In 1861 when a Boston photographer named William H. Mumler discovered that “extras” could appear in a photo if the glass plate were a recycled one with a residual image. Spiritualism by then being all the rage, Mumler began to produce “spirit photographs” for credulous sitters, including – after the assassination of her husband – Mary Todd Lincoln. Eventually Mumler was exposed when it was discovered that some of the alleged spirits in his photos were still-living Bostonians!
There were – and are – many ways to produce fake spirit photos in addition to double exposures. One technique was used in earlier times when long exposures were necessary. A suitably garbed assistant would slip from behind a curtain, stand briefly, then disappear again – this taking place behind the unaware sitter who was intent on remaining motionless. The result would be a faint, transparent “spirit” image beside the solid posed figure.
Mumler, was charged with fraud in New York City in 1869 for selling photographs that he claimed included images of ghosts or spirits. Eventually the judge dropped the charges against Mumler due to a lack of evidence. Unfortunately Mumler destroyed all of his negatives sometime before he died.
Many people do believe that Mumler’s photographs were “real” and according to some paranormal books his photos were never actually proven to be fakes. What do you think?
Here is one of Mumler’s most well known photos. Mary Todd Lincoln posed for a portrait and was shocked to see what appeared to be Abraham Lincoln behind her.