Spirit Photographs Again

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Spirit Photographs Again is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in the Scientific American in february 1926.

Spirit Photographs Again

Scientific American (february 1926, p. 140)

Appreciating the fact that there are two sides to every question, we are glad to present for your consideration, a letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle giving his views on Dr. Prince's article in our December issue :

November 26.


I may be doing Dr. Prince an injustice by not waiting for the printed version of his remarks, and commenting at once upon the cabled version. He will understand, however, that if I did not do so my reply might be 100 late for any immediate number of the Journal.

Dr. Prince makes two charges and I will take them in turn.

The first is that I "acclaimed" certain psychic photographs by two young mediums named Falconer, and said they were"marvellous" whereas they were in fact reproductions of well-known paintings.

When I first saw these photographs, some eight or nine weeks ago, I said they were marvellously artistic which is obviously true. I then examined them carefully, recognized that they were reproductions of paintings and wrote as follows under date September 20th to the Editor of the Psychic Gazette, the letter appearing in the October issue:

"Sir: I noticed that you used my name in connection with the spirit photographs alleged to be produced by the young Mr. Falconers. I have had no opportunity of personally testing these mediums and I cannot allow my name to be used in connection with this work. I did express the opinion that one of their results was on a higher plane of art than any which I had seen before, but this does not of course necessarily mean that it is genuine.

"There are several points which they have to meet which are not necessarily final but which are so far suspicious that they are calculated to bring suspicion and scandal upon the cause which we all have at heart. One is that the stuff which surrounds the faces is more like shredded cotton wool than any I have seen. The use of a lens makes the matter even more dubious. On the top of this the figure reproduced in your engraving 4 is unquestionably the well-known picture "Blossoms" by Albert Moore. One has a feeling also that No. 3 (this was the one which several spiritualists afterwards identified as a Murillo) is also familiar. Such cases of transference may conceivably be innocent but I repeat that they are suspicious and that it is not a form of mediumship to encourage."

I wrote a similar letter to "Light." Thus it is perfectly manifest that if there was any "exposure" it was I who made it two months before Dr. Prince ever alluded to the matter.

I will now pass to the second count. It is that I exhibited a psychic photograph by one Fallis of Chicago, and that it was a fake. The facts are that in my first lecture at New York, I exhibited forty-five photographs and only one of these did I declare that I could not guarantee. This is the one of which Dr. Prince speaks. A day or two later Dr. Prince wrote to me saying that of his personal knowledge this photograph was not genuine. I at once withdrew it and I told my audience that I had done so. At the time I thought it was very gentlemanly of Dr. Prince to make his objection in a private letter rather than in the public press. It seems that my conclusion was premature.

Your readers can now see that this whole matter is a mare's nest, which differs only from many other such nests in that the Doctor has laid two eggs in it instead of one. The incident is typical of the tactics of a certain type of researcher who instead of devoting his time to something which is positive and constructive, turns all his attention to medium·baiting or to springing charges upon those who are seriously endeavoring to elucidate these difficult questions. Reasonable criticism is to be welcomed but these tactics of pure obstruction, which are compounded of incredulity to everything psychic, and credulity to everything scandalous, are an impediment to all progress. I trust that Dr. Prince will henceforth devote his undoubted abilities to solid work, and cease to waste his own time and mine by petty personal attacks, which are below the dignity of that great inquisition in which we are both engaged.

Arthur Conan Doyle.