Punch,  56 (1869), 265.

Photography of the Invisible



Letter, Spoof


Photography, Spiritualism, Crime, Charlatanry, Supernaturalism, Chemistry

People mentioned:

William Howitt

Publications cited:

Echo Public Opinion

    The writer begins by reminding Mr Punch that the spirit photographer, William H Mumler, was discharged by a New York magistrate 'for want of legal evidence' to prove that his photographs were fraudulent. Confesses to being uncertain 'of anything that, so far as I can see, may or may not be true'. On the one hand, he is 'not positively certain' that there is not some truth among the 'great deal of mis-statement, and not a little lying' in accounts of spiritualistic phenomena. On the other hand, he suspects that 'not even one rap upon a table, ascribed to spiritual forces, has ever been really caused by any other agency than that of a fraudulent "medium"'. The narrator has more confidence in '"spirit" photographs', suggesting that there may be 'disembodied spirits' that can make themselves visible. However, he ridicules the claim that 'an object not luminous enough to form an image on the retina' could also 'reflect rays of light sufficiently strong to decompose photographic chemicals'. Concludes by condemning spirit photographs as 'all humbug' but insists on the need to be able to give a reason for disbelieving even something so contrary to 'common sense'.

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