Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is It Possible?


I was browsing in Common Good Books tonight after getting some mail out when I stumbled upon a historical scandal, something very interesting, something that made me think. I love it when that happens.

This book was about a man named William Mumler, a man whose profession was in spirit photography. This was a practice in America in the 1860s that was very controversial. I'm sure you can see why, the effect is quite obviously something that could be achieved in the darkroom. But was it? Mumler proved his process to be true to James W. Black, a leading photographer of the time who oversaw the entire process of his own spirit photograph. Yet a figure still appeared with Black in the negative.


Of course, this does not disprove the possibility of a double exposure having been done prior to the sitting, but many of these spirits were known by the subjects to be dead. A Moses Dow had his spiritual photograph taken (shown above), and his deceased assistant, Mabel Warren, appeared with him in the photo. He had believed Mabel had been trying to communicate with him, and was told by a medium to visit Mumler. There is also a photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln and the spirit of her husband, good ole Abe, after he had been assassinated. It was also claimed by some clients that the spirits in their photos were of people who had never been photographed in real life. Then again, supposedly some "spirits" were found to be still alive.

Was this man a fraud? Did he get tips from spies like every other psychic? Was this just double exposure at its best? Is that even possible if there were no photographs of the deceased? Did he go grave-digging when nobody was looking? Or were these spirits actually there as the photographs were taken? The court eventually ruled that the charges were to be dropped due to lack of evidence. What do you believe?


Either way, the images themselves are just so captivating. I wish this man were still alive, I would love to have my spiritual photograph taken.

2 comments:

miss lindsey j said...

very cool!! great find stef : )

Command Z said...

Now I see why Mary Todd Lincoln was known as quite the hottie during her time. Me-ow!