The Queen’s House ghost

Rev. Hardy's photograph | Unravelling the mystery | All-night vigil | Latest sighting

The Rev. Hardy's photograph

What follows is based on correspondence and documentation about the Rev. Hardy’s famous photograph of ghostly figures in the Queen’s House. Much of the source material is held in the Museum’s archives. Viewing can be arranged by appointment, contact Geraldine Charles for more information.

'Our mysterious “ghost” picture’

We are instinctively sceptical of 'ghost’ stories, but are completely mystified about this…

Rev Hardy, 1967

The Rev Hardy's photograph. MARY EVANS PICTURE LIBRARY/PETER UNDERWOOD Photograph of the Tulip staircase showing ghostly figures, taken by the Rev Hardy in 1966.
Image: Mary Evans Picture Library / Peter Underwood.
On Sunday 19 June 1966, the Rev. and Mrs R.W. Hardy, a retired couple on holiday from Canada, were visiting the Queen’s House. Having previously read about the Tulip staircase, they were interested to see it for themselves. Whilst there, standing at the foot of the staircase and looking upward, Mr Hardy took this photograph.

Following their return to Canada, the photograph was developed to reveal a shrouded figure, on the staircase. On closer inspection, the figure appears to be ascending the stairs in pursuit of a second and possibly a third figure.

Unravelling the mystery

In a letter dated 8 May 1967, to Brian Tremain the Museum’s photographer, Mr Hardy describes the conditions under which the photograph was taken.

Time Between 5.15 and 5.30pm on Sunday 19 June 1966

Camera equipment A Zeiss Ikon Contina camera, Zavar Anastigmat lens and a skylight haze filter

Film K2 daylight

Exposure Exact exposure unknown. (This was later estimated to be no longer than one second). The camera was held by hand, resting on a ledge.

Viewpoint Below the Tulip staircase looking upward 'to include the underside of the first curve and just the fringe of the second curve.’

Floor plans showing the location of sightings in the Queen's House.

In a postscript to the letter, Mr Hardy goes on to explain that while he was taking the photograph, his wife watched the stairs to ensure that no passers by were in the way. He also notes that the stairs were barred by a 'barrier and no admittance sign’.

Later that month, the Hardys visited the Museum again. They met with Brian Tremain and confirmed that the staircase was bare when the photograph was taken. In fact, Mrs Hardy 'was paying special attention to this point’.

Recreation of the Hardy ghost photograph Recreation of the Hardy ghost photograph, by the Museum photographer and his assistant.

During this visit, Mr Tremain helped them to try and recreate a photograph of the scene with figures appearing on the staircase.

The Ghost Club had also taken an interest in Mr Hardy’s photograph after the relative of a member was shown the transparency. Following correspondence with the Hardys and further examination of the photograph, the Ghost Club had satisfied themselves that 'this picture is genuine and therefore would be most interested to investigate the area of the staircase.’

All-night vigil in the Queen’s House

Seven members of the Ghost Club spent the night of Saturday 24 June 1967 in the Queen’s House. Their purpose was to see the ghost(s), to 'film them, record them, or make contact with them by holding a séance in the vicinity of the staircase.’

The seance in the Queen's House, 1967 Photograph of the seance in the Queen's House, taken by Brian Tremain. Detailed instructions were issued to the participants. They had to wear soft-soled shoes, synchronise watches and carry a working torch, notebook and pencil at all times.

Everything was to be noted down:

 '…any whiff of odour or scent…any noise, however slight,…any feeling of a presence, or of being touched…NOTE ANYTHING UNUSUAL – with the TIME.’

One of the participants scribbled their observations down:

'22.54 Bell ring
23.12 Luminous stone
23.15 Smell of wet stone at stairway ground floor.
23.22½ Bell one ring…'

The handwriting becomes illegible and then stops abruptly.

In spite of these and similar observations, the vigil and séance produced no conclusive evidence of the paranormal.

The latest sighting

The story doesn’t end here. In 2002, one of our Gallery Assistants, Tony Anderson, had an unsettling experience in the Queen’s House:

'On Monday 20 May 02 at 9.45am, myself and two colleagues were talking about which breaks we were on, when something caught my eye. One of the doors (double) from the Bridge Room closed and I thought at first it was the girl who does the talks at weekends, then realised the woman just glided across the balcony and went through the wall, west side.

'I could not believe what I saw. I went very cold and the hairs on my arms and neck were on end. We went into the Queen’s Presence Room and looked down towards the old Queen’s Bedroom, and something passed through the ante-room and out through the wall. My two colleagues did also feel cold at that time.

'The lady was dressed in a white-grey colour, old-fashioned, something like a crinoline-type dress.'

Floor plans showing the location of sightings in the Queen's House.

So what was it that Tony saw disappear through the wall, and that Mr Hardy captured on film? In a letter to Brain Tremain dated 27 July 1967, Mr Hardy concludes that the mystery 'remains as deep as ever.’

Why not visit us and make up your own mind…