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True Believer or Fraud? The Trial of Spirit Photographer William Mumler

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In the mid-19th century, an off-beat form of spirituality swept the U.S. People turned to mediums and seances, desperate to reach dead loved ones, especially those lost during the Civil War. Peter Manseau, curator of religion at the Smithsonian, describes how the advent of photography collided with the Spiritualist Movement, resulting in so-called “spirit photographs”. Manseau has written: “The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost”.

Here is the photo of Mary Todd Lincoln, taken by Mumler in 1872:

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Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.
Maureen Harvie is senior producer for On the Record. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and joined WYPR in 2014 as an intern for the newsroom. Whether coordinating live election night coverage, capturing the sounds of a roller derby scrimmage, interviewing veterans, or booking local authors, she is always on the lookout for the next story.