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February 26, 2021 42 min

One Sunday afternoon, a man named William Mumler decided to take a self portrait. He said he was alone in the photography studio, but as the photograph developed he saw something very strange—the image of someone else, sitting beside him. Mumler’s “spirit photograph” was championed by advocates of Spiritualism, who saw it as evidence that the living could communicate with the dead. Mumler began to host portrait sessions in his studio, for a hefty fee. Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, visited Mumler to have her portrait taken with the hope of contacting her late son. 

Louis Kaplan’s book is The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer.

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