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Spirit Photography

 

"The History of Spiritualism"
Volume II, Chapter 5
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


 

The first authentic account of the production of what is called a Spirit photograph dates from 1861. This result was obtained by William H. Mumler in Boston, U.S.A. In England in 1851 Richard Boursnell is said to have had a similar experience, but no early photograph of this nature has been preserved. The first example in England capable of being verified occurred with the photographer Hudson, in 1872.


Like the rise of modern Spiritualism, this new development was predicted from the Other Side. In 1856 Mr Thomas Slater, an optician, residing at 136 Euston Road, London, was holding a seance with Lord Brougham and Mr Robert Owen, when it was rapped out that the time would come when Mr. Slater would take Spirit photographs. Mr. Owen remarked that if he were in the Spirit World when that time came he would appear on the plate. In 1872, when Mr Slater was experimenting in Spirit photography, he is said to have obtained on a plate the face of Mr. Robert Owen and also that of Lord Brougham.* Alfred Russel Wallace was shown these results by Mr. Slater, and said:

* THE SPIRITUALIST, Nov. 1, 1873. "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism," 1901, p. 198.


The first of his successes contained two heads by the side of a portrait of his sister. One of these heads is unmistakably the late Lord Brougham's; the other, much less distinct, is recognized by Mr. Slater as that of Robert Owen, whom he knew intimately up to the time of his death.


After describing other spirit photographs obtained by Mr. Slater, Dr Wallace goes on:

Now whether these figures are correctly identified or not, is not the essential point. The' fact that any figures, so clear and unmistakably human in appearance as these, should appear on plates taken in his own private studio by an experienced optician and amateur photographer, who makes all his apparatus himself, and with no one present but the members of his own family, is the real marvel. In one case a second figure appeared on a plate with himself, taken by Mr. Slater when he was absolutely alone, by the simple process of occupying the sitter's chair after uncapping the camera.


Mr. Slater himself showed me all these pictures, and explained the conditions under which they were produced. That they are not impostures is certain, and as the first independent confirmations of what had been previously obtained only through professional photographers, their value is inestimable.


From Mumler in 1861 to William Hope in our own day there have appeared some twenty to thirty recognized mediums for psychic photography, and between them they have produced thousands of those supernormal results which have come to be known as EXTRAS. The best known of these sensitives, in addition to Hope and Mrs Deane, are Hudson, Parkes, Wyllie, Buguet, Boursnell and Duguid.


William Mumler self portrait with a Spirit impression on the plate.


Mumler, who was employed as an engraver by a leading firm of jewellers in Boston, was not a Spiritualist, nor a professional photographer. In an idle hour, while trying to take a photograph of himself in a friend's studio, he obtained on the plate the outline of another figure. The method he adopted was to focus an empty chair, and after uncovering the lens, spring into position by the chair and stand until the requisite exposure was made. Upon the back of the photograph Mr. Mumler had written:

This photograph was taken of myself, by myself, on Sunday, when there was not a living soul in the room beside me-so to speak. The form on my right I recognize as my cousin, who passed away about twelve years since.
 

W H MUMLER.

The form is that of a young girl who appears to be sitting in the chair. The chair is distinctly seen through the body and arms, also the table upon which one arm rests. Below the waist, says a contemporary account, the form (which is apparently clothed in a dress with low neck and short sleeves) fades away into a dim mist, which simply clouds over the lower part of the picture. It is interesting to note features in this first Spirit photograph, which have been repeated many times in those obtained by later operators.


News of what had happened to Mumler quickly became known, and he was besieged with applications for sittings. He at first refused, but at last had to yield, and when further EXTRAS were obtained and his fame spread, he was compelled finally to give up his business and to devote himself to this new work. As his experiences have been, in the main, those of every psychic photographer who has succeeded him, we may glance briefly at them.


Private sitters of good repute obtained thoroughly evidential and recognizable pictures of friends and relatives, and were perfectly satisfied that the results were genuine. Then came professional photographers who were certain that there must be some trick, and that if they were given the opportunity of testing under their own conditions they would discover how it was done. They came one after another, in some cases with their own plates, camera, and chemicals, but after directing and supervising all the operations, were unable to discover any trickery. W H Mumler also went to their photographic studios and allowed them to do all the handling and developing of the plates, with the same result. Andrew Jackson Davis, who was at that time the editor and publisher of the HERALD OF PROGRESS in New York, sent a professional photographer, Mr. William Guay, to make a thorough investigation. He reported that after he had been allowed to control the whole of the photographic process, there appeared on the plate a Spirit picture. He experimented with this Medium on several other occasions, and was convinced of his genuineness.


Another photographer, Mr Horace Weston, was sent to investigate by Mr. Black, the famous portrait photographer of Boston. When he returned, after having duly obtained a spirit picture, he said he could detect nothing in the operations that differed from those employed in taking an ordinary photograph. Then Black went himself and personally performed all the manipulation of plates and development. As he watched one of the plates developing and saw appearing on it another form besides his own, and finally found it to be that of a man leaning his arm on his shoulder, he exclaimed in his excitement, My God, is it possible.


