Blog Archives

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.


Glass Divination Challenge

Glass divination is a technique used by many paranormal research teams at supposedly haunted locations. The aim is to communicate with the spirits of the deceased, who push the glass around a surface (usually a table top) in response to questions. People sit in a circle and focus their ‘energy’ on the glass to help the spirit move it.

Think ‘ouija board without the board’ and you have glass divination.

Successful glass divination is a product of two things; either somebody around the table is intentionally moving the glass, or the people around the table are unconsciously moving the glass. The first is called cheating, the second the ideomotor response.

Scientific tests by American psychologist William James, French chemist Michel Chevreul, English scientist Michael Faraday (Zusne and Jones 1989: 111), and American psychologist Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious “energies,” are actually due to ideomotor action.

Furthermore, these tests demonstrate that “honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations” (Hyman 1999).

They also show suggestions that guide behavior can be given by subtle cues (Hyman 1977).

The above mentioned ‘suggestions that guide behaviour’ include folklore tales attached to a building, or the stories told to the investigator about what has happened or been witnessed at the location, by the owner of the location owner/staff/residents. If you are aware of the fact that a woman who was murdered is said to haunt a corridor in the building looking for her unmarked grave, it’s likely that that knowledge will influence the way in which the glass moves.

There is a simple yet effective way to test whether the glass is being moved by the people resting one finger upon it. You need to be able to visually see the movement, and I have found that the best way to do this is by covering the glass with putty. Any intentional or unintentional movement of the glass by those touching it will show in the soft putty.

Here’s a demonstration:

Why not try using putty as a control, and letting us know the results?

The Phones4U Ghost

screen cap of ghost girlOn the 29th September 2011, a columnist called Ellie Ross working for The Sun newspaper published a story titled “Spook or spoof? CCTV appears to show a ‘ghost’ haunting a phone shop”.

As usual, this was a sterling example of how The Sun seems to think its readership is mostly comprised of people with severe learning difficulties, and given their past record for “accurate” reporting and continued sales, there may even be some truth to this theory. However, you could be forgiven for thinking this is also true for the reporting staff at The Sun.

Traditionally, a reporter would travel to the source of the news, or perhaps have a contact list of people to feed them snippets of useful information. They would then spend some time fact checking, cross referencing and gathering supporting evidence before releasing a story. However, all you need to do now is have access to a keyboard and be able to browse Youtube, and this is exactly what Ellie Ross appears to have done. She wrote:

“CCTV footage posted on YouTube appears to show the ‘ghost’ of a young girl haunting a well-known mobile phone store A spooky-looking female figure can be seen walking past a doorway at the back of the store, pausing to turn her head and look straight into the recording surveillance camera”.

Now I am sure you will have noticed by now, that she has given herself a journalistic “out” by posing the title of the story as a question, in case she gets “rumbled”. (Btw consider yourself “rumbled”) However we will ignore that for now…

The “well known mobile phone store” is clearly identified as “Phones 4U” by the internal advertising in the store. At the back of the store, there appears to be a doorway partially obscured by shadows. The figure of what looks like a child in blouson sleeves appears momentarily, stops, turns to look in the general direction of the security camera, and then fades from view.

It never ceases to amaze me, how these ever elusive ghosts never seem to fail to perform for the cameras at every given opportunity. Ellie continues:

“The opening credits state that today’s shop was “built on the site of a Victorian orphanage” — suggesting that the ‘spirit’ is one of its dead orphans”.

I do hope nobody is too surprised that The Sun has descended like a right wing vulture to pick on the corpse of a long dead child, simply to sell “newspapers”. Regardless, here is the video of the alleged event.

The video clip on Youtube that Ellie found was titled “Ghost caught on camera” (pioneering title I thought). The uploader, an individual with the pseudonym “Tushae” uploaded this video on the 26th September 2011. A full three days before The Sun picked up the story.

Tushae wrote a small description of the video:

“GHOST CAUGHT ON CAMERA!!! A mate just sent me this, didn’t want to put it up. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!! He showed it to some experts but they can’t explain it then found out his shop was built on Victorian orphanage called the yorkshire orphan asylum. THIS IS SOOOOO FREAKY!!!!”

He later added another update:

“[update] UNBELIEVABLE! The sun has put this video on their site. My ghost caught on camera in now everywhere 😉 there must be something in it!”

Yes indeed. There must be “something” in it. Let us see exactly what that “something” is.

