By Louis Kaplan
Within the 1860s, William Mumler photographed ghosts—or so he claimed. Faint photos of the dearly departed lurked within the history with the dwelling, like his famous picture of the lately assassinated Abraham Lincoln comforting Mary Todd. The perform got here to be referred to as spirit images, and a few believed Mumler used to be channeling the useless. Skeptics, besides the fact that, referred to as it a fraudulent trick at the gullible, making the most of the grieving at a time of discomfort and loss. Mumler’s insistence that his paintings introduced again the useless ended in a sensational trial in 1869 that was once the controversy of the nation.
In The unusual Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer, Louis Kaplan brings jointly, for the 1st time, Mumler’s haunting pictures, his revealing memoir, and wealthy fundamental assets, together with newspaper articles and P. T. Barnum’s well-known indictment of Mumler in Humbugs of the World. Kaplan additionally contributes prolonged essays, which supply a historic viewpoint of the Mumler phenomena and delve into the sociocultural and theoretical concerns surrounding this bright ghost story.
Mumler’s case used to be an early instance of investigative journalism intersecting with a felony trial that, at its essence, set technology opposed to faith. The unusual Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer is the definitive source for this distinctive and interesting second in American historical past and gives insights into today’s ghosts within the desktop.
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Within the 1860s, William Mumler photographed ghosts—or so he claimed. Faint photographs of the dearly departed lurked within the history with the dwelling, like his famous photograph of the lately assassinated Abraham Lincoln comforting Mary Todd. The perform got here to be referred to as spirit images, and a few believed Mumler was once channeling the useless.
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Additional info for The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Books)
B. Child, particularizing this new phase of Spiritual Manifestations. We, also, have had the matter under consideration during the past week, as have hundreds of others in this city. We have been assured for months by our spirit friends that in due time the mundane world would be startled by this new phase of spirit power; but we were not prepared to receive it so soon, and are yet in doubt that the manifestation is entirely legitimate. We shall investigate further ere we give a decided opinion in the matter.
22 It is also important to understand the aims of spirit photography in tandem with other photographic projects made in the name of science and technology in the same period. If one looks at the time–motion studies of E. J. Marey or Eadweard Muybridge, one recognizes that the goal was to use photography in order to see the invisible and to reveal truths that were beyond the powers of the naked eye. As indexed in the citation above, it was also the goal of spirit photography to photograph the invisible.
32 Clearly, Mumler’s energetic and energized description of his wife (as a “perfect battery”) and her own abilities as a medium to summon the spirits, which he was then able to capture on the photographic plate, shares much with the personal powers that were attributed to Andrew Jackson Davis. Another important female ﬁgure in Mumler’s life was Mrs. J. H. 33 Conant was a frequent sitter for Mumler, and one of these images shows her with her spirit-guide Vashti, who was said to be an outcast half-breed girl of a white mother and a Native American father.