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Using Photography to Capture Spirits – Central New York Paranormal

NY Shadow Chasers

While researching paranormal claims has it’s origins in the Spiritualism Movement of the early 19th Century, one of the most pursued forms of evidence has its origins with the progress of technology, Spirit Photography.

Spirit Photography is the practice of attempting to capture ghosts on film as credible proof of life-after-death.

In 1860 a photographer named W. Campbell living in Jersey City, New Jersey was taking a test photograph of an empty chair with no one else in the studio. The developed plate showed the image of a small boy and while Campbell was never able to produce any more photographs of this nature Spirit Photography was born.

The following year in 1861 a Boston engraver and experienced amateur photographer named William Mumler was developing some experimental self-portraits of himself when he identified the image of a young woman standing next to him in the images.  The photograph attracted great interest from Spiritualists and prominent photographers. As Mumler’s photograph was determined to be authentic he began describing himself as a “medium for taking spirit photographs.”

In 1869 Mumler moved to New York where he opened a new studio and charged as much as $10 per photograph. While investigator continually scrutinized Mumler and his methods other professional photographers began to take their own ‘Spirit Photographs.’ These photographers were far-less reputable and utilized assistants in costumes and developing techniques to create their own fraudulent photos. A number of these photographers set up studios in Albany, Syracuse, Hydesville (birthplace of the Spiritualism Movement) and even Utica among many other locations to exploit those who had recently lost someone to the Civil War. Often Mediums would have a Spirit Photographer accompany them in Séances to offer proof to the attendees.

In 1911 Spirit Photography entered the mainstream with the book Photographing the Invisible by James Coates. It covered dozens of legitimate cases and was later expanded in 1921 including many renowned photographs among them was one by James Hyslop, a Columbia University professor adding more credibility to the field.

As time and technology continue to progress it has been estimated that for every reputable ‘Spirit Photo’ there are at least a dozen frauds. Now, with more than 150 years of research and study, Spirit Photographers are far fewer but Spirit Photography remains a constant as cameras have become commonplace. A recent study suggest that 1 in 40 people claim to have captured a ghost in a photograph.

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[Contributed by NY Shadow Chasers]

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