1966


43
YEARS

THE TULIP STAIRCASE

In 1966 Underwood recieves a curious photograph from Reverend R.W. Hardy.

Reverend R.W. Hardy; Ghosts on the Tulip Staircase of the Queen's House (19th June, 1966)
 Mary Evans Library; picture no. 10003710

“I receive a great many photographs which are supposed to show ghostly forms…”

“...and I have to say that the vast majority are the result of unusual light and shade or some simple explanation…”

“…but occasionally I have come across some puzzling examples of ghost photographs…”

Photograph taken by Gordon Carroll in 1964 in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Woodford, Northamptonshire.

'Lord Combermere's Ghost Photo'; said to show his ghost sitting in his favourite chair, in the library of Combermere Abbey, in Cheshire.

“One of the most puzzling is the famous Greenwich Ghost Photograph…”

William Turner; London from Greenwich Park (1809)

“While visiting the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich…”

“...on Saturday, 19th June 1966…”

“...the Rev. and Mrs R. W. Hardy

from White Rock,

British Columbia…”

“...photographed the Tulip Staircase in the Queen’s House…”

“…and when the photograph was developed, after their return to Canada…”

“…a shrouded figure appeared to be clutching the stairway rail!”

“...the facts of the case were placed in the hands of the Ghost Club who organised an investigation…”

“...and subsequently, arranged an all-night vigil at the museum.”

Underwood leads a seance in the Great Hall of the Queen’s House.

“During the night still and cine-photography was employed with special filters and infra-red film...”

John Cutten’s ghost detecting equipment automatically took photographs and otherwise recorded any unusual occurrences.

“...delicate and normal sound recording apparatus were used...”

“...various thermometers were used for checking the temperature...”

“We did not succeed in scientifically establishing that The Queen’s House is or was haunted...”

“The Tulip Staircase was designed and constructed by Inigo Jones in 1629…”

“...at the command of King Charles I.”

“Today the Queen’s House and the graceful Tulip Staircase are in a perfect state of preservation…”

“Optically the photograph is somewhat confusing…”

Reverend R.W. Hardy; Ghosts on the Tulip Staircase of the Queen's House (19th June, 1966)
 Mary Evans Library; picture no. 10003710

“...one has to realise that the vast expanse of staircase that appears on the left of the picture…”

“...is the underside of the spiral staircase as it lifts overhead.”

“…the camera used was a Zeiss Ikon…”

“...and the film, a Kodachrome X…”

“The light used was that which was available: daylight...”

“...with the electric candelabra which appear in the picture; no floodlight or flash.”

“What is certain is that the day was a Sunday and that the photograph was taken about 5pm during normal opening time of the museum and,

to quote [Rev. Hardy]…”

‘...there is no possibility of a double exposure on this camera...’

“On first examination the picture appears to show a single figure…”

“...with an exceptionally long right hand reaching ahead of the figure…”

“...but close scrutiny establishes that both the hands on the stair rail are left hands…”

“...and that they both wear a ring on the marriage finger…”

“The ‘top’ shadow figure is oddly convincing since the shadow falls directly across the light rays emitted by the electric candelabra.”

“It is possible to see the shrouded figure leaning forward, apparently in pursuit of the ‘shadow’ figure as they ascend the stairs…”

“...viewed in this light there is a distinctly malevolent air about the pursuer…”

“A plausible explanation would be that both left hands are both those of the same person who is photographed twice mounting the stairs;

but listen to Mrs Hardy…”

‘I was free to watch for any possible intrusion of anything visible during the exposure time...’

‘...a group of people who noticed our preparation apologised and stepped back…no person or visible object could have intervened without my noticing it…’

‘Also, we had previously tried to ascend the staircase but were blocked by a “No Admittance” sign and a rope barrier at the foot of the stairs.’

“…examination and investigation by Kodak and other photographic experts resulted in the unanimous conclusion

that there was no trickery or manipulation as far as the transparency itself was concerned…”

“…the only logical explanation from the photographic point of view was that there must have been someone on the stairs…”

“…and against this we have the Rev and Mrs Hardy [as] quoted above…”

“...and the fact that the staircase is not open to the public and the museum warders are very strict...”

“...and would certainly not countenance any dressing up or playing about in the Queen’s House….”

“We made efforts to identify the ring which the figure in the picture is wearing...”

“...to establish whether it could have been associated with the unpopular and unhappy Henrietta Maria, Queen of England and daughter of Henry IV of France...”

“She had close ties with the Queen’s House and must have known the Tulip Staircase…”

“...but these investigations, which included consultations with the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, were abortive…”

“I consider the Hardys’ photograph to be the most remarkable and interesting one I have seen in almost a quarter-century of ghost-hunting…”

“…certainly, to me, it is far clearer and more convincing that the famous Raynham Hall photograph…”

“…and it is to be hoped that other visitors will take photographs of the spiral staircase…

in case they too get a surprise…”

“…for remember that this remarkable photograph was taken in daylight during normal museum visiting hours…”

“…[if] there is something haunting the Tulip Staircase at the Queen’s House at Greenwich, it is possible that they, or it, can be ‘contacted’ again…”

No Common Task
p.143

A Host of Hauntings
pp.171-177

Nights in Haunted Houses
'The Queens House’
p.190

Underwood discusses ghost photography and forgeries (excerpt from 1986 radio interview).

Reverend Hardy’s photograph on the left, and a photograph by Brian Tremain, the National Maritime Museum's official photographer at the time, attempting to reproduce it, on the right.