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the Occult => Ghosts & Apparitions => Topic started by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:47:20 pm

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:47:20 pm

It's Strange & Controversial History


The actual practice of attempting to capture ghosts on film dates back nearly a century and a half to around 1861. Not surprisingly, this type of photography has been controversial and the subject of much debate ever since.

The reason that is most given for the lack of widespread acceptance of the credibility of spirit photographs is that the photographs of the past were so riddled with fraud. Strangely though, it is spirit photography that seems to provide the most scientific evidence of ghosts. It is one of the only methods of capturing ghostly phenomena that approaches the standards of science. The reasons for this are fairly simple and include the fact that genuine spirit photos are clearly a physical phenomenon; the amount of energy that goes into making such a photo can be measured by the way it appears in the image;  a method of attempting to establish replication is possible; and finally, that it may be possible at some point to develop explanations for how spirit photographs are made and why they exist.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:48:38 pm

A fairly standard spirit photograph of days past. This was taken by William Hope of a Mrs. Longcake and what was alleged to be her deceased sister in law.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:54:52 pm
Spirit photography is what seems to be the effect of radiation of some sort on photosensitive film. Such results continue today, although much has changed from the early days of photography. In those days, the photographer first had to prepare a glass plate by coating it with a film of collodion (gun cotton dissolved in ether) containing iodide of potassium, sensitize it by dipping it into a bath of silver nitrate and then take the photograph while the plate was still wet. Each exposure was exciting, each batch of chemicals mixed was a new experiment and every result and reason to take another. Today, we take photography for granted by simply loading film into a camera and snapping a picture. But thanks to advances in film, cameras and technology over the last several decades, it may be that the controversial science of spirit photography is finally coming of age. Of course, nothing of the present could exist without the example of the past.

Spirit photography of today differs greatly from that of days gone by however. As mentioned already, the fraudulent spirit photography of the past has damaged the reputation of modern efforts, making it difficult for today’s ghost hunter’s to be taken seriously. Just the mention of "spirit photography" tends to conjure up the images of days gone by, a period that was plagued with questionable methods and often humorous results. But were all of the photographs of the past fake images that were created to bilk people out of their money? It has been claimed that spirit photographs were first produced by accident and only when unscrupulous photographers realized the wealth to be made from them were the first fraudulent images produced. But were they all frauds or did a few fakes muddy the waters for the many?

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:55:59 pm
The very first spirit photograph has long been erroneously credited to William Mumler, a Boston engraver in 1861 but as it happens, he was not the first to take a photo that would later be deemed as "unexplainable". This bizarre event actually occurred just one year before, but as the photographer was never able to reproduce the results, he has since faded from memory. His name was W. Campbell though and he lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. One day, he was taking a test photograph of an empty chair and while there was no one else in the studio at the time, the developed plate showed the image of a small boy. Campbell was never able to produce any more photographs of this nature however and so it was not until the following year when the history of spirit photography really began.

 The first "official" spirit photograph has been credited to a Boston engraver named William Mumler, an experienced and enthusiastic amateur photographer with a studio on Washington Street. While developing some experimental self-portraits of himself, a developed plate showed the image of a young woman standing next to him. As he examined the picture, he recognized the figure as that of a cousin who had died 12 years earlier. He later recalled that while posing for the photograph, he had experienced a strange trembling sensation in his right arm that left him feeling exhausted.

The photograph attracted great interest and came about during the expansion of the Spiritualist movement. It was investigated by both the Spiritualists and by prominent photographers of the day, who came to believe Mumler's statement on the subject, which said: "This photograph was taken by myself of myself and there was not a living person in the room besides myself." Mumler was soon overwhelmed by public demand for similar photographs and he began taking two hours each day from his regular work as an engrave for Bigelow Bros. and Kennard, one of Boston's best jewelers. Soon, he gave up his job entirely and devoted his efforts to spirit photography.

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.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:56:55 pm

A photograph taken by William Mumler in the 1860's

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:57:55 pm
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 -- 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 some have expressed amazement at it -- most feel that it is likely a clever hoax.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:58:44 pm

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

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 09:59:20 pm
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 Child to watch all of his operations in the darkroom and allowed him to examine all of his apparatus. 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. 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.

