In 1860, American spirit photographer William Mamler started the production of mysterious photographs in which on the background could be seen spirits. His lab did not know lack of customers. In 1869, he faced the trial for fraud, but judges failed to understand how the photo hoaxes were made. As a result, acquitted of fraud, Mumler’s career was ruined. Besides, Mamler was mentally ill with schizophrenia. And, before his death, he destroyed most of his working papers and photographs. Despite this, about 2 thousand pictures have survived in his laboratory. He died at the age of just 52, in 1884, and took the secrets of Photoshop of XIX century with him to the grave.
1860 – the worst time in the history of the United States, with hundreds of thousands killed in the Civil War. Spiritualism was spreading far and wide in the country, when relatives of dead soldiers tried to evoke their spirits. Boston engraver William Mamler realized the main trend of the time, and made it a good capital.
In 1862, he moved to New York and began working on a technology that allowed to display silhouette of another person on the background of the photo. Mamler stated it was the spirit of a dead relative. His fame grew, and for one day he earned up to $ 30-40 (3-4 thousand dollars in today’s terms).
In 1863, local photographers, politicians and scientists tried to expose Mamler. They staged a public examination of his operations – the skillful photographer demonstrated to them all his photo manipulations he usually did during filming. But after weeks of investigation the experts admitted they had not managed to figure out how spirits appeared in the photographs of Mamler.
In April 1869 Mamler was again accused, and he was brought to trial to New York City Court for fraud. The process lasted about a month, and again they failed to demonstrate that the photographer – hoaxer.
However, this trial ruined the authority and finances of Mamler. Legal costs cost him 5,000 dollars (unthinkable at that time sum of money, about 500,000 at current exchange rates), and the customers began suspecting fraud. The civil war ended five years ago, and during that time, many people had put up with the death of relatives.
Photographers and scientists still have not come to a consensus about Mamler. His most famous picture – the widow of President Abraham Lincoln on the silhouette of her dead husband. One version – for Mamler worked a team of thieves. A man posing for his picture, left his address. Mamler promised him to deliver the photo to his address in 3-4 days. During this time Mamler’s assistants could get into the house and find there pictures of his dead relatives, then this photo was delivered to Mamler. The resulting photo proclaimed spiritualist, the cost of the photo increased. If a photo of the deceased could not be stolen, the client got an ordinary picture with a simple explanation that “the spirit didn’t contact”.
According to eyewitnesses, “spiritualistic” were about one-third of all the photographs taken by Mamler. But this version is only a version.