The following document is an abstract of a paper accepted for presentation at the Visual Delights III — Magic and Illusion conference at the University of Sheffield, July 15-17th 2005.

People have always been fascinated by the idea of life after death. Until the nineteenth century, however, belief in an after-life was very much a matter of personal faith and religious conviction. With the invention of photography, however, things changed. Photography was seen as a scientific and objective means of recording supernatural phenomena and providing evidence of their existence. Unfortunately, the new medium soon proved to be open to fraud and deceit.

This paper surveys the history of spirit photography during the nineteenth century — from the accidental ghosts produced by the long exposure times required by the earliest processes to the far from accidental results obtained by celebrated 'psychic' photographers such as William Mumler and Frederick Hudson.


3 May 2005