Photographing Lincoln’s Ghost


William H. Mumler was the first well-known spirit photographer, and deservedly so, for capturing Mary Todd Lincoln with her deceased husband, President Abraham Lincoln.

Following the Civil War, many people wanted to make connections with their recently deceased relatives and friends. Photography was new, and considered a method of reaching out.

Today, this image of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost is fairly easy to explain. Mumler used the simple process of double exposure. I say simple since it’s as easy as taking two separate photographs on a single piece of film.

To do this well requires a lot of practice and experimentation. Balancing two exposures so as to not lose one or destroy the other is a delicate process, especially when you consider this was done more than 100 years ago.

Today, a couple of blending layers in Photoshop can accomplish the same results. However, the ability to create in-camera effects isn’t a lost art, so keep this in mind the next time you pick up your camera.

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. . . and they say that the camera never lies.