On November 19, 1995, Wem Town Hall in Shropshire, England burned to the ground. Many spectators gathered to watch the old building, built in 1905, as it was being consumed by the flames. Tony O'Rahilly, a local resident, was one of those onlookers and took photos of the spectacle with a 200mm telephoto lens from across the street. One of those photos shows what looks like a small, partially transparent girl standing in the doorway. Nether O'Rahilly nor any of the other onlookers or firefighters recalled seeing the girl there.
O'Rahilly submitted the photo to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena which, in turn, presented it for analysis to Dr. Vernon Harrison, a photographic expert and former president of the Royal Photographic Society. Harrison carefully examined both the print and the original negative, and concluded that it was genuine. "The negative is a straightforward piece of black-and-white work and shows no sign of having been tampered with," Harrison said.
But who is the little girl? Wem, a quiet market town in northern Shropshire, had been ravaged by fire in the past. In 1677, historical records note, a fire destroyed many of the town's old timber houses. A young girl named Jane Churm, the legends say, accidentally set fire to a thatched roof with a candle. Many believed her ghost haunted the area and had been seen on a few other occasions.
"I know there was no other person in this photograph when I shot it," Clanton insists. And he believes the small figure in the background is holding a knife. "We thought this was a tie at first, but after further review, it appears to be a knife," Clanton says. "The knife is in a vertical position; the tip is located just below the figure's right collar. If you're not convinced that something is weird here, look at my friend's shadow in the photo. It appears to be going back slightly to the right of him. The figure in the back should have the same shadow, but it doesn't!"