Mumler had more applications for sittings than he could find time for, and appointments were made for weeks ahead. These came from all classes-ministers, doctors, lawyers, judges, mayors, professors, and business men being mentioned as among those particularly interested. A full account of the various evidential results obtained by Mumler will be found in contemporary records.*

* THE SPIRITUAL MAGAZINE, 1862, p. 562; 1863, pp. 34-41.


In 1863 Mumler, like so many other photographic Mediums since his day, found on his plates EXTRAS of living persons. His strongest supporters were unable to accept this new and startling phenomenon, and while holding to their former belief in his powers, were convinced that he had resorted to trickery. Dr. Gardner, in a letter to the BANNER OF LIGHT (Boston, February 20, 1863), referring to this fresh development, writes:

While I am fully of the belief that genuine spirit likenesses have been produced through his mediumship, evidence of deception in two cases, at least, has been furnished me, which is perfectly conclusive. Mr. Mumler, or some person connected with Mrs. Stuart's rooms, has been guilty of deception in palming off as genuine Spirit likenesses pictures of a person who is now living in this city.


What made the case even more conclusive to the accusers was the fact that the same EXTRA of the living person appeared on two different plates. This exposure set the tide of public opinion against him, and in 1868 Mumler departed for New York. Here his business prospered for a time until he was arrested by order of the mayor of New York, at the instance of a newspaper reporter who had received an unrecognized EXTRA. After a lengthy trial he was discharged without a stain on his character. The evidence of professional photographers who were not Spiritualists was strongly in Mumler's favour.


Mr. Jeremiah Gurney testified:

I have been a photographer for twenty-eight years; I have witnessed Mumler 's process, and although I went prepared to scrutinize everything, I could find nothing which savored of fraud or trickery the only thing out of the usual routine being the fact that the operator kept his hand on the camera.


Mumler, who died in poverty in 1884, has left an interesting and convincing narrative of his career in his book, Personal Experiences of William H Mumler in Spirit Photography, a copy of which is to be seen at the British Museum.

Boston, 1875. Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings, etc., 1882, p. 2.


Hudson, who obtained the first spirit photograph in England of which we have objective evidence, is said to have been about sixty years of age at that time (March, 1872). The sitter was Miss Georgiana Houghton, who has fully described the incident. There is abundant testimony to Hudson's work. Mr. Thomas Slater) already quoted, took his own camera and plates, and after minute observation reported that collusion or trickery was altogether out of the question. Mr. William Howitt, a stranger to the Medium, went unannounced and received a recognized extra of his two deceased boys. He pronounced the photographs to be perfect and unmistakable.


From Miracles and Modern Spiritualism, (Revised Edition 1901), pp. 196-7. As follows

 

Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace secured a good picture of his mother. Describing his visit he says:


I sat three times, always choosing my own position. Each time a second figure appeared in the negative with me. The first was a male figure with a short sword, the second a full-length figure, standing apparently a few feet on one side and rather behind me, looking down at me and holding a bunch of flowers. At the third sitting, after placing myself, and after the prepared plate was in the camera, I asked that the figure would come close to me. The third plate exhibited a female figure standing close in front of me, so that the drapery covers the lower part of my body. I saw all the plates developed, and in each case the additional figure started out the moment the developing fluid was poured on, while my portrait did not become visible till, perhaps, twenty seconds later. I recognized none of these figures in the negatives; but the moment I got the proofs, the first glance showed me that the third plate contained an unmistakable portrait of my mother-like her both in features and expression; not such a likeness as a portrait taken during life, but a somewhat pensive, idealized likeness yet still, to me, an unmistakable likeness.


The second portrait, though indistinct, was also recognized by Dr. Wallace as a picture of his mother. The first EXTRA of a man was unrecognized.


Mr. J Traill Taylor, who was then editor of the BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY, testified * that he secured supernormal results with this Medium, using his own plates, and that at no time during the preparation, exposure, or development of the pictures was Mr. Hudson within ten feet of the camera or dark room. Surely this must be accepted as final.

*
BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY, August, 1873. HUMAN NATURE, 1875, p. 152.


Mr. F M Parkes, living at Grove Road, Bow, in the East End of London, was a natural psychic who had veridical visions from his childhood. He knew nothing of Spiritualism until it was brought to his notice in 1871, and early in the following year he experimented in photography with his friend Mr Reeves, the proprietor of a dining-room near King's Cross. He was then in his thirty-ninth year. At first only irregular markings and patches of light appeared on the plates, but after three months a recognized Spirit extra was obtained, the sitters being Dr Sexton and Dr Clarke, of Edinburgh. Dr Sexton invited Mr Bowman, of Glasgow, an experienced photographer, to make a thorough examination of the camera, the dark room and all the appliances in use. This he did, and declared imposition on the part of Parkes to be impossible. For some years this Medium took no remuneration for his services. Mr. Stainton Moses, who has devoted a chapter to Mr. Parkes, writes:

On turning over Mr. Parkes' album, the most striking point is the enormous variety of the designs; the next, perhaps, the utterly unlike character of most of them, and their total dissimilarity to the conventional ghost. Out of 110 that lie before me now, commencing from April 1872, and with some intermissions extending down to present date, there are not two that are alike-scarcely two that bear any similarity to each other. Each design is peculiar to itself, and bears upon the face of it marks of individuality.