Many modern researchers believe that Mumler may have actually captured something genuine in some of his photos, however, the lure of money was just too big a temptation for him and he supplemented his authentic photos with fraudulent ones in order to pay the rent.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:00:06 pm

Phony spirit photograph taken by E. Buguet in 1874. The photographer was later arrested and charged with fraud.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:00:44 pm
Soon, other photographers, both amateur and professional, began to come forward and they also called themselves "mediums", claiming the ability to make dead appear in photographs. Spirit photography soon became a popular pastime and literally thousands of dollars were made from those who came to have their portraits taken. One photographer, William Hope, claimed to take more than 2,500 spirit photographs during a period of about two decades. Few of these photos appear to be in the least bit authentic.

Typically in the photographs, ghostly faces appear, floating above and behind the living subjects. In others, fully formed spirits would appear, usually draped in white sheets. Unfortunately, the methods of producing such images were simple. The fraudulent photographers became adept at doctoring their work, superimposing images on plates with living sitters and adding ghostly apparitions and double exposures. The appearance of the fully formed apparition was even easier. Old types of cameras usually demanded that the subject of the photo remain absolutely still for periods of up to one minute, all the while, the shutter of the camera remains open. During this time, it was very simple for the photographer’s assistant to quietly appear behind the sitter, dressed in appropriate "spirit attire". The assistant remained in place for a few moments and then ducked back out of the photo again. On the finished plate, it would seem that a transparent "figure" had made an appearance.

This type of "trick photo" was first mentioned in photography journals in 1856. Ten years later, Sir David Brewster recalled the technique when he saw some of the early spirit photos that were produced. He remembered another photo that he had seen of a young boy who had been sitting on a step near a doorway and who had apparently gotten up and left about halfway through the exposure. As a result, the seated image was transparent in the finished photo. Brewster wrote: "The value and application of this fact did not at first present itself to me, but after I had contrived the lenticular stereoscope I saw that such transparent pictures might be used for the various purposes of entertainment." Ghost and spirit photographs and stereographs were sold commercially in America through the 1860's and 1870's but were nothing more than a parlor novelty and were no meant to be taken as genuine spirit photographs.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:01:35 pm

A stereoscopic card from my own collection in which trick photography was used to show
"the devil" appearing in the background.

Other methods of obtaining fraudulent photographs were used as well. Prepared plates and cut films were often switched and substituted by slight of hand tricks, replacing those provided by the investigator. And while this might have fooled a credulous member of the general public, slight of hand maneuvers and instances of assistants prancing through photos draped in sheets would not have convinced hardened and skeptical investigators that the work of the spirit photographers was credible and even genuine. However, in case after case, investigators walked away stumped as to how the bizarre images managed to appear on film. For every fraud who was exposed, there was at least one other photographer who was never caught cheating.

But unfortunately, there were many who were not so honest. At about the same time that William Mumler was going on trial in New York for fraud, a popular spirit photographer named Frederick Hudson emerged on the scene in London. He was brought to the public's attention by Mrs. Samuel Guppy, a well-known medium of the day. He was eventually investigated by a famous professional photographer named John Beattie in 1873. He carried out a series of experiments with Hudson that were later published in the British Journal of Photography. At that time, Hudson was charging a steep fee for his photos, but only with the understanding that he could not be blamed if nothing unusual appeared, which often happened. In his article, Beattie described how, with a friend, he had examined the glass room in Hudson's garden where the experiments were to take place, the operating room with its yellow light and porcelain baths, the 10 x 8 inch camera with its 6 - inch lens and all of the machinery involved. He also maintained that he had marked the photographic plate to be used and watched it being coated and prepared.

For the first photograph that Hudson took, using an exposure of about one minute, Beattie sat as the subject in profile to the background and Hudson's daughter (acting as the medium) stood next to him. No extra appeared in the photo. For the next experiment, Beattie wrote: "All was the same except that the medium sat behind the background. On the picture being developed, a sitting figure beside myself came out in front of me and between the background and myself. I am sitting in profile in the picture -- the figure is in a three-quarter position -- in front of me, but altogether between me and the background. The figure is draped in black, with a white colored plaid over the head, and is like both a brother and a nephew of mine. This last point I do not press because the face is like that of a dead person and under lighted."

Beattie continued: "In my last trial -- all, if possible, more strictly attended to then before, and in the same place relative to me -- there came out a standing female figure, clothed in  black skirt, and having a white-colored, thin linen drapery something like a shawl pattern, upon her shoulders, over which a mass of black hair loosely hung. The figure is in front of me and, as it were, partially between me and the camera."

