Indian Ghost Stories by S. Mukerji
HIS DEAD WIFE'S PHOTOGRAPH.
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This story created a sensation when it was first told. It appeared in the papers and many big Physicists and Natural Philosophers were, at least so they thought, able to explain the phenomenon. I shall narrate the event and also tell the reader what explanation was given, and let him draw his own conclusions.
This was what happened.
* * * * *
A friend of mine, a clerk in the same office as myself, was an amateur photographer; let us call him Jones.
Jones had a half plate Sanderson camera with a Ross lens and a Thornton Picard behind lens shutter, with pneumatic release. The plate in question was a Wrattens ordinary, developed with Ilford Pyro Soda developer prepared at home. All these particulars I give for the benefit of the more technical reader.
Mr. Smith, another clerk in our office, invited Mr. Jones to take a likeness of his wife and sister-in-law.
This sister-in-law was the wife of Mr. Smith's elder brother, who was also a Government servant, then on leave. The idea of the photograph was of the sister-in-law.
Jones was a keen photographer himself. He had photographed every body in the office including the peons and sweepers, and had even supplied every sitter of his with copies of his handiwork. So he most willingly consented, and anxiously waited for the Sunday on which the photograph was to be taken.
Early on Sunday morning, Jones went to the Smiths'. The arrangement of light in the verandah was such that a photograph could only be taken after midday; and so he stayed there to breakfast.
At about one in the afternoon all arrangements were complete and the two ladies, Mrs. Smiths, were made to sit in two cane chairs and after long and careful focussing, and moving the camera about for an hour, Jones was satisfied at last and an exposure was made. Mr. Jones was sure that the plate was all right; and so, a second plate was not exposed although in the usual course of things this should have been done.
He wrapped up his things and went home promising to develop the plate the same night and bring a copy of the photograph the next day to the office.
The next day, which was a Monday, Jones came to the office very early, and I was the first person to meet him.
"Well, Mr. Photographer," I asked "what success?"
"I got the picture all right," said Jones, unwrapping an unmounted picture and handing it over to me "most funny, don't you think so?" "No, I don't ... I think it is all right, at any rate I did not expect anything better from you ...", I said.
"No," said Jones "the funny thing is that only two ladies sat ..." "Quite right," I said "the third stood in the middle."
"There was no third lady at all there ...", said Jones.
"Then you imagined she was there, and there we find her ..." "I tell you, there were only two ladies there when I exposed" insisted Jones. He was looking awfully worried.
"Do you want me to believe that there were only two persons when the plate was exposed and three when it was developed?" I asked. "That is exactly what has happened," said Jones.
"Then it must be the most wonderful developer you used, or was it that this was the second exposure given to the same plate?"
"The developer is the one which I have been using for the last three years, and the plate, the one I charged on Saturday night out of a new box that I had purchased only on Saturday afternoon."
A number of other clerks had come up in the meantime, and were taking great interest in the picture and in Jones' statement.
It is only right that a description of the picture be given here for the benefit of the reader. I wish I could reproduce the original picture too, but that for certain reasons is impossible.
When the plate was actually exposed there were only two ladies, both of whom were sitting in cane chairs. When the plate was developed it was found that there was in the picture a figure, that of a lady, standing in the middle. She wore a broad-edged _dhoti_ (the reader should not forget that all the characters are Indians), only the upper half of her body being visible, the lower being covered up by the low backs of the cane chairs. She was distinctly behind the chairs, and consequently slightly out of focus. Still everything was quite clear. Even her long necklace was visible through the little opening in the _dhoti_ near the right shoulder. She was resting her hands on the backs of the chairs and the fingers were nearly totally out of focus, but a ring on the right ring-finger was clearly visible. She looked like a handsome young woman of twenty-two, short and thin. One of the ear-rings was also clearly visible, although the face itself was slightly out of focus. One thing, and probably the funniest thing, that we overlooked then but observed afterwards, was that immediately behind the three ladies was a barred window. The two ladies, who were one on each side, covered up the bars to a certain height from the bottom with their bodies, but the lady in the middle was partly transparent because the bars of the window were very faintly visible through her. This fact, however, as I have said already, we did not observe then. We only laughed at Jones and tried to assure him that he was either drunk or asleep. At this moment Smith of our office walked in, removing the trouser clips from his legs.