He states that a considerable number of the photographs were recognized by the sitters.

M. Ed. Buguet, the French Spirit photographer, visited London in June, 1874, and at his studio at 33 Baker Street had many well-known sitters. Mr. Harrison, editor of The Spiritualist, speaks of a test employed by this photographer, namely, cutting off a corner of the glass plate and fitting it to the negative after development. Mr. Stainton Moses describes Buguet as a tall, thin man, with earnest face and clearly-cut features, with an abundance of bushy black hair. During the exposure of a plate he was said to be in partial trance. The psychic results he obtained were of far higher artistic quality and distinctness than those obtained by other mediums. Also a big percentage of the Spirit forms were recognized. A curious feature with Buguet was that he obtained a number of portraits of the double of sitters, as well as of those living, but not present, with him in the studio. Thus Stainton Moses, while lying in a state of trance in London, had his picture appear on a plate in Paris when Mr Gledstanes was the sitter.*

* HUMAN NATURE, Vol. IX, p. 97.


In April, 1875, Buguet was arrested and charged by the French Government with producing fraudulent spirit photographs. To save himself he confessed that all his results had been obtained by trickery. He was sentenced to a fine of five hundred francs and imprisonment for one year. At the trial a number of well-known public men maintained their belief in the genuineness of the EXTRAS they had obtained, in spite of the production of dummy ghosts said to have been used by Buguet. The truth of spirit photography does not rest with this medium, but those who are interested enough to read the full account of his arrest and trial* should be able to form their own conclusions. Writing after the trial, Mr. Stainton Moses says: I not only believe; I KNOW, as surely as I know anything, that some of Budget's pictures were genuine.

* THE SPIRITUALIST, Vols. VI, VII (1875), and HUMAN NATURE, Vol. IX, p. 334.


Coates says, however, that Buguet was a worthless fellow. Certainly the position of a man who can only prove that he is not a rogue by admitting that he made a false confession out of fear is a weak one. The case for psychic photography would be stronger without him. As to his confession, it was extracted from him by a criminal action which the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toulouse took against the REVUE SPIRITE, when Leymarie, the editor, was tried and condemned. Buguet was told that his one chance was to confess. Thus pressed, he did what so many victims of the Inquisition had done before him, and made a forced confession, which did not save him, however, from twelve months imprisonment.

Richard Boursnell (1832-1909) occupied a prominent position in the middle period of the history of Spirit photography. He was in partnership with a professional photographer in Fleet Street, and is said to have had psychic markings, with occasional hands and faces, on his plates as early as 1851. His partner accused him of not cleaning the plates properly (those were the days of the wet collodion process), and after an angry dispute Boursnell said he would have nothing more to do with that side of the business. It was nearly forty years later before he again got markings, and then extra forms, with his photographs, much to his annoyance, because it meant injury to his business and the destruction of many plates. With great difficulty Mr W T Stead persuaded him to allow him to have sittings. Under his own conditions, Mr Stead obtained repeatedly what the old photographer called shadow pictures. At first they were not recognized, but later on several that were thoroughly identified were obtained. Mr. Stead gives particulars of precautions observed in marking plates, etc., but says that he attaches little importance to these, considering that the appearance on the plate of a recognized likeness of an unknown relative of an unknown sitter a test far superior to precautions which any expert conjurer or trick photographer might evade. He says:

Again and again I sent friends to Mr. Boursnell giving him no information as to who they were, or telling him anything as to the identity of the person s deceased friend or relative whose portrait they wished to secure, and time and again when the negative was developed, the portrait would appear in the background, or sometimes in front of the sitter. This occurred so frequently that I am quite convinced of the impossibility of any fraud. One time it was a French editor, who, finding the portrait of his deceased wife appear on the negative when developed, was so transported with delight that he insisted on kissing the photographer, Mr. B., much to the old man s embarrassment. On another occasion it was a Lancashire engineer, himself a photographer, who took marked plates and all possible precautions. He obtained portraits of two of his relatives and another of an eminent personage with whom he had been in close relations. Or again, it was a near neighbour who, going as a total stranger to the studio, obtained the portrait of her deceased daughter.

In 1903 the Spiritualists of London presented this medium with a purse of gold and a testimonial signed by over a hundred representative Spiritualists. On this occasion the walls of the rooms of the Psychological Society in George Street, Portman Square, were hung with three hundred chosen spirit photographs taken by Boursnell.

With regard to Mr. Stead s point about the recognized likeness, critics declare that the sitter often imagines the likeness, and that at times two sitters have claimed the same EXTRA as a relative. In answer to this it may be said that Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, for instance, ought to be the best judge whether the picture was a likeness of his dead mother. Dr Cushman (of whom we shall speak later) submitted the EXTRA of his daughter Agnes to a number of his friends and relations, and all were convinced of the likeness. But irrespective of any certainty about the likeness, there is overwhelming evidence that these supernormal portraits really do occur, and in thousands of cases they have been recognized.

