The Whittington Hospital Ghost

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.

Leonard Low.

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 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:

“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.


Posted on February 4, 2012, in ghost, media, paranormal, rational and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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