Robert Boursnell (England)

Self-Portrait with Spirits

Silver print cabinet card, 4 x 5.5 inches

March 9, 1902

This photograph is identified as a self-portrait based on a comparison with a profile portrait of Boursnell published in Fred Gettings' book, Ghosts in Photographs.

Boursnell was investigated by the Spirit Photography Commission set up by the Daily Mail in 1908. The Commission was comprised of spiritualists and technical experts from the photography industry. A member of the group, Mr. A. P. Sinnett, recounted how he was photographed by Boursnell: Sinnett purchased a package of negatives from a shop chosen at random, then opened them and loaded one of the plates into the plate holder and camera by himself. After the exposure, he watched as the negative was developed in the darkroom. Sinnett says he also examined the camera and found it "certainly free from tricks--I do not see how I could have been cheated under these conditions."

Sinnett was already well-known in occult circles, having conducted years of correspondence with "adepts" in the spirit world. This correspondence, known as "The Mahatma Letters," took place through the mediumship of Madame Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy.

Despite Sinnett's testimony, the Spirit Photography Commission could not reach agreement on the validity of Boursnell's work.

 

 

 

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Bibliography:
Fred Gettings, Ghosts in Photographs (New York: Harmony Books, 1978), p. 33.
Cyril Permutt, Beyond the Spectrum, A Survey of Supernormal Photography (Cambridge: Patrick Stevens, Ltd., 1983), p. 90.
 
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