Here's the Error Level Analysis I did on it. Notice that nothing really jumps out where the ghost girl is, indicating a lesser chance that it's a composite layer and probably did come straight from the phone.
This is some of what I sent the author of the story with my initial findings...
So here's what I've been able to come up with so far. In order to do this complete justice, it would be helpful to know a few more things if you happen to get these answers.
When did they review the photos? My guess is that they didn't look at them until later that night or even several days later, but not right when they were taking them. That's the main problem with naturally explainable photos. People can't remember who was with their group, who was in the room, who walked in front of them, etc. and a long time passes before they look at the photo.
Here's what I know and think I know. lol. As you may be aware, the staircase of the Stanley Hotel is the location of many ghostly sightings. This photo got a lot of attention and was taken just last year
I attached a photo that I took of the staircase in 2012. I think I've stayed there at least 4 times for various paranormal conferences and investigations. The carpet has changed, but I included it to show an important size perspective of the railing I'll get to in a minute. The name tags people are wearing I believe are the tags they give people who participate in their regular tours.
My first impression of the photo is that it's way too good to be true. Obvious lens flares from the bright ceiling and wall lighting are present, but this figure is too defined and well-placed to easily dismiss the anomaly as an artifact of the camera or lighting. It looks as though there clearly is a human figure standing on the first step from the top. I decided it was highly unlikely that this was a smudge or lens aberration of the camera so the next step was to look for clues of hoaxing on the digital file itself. Looking into the EXIF data that's created in the file when the camera takes the photo, I honestly expected to find obvious signs of manipulation. It's true that EXIF data can be easily changed with software, but my experience is that most hoaxers don't take it to that level of sophistication. While I don't rule out that this photographer could have changed the EXIF data to erase evidence of editing, I was not able to find any overt evidence of this.
If the originally EXIF data is truly intact, I was able to confirm that the photo was taken with a LG V20 phone. That particular phone actually has 4 cameras (2 forward facing and 2 rear facing). The rear facing camera that was used is the wide angle lens at a 6 megapixel setting at a 1/11th of a second shutter speed. The shutter speed becomes important because as every photographer knows, the use of a tripod is recommended for shooting anything that's slower than 1/30th of a second. Otherwise, we start to see motion blur in the photo which is very apparent in this image. With the low lighting, the camera tried to compensate by delaying the shutter and we end up with ghost images in all over the place. Look at the boy in the maroon shirt next to the boy with tan pants sitting on the back bench. It's very difficult to find his legs because they're in motion and seemingly transparent. In the second photo that was provided, that boy appears now to be standing still and facing the mirror. In the anomalous photo, there's also one or two people sitting on the second set of stairs while a woman walks down to the side of them. The molding of the wall behind is visible through their form because the people are in motion and the shutter speed of the camera can't keep up. Could this also be the explanation for the ghostly figure that appears to be a female on the stairs? Is she actually just a real person that the photographer forgot was there? Are we certain she wasn't added digitally as a composite layer in editing software?
I then did an analysis of compression of the jpeg file through ELA (Error Level Analysis). When jpeg images are resaved, areas where editing has taken place often leave clues due to the different rates of how the image is compressed. The attached photo was processed to highlight edges and textures where editing may have happened. As you can see, the image looks pretty blended and uniform without any areas really standing out. The dark black areas are the lightbulbs. Solid whites and blacks compress easily so they usually show up dark, but everything else is pretty flat in contrast. This further supports that the anomalous figure may actually have been part of the original photo. So who is it?
When you take into consideration how short the side railing is, this figure appears to be the height of a child. Even though the railing rises at the top of the stairs, their head is not even quite to the level of the banister. It looks as if the child has long hair and is wearing a light colored dress or even a coat. Her right leg may be exposed as it looks like skin tone is showing below the knee. If you use your imagination, it almost looks like you can see her right shoe which looks oversized or in motion. It also appears as if she is carrying something in her right hand that is reddish in color. I'm not sure if there's a strap visible as well, perhaps it could be a purse. I very often get photos from people who capture real people we were able to identify in their images, but they just didn't remember seeing them at the time. Another possible clue that this could be a tangible, living person is that there appears to be a shadow on the stairs trailing off below and to the left of the figure. This is exactly where we would expect a shadow of the girl to be if it were coming from the primary light source on the ceiling.
A few other things that seemed noteworthy are the fact that the second photo without the girl has a different white balance setting. The EXIF data shows that both photos were taken with the automatic exposure and white balance settings on. The second photo was also taken only 8 seconds after the first one and only slightly zoomed in, but the color of the ceiling is noticeably different. This could indicate that some editing took place in the anomalous photo; but again, it would take a very good hoaxer to erase the clues in the file data and leftover compression artifacts. Also, the second photo has a water bottle sitting on top of the banister and it's not there when the ghost girl comes up the stairs 8 seconds before. Could the water bottle belong to the woman coming down the stairs and she set it down within those few seconds? Or was the EXIF data of the photos changed so that we're lead to believe only a few seconds had passed between the taking of the two pictures. If a hoaxer were that sophisticated, this would be a nice touch to suggest that this was a ghost that appeared only for a brief moment. I have to admit, if it's a real ghost or a real little girl wearing a white dress in a haunted hotel... if one passed me by on the stairs, I think I would take note of it! This one has me puzzled and that's not a bad thing.
Let me know if you need anything else from me by way of quotes or explanations. Let me know if you end up running the story. Thanks for reaching out Ed!