A few years ago (2007) I worked for a Financial company in Croydon and during my time there one of my supervisor’s approached me and told me about a photograph of a ghost that her friend had in her possession. She asked if I would like to see it (eh….no…..eh…yes!) And soon I was in telephone contact with the photographer. It’s a bizarre tale (but they usually are, aren’t they) so here ladies and gentlemen, is the strange case of the ghost of Norman Smithenbottom.
The story goes that a Mrs Bell who lived at 83 Tamworth Road in Croydon England, held a party in her home, it was either October 1979 or October 1980 (she can’t quite recall the exact year) anyway the party was in full swing or everyone was having a rare old time. Mrs Bell wanted to capture the mood of the party and for that reason got out her camera and started to photograph all the people in her home having a good time. The night went well and all had a good time. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when she got the photographs developed that she came across one particular photograph showing a man to whom she didn’t recognise. This chap clearly had not been in her home on the night of the party. Puzzled, she decided to take the photograph out with her and ask some of her friends if they knew who this chap was. None of her friends recognised the man in the photograph and like her were bemused as to who it could be. Not to be outdone she decided on one last throw of the dice, she took the photograph next door to show her elderly neighbour, a chap who had lived in the street more or less all his life. Upon seeing the photograph he looked up at Mrs Bell and with a surprised look on his face exclaimed, “Oh that’s old Norman Smithenbottom, he’s been dead for years”. That remark only served to make things even more bizarre. Her neighbour went on to say that Norman had lived more or less all his life in her house and that he was the local butcher. Now, the question remains, what is a dead man doing turning up in a photograph? There is no denying that the photo was taken in Mrs Bell’s home as you can make out behind Norman part of a wall unit. Mrs Bell explained to me in a telephone interview that it was a new camera (a Kodak Instamatic) and a brand new spool was used specifically for that party. Every single photo was used; the camera was not left and used again at a later event. The whole spool was used that particular night. A fellow researcher, Kathy Gearing from London’s Ghost Club was also interested in this case and she too had a telephone interview with Mrs Bell where an even more bizarre claim was made. And that was that that same night of the party, Mrs Bell took a photograph of her brother standing in the room and he ‘failed to materialise’ on the exposure at all!
Of course all this just served to confuse Mrs Bell and her family and they were desperate to get to the bottom of it. Mrs Bell’s niece took the photograph to a number of mediums and clairvoyants in an effort to find out who the man in the photograph was, all to no avail. Nobody could provide the family an answer. Mind you, what didn’t help at the time were when pictures in the family home ‘jumped off the wall’ for no apparent reason. Now when the photograph was given to me, I too was desperate to try and get to the bottom of it and find out who this Norman Smithenbottom was. I checked through the local records all to no avail. I telephones some of the local butchers if the name Smithenbottom meant anything to them (or perhaps their fathers who were in the trade before them) Again, all to no avail. Maybe, as Kathy Gearing speculates, the elderly neighbour aged 93 at the time Mrs Bell showed him the photo, might have been mistaken about the surname. Maybe it was something that ‘sounded’ like Smithenbottom (although I did mention this fact to the Butchers and looked for that from the records) we also ascertained that Norman died fifteen years ‘before’ the photo was taken. My next step was to do an interview with the local newspaper the Croydon Guardian in an effort to see if any of their elderly readers remembered or knew this chap Norman Smithenbottom. The article came out on Wednesday the 19th of September 2007 and I’m sad to say that I didn’t get one phone call or letter from it. The address where the picture is alleged to have been taken - 83 Tamworth Road has since been demolished to make way for the Centrale development which is a massive big shopping complex. 83 Tamworth was formerly a six storey Victoria house which had old servant bells downstairs and horse stables at the back
I took this photograph along to a demonstration of mediumship in Cheam Surrey where I showed it to paranormal researcher and film maker Marq English upon first glance, Marq raised a smile and said immediately, that’s not a ghost, that’s Jeremy Wilkin a famous British actor and he’s still very much ‘alive’ ! As stated earlier, I have checked the ghost photo with photos of this actor on the internet and there appears to be a ‘slight’ similarity. So there you have it a photograph of a ghost or a photograph of an actor that turned up on a roll of new photographic film. For me I just don’t know.