When Spirits Sat for the Camera at allen Public Library

Oct. 31

7:30 pm

Spirit photography is the intentional use of cameras to capture ghosts or spirits around a subject. This Halloween learn more about the historical roots of spirit photography from Jack and Beverly Wilgus. Photography became more accessible to the common folks after the end of the Civil War.  Before beginning his career as a spirit photographer, William Mumler was employed as a jewelry engraver in Boston, practicing amateur photography as a hobby.  He discovered his deceptive technique by accident, when he saw a second person in a photograph he took of himself.  Using double exposure, a full-time career as a spirit photographer began.

Due to the enormous death toll from the Civil War, thousands of families sought to communicate with their loved ones.  An inquiring person would sit for a photograph, and the final product would be the image of that person along with an apparition assumed to be the deceased friend or family member.  This “skill” proved so lucrative that other photographers soon joined the immense market for spirit photographs.


Jack and Beverly Wilgus amassed over 30,000 historical spirit photographs and donated these, along with other historical photographs, to the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University.


Allen Public Library

300 N. Allen Dr.,