These photographs of ‘spirits’ are taken from an album of photographs unearthed in a Lancashire second-hand and antiquarian bookshop by one of the Museum’s curators. They were taken by a controversial medium called William Hope (1863-1933). Born in 1863 in Crewe, Hope started his working life as a carpenter. In about 1905 he became interested in spirit photography after capturing the supposed image of a ghost while photographing a friend. He went on to found the Crewe Circle – a group of six spirit photographers led by Hope. When Archbishop Thomas Colley joined the group they began to publicise their work. Following World War I support for the Crewe Circle grew as the grieving relatives of those lost to the war sought a means of contacting their loved ones. By 1922 Hope had moved to London where he became a professional medium. The work of the Crew Circle was investigated on various occasions. The most famous of these took place in 1922, when the Society for Psychical Research sent Harry Price to investigate the group. Price collected evidence that Hope was substituting glass plates bearing ghostly images in order to produce his spirit photographs. Later the same year Price published his findings, exposing Hope as a fraudster. However, many of Hope’s most ardent supporters spoke out on his behalf, the most famous being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hope continued to practice, despite his exposure. He died in London on 7 March 1933
It’s entirely conceivable that life’s splendour surrounds us all, and always in its complete fullness, accessible but veiled, beneath the surface, invisible, far away. But there it lies – not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If we call it by the right word, by the right name, then it comes. This is the essence of magic, which doesn’t create but calls.”
Wladyslaw T. Benda.
Illustrations from Le Voyage á La Lune, Jules Verne 1855
From Le voyage dans la Lune George Meliés 1902
Once upon a time there was a person
He was walking along
He met the full burning moon
Rolling slowly towards him
Crushing the stones and houses by the wayside.
She shut his eyes from the glare.
He drew his dagger
And stabbed and stabbed and stabbed.
The cry that quit the moon’s wounds
Circled the earth.
The moon shrank, like a punctured airship,
Shrank, shrank, smaller, smaller,
Till it was nothing
But a silk handkerchief, torn,
And wet as tears.
The person picked it up. He walked on
Into moonless night
Carrying his strange trophy.