Pioneer Spirit Photographer William Mumler
William Mumler figured out the tricks early in his career, cashing in on the rise of spirit photography. Oddly enough, Mumler’s start was accidental. In 1861, he took a self-portrait, accidentally using a photographic plate that hadn’t been cleaned. The messy exposure left an eerie image, which he sent around as a joke. But as it made the rounds, it ended up published in the spiritualist journal Herald of Progress. From there, Mumler’s life took a turn toward the otherworldly. He claimed the camera was able to capture the spirits of loved ones, which would only become visible once the image was developed. As grieving families mourned their losses after the Civil War, Mumler sold these spirit photographs for five to ten US dollars. Mumler, with new notoriety, claimed to have spiritual powers, a medium who could channel the spirit world through photography.