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vol. 3, p. 150
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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Spirit Photography

The Spirits of Persons Resident in London and America Photographed in Paris

In the course of collecting evidence respecting Spirit Photography for publication in Human Nature, (Burns, London, Eng.,) I came upon undoubted testimony to the fact, that Monsieur Buguet, had on repeated occasions photographed the spirit of a lady, then, and now, resident at Baltimore, United States. At first I was slow to believe it possible, that an incarnated spirit, could leave its imprint on the sensitive plate so far from the body which it occupied. But as I thought the matter out, I found that the fact though surprising, was not so startling as it seemed at first blush. I had been familiar all my life, with the fact, that spirits can operate beyond the bounds of the physical body which contains it. History records numberless cases of such action, and those who were most familiar with the later development of Spiritualism, see much cause to attribute some at least, of the interesting phenomena which it presents to the actions of incarnated spirits. The novelty is not in the fact, of spirit “leaving the body,” but in the fact of its leaving its imprint, on the sensitized plate, as evidence of its trans-corporeal wanderings.

And yet if a disembodied spirit, can be photographed, why not one temporarily severed from its corporeal envelop? That disembodied spirits have been, and are photographed in many proven instances, I entertain no sort of doubt. Any one who will do me the honor to read the last seven monthly instalments of my “Researches in Spiritualism" published in Human Nature, will see the grounds on which I ask the public, Jo assent to the fact, that spirits of the departed, are actually photographed among us. It seemed to me then, not incredible that under suitable conditions, a spirit, still incarnated might prove its severance from the body, by an image kit on the sensitive plate.

I applied myself to sift the cases under my notice. The Comte de Bullet, most courteously placed at my disposal a signed, and attested certificate, that he had obtained at M. Buguet’s by ordinary processes of photography, a portrait of “the double of his sister, now resident at Baltimore, United States. Further inquiry elicited the fact that the portraits— eighty in number—were taken at an hour when she was probably asleep, and that the Count evoked the spirit, by a strong exercise of will. In addition to his sister, he had also obtained portraits of his mother, and of his sister's six children. The Count adds, in a letter addressed to me, — “All these facts I give you, as the result of the most vigorous investigation, and can avouch all I say.”

Here then was a case of which I could not entertain doubt. The question then arose, whether I could obtain evidence of similar results in other cases. I determined to try and get them in my own person. I have possessed the power, of leaving the body all my life, and it seemed likely that I could so arrange, as to leave evidence of the fact on the plate. I made arrangements with Mr. Gledstanes, of Paris, to present himself at the studio of M. Buguet, in that city, at 11 A. M., Sunday, Jan. 31 last, to pose as soon after his arrival as possible and to evoke my spirit. For myself, I engaged to remain quiet in my rooms in London, and to ask my guides to entrance me if possible.

The plan was carried out Mr. Gledstanes posed at 11-15, A. M., Paris time, or 11-5, London time, and a faint image of me appeared on the plate. A second exposure, ten minutes later, produced results, which are completely satisfactory. On one-half of the plate, appears a perfect likeness of me, and on the other half a representation of the spirit who arranged, and carried out the experiment. The portrait shows me in trance, with eyes tightly closed, and that indefinable expression of face, which the trance always produces. The other spirit is an old Sage, who during his earth-life, was versed in Spiritual love, and who, curiously enough, was himself accustomed to leave the body, and to aft in’ spirit, beyond its limits.

Oaring the time this experiment was being made in Paris, I by in a state of profound trance in London. I remember hearing the church bells ringing, as I lost consciousness. It must then have been nearly eleven o’clock, the hour at which our church services usually begin. After that, my memory is a complete blank, until ii-47, when I awoke. During the whole day, I was more or less in a state of trance, and it was not until I had had another night’s rest, that I completely recovered from the spirit influence. On Monday morning, about half-past six, the spirit-voice which I am accustomed to hear, gave me information as to the success of the experiment. I requested that the facts might be written down, so as to be in a permanent form. This was done through my hand, automatically, in the way that information is usually written for me. I have the account now before me, and its details (written at 7, A. M.,) are most precise, and are confirmed in every particular, by a letter from Paris, from Mr. Gledstanes, which came to hand about 5, P. M., —ten hours later or thereabouts.

In addition to the facts outlined above, remarkable details are given respecting the preparations which were made, and the mode in which the experiment was conducted. It seems to be a delicate operation, and could be successful only in the case of a powerful medium, who possessed the special faculty of leaving the body, and whose guides were powerful enough to protect the body, during the temporary absence of spirit, and to guard the spirit itself from shock. I was told that the consequence of the severance of the magnectic cord, which united spirit to body, would be physical death; while shock to the body, during its spirit's absence, would result in paralysis.

What light does this throw on the recorded cases of double, of the appearance of beloved friends, at the moment of death, to those with whom their last thoughts have been? What a flood of light will the patient investigation of this attested fact, let in upon the dark places of Psychology. Already I have had many cases mentioned to me of the trans-corporeal action of the spirit. Probably some of your readers may be able to supply me with others, and so to aid in the compilation of a paper, which I am preparing, on the action of spirit still incarnated beyond bodily limits. All experiments in this direction, are valuable, and all records of them will be welcome.

A Spirit Face

Says the Milwaukee Sentinel, — “There are two library desks in the show-rooms of Matthews Bros., which have been repeatedly photographed, and no matter in what light or from what point of view the photographs have been taken, there is always on the left hand glass pane of the left hand book shelf (surmounting the desk) what a Spiritualist would call a spirit picture. The shelving, which in other parts of the desk comes out with tolerable distinctness, is here dim and shadowy, and on the side where—according to the sunlight as thrown on the parts of the furniture—the shade ought to besomething light and gauzy, like fine white garments or bed clothing is thrown into relief, the graceful head of a female finishing off the picture. It is the body coverings that are brought into the strong light. The head is in shadow, and fades into indistinctness, but the parting of the hair, the eyebrows, and outlines of the nose and mouth are plainly visible. The under part of the chin is in deep shade, as the picture of a natural person would be. The female might be imagined to be a corpse in neighbor Griffin’s store, beautifully laid out in a casket, the head being just about that angle with the body of a person reclining on the back, with a pillow under the head. The picture is a curious one, and has been handed around considerably among citizens of an inquisitive turn of mind.”

Isolation of Mediums

M. A. (Oxon) writes to Col. Olcott that, in his opinion, we shall never get uniformly trustworthy spirit communications through mediums until we return to the old classical practice of isolating them from all external influences. He says that he has been holding a seance where the mere entrance of an antagonistic person into the house, not the room, has caused every manifestation to instantly cease. The same thing has been brought about by simply propounding some question to the medium. “I have known,” says he, “a person to leave, after staying in the house a week, an atmosphere that has not cleared off for another week. Crookes, in the same way, has told me that Florrie Cook has been ruined for a seance by a walk down Regent street. The people she jostled against left their impress on her atmosphere."

Editor's notes

  1. Spirit Photography by Moses, W. S. (signed as M. A. (Oxon)), Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 3, March 25, 1875, p. 32
  2. A Spirit Face by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 2, March 18, 1875, p. 15
  3. Isolation of Mediums by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 21, July 29, 1875, p. 243