Mr. Edward Wyllie (1848-1911) had genuine mediumistic gifts which were tested by a number of qualified investigators. He was born in Calcutta, his father, Colonel Robert Wyllie, having been military secretary to the Government of India. Wyllie, who served as a captain in the Maori war in New Zealand, afterwards took up photography there. He went to California in 1886. After a time spots of light began to show on his negatives, and as they increased threatened to destroy his business. He had never heard of spirit photography until a lady sitter suggested this as a possible explanation. Experimenting with her, faces appeared on the plate in the spots of light. Thenceforth these faces came so often with other sitters that he was compelled to give up his usual business and devote himself to Spirit Photography. But here he encountered fresh trouble. He was accused of obtaining his results by fraud, and this so wounded him that he tried to earn his living in some other way, but he did not succeed, and had to come back to work as a Photo Medium, as he was called. On November 27, 1900, the committee of the Pasadena Society for Psychical Research conducted an investigation with him at Los Angeles. The following questions which were asked, and answered by Wyllie, are of historical interest:

Q. Do you advertise or promise to get spirit faces, or something out of the ordinary for your sitters.

A. Not at all. I neither guarantee nor promise anything. I have no control over it. I merely charge for my time and material, as you see stated on the card there against the wall. I charge one dollar for a sitting; and if the first one is not satisfactory, I give a second trial without extra charge.

Q. Do you sometimes fail to get anything extra.

A. Oh, yes, often. Last Saturday, working all afternoon, I gave five sittings and didn't get a thing.

Q. About what proportion of such failures do you have.

A. I should say, with an ordinary day's business, they would average three or four failures a day-some days more and some less.

Q. About what proportion of the extra faces that do appear do you estimate are recognized by the sitter or friends.

A. For several months last year I kept a record on this point, and I found that in about two-thirds of the sittings some one or more of the extra faces appearing were recognized. Sometimes there would be only one extra face, and sometimes five or six, or even eight at once, and I couldn't keep a tally of them, but only of the total number of sittings, as shown by my book account.

Q. When a sitting is made, do you know as a psychic whether there will be any EXTRAS on the plate or not.

A. Sometimes I see lights about the sitter, and then I feel pretty sure there will be something for him or her; but just what it will be I don t know, any more than you do. I don't know what it is until I see it on the negative after it is developed so I can hold it up to the light.

Q. If the sitter strongly desires some particular discarnate friend to appear on the plate, is he more likely to get that result.

A. No. A wrought-up or tense state of mind or feeling, whether of desire or anxiety or antagonism, makes it more difficult for the spirit forces to use the sitter's magnetism towards producing their manifestations, so it is less likely that anything extra will then come on the plate. An easy, restful, passive condition is most favourable for good results.

Q. Do those who are Spiritualists get better results than disbelievers.

A. No. Some of the best test results I have ever had came when the strongest skeptics were in the chair.

With this committee no EXTRAS were obtained. An earlier committee of seven in 1899 submitted the medium to strict tests, and four plates out of eight showed results for which the committee are unable to account. After a minute account of the precautions taken, the report concludes:

As a committee we have no theory, and testify only to that which we do know. Individually we differ as to probable causes, but unanimously agree concerning the palpable facts. We will give twenty-five dollars to any Los Angeles photographer who by trick or skill will produce similar results under similar conditions.

(Signed); Julian McCrae, P C Campbell, J W Mackie, W N Slocum, John Henley.

David Duguid (1832-1907), the well-known Medium for automatic writing and automatic painting, had the benefit of careful investigation of his Spirit photographs by Mr. J. Traill Taylor, editor of the BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY, who in the course of a paper read by him before the London and Provincial Photographic Association on March 9, 1893, gave an account of recent test sittings with this Medium. He says:

My conditions were exceedingly simple. They were, that I for the nonce would assume them all to be tricksters, and to guard against fraud, should use my own camera and unopened packages of dry plates purchased from dealers of repute, and that I should be excused from allowing a plate to go out of my own hand till after development, unless I felt otherwise disposed; but that, as I was to treat them as under suspicion, so they must treat me, and that every act I performed must be in the presence of two witnesses, nay, that I would set a watch upon my own camera in the guise of a duplicate one of the same focus-in other words, I would use a binocular stereoscopic camera and dictate all the conditions of operation.

After giving details of the procedure adopted, he records the appearance on the plates of extra figures, and continues:

Some were in focus, others not so; some were lighted from the right, while the sitter was so from the left some monopolized the major portion of the plate, quite obliterating the material sitters; others were as if an atrociously badly vignetted portrait, or one cut oval out of a photograph by a can-opener, or equally badly clipped out, were held up behind the sitter. But here is the point not one of these figures which came out so strongly in the negative was visible in any form or shape to me during the time of exposure in the camera, and I vouch in the strongest manner for the fact that no one whatever had an opportunity of tampering with any plate anterior to its being placed in the dark slide or immediately preceding development. Pictorially they are vile, but how came they there.

Other well-known sitters have described remarkable evidential results obtained with Duguid.*

* James Coates, "Photographing the Invisible" (1921), and Andrew Glendinning, "The Veil Lifted" (1894).

