Spirit photography is an attempt to capture images of ghosts and other spiritual entities in still images. This is especially popular in ghost hunting and has a long history dating back to the 19th century. During the 1850s and 1860s, photographers were attempting special effects with their cameras called stereoscopic images and double exposures. Sadly, some photographers used this effect to exploit these photos for profit.
Spirit Photography and its link to Spiritualism
Around the 1840s, spiritualism was growing at a tremendous rate. Spiritualists of the time who followed Christian beliefs realized that the soul could exist without a body. Many thought was that these souls might be able to communicate with the living.
The first recorded spirit photographer was Sir David Brewster, who published his book in 1956 called The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction. He used the double exposure technique in his photography. This is a technique that layers two different exposures on a single image, combining two photographs into one. He was eventually exposed as a fraud.
In the years to come, however, more spirit photographers rose to take his place.
In the 1860s, an American amateur photographer named William Mumler became the first employed spirit photographer. His images seemed to be true or at the very least, could not be proven as fake. However, Mumler may have achieved this by inserting a previously prepared positive glass plate, featuring the image of the deceased, into his camera in front of an unused sensitive glass plate, which was then used to photograph his client.
This double exposure technique not only captured the image of the client but also the ghostly image from the prepared glass plate in front.
One of Mumler’s famous images is what seemed to be the apparition of Abraham Lincoln with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln. With this, his photos became more popular, but also drew critics. He was eventually found out to be a fraud.
In later years to come, many other photographers claimed they would capture spirits or apparitions in their photos. This practice, which started so long ago has caused many discrepancies with trying to capture spirits on film today.