The Wem Town Hall ghost

Close-up of the The Wem Town Hall ghostWem Town Hall, a building in the market-town of Wem in Shropshire, England, was destroyed by fire on November 19, 1995.  During the fire, Tony O’Rahilly, a amateur photographer, took pictures of the burning building from across the road (police had stopped him and would not allow him to get any closer). To his surprise, after the photo had been developed, in the doorway of an upper floor, appeared a young girl standing calmly, staring directly at the camera, seemingly unaffected by the flames burning all around her.

Fire ravaged the town hall once before, in 1677 when a 14-year-old girl, Jane Churm, dropped a lit candle.  It has always been maintained that the Town Hall was haunted by the young girl.  This led to local speculation that the girl in the picture was 14-year-old Jane Churm who accidentally started a fire at the same location in 1677.

Later analysis of the photograph had produced mixed conclusions.  Blake Smith of the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine naturally dismissed the photograph as being doctored.  Another skeptic said the photo was merged with a picture of a girl from an old postcard published in 1922.  The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) determined that the image was a burning piece of wood or a trick of light.  The Royal Photographic Society, on the other hand, determined that the photo was genuine and undoctored.

“The negative is a straight forward piece of black-&-white work and shows no sign of having been tampered with.”

Mr. O’Rahilly died in 2005 but maintained to the end that the photograph was genuine.


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