Mr. Stainton Moses, in the concluding chapter of his valuable series on Spirit Photography, discusses the theory that the extra forms photographed are moulded from ectoplasm (he speaks of it as the fluidic substance) by the invisible operators, and makes important comparisons between the results obtained by different photographic mediums.

Mr. John Beattie's valuable and conclusive experiments, as Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace calls them, can only be referred to briefly. Mr. Beattie, of Clifton, Bristol, who was a retired photographer of twenty years standing, felt very doubtful about the genuineness of many of the alleged spirit photographs which had been shown to him, and determined to investigate for himself. Without any professional medium, but in the presence of an intimate friend who was a trance sensitive, he and his friend Dr. G. S. Thomson, of Edinburgh, conducted a series of experiments in 1872 and obtained on the plates first patches of light and, later on, entire extra figures. They found that the extra forms and markings showed up on the plate during development much in advance of the sitter a peculiarity often observed by other operators. Mr. Beattie's thorough honesty is vouched for by the editor of the BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY. Mr. Stainton Moses* and others supply details of the above experiments.

* HUMAN NATURE, Vols. VIII. and IX., 1874-5. HUMAN NATURE, Vol. VIII., 1874, p. 390 ET SEQ.


The LONDON DAILY MAIL in 1908 appointed a Commission to make an inquiry into the genuineness or otherwise of what are called spirit photographs, but it came to naught. It was composed of three non-Spiritualists, Messrs. R Child Bayley, F J Mortimer, and E Sanger Shepherd, and three supporters of spirit photography, Messrs. A P Sinnett, E R Serocold Skeels, and Robert King. In the course of the report of the latter three they state that they:

I can only agree to report that the Commission has failed to secure proof that Spirit photography is possible, not because evidence to that effect is otherwise than very abundant, but by reason of the unfortunate and unpractical attitude adopted by those members of the commission who had no previous experience of the subject.

Particulars of the Commission will be found in LIGHT.* In recent years the history of spirit photography has largely centred round what is known as the Crewe Circle, which is now composed of Mr. William Hope and Mrs Buxton, both living at Crewe. The Circle was formed about 1905, but did not attract attention until it was discovered by Archdeacon Colley in 1908. Mr. Hope, describing his first experiences, says that while working in a factory near Manchester, he took a photograph one Saturday afternoon of a fellow-workman whom he posed in front of a brick wall. When the plate was developed there was to be seen, in addition to the photograph of his friend, the form of a woman standing by his side, with the brick wall showing through her. The man asked Hope how he had put the other figure there, saying that he recognized it as that of his sister who had been dead some years. Mr. Hope says:

* LIGHT, 1908, p. 526, and 1909, pp. 290, 307, 329.

I knew nothing at all about Spiritualism then. We took the photograph to the works on Monday, and a Spiritualist there said it was what was called a Spirit photograph. He suggested that we should try again on the following Saturday at the same place with the same camera, which we did, and not only the same lady came on the plate again, but a little child with her. I thought this very strange, and it made me more interested, and I went on with my experiments. For a long time Hope destroyed all the negatives on which he obtained spirit pictures, until Archdeacon Colley became acquainted with him and told him he must preserve them.

Archdeacon Colley had his first sitting with the Crewe Circle on March 16, 1908. He brought his own camera (a Lancaster quarter plate which Mr. Hope still uses), his own diamond marked plates and dark slides, and developed plates with his own chemicals. All that Mr. Hope did was to press the bulb for the exposure. On one of the plates were two spirit pictures.

Since that early day, Mr Hope and Mrs Buxton have taken thousands of Spirit photographs under every imaginable test, and they are proud to be able to say that they have never charged a penny as professional fees, only charging for the actual photographic materials used and for their time.

Mr M J Vearncombe, a professional photographer in Bridgwater, Somerset, had the same disturbing experience as Wyllie, Boursnell, and others in finding unaccountable patches of light appear on his plates, and, like them, he came to take spirit photographs.

In 1920 Mr. Fred Barlow, of Birmingham, a well known investigator, obtained with this Medium extras of faces and written messages, under test conditions, on plates that were not exposed in the camera.* Since that date Mr Vearncombe has secured many evidential results.

* See LIGHT 1920, p. 190. March 1922, pp. 132-47.


Mrs. Ada Emma Deane's mediumship is of recent date (her first spirit photograph was in June, 1920). She has obtained many recognized EXTRAS under test conditions, and her work is sometimes equal to the best of her predecessors in this branch. Recently she has achieved two very fine results. Dr Allerton Cushman, a well-known American scientist and Director of the National Laboratories at Washington, paid an unexpected visit to the British College of Psychic Science at Holland Park in July, 1921, and obtained through Mrs. Deane a beautiful and well-recognized EXTRA of his deceased daughter. Full details of this sitting will be found recorded, with photographs, in the JOURNAL of the American Society for Psychical Research. The other result was on November 11, 1922, on the occasion of the Great Silence, on Armistice Day, in Whitehall, when in a photograph of the immense concourse of people gathered in the vicinity of the Cenotaph many spirit faces are discernible, and a number of them were recognized. This was repeated on three successive years.

