Though we may see them as laughable now, a hundred years ago these images and many, many more like them gave people nightmares. I’ll start with the most laughable stuff.
Ah yes… ectoplasm! Much of “Spirit Photography” in the eighteenth century consisted of photographic illusions like double exposures, blurred subjects, or props. In the case of “ectoplasm”, the medium usually had to wear a beard or other prop made of cheesecloth or cotton… often with an image buried within as if the departed spirit were using the ectoplasm to materialize! No one ever really ‘refuted’ these images because among scientists they were laughable from the start.
Mediums were said to be able to reach into the hereafter and retrieve specific spirits for communication. Occasionally a wealthy heir might ask for a medium’s help in finding lost loot. Spirits were also summoned to tell the future or to give medicinal advice. I guess it wouldn’t have been good job security to just ask a doctor, right? Then again, I don’t know that doctors back then would have given much better advice than a medium. The Ouija board was also quite handy, giving the ghost an opportunity to speak to the user directly… well… through the board. Notice our friend Ed Poe there in the fourth photo. Many séances like those pictured were never proven definitively to be shams. Some say Poe often went in search of true Spiritists, though others say it was because his wife made him go.
Some good old ghostly charm, right here. Starting off with Honest Abe and finishing up with Lord McComber, this small gallery is centered around Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s lab. All of these photos created quite a stir in their day. No one could definitively explain how the ghostly images appeared in them. In the case of Lincoln, the photo of Mary Todd is known to have been taken after his death, and there were no extant photos of Abraham that bore even a passing resemblance to the ghostly figure in the photo. The story is similar with Lord McComber. The rest of these are pretty easy to peg as trickery.
I leave you with an image of the man most influenced by such images: Edgar Allen Poe. If you are into horror or general creepiness, I highly recommend his work. Oh, and about these photos keeping experts baffled… I spoke truth… they are all genuine creepy ghost photographs, and experts remain baffled as to how or why anyone ever thought they were of actual spirits.
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