Monday, April 2, 2018

Spirited Company: Old school seances and spirit photography

The Victorian seance is something that has cemented itself in our minds and media. After all, the spiritualism movement caught the attention of some very notable people of the era, from Mary Todd Lincoln to Arthur Conan Doyle. ACD quite famously disagreed with his pal, Harry Houdini, about the spiritualist movement in the early 20th century (they even made a very awesome but very short-lived TV show about it).

The spiritualism movement can be traced to mesmerism, the hypnotic therapy of F.A. Mesmer in the 18th century, but it's worth mentioning the Fox sisters, as well. These sisters claimed they could speak to the dead starting in the 1840s and helped spark an international obsession with spiritualism. Today, we tend romanticize the movement and use it in many books and movies and TV shows--heck, The Lovelace & Wick Series features multiple seances. At the heart of it, however, were charlatans taking advantage of a hopeful and sometimes grieving audience. Humans want so badly for there to be a way to talk to their dearly departed loved ones, and spiritualism provided both comfort and heartache to people of the time.

Today, however, I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite examples of Victorian and Edwardian spirit photography.  Most of these blots of ectoplasm and ghostly faces were either cotton/cheese cloth or smoke or overexposed faces in overlay. All the same, they're a lot of fun to look at.

(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a visitor -- Source)

(Mary Todd Lincoln -- Source)

(Source--This link has a TON of cool photographs.)

Until next time!

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