SYMHC Live: William Mumler's Spirit Photography

William H. Mumler’s spirit photograph of John J. Glover, taken between 1862 and 1875. The J. Paul Getty Museum/public domain

In the 1860s, Mumler rose to fame as a photographer of spirits. Whether Mumler was earnest or was just fleecing people is a tricky question, in part because while evidence mounted against him, he always professed his innocence.

Recorded live at Chicago's spectacular Park West theater.

Holly's Research:

  • Gabatiss, Josh. “The Man Who Tried to Photograph Thoughts and Dreams.” BBC. Jan. 17, 2017.
  • Piepenbring, Dan. “The Photographer Who Claimed to Capture Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost.” The New Yorker. Oct. 27, 2017.
  • Schenkel, Elmar and Stefan Welz. “Magical Objects: Things and Beyond.” Galda & Wilch. 2007.
  • Timberlake, Howard. “The intriguing history of ghost photography.” BBC. June 30, 2015.
  • “Louis Darget.” The J. Paul Getty Museum.
  • Scott, Kate. “Phantoms and frauds: the history of spirit photography.” Oxford University Press Blog. Oct. 29, 2013.
  • The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Carte-de-visite.” Encyclopædia Britannica. June 10, 2016.
  • The Photographic Times (William Mumler Obituary). Volume. 14. Scoville Manufacturing Company. Accessed online:
  • “Spiritual Photography.” The Illustrated Photographer: Scientific and Art Journal. Vol. II. 1870. Accessed online:
  • Carrington, Hereward. “The physical phenomena of spiritualism, fraudulent and genuine : being a brief account of the most important historical phenomena, a criticism of their evidential value, and a complete exposition of the methods employed in fraudulently reproducing the same.” Boston. H.B. Turner. 1907. Accessed online:
  • Manseau, Peter. “The Apparitionists.” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017.
  • Kaplan, Louis. “The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer.” University of Minnesota Press. 2008.
  • Cheroux, Clement, et al. “The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult.” Yale University Press. 2004.

Topics in this Podcast: live shows, ghosts, fraud, U.S. history, 19th century, Halloween episodes, hoaxes, photographers, photography