Mumler mostly retired from spirit photography in his final years, though he couldn’t resist one high-profile client: Mary Todd Lincoln. Initially pursuing mediums and spiritualists after the death of her son Willie Lincoln, Mary sought contact with the spirit of her dead husband.
|Mary Todd Lincoln. Photograph by William H. Mumler, February of 1872.|
Later, the image has been dismissed as a fraudulent double exposure. In 1869, Mumler had been put on trial in New York for fraudulently producing his spirit photographs. Because the prosecution could not prove exactly how he did it, he was ultimately acquitted.
How can a 'spirit' photograph, 7 years after the death of President Lincoln, be made with a double exposure?
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.