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:02:26 pm
Beattie had assumed that Hudson was in some way faking the photographs but was now no longer convinced of this. He was convinced that the figures were not double exposures, had not been projected in some way, were not the result of mirrors or even the result of images that had been manipulated onto the plates during the developing process. What he did not take into consideration though was that the images could have been on the plates all along -- that his own plates had been switched for "trick plates" by the photographer. This seems to have been the standard operating procedure for many of the so-called spirit photographers of the day and it was not realized for quite some time. Many of them, including a Mr. Parkes, who produced a number of psychic images even allowed themselves to be observed while working on the plates. Parkes, for instance, had an aperture cut into the wall of his darkroom so that investigators could see inside while he went through the developing process. The problem was that the investigators had no idea just what plates he was actually developing!

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:03:17 pm

A spirit photo taken by Fredrick Hudson. The sitter was Raby Wootton, who, with friends, took the photograph and developed it themselves without allowing Hudson to take part in it. They never realized how easy it would be for Hudson to switch the plate that he gave them to develop!

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:03:59 pm
In 1874, a French photographer named E. Buguet opened up a studio and also began a career capturing the spirits on film. Most of his photographs were of famous people, most of whom claimed to recognize deceased loved ones and family members as extras. This did not stop him from being arrested for fraud and tried by the French government though. He admitted deception but even then, there were many who refused to accept his confession as genuine, claiming that he had been paid off by the church to plead guilty. In his confession, he stated that his photographs were created by double exposure. First, he would dress up his assistants to play the part of a ghost, or  would dress up a doll in sheet. This figure, along with a stock of heads, was seized by the police when they raided his studio. Buguet was fined and sentenced to a year in prison.

Even after this, his supporters continued to exist his photographs were real. Reverend Stainton Moses, the famous medium, was convinced that at least some of Buguet's spirit photographs were authentic. He said that the prosecution of the case was tainted by religious officials, that the judge was biased or that Buguet must have been bribed or terrorized to confess.

The 1870’s saw the first general acceptance that there might be something credible to at least some aspects of spirit photography. A number of references to it appeared in issues of the British Journal of Photography and in other periodicals of the time. In the 1890’s, J. Traille Taylor, the editor of the Journal, reviewed the history of spirit photography and detailed the methods by which fraudulent photos were sometimes produced. He approached the phenomenon as a true skeptic, not immediately disbelieving it, but studying it in a scientific manner. He used a stereoscopic camera and noted that the psychically produced images did not appear to be in three dimensions. He used his own camera and he and his assistants did all of the developing and photographing. Strangely, they were still able to produce mysterious results.

In 1891, the practice of spirit photography gained more credibility when Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-developer of the theory of evolution, spoke out with the belief that spirit photography should be studied scientifically. He later wrote about his own investigations into it and included a statement that he believed the possibility of it was real. He did not feel that just because some of the photos that had been documented were obviously fraudulent, that all of them could be dismissed as hoaxes.

Despite such notable interest in the field, little was heard of spirit photography (outside of Spiritualist circles) for a number of years. But during this time, some fairly spectacular photos did manage to appear and some of them have remained unexplained ever since.  Perhaps my favorite of this period has been referred to as the "Lord Combermere Photograph". The photo was taken in 1891 (and first published in 1895) by Sybell Corbett, who was staying with her sister at Combermere Abbey in Cheshire, England. She decided to take a photo of the large library there and used an exposure of about one hour, a fact that she noted in her diary. Although no one was in the room when the photo was taken, the developed plate showed the faint image of a man seated in one of the chairs. The photograph was shown to a relative of Lord Combermere and it was identified as being the man himself. The problem with this was at the time the photo was taken, Lord Combermere was being buried in a churchyard a few miles away. He had been killed in an accident just five days before! The photo has defied explanation ever since.

