William H. Mumler

1832 - May 16, 1884

William H. Mumler was an American spirit photographer who worked in New York and Boston. His first spirit photograph was apparently an accident—a self-portrait which, when developed, also revealed the "spirit" of his deceased cousin. Mumler then left his job as an engraver to pursue spirit photography full-time, taking advantage of the large number of people who had lost relatives in the American Civil War. His two most famous images are the photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband Abraham Lincoln and the portrait of Master Herrod, a medium, with three spirit guides.
Mumler was eventually taken to court and tried for fraud and larceny. Noted showman P. T. Barnum testified against him. Though the judge acquitted him, the event ruined his career and Mumler died in poverty. Today, Mumler's photographs are recognized as fakes but they circulated widely during the last quarter of the 19th century and were marketed as objects of belief and visual curiosities both within and beyond the spiritualist movement.
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