MB FORDE, author of Eerie Britain 1&2, takes a look at one of England’s most famous paranormal photos, The Chinnery Apparition, from 1959 …
In late March 1959, Mabel Chinnery visited her mother’s grave in Ipswich.
By all accounts it was a lovely day, and she had taken along her camera in the hope of capturing some of the early spring warmth.
On her way back to the car, she saw her husband Jim waiting in the driver’s seat and decided to take a photograph as he smiled up at her.
Seeing nothing amiss, Mabel held the viewfinder up to her eye and snapped away.
It was only when she returned home and had the film developed a few days later that she noticed the strange figure occupying the car’s rear seat—directly behind Jim.
Upon closer inspection, Mabel was able to identify the shadowy figure as her deceased mother.
Over the years, a variety of photographic experts testified that the photo was absolutely genuine, and that no tampering had taken place.
The Sunday Pictorial newspaper came into possession of the image and ran a story about it, with their expert ‘staking his reputation on its authenticity’.
Sadly, this unnamed expert’s reputation staking is oft-quoted without his further elucidations, which are important; as he went on to say that he thought the photograph simply depicted a natural phenomenon: “My own view is it is likely to be a trick of the light. The woman’s scarf seems to follow the line of the back of the seat. As light shines in through different windows of the car it can create odd patterns.”
Perhaps Mabel’s association of her graveside visit with the strange form in the photograph caused her to experience a form of pareidolia—the recognition of something which isn’t really there.
On the other side of the coin we apparently have some anecdotal evidence, as Jim Chinnery said that his mother-in-law had a habit of sitting behind him in the back of his car, just as the figure does in the photograph, and that before she died she had told him that she would be forever at his side.
Whatever you believe, the image is unquestionably an iconic one.
But whether it is really Mabel’s mother back from the dead and looking for a chauffeur, or merely a trick of the light—well, the truth is anyone’s guess as we will almost certainly never be able to tell either way.
It’s a shame the shooting conditions weren’t documented enough to enable a modern-day recreation, though.
In fact, most of the details in this case are missing: did Mabel’s mother wear glasses, or were the spectre’s eyes glowing?
What model of car were they driving at the time? Does the film roll still exist?
Regardless of the truth behind the image, this writer is not sure which is more frightening: a back-seat spectre lurking silently behind you as you drive, or the thought of an undead mother-in-law…
What do you think? Is the Chinnery Apparition photo a trick of the light or genuine evidence of the paranormal paranormal? Tell us your comments below.
MB FORDE is the author of Eerie Britain 1 and Eerie Britain 2. You can purchase them from Amazon here.