Friday, 17 July 2009

Spirit Photography & William H. Mumler

To expand upon my previous post about Lily Dale, I had mentioned something fascinating called "Spirit Photography".

Spirit photography is a form of physical mediumship and became popular in the later half of the 19th century. It was a photograph taken of a living person where the spirit of a deceased family member or friend would also be captured in the image.

William H. Mumler was the first spirit photographer, having taken a self portrait around 1860 that depicted the hazy apparition of his dead cousin in the background. There after, Mumler became a full time spirit photographer, which became a lucrative business as grieving families of causalities of the Civil War wanted reassurance that their family members would live on.

One of Mumler's most famous photographs was that of Mary Lincoln. The picture appears to show a foggy image of Abraham behind his widow, clad in black mourning attire.

Mumler, as you may have guessed by now, turned out to be a fraud. The method he used to achieve these photos was double exposure. It was discovered that some of the 'ghosts' in Mumler's photographs were in fact living people. Mumler was brought to trial in 1869 and died a pauper in 1884, his career being ruined.

The above photographs are of Fannie Conant, a well known Boston medium, pictured with her deceased brother Chas.
The next is of Mary Lincoln and her husband.

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