In 1923, Harry Houdini And Arthur Conan Doyle Feuded Over Spirit Photography And Went On Rivaling Lecture Tours To Drive Home Their Beliefs About The Spiritualism Movement

Despite their starkly opposing stances on Spiritualism, though, Arthur and Harry were actually quite close friends. Their archives revealed that both men often exchanged letters, articles, and books– most often in an attempt to back their own perspectives on Spiritualism and persuade the other to follow suit.

Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that both men collected vast amounts of so-called spirit photography.

These seemingly haunted pictures appeared to capture entities– “spirits”– that were unable to be seen by the human eye.

Much of the time, these figures took on one of two forms. They were either concealed and inexplicable or distinctly recognizable as historical figures or family members.

And depending on if you sided with Arthur’s or Harry’s views on Spiritualism, the same photographs still served as visual evidence to support either belief.

Supporters of Spiritualism cited the photographs as proof of the spirit world; meanwhile, naysayers pointed to the photographs as examples of photographic tricks and deceit.

Harry’s collection is also home to one of the most shocking pieces of spirit photography– an image of the magician seated next to Abraham Lincoln. Harry created the photo around 1925 in hopes of proving that spirit photography was fraudulent.

He specifically picked Abraham Lincoln as his photo subject since, during that time, it was common for mediums to claim that they saw well-known figures like Lincoln. This particularly angered Harry, who had been both a fan of the former president and friends with Lincoln’s son.

“In an effort to make sure that Robert Todd would not be taken in by these dupes, these fraudsters, [Harry] created his own double-exposure image of himself supposedly conversing with Lincoln,” explained Zimmerman.

“Then, he sent that photo, along with a very detailed scientific explanation of the double-exposure process to Robert Todd Lincoln, so he would not be taken in by anyone offering him this kind of connection to his murdered dad.”

Still, spirit photography provided Americans of the 1920s and 1930s an unmatched sense of peace. And the artistic medium was so new that people did not understand why photographs wouldn’t be able to show “the unseen.”

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