The vigilant photographer noticed something interesting during the shoot, the deceased rushed to his side.
In the 1860s, the United States was devastated by a civil war in which 620,000 people died. The people who lost their loved ones were in anguish and deep mourning. William Mumler, known as an amateur chemist and an unsuccessful entrepreneur trying to sell his own stomach medicines before the American Civil War, tried his entrepreneurial ambition on the weaknesses of grieving people this time and was successful. His cheating made him history as the biggest swindler.
Photography, which was invented in France in 1839 and has just become popular in the post-Civil War USA, was something quite extraordinary for the US society as well as the rest of the world. However, the current of spiritualism, which claimed that it was possible to communicate with spirits in the other world, was also becoming increasingly common in the United States. It was during such a period that William Mumler, who would soon turn into one of the biggest fraudsters in history, began to work as a photographer.
Mumler, who often takes self-portraits to improve her photography skills, came across something she had never seen before in one of the photographs.
In this photo, there was a silhouette of a person who seemed to be “made of light” with Mumler (although Mumler was alone when he took the photo)! According to Mumler, the interesting entity in the photograph was nothing more than a ghost. The photographer, who showed this interesting photo to a “spiritually strong” friend, confirmed to this friend that the thing in the image was a ghost. It was after this moment that William Mumler decided to become a spirit photographer.
Mumler placed advertisements in popular newspapers. Thus, he became a well-known person in the mainstream media. Dejected Americans, who wanted to see their relatives lost due to the war one last time, started to form large queues at Mumler’s photography studio. Indeed, Mumler was taking pictures of her clients with vaguely human shapes. People who went through a period they had never met before, easily believed that the figures in the photographs were the souls of their lost relatives.
In other words, it was possible for a completely unrelated ghost to appear in the photograph of a person who wanted to take a photo with the soul of his son, whom he lost in the war! This interesting glitch, coupled with Mumler’s growing reputation, led to the rise of fraudulent claims about the soul photographer. In fact, some of the photographers of the period went to Mumler’s studio and witnessed his fraudulent methods closely and shared this situation with people. But the number of clients of the popular soul photographer did not decrease.
The discovery that a “ghost” in the photographs was alive strengthened the fraud allegations against the photographer. A woman who recently lost her brother in the civil war approached Mumler to take a photo with her brother’s spirit. The soul photographer, as always, complied with his client’s request. She took a photo of the woman with the silhouette of a man. Soon, however, the woman’s brother showed up, unharmed.
This incident caused further fraud allegations against Mumler and the famous soul photographer to be watched with skeptical eyes. Realizing that his misery would be exposed, Mumler decided to move from Boston to New York. Mumler was arrested on fraud charges in 1869 after complaints. Mumler, who went to court, continued to live a comfortable life in Boston without being sentenced thanks to his conviction that he was not caught red-handed and the jury believed in him.
One of Mumler’s most famous clients was Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of former US President Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated. The First Lady went to the soul photographer’s studio in 1870. Mumler photographed Mary Todd Lincoln in the spirit of former president Abraham Lincoln. This photograph that went down in history was the soul photographer’s last and most famous work. Source: ListList, History