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“Do You Believe?” Spirit Photographs from the American Museum of Photography

“Do You Believe?” Spirit Photographs from the American Museum of Photography



Edouard Isidore Buguet (France, b. 1840)

Mons. Leymarie and Mons. C. with Spirit of Edouard Poiret

Carbon print or Woodburytype carte de visite

2.25 x 3.5 inches

circa 1874

Leymarie was the editor of Revue Spirite, which circulated this image and publicized Buguet’s work. In 1875, a French court sentenced Buguet and Leymarie to a year in prison for fraud after a raid on the Buguet studio uncovered two shrouded dummies (the smaller of the figures was used to represent children) and 299 photographs of heads, mounted on cardboard. Confronted with the evidence, Buguet confessed. But at the Spiritualist Congress in Brussels during September of 1875, he recanted– claiming that the dummies were only used by his employees when he was absent due to illness, and insisting that two-thirds of his ghost photographs were genuine. (For an account of the trial and its impact, please click here)


The English medium and Anglican minister William Stainton Moses considered this one of the most important spirit photographs ever made. (Click here to read his comments from an 1875 article, written shortly before the arrest of Buguet)


Inscriptions on verso:

“Medium Ch. E. Buguet/5 Boulv. Montm. at Paris”

“This is perhaps the most remarkable spirit-picture existing till this time (Feb. [18]75)–The medium did not manipulate [i.e., make the exposure or process the image in the darkroom]. The spirit more distinct than the sitters, is an old friend who died at Pimpres (Oise) 12 years ago. The form is enveloped in the ordinary fluidic veil. Mons. C is shrouded in the same drapery. See Oxon’s article in “Human Nature,” page 82, vol. IX., February 1875.”



“Une photographie spirite,” Revue Spirite , Journal D’Etudes Psychologiques, June 1874, p. 165.

Fred Gettings, Ghosts in Photographs, The Extraordinary Story of Spirit Photography (New York: Harmony Books, 1978) p. 37

Rolf H. Krauss, Beyond Light and Shadow (Munich: Nazraeli Press, 1995) p. 130.



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Science vs. Seance
The Mumler Mystery


Stainton Moses on the Buguet Spirit Photograph of Leymarie & Mons. C

The second of the photographs given as illustrations with this number is perhaps the most remarkable spirit-picture with which I am acquainted, and if one be in existence which is more remarkable, I confess I should like to see it. M. Leymarie, editor of the Revue Spirite, is one of the sitters, and Monsieur C. the other. They performed all the previous manipulations with the plate themselves, M. Buguet having nothing to do with the matter. Between M. Leymarie and his friend, who is shrouded in spirit drapery, comes the spirit, really more palpable and material than the sitters, an old friend who died at Pimprez (Oise) twelve years before, by name, Edouard Poiret. His form is enveloped in fluidic veil, but the face is the thoroughly developed face of a living man, every feature distinct, more so, in fact, than the faces of the sitters.

Source: Stainton Moses [“M.A. Oxon”], “Researches in Spiritualism. By M. A. Oxon. Spirit Photography-Chapter IV-(Continued) M. Buguet,” Human Nature: A Monthly Journal of Zoistic Science (London) February 1875, p. 82 Transcription courtesy John Buescher.


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An Account of the Buguet Trial and its Impact

from Frank Podmore, Mediums of the 19th Century, Vol. 2 (1902)


Stainton Moses’ endorsement of Buguet’s claims appeared in Human Nature for May, 1875. In the following month Buguet was arrested and charged by the French Government with the fraudulent manufacture of spirit photographs. When put on his trial Buguet made a full confession. The whole of his “spirit” photographs were, he stated, produced by means of double exposure. [A footnote on this page: A verbatim account of the trial will be found in a book, Proces des Spirites, published in Paris in 1875 by Madame Leymarie. M. Leymarie, editor of the Revue spirite, who had admittedly suggested to Buguet that he should endeavour to produce spirit photographs like those of Mumler, was put on his trial with Buguet, and was in the event condemned, notwithstanding his protestations of innocence, to a like punishment, viz. a year’s imprisonment and a fine of 500 francs.] . . .


Witness after witness–journalist, photographic expert, musician, merchant, man of letters, optician, ex-professor of history, colonel of artillery, etc., etc.–came forward to testify on behalf of the accused. . . . One after another these witnesses were confronted with Buguet, and heard him explain how the trick had been done. One after another they left the witness-box, protesting that they could not doubt the evidence of their own eyes. . . . Incidentally there were two or three curious bits of evidence on the value of recognition as a test. . . . Again, it came out in the evidence that a very clearly defined head (reproduced as an illustration to Moses’ articles in Human Nature), which had been claimed by M. Leymarie as the portrait of his almost lifelong friend, M. Poiret, was recognised by another witness as an excellent likeness of his father-in-law, still living at Dreux, and much annoyed at his premature introduction to the spirit world. [Footnote: Proces des Spirites, p. 42; see also Human Nature, 1875, frontispiece. The spirit head in the photograph is noticeably flat, thus testifying to its origin.]


The effect of the exposure on English Spiritualists appears to have been much the same as the effect on Buguet’s actual dupes. Stainton Moses remarked that the prosecution bore traces of clerical origin, that the judge was strongly biassed, and that Buguet was obviously a genuine medium, who had no doubt been bribed or terrorised to make a spurious confession, and to fabricate a box full of trick apparatus for exhibition at the trial. [Footnote: Human Nature, 1875, pp. 334, 335.]


Source: Frank Podmore, Mediums of the 19th Century, Vol. 2 (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1963. Reprint of 1902 edition published by Methuen, London)– pp. 121-123. Transcription courtesy John Buescher.


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