Just prior to the video, there is an edited section designed to provide additional background details. It states:

“A ghostly figure was caught on CCTV where I work. This genuine footage, which has been examined by experts. They were unable to provide any answers. I later discovered the shop was built on the site of a Victorian orphanage”.

This introduction seems to be from the person who sent the original video to Tushae. We know this because it states that it was taken in their place of work, and Tushae claims the video was forwarded to him by a friend. This “friend” claims the video was examined by “experts” and yet there is no mention of who these people are, or indeed which field their expertise lies in. This “friend” also claims he later found out the store was built on the site of a Victorian Orphanage. One would have to ask how? Perhaps they are also an amateur historian?


I can find no historical link to any Orphanage with that name. The only two Orphanages I can find in Yorkshire from the Victorian period are the Hull Seaman’s and General Orphan Asylum, and the Port of Hull Society and Orphan House. There may have been others at the time. Perhaps one of our readers is an avid amateur historian? If so, please contact us, so we can amend these details at a later date. This section does not apply to the person who submitted the original video.

Ellie Ross provides the name Andrew Dasilva in relation to this story. This may be the given name of Tushae, or even his friend (the originator). It is not stated implicitly who Andrew Dasilva actually is.

Ellie adds:

“But this viral spook could well be the work of pranksters using special effects”.

That is indeed a possibility. In fact, using applications like ‘Adobe After Effects’, it becomes incredibly easy. Here is an example of how that is possible from Youtube user chrisftw92. I believe the “ghost” has been replaced with Hank Hill from the Mike Judge series “King of the Hill”?

A few things bothered me about this video. The higher than usual production values. The over used preamble. The textual effects. The high quality soundtrack. The replay. The zoom. The clarity of the “apparition” in the final frame…

It did not seem to be a typically unusual video that somebody has passed around for further opinions. It seemed too refined and planned. From the footage and effects, and finally to the press release. I decided to dig a little further.

I was also surprised to find this video of the Phones 4U “ghost” had gone viral. Usually, when a video goes viral (self replicating) it simply means it has become very popular, often copied and parodied until it becomes an overused stale meme. It is a bit of a gamble for the originators of such videos, as only a few finally become viral. Undoubtedly, these “viral videos” certainly are “attention grabbing”, and that is why they are also often used by advertising agencies as part of an ad campaign. Which got me thinking “what if”?

After researching the phones 4u and advertisements, I discovered that there was a connection.

It would seem that Phones 4U are clients of a company called Adam & Eve.

Adam & Eve were awarded Campaign Agency of the Year 2010 and Marketing Agency of the year 2010.

It makes sense that a large company like phones 4U would employ the services of such a company to boost sales, or to promote a new product. In fact the ad slogan (strap line) for this particular campaign is “Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You“.

It turns out that Phones 4U hired the Adam and Eve agency to promote a new mobile phone. The new phone I have identified is The Samsung Tocco Icon. They are advertising it as “only £59.95 on Pay As You Go”. The campaign is costing a massive £5.2/3m, and is geared for the pre Christmas rush.

The adverts all revolve around ghosts and zombies, stalking people, cornering them, and then announcing the sales pitch they could have had. It’s all very silly, and in good fun. The campaign consists of teasers, press releases, radio coverage and digital promotions. The campaign is also due also be promoted in store.

The adverts were created by Aidan McClure and Laurent Simon, and were directed by Garth Jennings through the production company Hammer & Tongs. You may remember Hammer & Tongs are credited with directing the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In fact on the phones4u Youtube channel, you can see one of these ghost adverts right now.

Do you recognise the girl?


Now the really odd thing about this campaign is that this information was released on the 28 September 2011. That is two days after Tushae uploaded his Youtube video, and one day before The Sun ran with this story. One can only assume that Tushae is working for a creative ad agency, or was leaked the footage by a creative ad agency, and this may mean The Sun is using this to secretly promote Phones 4U. I do not know if this is true, but it certainly looks that way. Adverts disguised as news? I am sure Michael Marshall of the Merseyside Skeptics would have something to say about that…

Bob Dezon.
October 2nd 2011

BARsoc has changed

The BARsoc website is no more, but that doesn’t mean that the organisation has stopped – we’ve simply downsized and made things less formal; we believe this will make things work better.

Welcome to The Vigilantes blog, where those people who made BARsoc work continue to offer rational insight into the often irrational world of paranormal research. We had many great people who are involved in paranormal research in one way or another who offered to help with BARsoc, but when it came down to it, it wasn’t practical and didn’t work as smoothly as it could have done.

That has now changed. If you need our help simply get in touch via the contact page.

Adios, BARsoc,

Hola, Vigilantes.