Buguet, Édouard (fl. 1875)
French spirit photographer who, in an alleged partial
trance, produced remarkable likenesses of high artistic quality
of deceased relatives of his sitters. Most of these spirit photographs
represented well-known people, but comparatively obscure
people also reported obtaining surprising evidence of
spirit presence. Buguet’s reputation rose, and he was acclaimed
for the feat of photographing the double of the Rev. Stainton
Moses in Paris while the medium was sitting in trance in London.
However, his successes in London in 1874 were negated by
the huge scandal over spirit photography that broke out in
Paris in April 1875. Buguet was arrested for fraud. After he
confessed, he was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and
a fine of 500 francs. In his confession he admitted that his spirit
photographs were produced by double exposure. First he
dressed up his assistant to play the part of the ghost; later he
constructed a doll to replace the human assistant for the body
of the ghost. The doll and a large stock of heads were seized
by the police at Buguet’s studio.
A verbatim account of the trial was published in Leymaire’s
book Procès des spirites (Paris, 1875). Leymaire’s husband, who
was editor of the Revue Spirite, admitted having suggested to
Buguet to follow in the footsteps of W. H. Mumler, and he was
also sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 500
francs. Many witnesses were confronted during the trial with
Buguet. Even when Buguet repeated his confession, many protested
and refused to doubt the evidence of their senses.
Stainton Moses believed that at least some of Buguet’s spirit
photographs were genuine and said that the persecution bore
traces of clerical origin, that the judge was biased, and that
Buguet must have been bribed or terrorized to confess and to
manufacture a box full of trick apparatus. In an article in
Human Nature in May 1875, Moses stated that out of 120 photographs
produced by Buguet, evidence of recognition or of the
operation being produced under test conditions was available
in 40 cases.
William Howitt also spoke of an organized conspiracy of
the Jesuits against Spiritualism. Lady Caithness was quoted by
Epes Sargent as declaring that out of 13 spirit photographs obtained
by Buguet, ‘‘we distinctly recognized the spirit forms of
five dear ones whom we had never hoped to see again on earth.
We were perfect strangers to the medium, who had never heard
of us before. That there may be no doubt about the identity of
my late husband, he brings in his hand the family crest and emblem.’’
After his liberation, Buguet himself agreed, retracted
his confession, declared that he was tricked into it, and stated
that a promise had been held out that in case of confession he
would be acquitted.
However, Camille Flammarion was convinced that Buguet
cheated. In Mysterious Psychic Forces (1907), he stated that Buguet,
‘‘having allowed me to experiment with him, let me conduct
my researches for five weeks before I detected his fraudulent
methods and mechanism. While I was pushing my investigation
a little farther I saw with my own eyes Buguet’s prepared negatives.’’
Buguet was but one prominent example of fraudulent
psychic photography.

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