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Tantallon Castle Ghost Photo


In 2009, Prof. Richard Wiseman set out to find the most convincing ghost photograph. After a selecting the best from 250 submissions and putting them to a public vote, one taken by an Edinburgh based visitor to the amazing medieval Tantallon Castle in East Lothian was judged the best. If you've not been to Tantallon, you really should. It is a stunning castle, perched on a cliff edge over the wild North Sea. The photographer, Christopher Aitchison, took the usual visitor photos to remember his visit but when he looked at them later, he saw one had a mysterious shape, what appeared to be an old woman in a medieval ruff around her neck, peering from barred window high above where Christopher stood. He was adamant there was no one there when he took it, which is why he was surprised. There were no costumed guides or anyone wearing medieval clothing and her face had a haunting, disembodied, haggard quality. Investigations showed no digital manipulation of the photo.

The results of the survey - conducted as part of a project for the Edinburgh International Science Festival - appeared in various media outlets. The Daily Mail went with: 'Yoooo've been framed: The ghostly images voted best in the world'; The Guardian with: 'Spooks you, sir: ghosts caught on camera', and The Scotsman with: 'Ghosts in the Machine'. It even appeared on CNN and FOX news. Most reported that even experts were 'baffled'.

Prof. Wiseman conducted his own investigation by visiting the site, as did Hayley Stevens and Ash Pryce. They concluded that it was difficult to say for sure what caused the appearance of a face but Richard Wiseman did manage to recreate it with someone kneeling at the same window. Obviously there is no way to confirm the photographer's assertion that there was no one actually in the room were the face is seen so as an explanation that is the most obvious. Also, the digital quality at extreme zoom is badly deteriorated, therefore it is difficult to make out sufficient detail to entirely rule out pareidolia from sunlight on scarred stone walling. As with any 'ghost' sighting or photo, more prosaic and common explanations must be ruled out before leaping to the supernatural.

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