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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 Hope. U.K.
1863 - 7 March 1933.
In the twentieth century one of the most talked about British Spirit Photographers, was William Hope from Crewe, Cheshire, U.K., from the Crewe Circle, who found out that he was mediumistic and took his findings to the public. William used a plate camera of the time to take photographs of strangers. When the plates where developed, many times there would appear extras, which appeared to be the relatives and friends of the sitters.
Over time, William developed his link with the Spirit World by sitting in meditation, his mediumistic development started to grow as did his fame, which spread far and wide. The next thing he found was the fanatical Christians and skeptics started on him, accusing him of fraud. To counter this he took measures to silence them, but it never did any good as they had their usual blinkers on.
Whenever he could when doing the photographic sittings, he always made sure he had another person with him, a person he did not know.
The person who was having their photograph taken in what could only be called a seance like setting room, would be asked to bring their own photographic plates for his camera, which had to be factory sealed, signed or marked for the person to recognize as their own and unopened.
The guests and sitters would be asked to look over the equipment very carefully, the make up of this simple equipment was not very complicated, and the plates were fairly big in comparison to today's photographic equipment and film, so it was almost impossible to hide anything, the people there would not take long to examine it to their satisfaction but could take as long as they wished.
The sitters, and many times investigators [he had many of these trying to find a reason for the extras appearing on the new plates] when opening the factory sealed plates were asked to sign or initial their virgin plates, so they could recognize their own plates when the sittings were over.
William then asked them to personally place their own plates into the camera, and when finished, to take the plate out of the camera and take it into the darkroom [which was lit with red light, so everyone could see in there]. William and his sitters all stayed in the darkroom together so that it could be seen that NO fraud was taking place in the form of switching plates or adding anything into the developing process. He did everything possible to show he was not a person duping the public.
William Hopes Mediumship was such, he brought through on their personal photographic plates some animals who were the sitters pets, but most were of Spirit people extras, and over the years that ran into many hundreds of Spirit extras on the plates brought to him by strangers. The people who had their photographs taken by William Hope over time acknowledged that most of the extras on the plates were dead relatives and friends of themselves, the sitters, who were in the Spirit World. Those not recognized at the time, were later verified by living relatives and friends of the sitters.
Sometimes on the virgin photographic plates people brought with them, there appeared images of people who were still on the earth plane, but were not present at the time of the photographic session in the room, this is where the notion of thought-ography comes into play. On saying that it has been put forward as the over riding factor for some people, is that the images are caused by a sitter thinking of the person who appeared on the photographic plate whether alive or dead. In my opinion that does not take into consideration the FACT that images appeared of people the sitter was not thinking of at the time of the sitting. That being the case it must be that the people who appear on the virgin plate as an image must have some input to the process whether they are alive or across the veil remembering that thought is a living energy that can be proved, as shown in my book Meditation Oneness.
In one strange incident a lady Lillian Bailey went to see William Hope and sat
for him. She received an image on her own photographic plate of what she at the time
thought was a
stranger, Lillian was wanting a photographic image of her mother in the Spirit
World. It subsequently turned out to be a World War One soldier, William Hedley
Wotton, who was Lillian's Spirit Guide. The image on the plate even shown with a
darkened area, damage over his temple the bullet had done when it had hit him
and killed him. Over the years she got confirmation off different Mediums that
this was her Spirit Guide.
Lillian went on to become a very well known and respected Medium.
Harry Price was sent to investigate Hope and all that was happening at the time BUT what should be taken into consideration is the fact that Harry Price was accused of helping Hope as he was a conjurer. It was said he had swapped the plates and not William Hope. At the time of the alleged fraud Price did not say anything until after he had gone home with the so called evidence, is it not possible that Harry Price had substituted the plates for his own. All the Spiritualist Newspapers of the time who had investigated William Hope before, found not a shred of evidence of any fraud, accused Harry Price of switching Hope's plates to discredit him and promote his books. Below is the photograph of Harry Price with the Spirit Extra that was the cause of the controversy.
