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William Mumler: The "spirit photographer" who claimed to capture Lincoln's ghost

Mary Todd Lincoln
© William H. Mumler
Mary Todd Lincoln, circa 1870.
The first photographers were necromancers: their work fixed faces in time, sending a flood of memories into the chasm between the living and the dead. As a bulwark against grief and loss, a picture of a loved one was at once more visceral and more magical than anything that had existed before. Maybe it was inevitable, then, that nascent photographs, literally written in light, flickered between science and superstition, defying our sense of the tangible. Cameras gazed into our lives - wasn't it possible that they could see a little further, too?

Nothing captured the fervid confusion of the new medium better than spirit photographs, in which the ghosts of the departed seem to float cheek by jowl with those who mourn them. In his new book, "The Apparitionists," Peter Manseau offers a sensitive, insightful history of the original spirit photographer, William Mumler, whose rise and fall in the late nineteenth century put him at the center of a debate about religion, fraud, and, of course, the material reality of our immortal souls.

Mumler worked as an engraver in Boston, but he dabbled in photography on the side. His first spirit photograph, developed in the early eighteen-sixties, came by surprise: in a self-portrait he'd taken, he discovered "a girl made of light," as Manseau puts it, and identified it as the spectral figure of his deceased cousin. Regarding the photo as a curio, he began to pass it around, garnering astonishment and acclaim from the city's thriving spiritualist community. Mumler had stumbled - unwittingly, he later argued - into a realm of séances and mesmerism, and its adherents ascribed to him the same gifts they saw in clairvoyants and mediums. Here was a man who'd breached the black curtain between worlds. They blared his name in such papers as the Banner of Light and the Herald of Progress.

Comment: See also:


Top Secret

Uri Geller says he was hired by CIA to investigate JFK assassination, met with Jackie Kennedy

uri geller
© NBC / Getty
Israeli psychic Uri Geller has claimed that he helped the CIA with their investigation into JFK's assassination and that he made 'shocking' discoveries.

The 70-year-old spoon bender says he was hired by a CIA agent in Mexico City to investigate whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or had accomplices when he shot dead President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Geller claims he even met with First Lady Jackie Kennedy at her apartment in New York to inform her of the information that he uncovered.

He revealed he was only now able to go public with his involvement in the investigation following President Donald Trump's decision to unseal thousands never-before-seen documents on JFK's assassination.

'For the first time in nearly 50 years, I can go public with my involvement,' he wrote on his Facebook page.

'I was already in Mexico City at the time. One of my roles included being a secret agent for the Mexican treasury department.


Wolf

Man encounters 'upright canine' in rural Mississippi

upright canine
The following account, recently posted on Reddit, referenced a 'werewolf' sighting in rural Mississippi. There has been an increase of upright canine sightings throughout Mississippi in 2017. Many of the reports have come to me through Facebook and other social media:

UFO

The mystery of Mothman still fascinates

mothman conference
© Dennis E. Powell
Numerous drawings of the Mothman creature have been made over the years, and many of them were displayed by author, lecturer and museum curator Jeff Wamsley in a talk he gave at the Wells Public Library in Albany last Thursday evening.
On Monday night, November 14, 1966, a building contractor in Salem, West Virginia, was home watching television with his family when the television began making funny noises. Then it exploded, sending shards of glass around the room. There were loud noises outside.

The contractor ran to the door and threw it open. The family dog, Bandit, ran outside and was never seen again. In a field nearby, red flashing lights were visible. The next day, the grass in the field appeared flattened.

"Four things came together," said Jeff Wamsley to a group gathered at Wells Public Library in Albany last Thursday evening. "First, the UFOs. Second, the 'Mothman.' Third, the men in black. And finally, the collapse of the Silver Bridge." Together, he added, they make up a series of events that taken together may be as mysterious today as they were when they happened.

Comment: Athough slowed, the sightings still continue:


Book

New book sheds light on the 1964 Socorro UFO sighting

Socorro sighting
Skimming and perusing Kevin Randle's new book about the 1964 Lonnie Zamora Socorro sighting, Encounter in the Desert: The Case for Alien Contact at Socorro, I was (and am) pleased to tell my readers here that it's a book that provides details you've never known or read about the iconic UFO "sighting" along with a slew of other sightings that may (or may not) have relevance to what Police Officer Zamora claims to have seen, in the desert outside Socorro, New Mexico in 1964.

There is little point in my reviewing the book; it's one you need for your collection and edification, and you would do well to grab a copy from Amazon or your favorite bookseller.

Kevin, in this book, like his recent Roswell update, provides everything, and I mean everything, that is known about the Socorro "encounter" - then and now.

