Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ghost in the Burning Building: The Hoax

Wem Town Hall burned to the ground in Shropshire, England, on November 19, 1995. Onlookers witnessed the blaze, including local resident Tony O'Rahilly. Standing across the street, O'Rahilly took photos of the fire with a 200mm telephoto lens. One of his photos showed a partially transparent little girl in a doorway although no one could remember seeing her.

Both the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena and the Royal Photographic Society concluded the photograph was genuine. It was believed that Jane Churm was the child, a young girl who accidentally set fire to a thatched roof in 1677. Many of Shropshire's old timber houses burned as a result.

Except it wasn't Jane. It wasn't even an apparition.

The hoax came to light when someone happened to look at a 1922 postcard, noticing a striking likeness of a little girl in a doorway to that of the Wem ghost. O'Rahilly had died in 2005 and was unavailable for comment. It also uncovered that some experts from the National Museum of Photography had thought O'Rahilly's photograph was fake.

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