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Fake Spirit Photographs: Magician Exposed Behind-the-scenes of Ghost Photography in the 1900s

As photography entered the 20th century, spirit and ghost photography became a trendy subject. Many magicians and photographers claimed to have captured evidence of ghosts and spirits. William S. Marriot, also known as Dr. William by his stage name, was a magician, and he debunked the myth behind these ghostly photographs. He demonstrated several examples and behind-the-scenes of these manipulative images. Person’s Magazine, which was specialized in speculative literature, posted his interview and pictures.

In the early 1900s, the camera mostly used plates to produce photographs, special papers, development fluid, and several other elements were also used during the process. If the plate were to be used more than once, it would pick up two different images, creating a double exposure.

At the same time that society was lapping up paranormal activities and psychic experiments, others set up the Society for Psychical Research in Cambridge to investigate and understand these events and abilities. In 1893, the world-renowned author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) joined their ranks and paid witness to William Marriott’s demonstration and explanation about spirit photography.

#5 Here, Marriott with some of the “ghosts” that he bought from a catalog that sold tricks to phony spirit mediums.

#10 William Marriott demonstrating how small tables could be easily levitated with nothing more than his foot – which was virtually undetectable in a dark room.

#14 The magician William S. Marriott stands in the background.

The magician William S. Marriott stands in the background.

He is ostensibly witnessing the emergence of a female apparition carrying a “spirit” bird and flowers. This was one of many glass lantern slides used by the psychic investigator harry price in his talks, to demonstrate the methods and equipment regularly used by fraudulent mediums at the time.

Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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