Modern researches have proved that these psychic results are not obtained, in some instances at least, through the lens of the camera. On many occasions, under test conditions, these supernormal pictures have been secured from an unopened box of plates, held between the hands of the sitter or sitters. Also, when the experiment has been tried of using two cameras, if any EXTRA appears, it is found in one camera, not in both. A theory held is that the image is precipitated on the photographic plate, or that a psychic screen is applied to the plate.

The author may perhaps say a few words upon his own personal experience, which has been chiefly with the Crewe Circle and with Mrs. Deane. In the case of the latter there have always been results, but in no case were the EXTRA recognized. The author is well aware of Mrs. Deane's psychic power, which has been conspicuously shown during the long series of experiments held by Mr. Warrick under every possible test condition, and fully reported in the July 1925 edition of PSYCHIC SCIENCE.* His own experiences have, however, never been evidential, and if he relied only upon them he could not speak with any certainty. He used Mrs. Deane's own plates, and he has a strong feeling that the faces may be precipitated upon them during the days of preparation when she carries the packet upon her person. She is under the impression that she can facilitate her results in this way, but she is probably quite mistaken, for the Cushman case was extempore. It is also on record that a trick was once played upon her at the Psychic College, her own packet being taken away and another substituted. In spite of this EXTRAS were obtained. She would be well advised, therefore, if she abandoned methods which make her results, however genuine, so vulnerable to attack.

It is otherwise with Mr. William Hope. On the various occasions when the author has sat with him he has always brought his own plates, has marked them in the dark room, and has handled and developed them himself.

Since writing the above, the author has tested the Medium with his own plates, marked and developed by himself. He obtained six psychic results in eight experiments. In nearly every case an EXTRA has been obtained, that EXTRA -though there has never yet been a clear recognition; has certainly been abnormal in its production. Mr. Hope has endured the usual attacks from ignorance or malice to which every medium is exposed, but he has emerged from them with his honour unblemished.

Some mention should be made of the remarkable results of Mr Staveley Bulford, a talented psychic student, who has produced most excellent genuine psychic photographs. No one can look over his scrapbook and note the gradual development of his gift from mere blotches of light to very perfect faces without being convinced of the reality of the process.

The subject is still obscure, and all the author s personal experience goes to support the view that in a certain number of cases nothing external is ever built up, but the effect is produced by a sort of ray carrying a picture upon it which can penetrate solids, such as the wall of the dark slide, and imprint its effect upon the plate. The experiment, already cited, where two cameras have been trained simultaneously, with the Medium midway between them, appears to be conclusive, since it showed a result on one plate and not on the other. The author has obtained results on plates which never left the dark slide, quite as vivid as any which have been exposed to light. It is probable that if Hope never took the cap off the lens his results would often be the same.

Whatever the eventual explanation, the only hypothesis which at present covers the facts is that of a wise invisible Intelligence, presiding over the operation and working in his own fashion, which shows different results with different circles. So standardized are the methods of each that the author would undertake to tell at a glance which photographer had taken any print submitted to him. Supposing such an Intelligence to have the powers claimed, we can then at once see why every normal photographic law is violated, why shadows and lights no longer agree, and why, in short, a whole series of traps are laid for the ordinary conventional critic. We can understand also, since the picture is simply built up by the Intelligence and shot on to the plate, why we find results which are reproductions of old pictures and photographs, and why it is as possible that the face of a living man may appear on the plate as that of a disembodied spirit. In one instance, quoted by Dr Henslow, the reproduction of a rare Greek script from the British Museum appeared in one of the plates from Hope, with a slight change in the Greek which showed that it was not a copy.* Here apparently the Intelligence had noted the inscription, had shot it on to the plate, but had made some small slip of memory in the conveyance. This explanation has the disconcerting corollary that the mere fact that we get the psychic photograph of a dead friend is no proof at all that the friend is really present. It is only when that fact is independently asserted in some seance, before or after, that we get something in the nature of proof.

* "Proofs of the Truths of Spiritualism," p. 218. Henslow.


In his experiments with Hope, the author has seemed to catch a glimpse of the process by which the objective photographs are built up-so much so that he has been able to arrange a series of slides which exhibit the various stages. The first of these slides-taken with Mr. William Jeffrey, of Glasgow, as a sitter-shows a sort of cocoon of thinly veined, filmy material which we must call ectoplasm, since the various plasms have not yet been subdivided. It is as tenuous as a great soap bubble and has nothing within: This would appear to be the containing envelope within which the process is carried on, force being collected there as in an earthly Medium's cabinet. In the next slide one sees that a face has formed inside the cocoon, and that the cocoon is opening down the centre. Various stages of this opening are seen. Finally, the face looks out with the cocoon festooned back, and forming an arch over the face, and a hanging veil on either side of it. This veil is highly characteristic of Hope s pictures, and when it is wanting one may argue that there was no objective presence and that the effect is really a psychograph. The veil or mantilla effect in various forms may be traced back through the whole series of previous photographs, and is especially noticeable in one taken by an amateur on the West Coast of Africa, where the dark Spirit has thick folds over the head and down to the ground. When similar results are obtained at Crewe and at Lagos, it is only common sense to agree that a common law is at work.

