Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review "The Perfect Medium Photography and the Occult"

Photographs are like ghosts of the past, they can show us where we have been and show us who we are. Pictures speck to us, we can view a passed-on loved one's face and remember the time we spent with them. We can enjoy a laugh with friends viewing vacation photographs of days gone by. Photography has always been a record of the past but in some ways it may show us where we should go for our future.

Doing researching on haunted places has led us to many fascinating and unusual avenues, such as Castle Frankenstein and the most notorious haunted house in Wisconsin called Summerwind Mansion. We have a passion for history which plays a big part in what we do.

Being a photographer I love pictures especially vintage photographs and the history of the early days of photography. We enjoy finding unusual books about the paranormal and learning about its legends from its early forms to modern day hauntings. One book I came across the blended both of the passions was "The Perfect Medium Photography and the Occult" by Cheroux, Fischer, Apraxine, Canguilhem, and Schmit, published by Yale University Press. Written in 2004, this large book discuses a topic that is virtually obscure and has been taken for granted.

The book has three parts, Photographs of Spirits, Photographs of Fluids, and Photographs of Mediums. The book begins with the early days of Spiritualism in the Victorian era and the spirit photographs that came about during that time. Photographers like William Mumler gave rise to spirit photography and in Europe began with Frederick Hudson. The reproductions of the photographs and collection of cartes de visites are amazing. The images are clear and well reproduced. Some spirit photographs are obvious fakes but the information on the photographers is very interesting, thorough, and well researched.

The second part, Photographs of Fluids, chronicles photography's use in providing evidence of the invisible world like the aura of a human hand or the life force of a freshly plucked leaf. The universal fluid was a theory developed by German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, who suggested that every living thing has a universal fluid, a magnetic field that governs the body and its surroundings. The photographs of the "fluids" are both strange and fascinating. I found myself staring at them for long periods of time trying to make sense of them all.

The final part of the book, Photographs of Mediums, shows mediums at work levitating, levitating tables, producing ghosts at will, vomiting ectoplasm and other various phenomenons. The photographs in their time may have been used as a tool for debunking. They are a treasure trove of various occult images, along with a well researched narrative and historical context for the contents..

The only complaints I can really come up with that the book is a bit pricey at $45. I also wish they would have included modern ghost hunting photographs. I think this is an important part in the larger scope of photography and the occult. The book appeals to anyone with an interest in ghosts, photography and history, I find myself referencing it often and find it highly recommendable.


  1. This blog is really interesting! Photos are shivering. How places haunted in France, I suggest you a travel in Normandy, "the most haunted region of France"! Sorry for my English…

  2. Normandy would be a dream trip. Thank you. We love suggestions, and your English is terrific ;)