Spirit home Introduction William H. Mumler Fraud? The movement The Founders Buguet Today
Mumler's image of Moses Dow and spirit,
sometimes said to be the first spirit photo

Private collection
Spirit photography began with one man, a Boston engraver named William H. Mumler, who discovered ghostly images of individuals on a photograph he had taken of a colleague in 1862. Mumler, who had been casually experimenting with his camera at the time, claimed to have had little or no interest in spiritualism. The news of Mumler's discovery quickly spread around the world and shortly after Mumler started a business as a medium/photographer claiming he could call up deceased celebrities, strangers and family and friends of well-paying clients. He charged ten dollars per photograph at a time when an average portrait cost merely pennies. Mumler's portrait sittings were like any other, a person would sit for their own picture expecting their deceased friend or relative, a spirit "extra," to appear not in the studio but in the negative and prints.

Mumler image of three spirits and photograph
(mouseover to view photographer's
mark on back)

Private collection
Some people responded skeptically to Mumler's photographs, professional photographers in particular, as indicated by this editorial in the American Journal of Photography, "How wonderful is the recent progress of our art! We now in the usual way go through the process of having our picture taken, but when the finished photograph is presented, lo! Beside our lovely image is the attendant spirit, a babe, or a grandfather, or an unknown!... spirit photographs show, that the spirits dress in cloths of earthly fashion, that they sit in chairs, and that in sitting for their pictures they put on the smirks which some have supposed peculiar to mortals.