"The Ghost in the Stereoscope"
Kindly suggested by Sir David Brewster

A short history of the phenomenon of the ghost in 19th. Century photography

The Ghost in the Stereoscope

The above image is illustrated in
The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer


Find a book on Ghost photography

Ghosts in photography are both, an intriguing subject and a natural phenomenon. Obviously, ghosts in photographs do exist and the field is much wider as illustrated in the "ghost effect" image above. Ghost were a normal occurrence in early 19th. Century photographs due to long exposure times.

Elements in a photographical composition that were moving during these long exposures became only partly visible, or not visible at all. For this reason, we see many early street scenes, completely desolated. Where are all those people?

People who left the camera's viewing field before the end of a long exposure were only partly registered on the light sensitive emulsion, due to this they appeared only as transparent "ghosts".

The image on the right shows a detail of "Alexandrië - Place des Consuls", an early view by Félix Bonfils. Two "ghost carriages" with horse are slightly visible. One is more faint than the other, we see twice the same carriage in one image exposed during different time intervals.

Alexandrië - Place des Consuls

Many more Ghosts are haunting Visual Media
Ghost Show Cabaret & Pepper's Ghost & Diableries & Phantasmagoria

See "Le troisième Oeil. La photographie et l' occulte" an exhibition about Ghosts' in photography previously running in the Musee Européene de la de la photographie.
3 November 2004 - 6 Februari 2005.

Later the exhibition went to the Metropolitan Museum, New York
The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult
26 September - 31 December 2005

Woman with Daisies and Spirit (circa 1875)

The ghostly appearance of partly exposed details in a composition was soon recognized and exploited to produce "proof" of the existence of ghosts in the real world among the living.
The new medium of photography became misused by spiritists to prove the existence of ghosts.

The subject of the supernatural was very popular in the 19th. Century and many 'charlatan mediums' used this effect to convince their easy manipulated believers of the existence of life after death. For many people, the appearance of a ghost in a photograph was the ultimate proof of their existence. Of course, the photographers in the 19th. Century already new better.

A lot of "real" ghost photographs were produced in the 19th. Century to prove the supernatural forces of popular mediums. A good selection of suchlike views can be seen on the web site of the American Museum of photography. There you can visit the online exhibition "Do you believe?"

These images are know as spirit photographs and caused a lot of controversy, even until today because some people just like to believe the impossible. The Sixth-plate tintype on the left, "Woman with Daisies and Spirit"* is published here with the kind permission of the American Museum of photography. Click on the image to view a larger version on the original "Do you believe?" web pages.


It was obvious that inventive minds in the 19th. Century exploited this technique to produce popular series of collectable ghost images for home entertainment in the stereoscope. Especially stereoscopic ghost photographs are a most thankful subject to exploit this long exposure technique. In the latter, the 3-dimensinal scene is showing a transparent ghost situated in a realistic decor when viewed true a stereoscope or stereoviewer.

A wonderful series of suchlike images is titled:
"THE GHOST IN THE STEREOSCOPE" (kindly suggested by Sir David Brewster) Brewster.
Brewster improved the handheld stereoscope. His type of stereoscope is known as the Brewster type stereo viewer.

On this page you will find one example of an accidental natural ghost images, typical for early 19th. Century images but mainly Brewster type trickery views. Further, as suggested above, you can visit the spirit photographs mentioned to be REAL for easy believers on "Do you believe?"

The main reason for this page is showing the collectable ghost images that were made just for fun and amusement in the popular stereoscope, an optical 3-D viewer or, the "television" of the 19th. Century, since stereo images, no matter what subject, were extremely popular and widespread in the Victorian era.

The Ghost in the Stereoscope..

The Ghost in the Stereoscope


The Ghost in the Stereoscope
The Ghost in the Stereoscope
The Ghost in the Stereoscope
The Ghost in the Stereoscope
The Ghost in the Stereoscope
The Ghost in the Stereoscope
Ghost with skull
The ghosts could also be more friendly as seen here in a typical Victorian scene depicting Gardian Angels protecting children at night during sleep.
Guardian Angels taking care of children at night

See More Ghostly Subjects on Visual Media


The unmasking and a demonstration

The image on the right depict "Une Photographie Spirite" on the cover of Le Journal Illustré, Dimanche 27 Juin 1875
(d' Après une épreuve démonstrative de Pierre Petit - Dessin de Henri Meyer)

The article explains the unmasking of Spirit Photographers and a spirit photograph demonstration by Pierre Petit.

Ghosts are a very popular theme, not only in photography!
Start here with page 1/10 to read about "the ghost in the animated projected image before the invention of cinema"

Une Photographie Spirite

(*) " 'Woman with Daisies and Spirit' Copyright © 2000 The American Photography Museum, Inc.  All Rights  Reserved."                             

Copyright: 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016 - 2017 - 2018 by Thomas Weynants
he online Media Archaeology Museum version (24) Jan 2017 to Dec 2018 - All rights are protected by SOFAM.be