A strange photograph (1)

One very strange happening happened to my Dad, Fred, and myself  when, in 1970, I accompanied my father down to his parents’ house at number 39, Hartshorne Road. Both his father, Will, and then his mother, Fanny, had recently died, within a few months of each other, both in hospital at Burton-on-Trent, with Fanny unaware of Will’s demise.

Fred was paying regular visits to the property, presumably attempting little by little to clear the house out so that it could be resold. At the time, as a teenager, I was unaware of this, although, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had been, and I could perhaps have stopped him from throwing away so many of Will’s Great War souvenirs such as his Canadian Army uniform, his German soldier’s belt and his collection of old German guns and ammunition. Here’s the front of a very average semi-detached house. The only thing left nowadays from my Grandma and Grandad’s occupancy of No 39 is the sign above the front door. It reads “Holmgarth”, the name given to their house by the first family ever to live there. Here’s the house:

And here’s the old sign:This is the back of the house. Fred probably took this photograph on the very last day before he gave the estate agents the keys and left it for ever:

As we entered the deserted house through the front door,  I walked through the hall towards the kitchen. Then I distinctly heard the upstairs toilet flush. I turned round and asked Fred, who was following me through the door and into the hall, how this could have happened, and who it could have been, given that we both knew that the house was locked up and empty.

Fred gave me some non-committal answer at the time, but afterwards, perhaps when he had regained his composure, he told me that, as he was a little way behind me, he had been able to look up the stairs at the sudden noise of the toilet being flushed. He had seen his father, Will, walk out of the toilet, across the short landing and into the bedroom.

Fred, of course, had always maintained that his own house, number 9, Hartshorne Road was haunted. Or rather the garden was, because on a quiet, windless summer’s evening, even though nobody in the two nearby houses smoked a pipe, it was occasionally possible to smell the distinctive aroma of pipe tobacco in the garden. This, Fred explained, was the ghost of one of the railway workers at the next door goods station, who, in the 1930s, was exceptionally keen on working in the evenings in the extensive station house garden. Just once, ironically enough, I smelled that same smell of tobacco, when it was my own turn to visit Fred’s house to clear it for resale after his death.

Let’s look back briefly at No 39 though. As I mucked around with the scan of the original photograph in an effort to improve it, using my entire suite of sophisticated activities (Adjust levels, brightness, colour balance, contrast and image size) I noticed something really weird. Here we are:

There seem to have been  faces at the window that my Dad didn’t see as he took the original photograph. Can you see them? I enlarged the photograph. They were still there:

This must be pareidolia mustn’t it? It’s still strange though!






Filed under History, Personal

21 responses to “A strange photograph (1)

  1. I have to send this to our ghost reporter, Jan-O!!
    (Shame about all those artifacts being thrown out!!)

    • Yes, it certainly was. I sometimes think sons do strange things when their fathers die. It might be a good idea to try not to throw anything out until six months or even a year have passed. After all, somebody has already kept and treasured it during their own lifetime.

  2. With thanks to GP Cox for bringing this wonderful post to my attention, will be reblogging it today! What a great story – loved it!

    • Thank you very much for those kind words and for re-blogging it. There are a couple of posts still to come on “strange photographs” which you might like. You might also try searching for previously published “Hallowe’en” Tales” and the post “The Ghost of George’s Hill” which was popular with people in Nottingham, many of whom had heard of the ghost.

  3. I love your real life ghost story, John 🙂
    The photo of the back of Will’s house is very forlorn. For your father, that moment must’ve been like the end of his childhood years with his parents.
    The shapes in the window could’ve been the reflections of you and Fred.

    • The story is true, It’s explaining it that is the difficult bit! Thank you for the idea about reflections. It had never occurred to me. I will go away and, well, reflect on it.

  4. What a tragedy all those things were thrown out! Hindsight is a wonderful thing though! It would be interesting to see if the current occupiers had had any similar experiences, sights, smells or sounds , that could suggest a haunting.

    • I think that that generation frequently didn’t have very much regard for people in the future and what they might value. My Dad had literally, shedloads of room to keep those things in, but all he wanted to do was to get rid of them as soon as possible. I’m no psychiatrist, but it might even be that he was angry because his father had left him.
      I have thought of going back to ask the current occupiers if they have ever experienced anything, but I was worried that I might upset them and perhaps even spoil their enjoyment of a house they had previously thought was a lovely home. I will perhaps think about it again, though

      • I do think many people thought like that post war, forget it all and remove all reminders of what were appallingly bad times. I guess, quite a sensible thought at the time.
        Perhaps you’re right, if some one knocked on my door and asked if they had seen the ghost, I’d either call the men in white coats or freak out at every creak and crack in the house – maybe left well alone.

  5. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Our Ancestors and commented:
    A ghost story from my friend John…

    • Thank you, Pierre. Ghostly encounters where two people are involved are actually relatively rare and may eliminate the possibility of hallucination. I think that my presence as an ordinary sixteen year old, completely not expecting anything ghostly, also adds a certain authenticity to the tale!

  6. Pingback: Ghosts: A Strange Photograph and a Haunted House! | Book 'Em, Jan O

  7. Chris Waller

    My late father, whom you may remember as a man who had no time for what he regarded as the fanciful, was once driving back from Ticknall towards Hartshorne along the main road. It was night time and as he approached the top of the rise near Carver’s Rocks, he braked suddenly, almost catapulting my mother out through the windscreen. My mother asked him what he was playing at and he said, “Didn’t you see that damned fool walking across the road?” My mother said she had seen nobody. My father said he had seen someone wearing a long dark coat in the beam of the headlights. Some time later my father related this story to our neighbour who used to live in Ticknall. She said there was a story told in Ticknall of a nun who had been murdered at the hermitage near Carver’s Rocks and her ghost walked across the fields to Smisby.

    • Thanks a lot for that story, Chris. It seems that everybody has at least one story to tell and so many of them are very difficult to explain away. I wrote a blog post a while back about “The Ghost of George’s Hill” and it’s quite clear if you google that phrase, that lots and lots of people in that area have seen this particular entity and, I suspect, are continuing to see it.

  8. Yes, I think there are no definite answers for some questions. That photo looks as if people are looking out.

    • I always wonder if strange things like that will ever be solved. I agree with you that it looks as if there are people inside, but every time I look, I seem to see different things!

  9. Pingback: Ghosts: A Strange Photograph and a Haunted House! | Book 'Em, Jan O

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