Famous ‘Wem Ghost’ photograph is revealed as a hoax after 15 years

May 18, 2010 | by | 1 Comment

A famous photograph which supposedly showed a ghost of a young girl standing in a fire in 1995 was actually copied – from an old POSTCARD.

Amateur photographer Tony O’Rahilly took the spooky snap after taking pictures of a blaze which destroyed Wem Town Hall in Shropshire on November 19, 1995.

After developing his film, Tony claimed he had captured an image of a young girl wearing old fashioned clothes standing amid the flames staring into the camera lens.

Tony, who died in 2005, always denied doctoring the photograph – nicknamed the ‘Wem Ghost’ – and the image made headlines around the world.

Locals even claimed it was an apparition of 14-year-old Jane Churm who accidentally set fire to the town hall in 1677.

But eagle-eyed Brian Lear, 77, has finally put an end to the mystery after he noticed a striking similarity between the spooky shot and a girl in a postcard which appeared in his local paper.

The postcard, printed in the Shropshire Star’s Pictures from the Past section, shows a street view of Wem in 1922.

A young girl standing in a shop doorway on the left handside of the picture bares an uncanny resemblance to the Wem Ghost.

Retired engineer and taxi driver Brian, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, said: ”It is interesting to compare the two pictures.

”I was intrigued to find that she bore a striking likeness to the little girl featured as the Wem ghost.

”Her dress and headgear appear to be identical.”

The ‘Wem Ghost’ led to a plaque being placed on the newly built town hall and Wem was briefly renamed ‘Ghost Town’ attracting hundreds of tourists every year.

But debate has raged since 1995 over the picture which Tony always claimed was genuine up until his death in 2005.

Tony, who lived in Shrewsbury, even submitted the photograph to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena for analysis which claimed it was authentic.

Expert Dr Vernon Harrison, former president of the Royal Photographic Society, said at the time he said: ”The negative is a straightforward piece of black-and-white work and shows no sign of having been tampered with.”

Despite the overbearing evidence, yesterday grandfather-of-two Brian refused to be drawn on whether he believed the picture was in fact an elaborate hoax.

He said: ”I am not going to get pinned down on saying whether the image Tony took was real or not.

”All I am saying is that the two pictures are very similar. We can’t ask Tony what he has to say because the poor man is dead.

”It’s up to people what they believe. It certainly is an interesting new development in the mystery.”

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