Debunked: Ghost Photo in Stony River Hotel, Okato, NZ [Light in Fridge]

Mick West

Staff member

A photo of a bright light seemingly hovering over a counter is being presented as an unexplained apparition by the Stony River Hotel's new owners. Unfortunately a brief inspection shows that this is just the light in the fridge behind the counter, and it's quite likely that it's a deliberate publicity stunt by the owners trying to improve their business.

The fridge in question features quite prominently in the local news video about the "ghost"

Suggesting it was the light is pretty obvious, but the owners claim there was no light:
This is despite the fact you can plainly see the fluorescent tube in the video. The fridge is a Skope SK650, the specifications for which say:
So there's a 1450mm (4.75 feet) long fluorescent light right there in the door, exactly behind the "apparition".

Notice that there's a very prominent logo and phone number in the illuminated sign, replacing the Coca-cola logo that was there originally.

A search for older photos of the hotel shows the same fridge in a different location, and with the original sign.

The light in the fridge even shows up in multiple photos on Stony River Hotel own web site: (In the "Sunday Brunch Buffet" slideshow)

And of course the thing that seals the deal here is you can see the light in these photos, and it's the same color as the "apparition". Same fridge, same light, not a ghost, debunked.

Why is the light flared out like that? It looks a photo taken with a long exposure (which makes the light flare), and a flash (which gives the highlight reflections on the stainless steel. You can do this with manual setting, but the simplest way of doing this is to have the camera flash set to "Slow Sync", which exposes the scene as if there's no flash, and then does a flash anyway, so you get the combined effect. This is a simple setting on the camera.

And here's the effect with a flashlight in place of the fridge light.

Why is the flare so large compared to the light? Notice the entire image has a hazy look to it, and there's a bit of a glow around all the bright objects. This is because the lens is a bit dirty or fogged. You can simulate this effect by breathing on the lens, as I did here:

Hoax? Accident? Publicity stunt? It seems a little hard to believe that they did not notice the light built into the fridge, or that they continued to not noticed it after being asked about it. It's also a little convenient that the Coca-Cola logo was replaced with the hotel logo and phone number on the fridge that was then made the centerpiece of the ghost story they told the media.
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"its weird how the camera reacts to the light even in their photos."

Vaseline on the lens, perhaps?

Mick West

Staff member
"its weird how the camera reacts to the light even in their photos."

Vaseline on the lens, perhaps?

A fingerprint, or a little condensaton, will have the same effect. I just added this to the OP:

Why is the flare so large compared to the light? Notice the entire image has a hazy look to it, and there's a bit of a glow around all the bright objects. This is because the lens is a bit dirty or fogged. You can simulate this effect by breathing on the lens, as I did here:
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