Hard as it might be to imagine, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the razor-sharp, logical mind that was the hallmark of his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, was a genuine lover of the occult, a great believer in an afterlife, and staunch supporter of Hope’s work
It is not the least unusual, these days, to see photo manipulation, and some of the resulting images are hilarious, if obviously faked. Believe it or not, at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries, such practices were also not unknown, and most frequently seen employed by those people claiming rthe magical ability to capture photographic images of the deceased, known to the public at the time as spirit photography, all images in this post from an old album found in a secondhand bookhop.
This blatant grief manipulation first took root in 1860s, begun in earnest by one William H. Mumler, a genuinely original ghost hunter, but one of the most prestigious of English writers was a an avid fan of another, more famous exponent of this so-called art. Crewe Circle Spiritualist group member William Hope, the society comprising seven spirit photographers, among whom was the Archbishop Thomas Colley.
Hard as it might be to imagine, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the razor-sharp, logical mind that was the hallmark of his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, was a genuine lover of the occult, a great believer in an afterlife, and staunch supporter of Hope’s work. His own mind, on which one assumes that of Holmes was loosely based, not quite logical enough t see this man for what he almost certainly was, an unscrupulous confidence trickster.
When the great war began, in 1914, the need of breaved relatives for any sign that their loved ones had passed over safely became of paramount importance, the popularity of the Crewe spiritualists grew. So much so, that Hope felt inclined to seek a better life in the capitol, becoming a medium by profession, in 1922 London, where Conan Doyle became aware of him.
Ghostly Hope II
Though complaints against him were few, out of sheer embarrassment on the part of victims, probably, paranormal investigators probed his dealings several times, hoping to prove him the charlatan they suspected him to be. Most persistent of these was Harry Price, of the Society of Psychical Research, who, determined to find Hope out, gave him glass plates embossed with a special mark.
The mark would only become visible if the plates were exposed during the photographic process, but they were never used, obviously substituted by Hope for the standard glass plates he normally used, so those tell-tale marks never did show up in photographs of spirits, which could only mean that the pictures were somehow faked. On publishing these conclusions, Price was roundly attacked by supporters of Hope. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even published a book The Case for Spirit Photography, in support of the medium he so admired.
Hope and his spirit photographs gave many people comfort, and even clergymen were known to believe that he could indeed capture images of their deceased beloved, like the wife of the preist who, having suffered the trauma of stillbirth, turned to Hope for an image, which he supposedly provided, yet another example of praying on the gullibility of people in distress. Hope remained popular, though just a year before his death, in 1933, another serious attack upon his work occurred.
Former supporter of Hope, Fred Barlow, and one Major W. Rampling-Rose berated the Society for Psychical Research with a vitriolic speech about him, and they contended that Hope fraudulently superimposed other images onto photographs, making up the supposed effects. Since no further, real investigation could ever take place, it is impossible to know for certain how he did it.
The only real question is that of how people ever fell for this complete nonsense in the first place. There may well be some elemental force within each of us that moves on after our physical bodies give out, and there are undoubtedly more things in heaven and earth than mere humans could ever truly comprehend, but I cannot believe that these so-called spirits would be wearing everyday clothes in the hereafter? Hope might have been his name, but major hoaxes were his game.
Hope died in 1933, so it is hard to say if this had any effect on his reputation at the time. And who knows? Perhaps he really did find that there is more to life than we can see with the naked eye! Not likely, but he did a good job in the days before digital photography to conjure up his 'ghosts