William Hope was publicly praised for his mediumistic work by very prominent figures in the community of the time who attended sittings with Hope; people the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir William Crookes who made sure of the conditions and thoroughly examined all the equipment before sitting and to make doubly sure they even had William Hope stand aside while they developed their own photographic plates, never allowing Hope to handle the plates at any stage.
The next photographic plate is another one of William Hope's photographs. It shows three men and the extra is a lady who was unknown, the man in the middle being a young looking Maurice Barbanell who was a founder of the Psychic News and Two Worlds Magazine, both of which are still being published today.
Over a period from the American Civil War and for about 60 years after, the work of the Mediumistic or Psychic Photographer seems to have been carried on, then after the Second World War it slowly fell out of fashion. The methods used were many, some Mediums did it by just sitting there or standing behind the camera, and others who went into a trance like state. It is said some Mediums used pure will power, what ever method was used, it certainly helped a lot of sad people mourning and missing their loved ones across the veil.
I think the reason for its decline after the war was, people were now wanting an immediacy and they were starting to live at a fast pace of life always wanting their results quickly without the need for sitting to gain the link with the Spirit World.
There is a real need for the budding Mediumistic Photographer to understand that it is the combined effect of the energy of the communicating Spirit, the Medium, and the sitters/sitter who are/is trying to have an image placed beside them on the photographic medium, be it a Polaroid film, ordinary film an old fashioned plate, or on a digital camera. The most important thing is the link with the Spirit World see How to Link with Angels. in Meditation Oneness.
Some of the Mediums using this method of proving life continued found it helped to place the camera lens against their forehead and then click the exposure button. One such person was Ted Serios from the USA who also used what he called a gismo [a small black card tube] placed on the front of the forehead and the other end over the camera lens which pointing into the tube and was around the lens pointing at the forehead. he said he got better results this way but many times it took him up to six hours at a time. perhaps it took this long because he insisted that alcohol was supplied to him while performing his demonstrations which were not very reliable in their production of extras on the Polaroid film.William Mumler the Spirit Photographer was a man who came up against a lot of problems that were produced by the religious and skeptical people of the time. Then and now in this day and age, these nasty type of people always seem to have the biggest and loudest voices, always acting as bullies.
Moses A. Dow with the Spirit image of his assistant.
Mrs Mary Todd Lincoln President Abraham Lincoln
Above is a developed photographic plate taken by Mumler of Mrs Mary Todd Lincoln months after her husband was assassination on the April 15, 1865, [when he was alive President Abraham Lincoln is one on the right ]. Mary allowed some of her friends who were Spiritualists to visit her in the White House, where some seances took place, as well as clairvoyant readings by several of the Spiritualist. They attempted to console the grieving widow. Many times to avoid publicity Mary went to outside seances under assumed names. Being mediumistic herself she liked to test the Mediums' skills. Once, on a trip to Boston, she attended a seance using the name Mrs. Tundall to avoid recognition, on this occasion as it was widely publicized, this time she must have been noticed.
Abraham her husband appeared before her during one of the many seances, records show no mention of the Medium who sat for the First Lady at that seance. This photograph gave Mary great comfort that Abraham was still with her and could be shown to be so.
During the bereavement period, Mrs Lincoln visited William Mumler's studio. Mumler with his help of Spirit produced the photograph above of Mary with Abraham with his hands on her shoulders.
1868 Mumler photo. Mrs Conant of Banner of Light [a Spiritualist newspaper of the time] with the Spirit extra her Brother Charles H Crowell.
1868 Mumler photo. Mrs French who lived in Boston the Spirit extra is her son.
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.
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. 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 savoured 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."
Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace secured a good picture of his mother. Describing his visit he says*:
* "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism" (Revised Edition 1901), pp. 196-7.
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's 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 sceptics 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.
(1832-1907), the well-known Medium for automatic writing and
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. 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 "extras" 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 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.
* July, 1925.
It is otherwise with Mr. 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.
It is impossible to devote separate chapters to each form of psychic power, as the result would far transcend the limits of this work, but the phenomena of voice production and also of moulds are so clear and evidential that some fuller account of them may not be superfluous.
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