William H. Mumler (1832-1884; active Boston & New York)

"Master Herrod in a Trance. His Spiritual Body Withdrawn and Appears Behind."

Albumen print carte de visite, circa 1868

Mumler 's advertisements in spiritualist publications offered two photographs of "Master Herrod of N. Bridgwater, Mass." for sale:
This young man is a medium. Before sitting for this picture three spirits offered to show themselves, representing Europe, Africa and America. As will be seen by the picture, this promise was fulfilled. Also a picture was taken while entranced, and shows his double. (The Religio-Philosophical Journal, August 24, 1872)

Dr. Nandor Fodor, in his Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science (1934), explains that the spirits representing the continents were "a European, a Negro, and an Indian." And Fodor further quotes Mumler as writing,

It then occurred to me to take [Master Harrod's] picture while entranced, to see if I could get the controlling power; and to that end I asked if there was any spirit present would he please entrance the medium. In a few moments he threw his head back, apparently in a deep trance. I then adjusted the focus and exposed the plate, and took the picture as represented. The spirit seen here is undoubtedly his double as it is unmistakably a true likeness of himself.

While Master Herrod seems rather young to be dabbling in the occult, it should be remembered that spiritualism in America was launched by two young sisters in 1848. Margaret and Kate Fox were ages 15 and 11 when they began to converse with spirits of the deceased at their home in Hydesville, New York. This communication took the form of mysterious rapping sounds that answered spoken questions.

It wasn't until 40 years later that the sisters revealed the source of the rappings that touched off the international spiritualist movement: loudly cracking the joints of the ankle or toe.

 

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