Though spirit-photo hoaxes have been exposed, some photo-related coincidences and other phenomena are so spooky they could make one wonder whether something supernormal is really at work.
Hoaxes and debunkers are ubiquitous today, thanks to the Internet and technologies that allow for photo and video manipulation. But debunkers had their place more than a century ago as well, at the height of interest in séances and spirit photos.
Walter E. Woodbury was one such debunker. He uncovered what was behind a semi-frequent occurrence that produced—sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional—hoaxes. Imagine the surprise of a photographer who would develop his shots and find something like this:
In 1896, in “Photographic Amusements,” Woodbury explained that unwitting photographers were sometimes left with an image from a previous session on the glass negatives. Glass was expensive in those days, and the photo negatives made of glass were cleaned and reused. But sometimes a portion of a previous picture would be left on the negative, producing a startling result when overlapped with another subject. Some photographers realized this and capitalized on it, convincing sitters that they were surrounded by their dead relatives while being photographed.
Woodbury recounts a humorous tale: “An elderly gentleman had come for a séance, and, after some mysterious maneuvers, the gentleman was informed that the spirit of his mother was there. ‘Indeed!’ replied the gentleman, somewhat astonished. ‘What does she say?’ ‘She says she will see you soon,’ informed the medium. ‘You are getting old now and must soon join her.’ ‘Quite right,’ replied the old gentleman; ‘I’m going round to her house to tea tonight.’”
A Double-Exposure of a Truly Strange Nature
In his book, “Synchronicity,” famed psychologist Carl Jung recounts a strange coincidence. A woman in Strasbourg, Germany, took a photo of her young son and took it to a shop to be developed. WWI began, and the woman moved away from the city without having retrieved the photo from the shop. Years later, she took a photo of her daughter and brought it to a shop in Frankfurt to be developed. The result was a double exposure, but to her surprise it was the photo she had taken of her son years before overlapped with the current photo of her daughter in Frankfurt.
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