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Black and white sketch of two photographs; in one, a man is sitting with his head bowed, and what appears to be a ghost of a woman stands behind him; in the other, a woman sits and a ghost of a man stands behind her with his hands on her shoulders.

Spiritual Developments

Episode #159

2021-02-26 13:00:36

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One Sunday afternoon, a man named William Mumler decided to take a self portrait. He said he was alone in the photography studio, but as the photograph developed he saw something very strange—the image of someone else, sitting beside him. 

Mumler’s “spirit photograph” was championed by advocates of Spiritualism, who saw it as evidence that the living could communicate with the dead. Mumler began to host portrait sessions in his studio, for a hefty fee. 

Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, visited Mumler to have her portrait taken with the hope of contacting her late son. 

Louis Kaplan’s book is The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer.

Sepia portrait photograph from the 1800s showing a man sitting in a chair, arms crossed, with a transparent woman standing behind him, arms appearing to be wrapped around the man.

Sepia portrait photograph from the 1800s showing a man sitting in a chair reading a newspaper; next to him stand three transparent people.

Sepia portrait photograph from the 1800s showing a woman sitting in a chair, angled and gazing beyond of the camera, with her arms crossed in her lap. Above her, three transparent arms place transparent flowers around the woman.

Sepia portrait photograph from the 1800s showing a man sitting in a chair with a transparent woman standing behind him, one arm wrapped around the man, the other pointed to the sky.

 

For a transcript of this episode, send an email to transcripts@thisiscriminal.com with the episode name and number.