In pointing out the evidence for the psychic cocoon, the author hopes that he has made some small contribution to the better understanding of the mechanism of psychic photography. It is a very true branch of psychic science, as every earnest investigator will discover. We cannot deny, however, that it has been occasionally made the tool of rogues, nor can we confidently assert that, because some results of any Medium are genuine, we are therefore justified in accepting without question whatever else may come.

William Black, a leading Boston photographer and the inventor of the acid nitrate bath (an important improvement in the photographic process) was one of the professional photographers who investigated Mumler and his methods. While attending a sitting in Mumler s studio, Black carefully examined his camera, plate, dipper and bath and even kept his eye on the plate from the moment its preparation began, until it was sensitized and locked into the dark slide. After his portrait was taken, Black removed it from the camera and took it to the darkroom himself where, as it was developed, he saw the figure of a man leaning over his shoulder. He had no explanation for its appearance.
Although he had not previously been interested in Spirits or Spiritualism, Mumler soon began to describe himself as a Medium for taking Spirit photographs and although the Spirit EXTRAS
were often unrecognizable and blurred, in many of the cases they were the distinct likenesses of deceased family members and friends. He quickly became the subject of great controversy. Even the testimony of New York Supreme Court Judge John Edmonds -- who had gone to see Mumler convinced that he was a fraud and left convinced that he could actually produce psychic photographs -- but failed to quiet the critics and the non-believers. Mumler finally left Boston and moved to New York in 1869, where he opened a new studio and charged as much as $10 per photograph.
The studio began to be frequented by wealthy and influential patrons. Although many of the photos that he produced were undistinguished, one one occasion at least he produced a recognizable (and some believe amazing) Spirit portrait of Abraham Lincoln. A lady who was heavily veiled and wearing a black dress gave her name as Mrs Tydall when she called unannounced at the studio and asked to be photographed. In Mumler's words: I requested her to be seated, went into my darkroom and coated a plate. When I came out I found her seated with a veil still over her face. The crepe veil was so thick that it was impossible to distinguish a single feature of her face. I asked is she intended having her picture taken with her veil. She replied, When you are ready, I will remove it. I said I was ready, upon which she removed the veil and the picture was taken. It was only when Mumler saw the developed print that he realized the sitter had been Mary Todd Lincoln -- for behind her stood the smiling image of Abraham Lincoln himself. This photograph has been distributed widely over the years and while most have expressed amazement at it -- some feel that it is likely a clever hoax.  OR IS IT YET AGAIN another bit of mis-information [of saying it is a hoax] by the church goers that they always seem to put out just to discredit things that those within their religions do not wish to understand.


Mumler's most famous photograph -- the photo of Mary Lincoln and her spectral husband.

Notice the main part of Abraham Lincoln is behind his good lady YET his hands are on her shoulders at the front of Mrs Lincoln.


In 1863, a Dr. Child of Philadelphia reported that he found Mumler to be very willing to give him every opportunity to investigate his methods and that he was himself interested in finding a rational solution to the mystery. Mumler permitted Dr. Child to watch all of his operations in the darkroom and allowed him to examine all of his apparatus. Dr Child showed the pictures made during the investigation and he and several friends watched the whole process, from the plate cleaning to the developing. He took the precaution to mark each plate with a diamond before it was used and yet on each was a spirit image. Dr. Child failed completely to discover any human agency that could have formed the Spirit EXTRAS
. And with each of these, they differed considerably from any that he had seen before and he had no way of imitating them.
The extras that appeared in Mumler s photographs did not meet with universal acclaim though and after more controversy, the Mayor of New York pressured prosecutors into swearing out a warrant for his arrest on charges of swindling credulous persons by what he called spirit photographs. His trial was widely publicized and he was later acquitted. A number of eminent New Yorker s spoke out on his behalf and in addition, a number of professional photographers also testified that they had studied samples of Mumler s work and had found no evidence of trickery. One of these was Jeremiah Gurney, the famous Broadway photographer, and he testified that he had witnessed Mumler s process, scrutinized everything and could find nothing that appeared to be fraud or fakery. Mumler was exonerated and his case dismissed.

A Photograph taken by William Hope.

The extra on the photograph turned out to be that of his deceased sister-in-law Mrs Longcake.

Fred Jackson with Spirit extra.

Lyme Regis Boys Club Spirit.

Was this a Spirit Guardian or Helper, or was it perhaps, the person who had died in this terrible crash.

In 1869 Mumler because of his Spirit photography was taken to court in the city of New York U.S.A., charged with selling fraudulent images of ghosts or Spirits. the hearing lasted for seven days but in the end the judge stopped the proceedings as he said there was not enough evidence for the case to continue. A lot of prominent people stood up in favour of Mumler including a very high Judge of the day. One notable opposition witness was P.T. Barnum and a few well known photographers who said they could do exactly the same with their own fake photographic methods, talk is cheap, they did not produce any evidence to the court that they could, BUT the prosecution had failed to prove the case.

In 1869 the Harper's Weekly published all the facts presented to the courts in it s nationwide publication adding a cartoon on the back page.

