper circle of the old cinema which still sits above the bingo hall below. Nothing unusual was seen until he looked at the hundreds of photos he had taken afterwards and spotted an anomaly that he couldn’t explain in one of the photos.
Surprisingly, when Gavin contacted The Ghost Club, for whom he is a paying member, and who had actually organised the paranormal investigation he reports that “[he] thought they would want to discuss the photograph, but they completely swept it under the carpet and would not even entertain the idea that it was strange”.
After speaking to representatives from The Ghost Club is has become apparent that an opinion was offered from their investigation organiser but it was deemed by Gavin to be dismissive. I discuss this further in the article but firstly I want to detail the examination of the anomaly.
I think it’s important to point out that Gavin wasn’t claiming the anomaly to be paranormal in nature, he simply couldn’t work out what was causing the effect. This is the information we were provided with about the photo:
“The area was almost completely unlit (fire exit lights only), and flash was used in each photo taken. The camera was a GE Z150 10.1 megapixel hand held, and the photo’s were taken without the use of zoom or other custom picture settings.
[The anomaly] sits almost dead centre of the photograph, poking out between the blue wooden panels which form the back rest/banister for the old cinema seating. The anomaly itself seems to be half of a smokey edged orb. This is especially strange, as to my knowledge, orbs (which are just particles caught in the flash as we know) do not usually have such smokey edges, and are almost never seen obscured by intervening objects such as this one is. If you zoom in, you can clearly see that it is indeed obscured behind the panel as I have described, and this has me puzzled. I have tried not to get to caught up in debates about what the image looks like, a face or head or whatever, or if there indeed does indeed appear to be an eye poking through the blue wooden paneling near it (which can admittedly be seen when it is zoomed in on a large screen) but I am stumped as to what is causing the effect.”
Here are the original photos, click each to view larger version – the first with the anomaly and the second taken from the other side of the blue barriers showing where the anomaly was ‘poking through the barriers’ from. I have also included smaller copies of the photos that have been circled to help you see the anomaly and the area in the comparison photo.
The conclusion we have reached is that the anomaly in question is actually just the arms of the fold up cinema seats causing an illusion because of the angle from which the photo was taken in relation to the style in which the seats (and thus, the seat arms) curve around with the room.
Don’t just take our word for it though. BARsoc researcher, Bob, examined the CCD information from the anomaly photograph. For those who do not know, a CCD is an analog device and when light strikes the chip it is held as a small electrical charge in each photo sensor. These charges are converted to voltage one pixel at a time as they are read from the chip, additional circuitry in the camera converts the voltage into digital information which produces graphs like the one below:
With the knowledge that the camera flash was used when taking the photo in Fig 1, and the image in Fig 4 mapping the light intensity, it becomes clear that the architecture of the room itself has something to do with the effect seen in the photo. The walls are curved and tall and there are numerous large and flat surfaces coated with gloss paint. This would have effected the flash refraction.
When the photo is lightened, the arms of the seats become much more clearer to see and when you consider the angle from which the photo was taken it’s easy to understand how the seats may have been mistaken for something independent in the area indicated in Fig. 3 due to the photographers perspective of the area.
It was quite an easy photo to analyse as independent researchers who hadn’t been present on the investigation and we were glad that we were able to offer Gavin an answer that satisfied his curiosity about what he had photographed.
I do acknowledge that The Ghost Club have told me that they did offer an opinion about the photograph and I do not believe that Gavin approaching BARsoc should be seen as a negative action. However I feel that perhaps the opinion offered to Gavin about his photograph may have been interpreted as dismissive or suggestive, (i.e. there is an eye in the picture which is actually just pixellation).
When BARsoc are approached with something that somebody wants our opinion on we provide as much dialogue and detail in our analysis as we can. I feel it is important to make sure the person who has asked for your help is well-informed and even made part of the analysis process.
Paranormal investigation is a huge, diverse field with people approaching it from many different angles. Putting aside for now the fact that many of these approaches are incorrect or flawed, the one thing all paranormal investigators have in common is the fact that people view investigators as sources of information and with this comes responsibility.
When somebody has a weird experience or has captured something odd on film or tape, they’re going to see a paranormal investigator or society as a possible source for help. Especially when said paranormal investigator/society has an impressive past as The Ghost Club does.
If contact is made with an investigator for their opinion or help – be it from a member of an organisation or a member of the public – ensuring they are happy with the information they are presented by way of analysis is vitally important and can have an unethical effect if done incorrectly, depending on the circumstances.
It took BARsoc no more than half an hour to analyse the photo (Fig 1.) and produce the graphs, images and explanation we provided. We are always willing to help people regardless of their backgrounds or belief systems and we are always happy to offer second opinions.
No pseudoscience, no superstition, no nonsense.