Spirit Photographs

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Spirit Photographs is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 11 november 1925.

Spirit Photographs

The Times (11 november 1925, p. 13)


Sir, — In answer to Colonel Elliot's claim on behalf of a circle of conjurers that they have exposed every psychic photographer whom they have examined, may I say that such "exposures" need very careful checking by independent witnesses? There was a notorious one by three gentlemen some years ago in the case of the medium Hope. These three gentle-men were all supposed to be amateur magicians. I was one of a committee of 14 experienced psychic investigators who afterwards examined the facts, and we came to the unanimous conclusion that the medium had himself been the person tricked. The evidence for this was as clear as daylight.

What qualities does Colonel Elliot or his committee possess which render their opinion more valuable — or, indeed, half as valuable — as that of the society which was formed some years ago under the name of the Society for the Study of Supernormal Pictures? This society, with its headquarters in Birmingham, was non-spiritualistic, and contained among its more active members many well-known amateur and professional photographers. They examined many hundreds of pictures and had many experimental sittings. Their final report, which I believe was unanimous, was that there was not the slightest question about the truth of the photographs or the honesty of the operators, but that, being non-spiritualists, they left the cause as uncertain.

Colonel Elliot's letter of wholesale condemnation would carry more weight if he had given the names of the photographers with whom he has sat and the number of the sittings. I have sat so often myself, and have taken such pains to eliminate every possibility of fraud, that I will venture to put my evidence against his. But I place on a higher level still the conviction of men like Sir William Crookes and Sir William Barrett that these results are most certainly genuine. It is only in psychic matters that the men, who have had negative results, due usually to their own inharmonious conditions, venture to contradict or to disregard the testimony of those who have gone far more deeply into the subject and have obtained results which are positive and assured.

Yours faithfully,

15, Buckingham Palace-mansions, S.W.1.