Of the many supposed ghostly photographs circulating around the internet, the more unsettling and menacing efforts generate the most clicks. After all, who would rather see the face of a kindly grandmother than a glowing demonic entity. As such, this means that over the years, a lot of mundane or domestic spectral photographs have fallen by the wayside in the popularity stakes. One such image is that of a garden party in the village of Tingewick in Buckinghamshire
In August 1916, in the midst of WWI, Arthur Springer, a retired CID inspector from Scotland yard took his camera to a garden party in Tingewick. Staging a photograph of two lady sitters and their maid, he took his snap and continued about his business. That was, until the image was developed.
At the time of the garden party, there were no animals in the garden; the household didn’t have a dog, nor did they recognise the ghostly hound in the developed image. But there he was. No-one recalled seeing a dog at the time, nor did a dog appear on any of the other images taken that same day. Due to the respectable status of the photographer, the photograph was seen as legitimate proof of ghosts, or ghost animals in particular.
Despite the popularity of the image in several long out of print books, little information exists about the image beyond these few scant details. Today, we would be inclined to argue that if the photograph had been of genuine surprise to the sitters, it was a case of double exposure. A previous image of a dog may have been accidentally overlaid with that of the party and the composite image was created as a genuine accident. Otherwise, it may have been a deliberate deception, as fraudulent images of ghosts have been commonplace since the birth of commercial photography, particularly during the latter half of the 19th century where unscrupulous fake mediums and spirit photographers would produce images of the ‘deceased’ alongside the living.
Or, as a last explanation, there might have just been a passing dog having a sniff about for sandwiches. After all, none of the sitters are making direct eye contact. I’m also unsure if the circulated image is a cropped version of a larger work, or if this is the original framing. The composition of the sitters seems to be perfectly set up to feature the full dog, as the women aren’t central in the frame. And that blurred hind leg? Perhaps the pooch was simply wagging his tail in anticipation of a few scraps.
What do you think? Spectral spaniel or fake Fido? (I’ll see myself out…)
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