In 1911, spirit photography entered the mainstream with the publication of the book Photographing the Invisible by James Coates. It covered dozens of cases of spirit photographs in detail and was later revised and expanded in 1921. It remains one of the most comprehensive books on the subject during this period and it managed to bring spirit photography into the mainstream for the first time.  Following the publication of the book, several noteworthy articles appeared on spirit photography, including one by James Hyslop, a Columbia University professor. He wrote an introduction to a series of experiments carried out by Charles Cook of two American spirit photographers, Edward Wyllie of Los Angeles and Alex Martin of Denver. Cook did extensive work with the two men in 1916 and provided them with his own plates and had them developed by a commercial studio. In this way, he eliminated any opportunity that the two men might have had to doctor the images. Cook concluded that the photographs submitted were genuine but in these cases thought the name "psychic photography" better matched the phenomenon. He believed that the two men actually produced the images through some psychical means, rather than actually photographing ghosts.

Despite the failure to debunk a number of the spirit photographs of the time, the reality of the photographs was not accepted by the scientists of the day. As it is today, the majority of them simply refused to examine the data and assumed that fraud was more than adequate to explain the findings. One of the few exceptions was Sir William Crookes, the distinguished chemist and physicist. For 30 years, he was a member of the Royal Society and was known for his discovery of thallium, his studies of photography and other scientific work. At the invitation of several skeptical members of the Royal Society, he agreed to take on a six month study of psychic phenomenon. Instead of just six months though, his work continued for years and he came to the conclusion that much of what he studied (including psychic photographs) was genuine. He presented his findings in both book and article form but soon became discouraged about convincing most of his scientific colleagues of the reality of what he was doing. He endured ridicule and disdain, but never wavered from his beliefs. More than 25 years later, he would maintain that spirit photography could, and did, exist.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:05:01 pm

The Famous Brown Lady Photograph

As time passed and photographic techniques and equipment became more advanced, researchers began to discover that some of the photographs being taken in allegedly haunted locations could not be explained away as film flaws and tricks of light. Gone were the days of phony photos that were taken by so-called spirit mediums in studios. They had been replaced by often accidental photos that defied all logic.

One of the most convincing photographs was the famous image of the "Brown Lady" of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. The photo was taken Captain Provand, a professional photographer, who was taking snapshots of the house for Britains Country Life magazine in September 1936. His assistant, Indre Shira, actually saw the apparition coming down the staircase and directed Provand to take the photo... even though the other man saw nothing at the time. The resulting image (shown here) has been examined by experts many times, although no explanation for it has ever been given.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:06:46 pm

Another amazing photograph is that of the Greenwich Ghost. This photo was taken in 1966 at Queen’s House, Greenwich, London by Reverend RW Hardy. Although nothing was seen at the time, the developed image clearly shows a shrouded figure, bent over and climbing the stairs. The photo and original negative were examined at length by Kodak and by other photographic experts. They were completely unable to explain the figure and are sure the photo was not double-exposed.

The emergence of modern science in the first half of the 1800's had helped to dispel the superstitions of the past but scientists were unable to connect the mysterious evidence obtained by spirit photography to the progress they were making in other fields. Because of this, most of the investigation and research into the field was carried out by Spiritualists, who believed that far too many of the photographs were genuine, thus validating their often unpopular beliefs. The debunkers of today simply point to the usually ridiculous images that were produced as proof that the entire field was corrupt. As most of us know though, nothing is ever that clear cut when it comes to the paranormal -- nor are answers ever that easily obtained.

(C) Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:08:11 pm

The World's Most Famous Spirit Photos
You May Not Believe Your Eyes!

Since the invention of the camera, people have been attempting to take photographs of ghosts. What could be better proof of their existence than the ability to capture a spirit’s image on film? Unfortunately, many “spirited” efforts have led to failure and, even worse, outright fraud.

Trickery was introduced in the early days of the photographic process, which coincided with the heyday of the Spiritualist movement. In 1861, a Boston engraver named William Mumler started shooting photographs that included faint images that were alleged to be his customer’s deceased loved ones. Business boomed until someone noticed that the “Spirit Faces” resembled a number of living residents of Boston! The “spirits” in the photographs were soon recognized as double exposures and over-printed images and Mumler was arrested and charged with fraud.

Regardless though, fake spirit photography has flourished ever since because in addition to fraud, there are also literally thousands of photos that allege to be ghosts that are merely mistakes caused in processing or during the actual photography. Camera straps, reflections and light refractions are often mistaken for ghosts on film... but that’s not to say that no real photos of ghosts exist!

