The Media of Mediumship
Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain's Science, Technology, and Magic Collections
Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain's Science, Technology, and Magic Collections

[EVENT] ‘Caught on Camera: Reflections on William Hope and the Crewe Circle Spirit Photographs’, Dr Efram Sera-Shriar

27 January 2022, 6:30–8pm | Live Talk | Café Scientifique, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford

During the opening decades of the twentieth century, William Hope was a well-respected medium amongst the spiritualist community in Britain, with positive endorsements from major scientific figures such as the chemist William Crookes and the author and physician Arthur Conan Doyle. He was often seen as one of the few mediums to be able to produce authentic spirit photographs. However, all that changed in late February of 1922 when a team of investigators led by the famous British psychical researcher Harry Price claimed to have caught Hope cheating during one of his sittings and discovered that he was swapping blank photographic plates with ones containing existing images on them that appeared to be depictions of spirit entities. Hope was publicly exposed as a fraud, and what ensued was a major debate between believers and sceptics over the legitimacy of the medium’s alleged spirit photography. Using surviving materials from the Senate House Library and Science Museum Group collections, including photographs, private correspondence, published sources, and camera technologies, this paper will explore this story, and reflect on what makes for trustworthy evidence in investigations of extraordinary phenomena.

Registration information to come.

A portrait photograph of two men and a spirit ‘extra’, possibly taken by William Hope, c. 1920, Science Museum Group Collection © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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