Sir A. Conan Doyle on Spirit Photography

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Sir A. Conan Doyle on Spirit Photography is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Daily Express No. 6145 on 20 december 1919.

Sir A. Conan Doyle on Spirit Photography

Daily Express No. 6145 (p. 4)

To the editor of the "Daily Express."

Sir, — I am convinced that if your correspondents were to examine the literature on spirit photography they would treat in more seriously than most of them seem inclined to do.

It might occur in some cases that a plate used twice would show some trace of the former exposure, but as the extra faces are as often as not in front of the sitters such an explanation becomes impossible. ... both the photographs which were taken for me, under rigid last conditions, by Mr. Hope, at Crewe, the psychic figures were in front, and on one occasion they ... me altogether.

The argument that because a psychic photograph can be faked, is surely not a serious one. It omits the two vital points, that the results is a recognisable portrait of a discarnate person. If in a newspaper office one can obtain a faked photograph of Henry VIII, it has no possible connection with the fact that at Crewe I obtained a photograph of my son unlike any which I had ever seen before.

I had some remarkable examples recently from a professional photographer who discourages publicity, thinking no doubt, that it might prejudice his legitimate business.

I have used the word "photographs" throughout, but I am of opinion that a psychograph is in many cases essentially different from a photograph, and is rather a transference by abnormal means of something which exists elsewhere. This would amply account for faces being of disproportionate size, for light seeming, to come from the wrong side, and for all those other puzzles which have worried the student and given texts to the sceptics. In the case of my son, and I am familiar, one could see upon the psychic faces a dotted appearance like prowess markings, and yet those faces were impressed upon the plate under conditions which made all fraud out of the question. In the same way Professor Henslow had shown that he obtained a reproduction of a page of the Codex Alexandrinas, a document which never left the British Museum.

There are other spirit photographs which would appear to be real photographs in the ordinary sense, the camera recording that which the human eye cannot see. The more a man looks into this subject the more he will find that it deserves worthy study, and not unworthy sneers.

Grosvenor Hotel, S.W. 1.