||William Mumler was a 19th century Boston engraver who dabbled in the recent technological advance called photography. In 1861, less than forty years after the world's first photograph, Mumler noticed a strange, ethereal face next to his in a self-portrait he had taken. He discovered that an accidental double exposure caused the effect, and he figured out how to duplicate it. Mumler created a notorious series of "spirit photographs" that stunned an era. Thus the first known ghost photos were also the first fakes.
Mumler began a new career as a spirit medium. Sitters were willing to pay exorbitant fees to have him take their picture, which Mumler would doctor up with surrounding ghostly images. The added faces were often interpreted as deceased loved ones or celebrities. In the photo shown here, Mumler has inserted the image of the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Mumler's trickery has inspired a long line of successors. Photographers used similar techniques through the early 20th century to great fanfare. These pictures helped make ghosts and hauntings a popular fad in America and Europe at the time, and sparked the widespread growth of the Spiritualist church. Spiritualists latched onto faked ghost photos as highly persuasive evidence of the spirit world. Mumler's seemingly magical handiwork swiftly grew to great prominence, but things began to crumble when word got out that many of the ghostly specters in his photos were recognizably living Boston townsfolk. This led him to move his operations to New York, but he was brought to trial in 1869 and charged with fraud. He was found not guilty, although many credit his acquittal to the supporting testimony of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge John Edmonds
-- a Spiritualist.