Boursnell, Richard (1832–1909)
British spirit photographer who is supposed to have obtained
psychic markings on his plates as early as 1851, but
when accused by his partner of spoiling the plates, he stopped
taking photographs himself until 40 years later. A repetition of
the same annoyance then occurred. W. T. Stead, a journalist
interested in psychic subjects, claimed that the markings were
psychic and prevailed upon Boursnell to sit for spirit photographs.
He was strikingly successful, and in 1903 the Spiritualists
of London presented him with a signed testimonial and a
purse of gold as a mark of their high esteem. A spirit photography
exhibition of 100 chosen photographs was displayed in the
rooms of the Psychological Society at Portman Square. Eightynine
negatives taken by Boursnell in conjunction with S. W.
Woolley between 1897–1907 were preserved at the British College
of Psychic Science.
Like almost every person engaged in a form of psychic photography,
Boursnell was accused of fraud. William Usborne
Moore wrote in Glimpses of the Next State (1911) that he provided
complete proof of a fraudulent production to the London Spiritualist
Alliance. Duplicates, triplicates, and quadruplicates of
Boursnell’s spirit pictures were numerous. A tracing could be
made from one form in one photograph to the form in another,
and not the slightest difference in detail could be discovered.
Nevertheless, Admiral Moore believed that Boursnell had
genuine powers and was an excellent clairvoyant, for Boursnell
repeatedly described the spirit forms before he made an exposure,
and the extra on the plate completely corresponded with
his description. However, this is hardly satisfactory as proof,
since Boursnell could have been describing extra spirit forms
already prepared.