Haunting Spirit Photography

Posted October 31, 2013 by Amanda | No Comment

Have you ever found an old photo that appears to have a ghostly presence amongst the individuals pictured? You may have stumbled upon a “spirit” photograph. During the late 19th century, spirit photography sprang into popularity. The practice attempted to capture images of a passed loved one’s ghost or spirit within a photograph. With Halloween upon us, let’s take a closer look at the history behind these spooky photos.

In the 1860s, photographer William H. Mumler discovered this technique by accident after finding a second person in a photograph he took of himself. In reality what he found was a double exposure, a superimposition of two exposures to create a single image. Seeing an opportunity for profit after the large number of casualties during the American Civil War, Mumler began working as a medium, taking photographs, then doctoring them to make it appear that a lost relative had made an appearance during the session.

Mumler’s spirit photographs were immensely popular. Perhaps the most famous spirit photograph was that of Mary Todd Lincoln with the “ghost” of her husband, President Abraham Lincoln.

Mumler’s fraudulent activities were soon discovered once living people were identified as the “spirits” in his spirit photos. A trial was held and circus showman and businessman P.T. Barnum testified against him to illustrate how the photographs were faked. Although found not guilty, Mumler’s career in photography was over.

Despite the evidence showing how easy it was for photographers to doctor these images, the popularity of the practice continued well into the early 20th century as more and more spirit photographers offered their services.

Have you found any spirit photographs in your old family albums? Check out some more spirit photos below:

Taken in 1922, this picture depicts paranormal investigator Harry Price and a supposed spirit.

Photograph circa 1920, an elderly couple with a “spirit.”

Two faces appear in “mist” above this group photo, circa 1920

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Social Media Coordinator at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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