The 1890s: J. Traille Taylor’s Research
In the 1890s, spirit photography took another big step into the mainstream world with the research of J. Traille Taylor. Taylor was the editor of the well-established British Journal of Photography. He set out to disprove claims that actual ghosts could be captured on film by replicating the results using techniques such as long exposures and double exposures.
However, Taylor was surprised to discover that he was unable to satisfactorily produce ghostly photographs. In his attempts, the figures lacked the distinct three-dimensional quality of the famous spirit photos of the time. As a result of his research, Taylor was forced to admit that there could be some validity to popular ghost photos.
1906: William Hope’s Exposure
Despite gaining ground in the late 19th century, ghost photography had a setback in 1906 with the work of William Hope. Hope was a popular spirit photographer who produced over 2,500 such photos during his career, purportedly using the techniques of slow shutter speed and double exposure.
Psychic researcher Harry Price set out to expose Hope as a fraud. He provided Hope with plates to use while shooting. What Hope didn’t realize is that the plates had been etched with markings that should have shown up on the prints. When the markings were absent, Price knew that Hope had switched the plates with his own pre-prepared ghostly images.
In spite of his public exposure as a fraud, Hope was not without supporters. In fact, Arthur Conan Doyle staunchly defended Hope throughout his lifetime.
1911: Photographing the Invisible Published by James Coates
Just five years after Hope’s disgrace, spirit photography was vindicated with another mainstream success. In 1911, James Coates published a well-received book titled Photographing the Invisible. The book was a practical guide to photographing ghosts without fraudulent intervention.
1936: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall Investigated
In 1936, Harry Price returned to the spotlight. A photo was published in Country Life magazine; it would become one of the most famous spirit photos of all time, known as the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall.
Two photographers set up a camera to photograph a staircase in Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. As one photographer ducked beneath the curtain to take the photo, the other photographer gasped in shock as he saw a shrouded figure on the stairs. The figure later appeared in the developed photo.
The figure was believed to be the ghost of Lady Dorothy Townshend. Price set out to repeat his earlier success of debunking spiritualist claims by investigating the photo. However, his investigation revealed no evidence of tampering. Detractors asserted that the camera could have been bumped when the photographer was surprised by his colleague’s gasp, but there has never been evidence of this claim.
1966: Greenwich Ghost Photographed
In 1966, another of history’s most famous ghost photos appeared. It was taken in England at the queen’s house in Greenwich. Photographers sought to photograph a staircase there. They insist that the staircase was clear when they took the photo, but a ghostly figure appeared on the film.
Experts from film company Kodak inspected the negatives and discovered no evidence of tampering.
Late 20th Century: The Advent of Digital Photography
In the late 20th century, digital photography changed the photography world substantially. Photography became quicker and easier. It also made it more difficult to create ghostly photos artificially by tampering with the film.
However, digital photography also became a boon to ghost photography. Many people using digital cameras noted mysterious orbs appearing in the photos. Some claim that the orbs can be explained by the camera’s flash reflecting off dust or pollen, but others insist that the orbs are ghostly figures.
2009: Slender Man’s Infamy
In the modern day, ghost photos are easy to dismiss. People can easily manipulate photos digitally, making many people skeptical of legitimate images of ghosts.
However, there is one ghostly figure appearing in photos today that has become a dangerous legend.
He is known as Slender Man. He appears as a tall, thin figure with a featureless face who stalks the backgrounds of photos. His legends often revolve around abducting children, and some young people have reportedly harmed others under his influence.
The popularity of Slender Man photographs is evidence that even in the age of photoshop, the power of ghost photos hasn’t diminished. From W. Campbell’s accidental discovery to the eerie photos that circulate the internet today, photos of spirits have been frightening the world for centuries. Instead of making us more skeptical, technology has only served to bring the supernatural into the mainstream. As technology continues to improve, who knows what the future will bring!
Well there’s our look at the eerie history of ghost photography. If you enjoyed this article leave a comment down below or on any of our socials.