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The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer

The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer

Louis Kaplan
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer
    Book Description:

    In the 1860s, William Mumler photographed ghosts—or so he claimed. The practice came to be known as spirit photography, and Mumler’s insistence that his work brought back the dead led to a sensational trial in 1869 that was the talk of the nation. The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer is the definitive resource for this fascinating moment in American history and provides insights into today’s ghosts in the machine.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6638-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. XV-XVIII)

    In all the annals of criminal jurisprudence—and they comprise an array of crimes of almost every description—there has seldom, if ever, been recorded a case analogous to that now pending before Justice Dowling, in the Tombs Police Court, in which the people are the prosecutors, and Wm. H. Mumler of No. 630, Broadway, is the defendant. The specific charge brought against Mumler is that by means of what he termed spiritual photographs, he has swindled many credulous persons, his representations leading the victims to believe that by means of communication with the spirit land, it was possible not...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XIX-XXII)
  6. Introduction: Ghostly Developments
    (pp. 1-34)

    It would appear that one does not have to make an apology or to have any feelings of shame or remorse when introducing the subject of William Mumler and the birth of spirit photography at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The success of the recent exhibition The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult, organized by Pierre Apraxine and Sophie Schmit, which began at la Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, illustrates that an incredible amount of interest in this photographic ghost story exists in European and North...

  7. Mumler in the Press: The Beginnings (1862–1863)
    (pp. 35-58)

    We have been placed in possession of an account of events transpiring in Boston, which give promise of opening to the world a new and satisfactory phase of spiritual-manifestations. The facts, as narrated by Dr. H. F. Gardner, of Boston, are as follows:—

    Mr. W. H. Mumler, an amateur photographer and practical chemist of Boston, was engaged on Sunday, October 5th, at the photograph gallery of Mrs. Stuart, at No. 258, Washington-street, in adjusting the chemicals, which had become disarranged. Having prepared a plate, and placed a chair near the focus of the camera, by which to adjust it, he...

  8. P. T. Barnum, Spiritual Photography (1866)
    (pp. 59-68)

    In answer to numerous inquiries and several threats of prosecution for libel in consequence of what I have written in regard to impostors who (for money) perform tricks of legerdemain and attribute them to the spirits of deceased persons, I have only to say, I have no malice or antipathies to gratify in these expositions. In undertaking to show up the “Ancient and Modern Humbugs of the World,” I am determined so far as in me lies, to publish nothing but the truth. This I shall do, “with good motives and for justifiable ends,” and I shall do it fearlessly...

  9. William H. Mumler, The Personal Experiences of William H. Mumler in Spirit-Photography (1875)
    (pp. 69-139)

    In these days of earnest inquiry for spiritual truths, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to contribute what evidences of a future existence I may have obtained in my fourteen years’ experience in Spirit-Photography; and although these may be but an atom in comparison with what others have received, yet that atom is necessary to constitute the great whole of Spiritualism in the nineteenth century.

    The history of all pioneers of new truths is relatively the same, and happy is the man who is not the chosen one to meet the prejudices of a skeptical world in the...

  10. Elbridge T. Gerry, The Mumler “Spirit” Photograph Case (1869)
    (pp. 140-179)

    Mr. gerrysaid:—

    May it please the Court, I have listened with great pleasure to the remarks of the learned counsel for the defence (john. d. townsend, esq.). If legal acuteness and professional ability alone, would suffice to extricate this client from the consequences of his crime, they certainly have not been spared in the presentment of his cause; but while I am compelled to admire the subtlety of the argument, I shall endeavor to expose its fallacies.

    I should, however, do great injustice to my own feelings, as well as to those of my learned associate, if, before presenting...

  11. Mumler in the Press: The Trial (1869)
    (pp. 180-210)

    Mr. W. H. Mumler, of Boston, U.S.A., some of whose spirit photographs we re-published several years ago, respecting which we had at the time many paragraphs in the Magazine, has now removed to 630, Broadway, New York. We have received his prospectus, containing many testimonies, a few of which only are recent. The dates of the most of them are as far back as 1862, and it certainly seems a strange fact, to be accounted for, that if the photographs were genuine, there should have been a cessation of them for so many years, and that they should now re-appear...

  12. Conclusion. Spooked Theories: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, and the Specters of Mumler
    (pp. 211-244)

    InHaunted Media, Jeffrey Sconce reviews the historical trajectory of the links that have been forged between modern communications media and the occult, from the invention of the telegraph in the mid-nineteenth century through radio (wireless telegraphy) and television in the twentieth century to contemporary cyberspace. At every step along the way, the wonders of “live” transmission (what Sconce marks as “electronic presence”) and the reproductive capabilities of these technical media have been interpreted and interpellated as ghosts in the machine and along the wires of communication. Sconce looks at the spooked media landscape at the beginning of the third...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-256)
  14. Index
    (pp. 257-264)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)
  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)