In fact, there have been a number of such photos that have been taken over the years for which no clear explanations exist. Photos can often appear for which no evidence of fraud, trickery or mistakes can be discovered. The photos presented here all lay claim to being legitimate. In each case, the photographer claimed to be surprised by the end results of the photograph.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:13:42 pm

This Series of Photos, from a Spiritualist séance at Camp Chesterfield, Indiana, once stunned researchers. The photos have remained controversial and debate continues both for an against their authenticity.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:14:42 pm

The photo shown here is the famous “Lord Combermere Photograph”, which was first published in 1895. It gained almost instant fame among psychic researchers and remains a mystery to this day.
The photo was part of an account by Miss Sybell Corbett who took the photograph in December 1891 while staying with her sister at Combermere Abbey in Cheshire, England. 

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:15:32 pm

The photo was actually taken of the splendid library of the house and the camera was placed with a long exposure of about one hour, details of which were carefully noted in her photographic diary.
Although no one was in the room at the time of the exposure, the developed plate showed the head, body and arms of an older man, seated in a high-backed chair to the left side of the room. The photo was shown to a relative of Lord Combermere and she announced that if did resemble the man. However, not everyone agreed about this. Regardless, the features of the man are hard to distinguish.

The strangest thing about the photo was that, at the time it was taken, Lord Combermere was attending a funeral at the local churchyard in Wrenbury, a few miles away. The funeral was his own! Lord Combermere had been killed a few days earlier in a road accident in London.

As mentioned, the photo caused quite a stir and attracted the attention of Sir William Barrett, an investigator for the Society of Psychical Research. He experimented with a similar photo process and then first dismissed this photograph as an unintentional mistake. He surmised that a servant had entered the room while the shutter of the camera was open, sat down in the chair and then left, leaving behind a faint, and rather “ghostly” image.

After further investigation though, Barrett reconsidered. He later learned that the image did not resemble any of the servants in the house and that all of the male servants had been away attending their master’s funeral anyway. He confessed to being perplexed and the photograph remains mysterious today.


Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:18:14 pm

This next photo was taken in 1959 by Mrs. Mabel Chimney in a British churchyard. She had just finished photographing her mother’s grave and then took a picture of her husband, who was waiting for her in the car. He was alone in the auto at that time, yet the developed photograph clearly showed Mrs. Chimney’s mother in the back seat of the car. A photo expert examined it for a British newspaper and declared the photo to be authentic. In fact, he went as far as to declare, “I stake my reputation on the fact that this picture is genuine,” he said.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:19:21 pm
Perhaps the most famous ghost photo of all time is that of the “Brown Lady of Raynham Hall”. In September 1936, a photographer, Mr. Indre Shira, was commissioned by Lady Townsend of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England to take a series of photographs of the house for “Country Life” magazine. Shira and his assistant were just setting up their equipment for shots of the grand staircase when the photographer saw what he described as “ a vapoury form which gradually assumed the shape of a woman in a veil.”

The figure slowly began to ascend the stairs and, very excited, Shira took a hasty photograph. The assistant however, was amused by his employer’s excitement, maintaining (even afterward) that he had seen nothing on the stairs. In fact, he admitted that he thought Shira was delusional.

He changed his mind after the plate was developed though and saw the phantom outline of a human figure on the stairs. Experts who examined the plate were puzzled and agreed that the image was not the result of any form of trickery.

Author and researcher Thurston Hopkins also studied the photo and he too declared it genuine. “It may well be the most genuine ghost photograph we possess,” he added, “and no study of the supernatural is complete without a reference to it.”

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:21:38 pm

The next print is a color photograph that was taken in the Australian outback by the Reverend R.S. Blance at Corroboree Rock, located 100 miles from Alice Springs. The photo was taken in 1959.
According to the legends of the site, the place was known for being a spot where the Aborigine tribesmen carried out terrible ceremonies in the past. According to the minister, there was no other human activity in the area at the time the photo was taken.

This photo, and others like it, have become important pieces of evidence in the search for authentic photos because in many cases, the identity of the photographer (in this case, a respected reverend) go a long way in making it possible for the photos to be deemed authentic. Rarely is a witness or a photographer as far above reproach as a minister is.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:22:53 pm
This photo is another that has become quite famous over the years. It shows a hooded figure that seems to float on the steps of the altar at England’s Newby Church. The photo was taken in the 1960’s by the Reverend K.F. Lord, who was merely photographing the front of the sanctuary. He reported that he saw no such figure at the time of his visit.


Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:25:04 pm

This photograph comes to us courtesy of Jude Huff-Felz and was taken during an investigation of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery near Chicago.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:26:33 pm
The photo was taken on infra-red film during a daytime excursion to the reputedly haunted graveyard. In the developed photograph, there appeared a semi-transparent figure of a woman seated on a tombstone within the cemetery grounds. She was not visible to anyone who was present and in fact, the image appeared in a much larger, almost panoramic view of the cemetery. The portion of the photo where the woman appears was enlarged when investigators noticed there was something out of the ordinary about it.

Skeptics declared the photo a hoax (as usual) but I have every reason to believe it is genuine. I had a copy of the photo examined by a number of professional photographers and while they would have liked to say that it was a fraud, they admitted that they were unable to. They ruled out the possibility of a double-exposure and the theory that it was a photo of a live woman who was made to appear like a ghost. One critic declared she was casting a shadow, but this is nothing more than the natural coloring of the landscape. Besides that, if she is casting a shadow in that direction, why isn’t anything else?

This last photograph is another fascinating one. It depicts a cowled figure that was photographed by a Canadian tourist, Reverend R.W. Hardy, who was visiting England in 1966. The photo was taken at Queen’s House in Greenwich and it was intended to be solely of the grand Tulip Staircase there. When the photo was developed, the figure was seen, apparently climbing the stairs. The photo has been examined many times over the years, but thus far, has withstood all allegations of fraud.


Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:30:22 pm
- The Haunted Museum -

Secrets of the Crewe Circle of Spirit Photographers


William Hope was one of the premiere spirit photographers of the early Twentieth Century and was considered by believers and supporters to be a true master of the art of producing spirits on ordinary photographic plates. To others, he was a clever trickster and while he had more than his share of detractors, he was often accused of fraud but was never caught at it -- thanks to the controversy that surrounded the main attempt to expose him.

Hope was born in Crewe, England in 1863 and as a young man, went to work as a carpenter. His talent for capturing the spirits in photographs allegedly came about around 1905 when he and a friend were taking turns photographing one another. In a photo that was taken by Hope, there was an "extra" -- the image of a person who was not physically present when the photo was taken. As it turned out, the extra in question was the deceased sister of the photograph's subject.

Not long after this incident, a group of six people organized a Spiritualist hall in Crewe for the purpose of creating spirit photographs. The group became renowned as the "Crewe Circle" with William Hope as its leader. During their early efforts, the circle destroyed all of the negatives of the photos they took for fear of being suspected of witchcraft. However, when Archbishop Thomas Colley, a lifelong enthusiast of both the supernatural and Spiritualism, joined the circle, they began to make their work public.

A Crewe Circle photograph from 1919 that shows a Mr. and Mrs. Gibson with the spirit of their deceased son

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:31:58 pm
Ironically, Hope's first brush with exposure as a fraud came when Archbishop Colley arranged his first sitting. According to the story, Hope doctored the photograph with the wrong spirit extra, substituting another elderly woman for Colley's mother. When Hope tried to confess his fraud to Colley, the other man dismissed his confession as "nonsense"-- he would recognize his mother when he saw her and the extra in the photo was certainly his mother, he stated. To prove his case, he even put a notice in the local newspaper and asked that all of those who remembered his mother should call at the rectory. No fewer than 18 people selected Hope's mistake from among several others and said that it definitely showed the ghost of the late Mrs. Colley.

In February 1922, Hope was almost exposed again but this time, the attempt almost backfired on the accuser and there remains some questions about the incident to this day. By this time, Hope had moved to London and had established himself as a professional medium. The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) decided to investigate Hope's claims and sent a new member, Harry Price, to look into it. The young Price had a good working knowledge of conjuring and would later make a name for himself as one of Britain's leading ghost hunters. During the investigation, Price claimed to detect evidence of trickery by Hope but questions immediately arose as to whether it was Price, and not Hope, who had tampered with the photographic plates.

