Is the Chinnery ‘Backseat Driver’ Ghost Photo Real?

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Paranormal photos are always controversial, England’s Chinnery Backseat Driver Photograph is one of the most famous. RICK HALE discusses the spooky snapshot…

Is it real: The Chinnery Backseat Driver Ghost Photo?
Is it real: The Chinnery Backseat Driver Ghost Photo?

In 2004, the Sci Fi channel released a reality TV show that would forever change the field of psychical research, the show is Ghosthunters. I won’t lie, but I was excited about this new show. I thought, “Finally, a TV show that’s going to properly show what many of us have been doing for years”.

But then something happened that would turn me off from the show. They used terms I’ve never heard before. Take ‘Matrixing’ for example.

According to the show, matrixing is when the human mind makes familiar patterns out light and shadow.

I came up in the field and I know this as pareidolia. The second term was ‘The holy grail’.

This, of course, referred to being lucky enough to catch the image of an apparition on film. Please, don’t think I’m being snobbish, I just believe that words matter. Especially in the field of psychical research.

A Match Made In Heaven

Photography and ghost hunting was an immediate match made in heaven. Well, at least some people thought so.

Since the early days of the spiritualism movement ghosts and photography just seemed to go together.

Most of these so-called spirit photos were certainly fakes.

And they threatened to throw psychical research into the garbage heap of history.

If these photos were all fake then it would only stand to reason that all ghost photos were fake.

Now hold on a second, let’s not be too eager to throw the baby out with the bath water just yet.

There are a large number of photographs that do appear to show something legitimately anomalous taking by pure accident.

Not by professional photographers, or even a hoaxer trying to make a buck or gain some notoriety.

A perfect example of this is the image of a ghost sitting in the backseat of a car.

The photo has been called, “Backseat driver” and it’s been on one hell of an interesting ride for 60 years.

Visiting Mother

In March 1959 in Ipswich, Suffolk, Mrs Mable Chinnery and her husband, made their yearly pilgrimage to the grave of her mother to pay their respects.

There really isn’t much information on the location of the cemetery, just that it was a British churchyard.

When they arrived, Mr Chinnery, stayed in the car as his wife went to the grave of her mother.

Mrs Chinnery just got a new camera and she was eager to take pictures of the grave stone.

The Accidental Snapshot

After taking several photos, Mrs Chinnery saw that she had one picture left.

So, she pointed the camera to her husband and took the picture. And then it was time to go.

When they got the film developed, Mr and Mrs Chinnery made a spine chilling discovery.

Sitting in the backseat of the car was the clear image of a person.

When Mrs Chinnery inspected the photograph more closely, and she immediately broke down in tears.

When Mr Chinnery went to comfort his wife he took a look at the photo and saw the mysterious passenger.

When Mrs Chinnery regained her composure, she said that she had no doubt the mysterious figure was none other than her mother.

The snapshot proved to the Chinnerys that a piece of us must still exist after the death of the body.

A Heavily Scrutinised Photo

Ever since this photo was released to the public, it was immediately scrutinised by sceptics.

These sceptics suggested that whatever was in the photo wasn’t a ghost, but rather the mind making familiar patterns out of light and shadow.

The photo has gone through rigorous tests by professional photo analysts and they came to a controversial conclusion.

According to them the figure in the photo was not a reflection or a double exposure.

They are understandably reluctant to call the image a ghost. However, everything points to it being just that, a ghost and could possibly be the ghost of Mrs Chinnery’s mother.

As a paranormal researcher and investigator I am loathe to present any evidence as rock solid proof. Especially pertaining to ghost photos.

Is the image sitting in the backseat of the car a ghost? Maybe. Is it Mrs Chinnery’s dead mother? I can’t say with any certainty.

I leave it to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions on this famous photo.

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.

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Rick Hale
Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.


  1. I saw this photo in a book years ago, and still consider it one of the best. Only someone absolutely determined to deny their own perceptions would call this pareidolia. The face is not only clear but, if it were my mother, I’d consider it more than clear enough to recognize her without question – as I’m sure she was so recognized by Mrs. Chinnery.

  2. Why does her scarf overlap the pillar of the door? It’s a double exposure. 200 years ago ghosts were solid people dressed in their burial shroud. Then when photography and double exposures were invented, ghosts became transparent people, you know, like a double exposure. Then when compact cameras were everywhere ghost became “orbs” that looked exactly like compact camera flash bouncing off dust, rain or insects. Weird, isn’t it?


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