Photography, Spiritualism & The World of William Mumler


Manage episode 264495554 series 2360188
By Ben Cutmore. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

The technological breakthroughs of the 19th century were, to many people, both equal parts exciting and terrifying. Known as the black arts, the newly emerging techniques of commercial photography were often spoken about as though they were a mysterious or even supernatural process. Of course, there was nothing supernatural about the new technology, at least, not for most photographers. When William Mumler picked it up as a hobby, lured in by his attraction to a local studio owner and a propensity to tinker, he decided to lean into the mystery by offering a spyhole into the unseen world of the dead, shooting portraits of clients sitting alongside the spirits of their lost loved ones.


Manseau, Peter (2017) The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln's Ghost. Houghton Mifflin, MA, USA

Capron, E.W. & Barron, H.D. (1850). Singular Revelations: Explanation and History of the Mysterious Communion with Spirits, Comprehending the Rise and Progress of the Mysterious Noises in Western New York. 2nd ed. Auburn, NY: Capron and Barron.

Nartonis, D. K. (2010, June 1). The Rise of 19th‐Century American Spiritualism, 1854–1873. Retrieved from

The London Evening Standard (1869) From Our Own Correspondent. 11th May, 1869

The Banbury Advertiser (1869) Spiritualistic Photography. 29 April, 1869

Elgin Courier (1863) Spirit Photographs. 6 February, 1863


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Music was recorded by me © Ben Cutmore 2017

Other Outro music was Paul Whiteman & his orchestra with Mildred Bailey - All of me (1931). It's out of copyright now, but if you're interested, that was that.

147 episodes