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Part 5 - Witnesses for the Prosecution

Definition: Part 5 of a 7 part series about spirit photography.
Part 5 of a 7 part series about spirit photography.
"A transparent lie on its face," declared one photographer, examining Charles Livermore's picture, explaining how Livermore cast a shadow in one direction, while his wife's spirit shadow slanted in the other, an affect which could only be achieved with two different light sources. The images must have been made separately. It was either a double exposure or a manipulated negative. And why should an ethereal vapor cast a shadow anyway?

Phineas Taylor "P.T." Barnum was called as a witness for the prosecution and was his own greatest exhibition. As the country's leading wizard of sham and spectacle, his appearance in the courtroom was a showstopper. A sort of expert on the artful deceptions popularly known as "humbugs," Barnum had re￿cently published an expose on spiritualism, excoriating its leading adherents as "blasphemous mountebanks and impostors." In this same book, Barnum described his purchase some years before of spirit photographs, which he displayed in his museum. Now Barnum testified that the man he had purchased those pictures from was none other than William Mumler. In letters they exchanged, Barnum claimed, Mumler had essentially confessed his pictures were fakes. Alas, Barnum said, the letters were lost when his museum burned down in 1865.

Defense attorney Townsend's cross-examination of Barnum was character assassination leavened with bursts of pure farce. "He is a man who smells of fraud in the very nostrils of the people of New York," Townsend said. When Barnum could not produce any of the letters he had purportedly received from Mumler, Townsend accused Barnum of lying. He also declared that Barnum, the purveyor of such dubious curiosities as the "Feejee mermaid" and "the woolly horse," was an even greater "humbugger" than simple William Mumler. Barnum responded testily that he did not display anything that did not give people their money's worth "four times over."

 

Collections:

William H. Mumler - Father of Spirit Photography

 

Related Categories:

| The Birth and Death of Spirit Photography | Spirit Photography Defined | Part 1 - The Birth Of Spirit Photography | Part 2 - Leaving Boston | Part 3 - New York City | Part 4 - The Arrest and Trial | Part 6 - The Descision | Part 7 - Return to Boston | William H. Mumler and Spirit Photography | William H. Mumler and Spirit Photography - 2 | | Mumler's Spirit Photos | | Haunting Spirit Photography from the Age Before Photoshop | 15 Incredible Examples of Early Spirit Photography | HISTORY OF SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY | William H. Mumler, Spirit Photographs, Amazed Audiences With Ghostly Images | Of Spooks, Proofs, and Truths: Reflections on the Mumler Spirit Photograph Case - YouTube | The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer — University of Minnesota Press | Spirit Photography | The Mumler Mystery: A Gallery of Spirit Photography from The American Museum of Photography | The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer - Louis Kaplan - Google Books | A Ghostly Image: Spirit Photographs | Picture This: Library of Congress Prints & Photos | When Cameras Took Pictures of Ghosts - Megan Garber - The Atlantic | G is for ghosts... the birth and rise of spirit photography | National Media Museum blog | | The Ghost and Mr. Mumler |

Resources:

  external linkThe Birth and Death of Spirit Photography | Dark Shadow Ghost Tours

 

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