William H. Mumler is widely recognized as the first commercial spirit photographer. With studios located at 258 Washington Street in Boston and 630 Broadway in Manhattan, the businessman offered patrons an opportunity to obtain portraits with "departed spirits recognized as that of some relative or friend".
When visitors first arrived they were seated in a Chippendale chair and told to remain still until Mumler's wife Hannah, a clairvoyant medium, had summoned the spirits. Although it often took several attempts before a ghost image was developed, customers always left "fully satisfied that the pictures were what they claimed to be--real photographs of real spirits".
The above engraving from the Macabre Museum archive is a rare look inside Mumler's studio.
Fink II, Richard. The Commercialization of the Afterlife. (2010)
Kaplan, Louis. The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer. (2008)
Victoria, British Columbia is described as one of the most haunted cities in Canada. Whether due to the presence of ley lines in the area, or the proliferation of native burial sites, “almost every building in [Victoria] has a ghost story”. Some prominent legends include:
Downtown Victoria Business Association, Haunted Victoria: Self-Guided Heritage Walking Map. (2016).
hen ghosts first appeared on theater stages in the 1790s, many wondered if it was all 'smoke and mirrors'. Phantasmagoria showman manipulated magic lantern projection in such a way to "cheat the eye of man and make him believe he sees spirits of the dead".
Physicist Étienne-Gaspard Robert was among the first to host theatrical ghost shows and held performances from an abandoned crypt in Paris. Using a mobile magic lantern called the fantascope, horrific images were reflected through a concave mirror and onto clouds of smoke to produce life-like effects. At the beginning of each show Robertson promised to conjure "every species of phantom as they appeared throughout history". By the end of the illusion, spectators were left "raising their hands out of fear of ghosts dashing towards them".
Phantasmagoria shows were so authentic that newspapers questioned whether magic lantern operators had "burned drugs in the smoke-filled séance room to befuddle those present". The engravings featured in this post from the Macabre Museum archive demonstrate that ghost shows were not a result of magic, but rather strategic use of optical instruments.
Davies, Owen. The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts. (2007)
Evans, Henry Ridgely. The Old and the New Magic. (1906)
Minneapolis City Hall is among the most haunted locations in Minnesota. Constructed from 1889 to 1906, the building is reportedly inhabited by the spirit of deceased convict Josh Moshik.
Convicted of murder and sentenced to death in City Hall's 5th floor gallows, Moshik gained notoriety as the first person executed under influence of hypnotism. Local doctors believed that "hypnotic suggestion might take the place of medical stimulants" by stiffening muscles and preventing "the [noose] from wrenching apart the spinal column".
Unfortunately for Moshik the hanging was botched and took several agonizing minutes to complete. He would go on to become "the last man hanged in Minnesota" and has reportedly remained at City Hall in the afterlife. Visitors to the building have witnessed a disheveled spirit roaming the 5th floor and inmates have described ice cold breezes near the former gallows. Although these reports are yet to be verified by scientific fact, one has to wonder if the strange occurrences are Moshik exacting revenge on City officials?
Morris, Jeff. Twin Cities Haunted Handbook. (2012)
"New Test of Hypnotism," Kansas City Journal. (1898)
Abraham Lincoln often consulted the spirit world for advice. One such example was the evening of February 5, 1863, when the President and his wife attended a séance at 3226 N Street in the Washington, DC.
Through the mediumship of Nettie Colburn Maynard, a ghost named 'Old Dr. Bamford' manifested and advised the President on military strategy. "Go in person to the front...and show yourself to be the Father of Your People," Bamford demanded while adding "it will unite the soldiers as one man". Several weeks later Lincoln made an inspirational trip to Union Army camps in Northern Virginia.
During the séance it was also reported that a grand piano levitated across the room. The President investigated the floating instrument and "expressed himself perfectly satisfied that the motion was caused by some invisible power".
Lincoln continued to attend Spiritualist circles throughout his presidency and even hosted several séances at the White House before passing away in 1865.
Maynard, Nettie Colburn. Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist? (1891)