Spirit Photography and the Internet Age

Tantallon Castle in North Berwick Ghost


Author PETER TOWNSEND concludes his three-part series on Spirit Photography by looking at how the Internet has given a boost to photographing ghosts.


Ghostly Images

The highpoint of spirit photography was from the 1860s up to the 1930s. After the 1930s the interest in spirit photography began to dissipate, except in the more enthusiastic Spiritualist circles.

Dr Eric Dingwall, a researcher for the Society for Psychical Research, spent the best part of a lifetime examining spirit photographs, only to finally conclude that they were nothing more than fakes. For Dingwall the photographs failed to reveal the return of spirits. Instead, what the photographs did reveal was human folly.

However, in recent years a less dismissive view is taken of spirit photography. Speaking of these photographs Jolly states: ‘They now speak to us more strongly of faith, desire, loss and love, than gullibility.’ Jolly explores how these haunting images have undergone a rekindling of interest in contemporary culture, saying that ‘historians of cinema, photography and visual culture have begun to pay attention to spirit photography and to treat it as an important part of the experience of modernity.’

Author: The Spooky Isles

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  1. For readers wanting further information the link for the American Museum of Photography is http://www.photographymuseum.com/seance.html.

    References to books in the article:
    Cheroux & Fischer, The Perfect Medium: Photography and the occult, Yale University Press, 2005Conan.
    Jolly, M., Faces of the Dead : The Belief in Spirit Photography, The British Library Board, 2006.

    Other Useful Literature:
    Doyle, The Case for Spirit Photography, London: Hutchinson, 1923.
    Kaplan, L., The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer, University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
    Houdini, H., A Magician Among the Spirits, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1924.
    Lamont, P,. Spiritualism and the mid-Victorian Crises of Evidence, The Historical Journal, 47,4 (2004), Cambridge University Press.
    Taylor, T., Ghosts on Film, Whitechapel Productions Press, 2005.
    Willin, M., Ghosts Caught on Film: Photographs of the Paranormal, David and Charles Book, 2007.

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