Does postcard solve ghost riddle?

One of Shropshire's most sensational mysteries - the spooky riddle of "The Wem ghost" - may at last have been solved by eagle-eyed Shropshire Star reader Brian Lear.

Wem Ghost 475

One of Shropshire's most sensational mysteries - the spooky riddle of "The Wem ghost" - may at last have been solved by eagle-eyed Shropshire Star reader Brian Lear.

The girl in the 1922 Wem picture
The girl in the 1922 Wem picture

Brian spotted an eerie similarity between a girl standing in the street in a 1922 photo of Wem and the young girl whose fuzzy image was famously captured amid the flames as Wem Town Hall burned down in 1995.

That photograph taken by local amateur photographer Tony O'Rahilly created international headlines and sparked the legend of "The Wem Ghost".

There was speculation that the girl was 14-year-old Jane Churm, who accidentally started the disastrous great fire of Wem in 1677 and was reputed to be haunting the town hall.

Wem folk enthusiastically embraced the story which put their town under the spotlight. A sign on the outskirts had a makeshift alteration to read "Ghost Town", experts in paranormal activity visited, and there was even a scroll and a plaque to mark where the ghost was spotted.

But when Brian, from Shrewsbury, looked at a photo of Wem — a postcard franked in 1922 — in our Pictures From The Past slot the other day, his eye was drawn to a little girl standing in a doorway.

"I was intrigued to find that she bore a striking likeness to the little girl featured as the 'Wem ghost'," he said.

"Her dress and headgear appear to be identical."

So we have blown up detail from that picture to compare with the "Wem ghost". And, by jove, he's right!

Look at the pictures and make your own minds up.

Photographer Tony O'Rahilly, who died in 2005, said at the time that he had discovered the ghost image when developing his snaps of the town hall fire.

Some time later the photo was examined by experts from the National Museum of Photography, who concluded it was a fake. But others were certain it was genuine.

By Toby Neal

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Comments for: "Does postcard solve ghost riddle?"


Yeah, if you look carefully, even the layout of the cloths are the same. Looks like this picture was used for the fake!!!


Agreed, shadow across the face and the crumples in the dress is the same


Except that the 'ghost' in the photo isn't shaped like the young lady in the picture - the 'ghost' (if it is a ghost) has a long neck like a giraffe.


Unless the photographer of the postcard photographed the same ghost?


May I suggest that from the costumes the original photograph was taken well before 1922 – I suggest that it is probably pre-WW1. The postmark on the card was 1922 – that gives a latest time but doesn’t date the picture.


This is an interesting story! I've heard of the Wem ghost, but never really paid attention to the story, being a grown up and all that.

Anyway I was fascinated by this story. It didn't seem likely that the person who took that photo at the town hall would have happened to choose a photo of a girl from the same town.

So I compared the two images a bit closer and was surprised at what I found. You can check my results here:

I took both the images directly from this story, and compared them directly as you can see. I hope the Shropshire Star doesn't object to me using the images like that!


There is a dark section of the belt to the left side of the middle of the girls body.

There is a small section which appears to be a lump jutting upwards which is exactly the same on both photos.

It's a very good fake. Amazing how people still try to wheedle out of the obvious when they need to believe in 'supernatural' stuff.

Rob, Telford

The "Ghost" photograph was the result of some fairly basic darkroom work - now can we get back to the usual topics - knocking Telford, and the eternal question "Shroosbury or Shrowsbury?"......

Andrew Owen

Yes. And don't forget UFOs and 'Why isn't as good as it used to be...'

Jayne Oliver

..and why is the comments facility disabled on some stories?


Don't forget the Tesco beaters, i particularly like that one..

Andrew Owen

And why you're so biased against Shrewsbury Town / AFC Telford (delete whichever applicable).


Tory rag, blah blah blah.


I think it's pretty obvious what's happening's the ghost of the same girl appearing in the same pose in two different photos. I make this conclusion based on her clothes. They look wrong (based on my virtually non-existent knowledge of what people wore in the 1920's).


Fantastic work! I'd been working on this case and was suspicious of the previous findings that it was a video-capture. What an interesting discovery!


identical, clearly you have spotted a fake, well done for revealing his fraud

Rob, Telford

...the hundred years' war at Ludlow Town Council....

Joseph Azerrad

With or without Photoshop?.


So now we have proof that the same ghost has been haunting the area since at least 1922. I wonder why she has appeared in that specific doorway?

And what about the other figures in the postcard? The man is not a ghost because he has a clear shadow, but more intriguing are the two little girls on the right - we simply cant tell one way or another!!!

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