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The photograph that filled me with terror

20 December 2017

3:00 PM

20 December 2017

3:00 PM

This time last year, in a review for The Spectator of two books on extraterrestrial life, I mentioned how, as a child, the highlight of the summer holidays was when my cousin Simon came to stay. Our great shared passion was mysteries: not only flying saucers, but everything from the Loch Ness Monster to Atlantis as well. Naturally, ghosts figured high on the list of our obsessions. We knew all the classic tales of hauntings: from a spectre in chains reported by Pliny the Younger to have roamed a house in Athens, to Borley Rectory. Nothing, though, gave us quite as delicious a shudder of dread as a photograph of an Ipswich man sitting in a car, taken back in 1951 by his wife after a visit to her mother’s grave — for there, sitting in the back seat, was her mother. Every night, when we were supposed to be asleep, Simon and I would dare each other to look at it by torchlight; every night, we would manage at best a couple of seconds before dropping the book with a scream. Even now — possessed as I am of a much better understanding of how cameras in the 1950s might sometimes produce accidental double-exposures — I find that the photograph (reproduced here) can still give me the occasional shiver.

This is an extract from the Christmas issue of the Spectator, out now. To read more ghost stories, click here


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