William H Mumler


Mumler went back to Spirit photography and gloated a bit in a pamphlet he published in 1875. But his brush with the law took its toll, both to his reputation and to his finances. Mumler never recovered from the $3000 cost of his defense, a staggering sum for its day. He destroyed all of his negatives shortly before his death in 1884.

 

WHY IS IT THAT PEOPLE WHO SEE WITH THEIR OWN EYES AND CANNOT UNDERSTAND HOW OR WHY IT HAPPENS, ALWAYS SEEM TO DISMISS IT ALL AS BEING FAKE. THEY CANNOT ACCEPT IT AS BEING GENUINE ALL BECAUSE OF THEIR INDOCTRINATION WITHIN THEIR BIGOTED RELIGIONS.

From Chimes psychic monthly 1949

Now! Materialization In Full View
By Owen R Washburn

New Device Enables Possessor of Infra-Red Viewer To See In Total Darkness
Materializations And Trumpet Seance Phenomena May Be In Full View
Meet Test

During the recent war, American scientists enabled the armed forces to carry an instrument, on a rifle or elsewhere by which the waves of energy rebounding from an object made the image to appear in an eye piece of the instrument. With it our fighting men shot accurately in the darkest jungle night.

Those instruments, which the men who used them called "Snooperscopes, now to be known as Infra Red Viewers, are not yet released by the armed forces, but the tubes used can be bought from the Radio Corporation of America, and drawings to enable individuals to finish the viewers are available.  The army instruments used direct electric currents, but drawings by which instruments with alternating current can be used are to be had.

J Gilbert E Wright, the research chemist who is one of the contributors of articles to CHIMES procured one of the tubes and built a duplicate to the viewer, adapted to use in a seance room. Other men of scientific ability are already interested in producing duplicates of the viewer.

With the cooperation of Iona Brandt, the widely known Medium, among the best in this class of beneficent workers, Mr. Wright arranged for a seance under strictly test conditions. Mrs Brandt volunteered to assist in this important work.

The test was made in the seance room at the Spiritualist Camp at Freeville, New York. Witnesses of unquestioned intelligence and reputation were present. These included Arthur Ford, Ethel Corbin of New York City, Edmund Rice, of Miami, a friend who was with Mr Ford, William A Smith of Johnson City, New York, and Mr Wright who brought the viewer for use.

Mrs. Brandt went into the cabinet in the seance room, built to be fraud proof, and Rose Marie, a Spirit gave a short talk. Then the Gardener light, used on such occasions was switched off and the Medium was seen, with ectoplasm of a light grey color flowing from her and piling itself on the floor. The curtains of the cabinet were then closed and the ectoplasm, then intensely white, flowed between the partings of the curtains. The curtains were then parted, two of the persons present being stationed there and moving the curtains as the Spirit Guide directed. The Guide was not seen but her voice was heard. The Medium was in her chair. The Guide then informed those present that the ectoplasmic mist rising, a half-transparent vapor, was the beginning of the shell which the invisible Spirit would enter and adapt to the requirement of materialization manifestations.

Rose Marie requested that the curtains be parted, and two Spirits, clothed in the ectoplasm provided, so they might appear to earth dwellers, were then seen. One was Rose Marie and the other a Dr Carl. Each in turn talked with Mr Wright and waved their arms, on request, to show their individual selves.

At this point Rose Marie, who controlled the light, switched on the Gardener light; the Spirits having become invisible and Mr. Wright on invitation entered the cabinet. What he experienced there he has since reported and we quote his own words...

I was requested to enter the cabinet and feel the Medium's hands. I could see quite well to do this. The Medium's figure was clearly outlined. Her hands were like ice. I was asked to take her pulse but could find none in the left wrist but there was a feeble pulse in the right. I returned to my seat, and the curtain fell, Gardener light still on. Curtains again were parted and I was again requested to come forward. Rose Marie before invisible, was now beautifully materialized. She asked me to take her pulse. I could not detect any. Incidentally her hands were nearly as cold as the Medium's. Ethel Corbin was now called forward by Rose Marie and she in turn was asked to detect a pulse beat. Mrs. Corbin reported that she did, and Rose Marie explained that she had now joined her right hand with the medium's left, and this act had caused the pulse action to resume.

After this the lights commonly used were turned out by the Guide, the curtains were opened by her orders, and she, fully formed, was seen standing by Mrs. Brandt, who was now dressed in white ectoplasmic material.

The important fact as to this successful test, with test conditions, conducted with the cooperation of a Materialization Medium of unexcelled usefulness in demonstrating Spirit appearances by Intelligent Spirits, is that every person present, each using the infra-red viewer in turn, saw all that took place in that room all the time. They saw, and editors, public men, the leading materialists who deny spiritualist demonstrations, may also see for themselves what goes on in seance rooms where spirits clothe themselves in visibility, speak audibly, and bring gifts from afar, as the viewers become common, the denial of the proofs of life after death and of the genuineness of Spirit Phenomena, will be left to those, who like the clergy who refused to look through the first telescopes, refuse to look through the instrument. Mr. Wright, aided by Mrs. Brandt has now demonstrated the foundation proofs of the Spiritualist religion.

 

 

 

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