Creepy ghost images have been caught on camera at historical sites around the world, but most of those ghostly pictures—bizarre as they may be—have ultimately been proven easy to recreate through photo manipulation and, therefore, easy to debunk. However, believers maintain that a picture taken on the Tulip Staircase in the Queen's House, part of the National Maritime Museum in London, might actually be one of a very few real ghost photos. Unlike scores of other pictures that contain ghosts (according to their photographers), the Tulip Staircase ghost picture, taken in 1966, has not been debunked to this day. Experts who've analyzed the photograph have confirmed that regardless of what its ephemeral subject really is, the picture has not been tampered with, and neither its photographers nor the senior photographer at the National Maritime Museum have been able to recreate it.
The Tulip Staircase picture has flummoxed skeptics and believers alike since catching the eye of one of the world's oldest paranormal research organizations. Though there is no concrete evidence that specifically identifies the figure caught on camera as a ghost, no one can deny that whatever it is, it's both very real and ghoulishly unsettling. What's more, even before the picture was taken, the 400-year-old Queen's House had earned a reputation every bit as mysterious as the photo. Staff members have reported phantom footsteps, touches, and even singing, and several bloody rumors of the building's past lend more credence to the idea that the National Maritime Museum may truly have one visitor who hasn't left for a very, very long time. For more facts about the Tulip Staircase ghost and the haunted history of the Queen's House, check out the list below.
The Tulip Staircase picture was taken by Reverend Ralph W. Hardy during a visit to the National Maritime Museum in 1966. Hardy was visiting with his wife, who had recently seen a lovely picture of the staircase in a magazine and wanted to try to take a similar one. When the couple reached the Queen's House, they were disappointed to see that the staircase was roped off at the bottom—meaning that they wouldn't be able to recreate the picture Mrs. Hardy had seen in the magazine. Instead, Rev. Hardy decided to take a picture from underneath the staircase. Neither Rev. Hardy nor his wife suspected that there was anything strange about the Queen's House—or the photo they took there—until they returned home to British Columbia and developed the photographs from their trip. All the photographs were completely ordinary except one: the picture Rev. Hardy had taken of the Tulip Staircase, which had been empty at the time the photo was taken, clearly showed a translucent figure wearing a dark hooded robe gripping the banister.
The Hardys showed the developed pictures from their trip—including the Tulip Staircase picture—to many of their friends in British Columbia. One of those friends just so happened to have a cousin, Hector McQueen, who was a member of the Ghost Club, one of the oldest paranormal societies in the world. McQueen passed the photo on to the other members of the club, and after corresponding with the Hardys through McQueen's cousin, the Ghost Club organized an investigation and séance to be held in the Queen's House on July 24, 1967. The investigation included members of the Ghost Club as well as the museum's senior photographer and a sound engineer. During the investigation, the Ghost Club used a variety of testing methods and sensory equipment, including atmospheric gauges, audio and video recording equipment, and vibration trackers. While the Ghost Club didn't manage to find the Tulip Staircase ghost, they certainly didn't find nothing. Members smelled something that resembled wet stone and heard the sounds of a baby crying, a bell ringing, and disembodied footsteps in the area close to the Tulip Staircase.
After receiving the picture from Rev. Hardy and his wife, the Ghost Club, in addition to scheduling a séance at the Queen's House, began to conduct an investigation into whether or not the photograph could be a fake. During this investigation, Peter Underwood, president of the Ghost Club at the time, learned that the Hardys had been corresponding with Brian Tremain, the senior photographer at the National Maritime Museum, and had sent them information about the camera they had used to take the picture. The Hardys, through a friend in Vancouver who was a friend of a Ghost Club member, sent the same information to Underwood; they also sent along the original negative as well as the negatives of the pictures taken before and after it. Underwood sent these negatives, along with the camera information, to Kodak for analysis. Employees at Kodak concluded that the photo had not been tampered with or double exposed. According to Kodak, the only possible explanation was that someone had to have been on the stairs when the picture was taken... except that no one had been there at all.
Just about a year after the Hardys visited the Queen's House and took their infamous picture, Rev. Hardy wrote to the National Maritime Museum's senior photographer, Brian Tremain, with detailed information about the make of his camera. One month later, the Hardys came back to London and met with Tremain at the museum. Together, they agreed to try and reproduce the photograph. By this time, experts at Kodak had pronounced the photo genuine and claimed that the only explanation for the figure in the photo could be that someone had been on the stairs at the time, so Tremain and the Hardys decided to see how such a picture could be taken of a real person. However, after “yards of film,” they were still unable to replicate the effect seen in the original photograph.