William H. Mumler ( 1832-1884; active Boston & New York)
Mrs. French of Boston with Spirit Son
Albumen print carte de visite, circa 1868
Mumler sold copies of this image through his ads in spiritualist publications, but provided no identification of the subject.
The pattern of subtle mottling around the spirit child is typical of Mumler's works. It may have been a deliberate effort to hide seams or other evidence of subterfuge.
However Mumler achieved his effects, he was clever enough to fool two of America's leading photographers: James W. Black of Boston and Jeremiah Gurney of New York. According to Mumler's 1875 memoir, Black challenged Mumler to take his spirit photograph, and to allow him to examine the entire process. If a spirit form was produced, Black would pay Mumler fifty dollars. Mumler accepted the challenge and says when the spirit of a man appeared beside Black's figure on the negative, "Mr. B., watching with wonder-stricken eyes this development, exclaimed: "My God! Is it possible?"
Gurney, called to investigate Mumler by the New York Sun, later testified that he witnessed Mumler preparing and taking his portrait but did not discover any deception; "in developing the negative," Gurney testified, "I applied the chemicals myself, and upon the negative was a shadowy form."
- The Personal Experiences of William H. Mumler in Spirit Photography. Written by Himself. (New York: Colby & Rich, 1875) pp. 8-10, 22-23.