Sherlock

Bigfoot hunter in Canada suing local government for right to prove beast's existence

bigfoot  Patterson-Gimlin film
© Wikipedia
This is frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film taken on October 20th, 1967, claiming to depict Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Colton
A Canadian man gathering evidence which he believes will prove the existence of Bigfoot is taking his quest to the courts in British Columbia, in an effort to compel the local government to back research into the mythical beast's habitat.

Todd Standing has been carrying out expeditions in Canada's Rocky Mountains for nearly a decade. Dubbed a 'sasquatch researcher,' Standing has previously released images which he claims provide a "crystal clear"view of the simian-like creature.


UFO

New organization: Scientific Coalition for Ufology

SCU organization
© SCU
Scientific study of UFOs to be focus of new organization: An organization of scientists, former military and law enforcement officials and other professionals hope to bring science to bear in the search for answers to the UFO mystery.

The Scientific Coalition for Ufology (SCU) is formally launching today, and hopes to bring the discipline and rigor of scientific analysis to the study of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs), also known as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). A group of scientists, former military and law enforcement officials and other professionals, many of whom have decades of experience looking into UAPs, believe there are many unanswered questions, and that a serious examination is warranted.

Camera

Notes on psychic photography

“A Psychic Portrait”
© Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
“A Psychic Portrait”
Author/publisher/editor Maurice Barbanell reported about "extraordinary psychic phenomena" after extensive firsthand observations in Europe and North America over the course of decades. Maurice included a chapter about 'psychic photography'-or what other psychical researchers called 'spirit photography'-in his memoir Power of the Spirit (1949), considering photos showing phenomenally manifested images as "permanent records of survival." He observed: "If you receive a photograph of a loved one and you are satisfied beyond doubt that the production of this extra, as it is called, could not be explained by trickery, then you have a treasured memento."

Maurice's experiences revealed that the psychic photographers whom he encountered were unquestionably authentic. However, among a large segment of the public the anomalous photos were simply too unexpected to be considered a subject worthy of closer examination. Nonetheless, due to his own evolution from agnostic to Spiritualist, Maurice found himself able to sympathize with people who had a questioning perspective toward the photos. He acknowledged:
I do not blame inquirers for thinking that the explanation of psychic photography must be fraud. The production of successful extras is so remarkable a happening that you require incontrovertible proof before being convinced that the face of your loved one has been placed on the plate by spirit power.
The information about the subject of 'psychic photography' in Power of the Spirit offers some details about the work of three people who unexpectedly found themselves to be photographer mediums during the course of their careers: Ada Emma Deane, John Myers and William Hope. Maurice's commentary explains some of the confusion arising from the work of these three individuals. The following three photos provide examples.

Question

Bizarre glowing light seen over Siberia

Aurora borealis
© AP Photo/M. Scott Moon
The aurora borealis, or northern lights, fill the sky early Sunday, March 17, 2013, above the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox church in Kenai, Alaska. The bright display at times filled the sky.
People in Siberia were stunned Thursday night by a one-in-a-kind spectacle: a huge glowing ball rising up in the sky. What was it? A UFO? A portal to a different dimension?

"I went out to smoke a cigarette and thought it was the end of the world," said Vasiliy Zubkov, according to the Siberian Times.

The website published spectacular photos by Sergey Anisimov, a photographer from the northernmost city of Salekhard.

"'At first I was taken aback for a few minutes, not understanding what was happening," Anisimov told the Times.

"The glowing ball rose from behind the trees and moved in my direction," he explained. "My first thought was of a very powerful searchlight, but the speed [the spectacle] changed everything around changed [my] idea."

Rocket

The Ghost Rockets of 1946, with a humanoid encounter?

Saga UFO mag
© Saga
Saga's UFO magazine for Fall 1974, pictured here, has a piece by my former pal Lucius Farish [RIP] and UFO historian Jerome (Jerry) Clark: The Ghost Rockets of 1946.

The seven page article presented, as was Farish's and Clark's wont, more than a representational account of the many cigar (rocket) shaped sightings over Sweden after World War II and other countries too.

And in their article, the usually cautious writers, mention an incident that allegedly took place during the 1946 sightings. However, the supposed event wasn't published until 1971, well after many flying saucer [UFO] reports that contained ingredients that are found in the purported 1946 report.

In May 1946, just outside Angelholm, in southern Sweden, witness Gosta Carlsson, a well-know industrialist, while out walking spotted a disc-shaped object with a cupola that appeared to be a cabin with oval windows.

Above it was a mast, like a submarine periscope. Underneath the disc was "a big oblong fin which stretched from the center to the edge of the underside. There were also two metal landing legs. A small ladder reached to the ground from a door beside the fin. The object was approximately 53 feet in diameter and 13 feet from top to bottom at the middle." The witness said he knew this because he measured the marks on the following day.