Price told a different story of the incident and blamed his problems with the Spiritualist community on the controversy. Even though he had recently joined the SPR, Price had already exposed a number of fraudulent mediums, earning him the dislike of much of the community. During the sitting, which was organized with hymn singing and prayers like a standard séance, Hope and Price went into the adjoining dark room. Price examined the photographic slide that Hope planned to use and he secretly impressed 12 small punctures into it with a needle. He then was asked to open a packet of plates that he had brought with them. These plates had come from the Imperial Dry Plate Co. and had been imprinted (at Prices' suggestion) with their trademark in the corner. The trademark would then appear on the negative of whatever picture was developed. Price loaded two plates into the slide and then Hope asked for the slide.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:33:22 pm

Harry Price and the supposed "spirit extra" that was produced during his séance with William Hope. Price would later swear that the plate he have Hope was replaced with a fake that contained the "ghost"

As he took it from Price's hand, Harry watched his movements very carefully, which was hard to do on the dull, red darkness of the room. Very quickly, in one smooth movement, Hope placed the dark slide into the left breast pocket of his coat and then, apparently, pulled it back out again. Price knew that the slide had been changed but sat down for the photograph to be taken anyway. When it was over, he refused to sign the plates, as Hope wanted him to, and as he examined the slide, he discovered that his 12 needle marks had "mysteriously" vanished. It was clearly not the same slide that he had given to Hope to use!  He did not accuse Hope of a swindle on the spot, fearing that his evidence of deception would be destroyed, but took away two photographs that had been taken of Price, one of which contained a beautiful female "extra" --- but on neither plate was the Imperial Dry Plate trademark! Hope had managed to switch the plates as well. He was able to show that they were not the same type of plates that he had given to Hope to use, as they were a different thickness, weight and color and were "fast" plates, while the ones that Hope gave back to him were "slow" ones.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:34:28 pm
In the May issue of the Journal of the London SPR, Price published a report under the title "Cold Light on Spiritualistic Phenomena" and it was later reprinted as a separate booklet. Immediately, he was attacked from the Spiritualist camp. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a supporter of the Crewe Circle, denounced Price and his methods. He and the Spiritualist newspapers accused Price of trickery and of switching the plates himself in a plan to discredit the medium. Although Sir Oliver Lodge, who was a proponent of Spiritualism, believed that Hope was fraud and wrote to Harry Price saying: "I don't see how your proofs of Hope's duplicity could be more complete."

More than 11 years after this incident, the widow of a man who worked for Hope admitted in an article that after Price's séance, her husband went through Hope's luggage and "found in a suitcase a flash lamp with a bulb attachment, some cut-out photographic heads and some hairs." Unfortunately, these devastating facts were suppressed in 1922 and Price would later comment that if not for this suppression, his entire relationship with Conan Doyle could have been preserved. "This vital information would have ended my controversy with Sir Arthur," he said. "Incidentally, it would have ended Hope too!"

Although Hope certainly had his detractors, he had his supporters too, including Conan Doyle, who wrote his book The Case for Spirit Photography in response to the Price incident. He was also supported by Sir William Crookes (of Florence Cook / Katie King fame) and Sir William Barrett. Many have suspected that trickery was involved in Crookes' sitting though. The physicist was in his 80's in 1916, when he had his sitting, and had just recently lost his wife. His assistant at the time, J.H. Gardiner, told Crookes' biographer that the negative from which Hope's photograph of Lady Crookes was reproduced showed clear signs of double exposure but that Crookes preferred to ignore this.

Post by: Ghostwatcher on January 19, 2008, 10:36:37 pm
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(Left) The Reverend and Mrs. Tweedale with a spirit of his father-in-law, taken by Hope.

(Above) A photograph of the father-in-law in life.

(Right) A 1931 photo of Mrs. Leverson with a spirit extra, also taken by Hope


To make matters more perplexing, not all of the sittings ended with questionable results. Throughout his career, Hope gained support from many quarters and figured prominently into a book about survival after death by Reverend Charles Tweedale, who owned a haunted house in the town of Otley in Yorkshire. In his writings, Tweedale, gives many accounts of Hope's prowess as a spirit photographer, Stating that there was no fraud evident in the majority of Hope's cases in which people called upon him unannounced, even with secret identities, and obtained clearly recognizable spirit images. One case was that of Mrs. Hortense Leverson, who came to Hope and was given and psychic photograph of her recently deceased husband, Major Leverson, who had been on the staff of the War Office. She was absolutely convinced that the photograph was legitimate. She, along with dozens (perhaps hundreds) of others, believed that Hope was absolutely genuine.

William Hope died on March 7, 1933, leaving a number of mysteries behind. Was he real -- was he merely a fraud? No one can say for sure and like so many of the other enigmas connected to Spiritualism, this one also remained unsolved.

(C) Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.