Ghost in Highgate Cemetery, or trick of light?

12:40 06 December 2012

James Dobbin

James Dobbin's image of Highgate Cemetery, with the suspected ghost captured at the bottom right of the left-hand tree.


Highgate Cemetery is best known as being the resting place of such illustrious souls as philosopher Karl Marx and novelist George Eliot, but now there are reports of another figure at the site - a ghostly apparition flitting among the gravestones.

A close-up of the suspected ghost in James Dobbin's picture.A close-up of the suspected ghost in James Dobbin's picture.

James Dobbin captured the suspected spectre on his camera as he toured the historic Grade I-listed cemetery, which dates back to 1839.

Mr Dobbin, of east London, was visiting the graveyard, off Swains Lane, with his girlfriend last week.

Although “not personally a believer in this sort of thing”, he was taken aback by the image.

He said: “We took a lot of photographs and, reviewing them on my laptop, I noticed what looks like the apparition of a late 19th century or early 20th century nurse in the background of the photograph.”

It is not the first time that the cemetery has been associated with paranormal goings-on.

In the early 1970s, there were rumours about a so-called Highgate Vampire, while Audrey Niffenegger’s novel Her Fearful Symmetry, a ghost story about twin sisters, is set in Highgate Cemetery.

And, earlier this year, ghost-hunter Leonard Low came forward after capturing a spectral image of a young boy’s face in the basement of nearby Whittington Hospital, off Highgate Hill.

But after poring over other photographs of the cemetery, Mr Dobbin felt he probably captured one of the graveyard’s many statues – rendered ghostly and semi-transparent by a trick of the light.

“I’m now convinced the shot shows only a statue or monument and not something other-worldly,” he said.

This thought was echoed by paranormal investigator Gary Boulton, who runs Spectrum Paranormal Investigations from Hartland Road, Chalk Farm.

Mr Boulton said: “The light makes it looks like there is something walking behind the tree but, to me, it looks like a statue.

“There is not enough transparency for it to be a ghost. I think the light is just making it look a little bit ghostly.”

The mystery was finally cleared up by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, which owns and operates the cemetery.

Members revealed that the “ghost” was none other than a memorial to an Eliza Jane Ellis.

Chief executive of the group, Ian Dungavell, said: “There are no ghosts here at all. Ghosts are things of fiction – so we can be 100 per cent sure that it’s not a ghost.

“Highgate Cemetery is a place of quiet reflection for people who are mourning. There are people buried here, people who were loved and remembered for their contributions and that is what a cemetery is about.”

Mr Boulton, however, will still be checking out the cemetery himself.

“Although people do go there hunting ghosts,” he said, “no-one has actually caught one on camera.”

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