Photograph of Mrs French of Boston

William H. Mumler

Circa 1868

Albumen print

3¾ x 2¼ inches

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

William H. Mumler was an American photographer who specialized in spirit photographs. This image purports to show one of his clients with the ghostly trace of her dead son. Mumler fooled some contemporaries, but the print is obviously a crude combination of two exposures. The psychology of such artefacts is complex: the photographs were supposed to be ‘real’, and yet the sitters must have known that they were cobbled together from a new photograph and an existing print of the late departed. This particular contrivance is an out and out fraud, which Mumler published in advertisements for his services appearing in spiritualist magazines. He was eventually prosecuted for his deceptions.

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Text by Simon Cooke

Reproduced here under the terms of Wikimedia Commons Licence.

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