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Italy’s Graveyard “Ghost” Photo

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell

Skeptical Briefs Volume 8.2, June 1998

On January 24, 1998, CSICOP received an e-mail letter and scanned photograph from Dave Esch. As he related, the photo was made by his brother-in-law, Dennis Barber, while on a business trip to Italy. Staying in a little town near Milan called Gallarte, Barber took a stroll one day and — coming upon a cemetery — snapped a couple of photos. He saw nothing unusual at the time, Esch wrote, but when the film was developed, Barber “noticed something strange” in one print which he sent to Esch. As the letter describes it, “It appears as some transparent ‘Christ type’ figure” who is “welcoming up others from the graves.” (See Figure 1.)

figure 1

Figure 1. Mystery photo of “ghosts” from a graveyard near Milan, Italy. Courtesy of Cathy and Dennis Barber. Click for a larger view.

Of course we were skeptical — and properly so, since photos, particularly scanned photos, are easily faked. And the figure with outstretched arms had an artificial, outline-drawing appearance. Soon, however, Esch notified us that he had made contact with a Massimo Milano from Varese, Italy, who agreed to visit the site in question. Reported Esch:

figure 2

Figure 2. “Solved” photo of same scene, showing that entities are actually part of a glass memorial. Courtesy of Massimo Milano. Click for a larger view.

“When he arrived he immediately saw that this was a very strange, but solid, and very real” ensemble comprising “glass statues with an etched pane of glass (the Christ-type photo).” He concluded: “So the ghosts do not exist, but a very unusual glass statue/etching does.” Referring to Milano’s photograph of the scene, he stated, “Most people who viewed the photo — and I work at a corporate facility — most thought that it must be the real thing, but in the original photo the edge of the glass did not appear due to lighting.” (See Figure 2.) Esch concluded: “An interesting, but now solved mystery.”

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell's photo

Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC's Today Show. His personal website is at