William Hope: Spirit Photographer

He saw dead people – but only through a camera lens.

By The Lineup Staff

william hope's spirit photography

Way before the Long Island Medium started making house calls, spirit wrangler William Hope owned a disreputable-yet-thriving practice conjuring deceased loved ones in his London photography studio.

His life’s work took shape in 1905, when a wispy ghoul reportedly appeared in a portrait Hope shot in his hometown of Crewe, England. Whether or not he saw a ghost that day was irrelevant; what Hope actually saw was dollar signs. He hand-selected a group of other paranormal photographers, who called themselves the Crewe Circle, and started publicizing their special talents to locals who were willing to pay.

Once World War I ended – and millions of soldiers failed to make it home – Hope’s business really started to soar. He set up shop in London and began turning out some of his most recognized pieces.

In 1922, spiritualist investigator and big-time skeptic Harry Price published an article exposing Hope’s photographs as nothing more than a trick of glass plates etched with ghastly images. To Hope’s relief, notable friends, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, stood up for him, and his clients continued to seek his services until his death in 1933.

Click through to see Hope’s portraits of the living and dead sitting side-by-side.

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Photos: Courtesy of National Media Museum / Flickr Commons

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