Edward Wyllie (American, 1848 --1911)
Mr. Robert Whiteford, Professional Photographer of Rothesay, with "Extra"
Silver print cabinet card, 3.5 x 4.75 inches
October 7, 1909
A Scottish researcher into psychic phenomena, James Coates, sent locks of his hair and his wife's hair to Wyllie, who was living and working in Los Angeles. Wyllie used the locks of hair in spirit photographs, and one of the resulting spirits was recognized as Mrs. Coates' grandmother. This earned Wyllie an invitation to England, where his work was studied by Coates.
This photograph shows Robert Whiteford, a photographer who--like Coates--lived in Rothesay, Scotland. It is one of two taken in Coates' house by Wyllie in October of 1909. The entire procedure was conducted under the scrutiny of both Coates and Whiteford, who is described as a skeptic. Reproductions of the photographs, and the story of their production, are in Coates' book, Photographing the Invisible, published in 1911.
A close-up view of the ectoplasmic emanation shows blatant signs of brushwork and retouching. At one point in his career, Wyllie was accused of using phosphorescent drawings that would glow in the dark, apparently casting enough light on a developing negative to cause an "extra" to appear. Other spirit photographers palmed film negatives, which they surreptitiously placed over the negative. In this instance, however, it is difficult to guess at Wyllie's methodology because we don't know what the "extra" would have looked like without the intervention of the retoucher.
- James Coates, Photographing the Invisible (London: L. H. Fowler, 1911), p. 242.
- Cyril Permutt, Beyond the Spectrum, A Survey of Supernormal Photography (Cambridge: Patrick Stevens, Ltd., 1983). p. 34.
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