Hudson, Frederick A. (ca. 1877)
The first British exponent of spirit photography. In March
1872 Samuel Guppy and his wife, Agnes Guppy-Volckman,
who made several unsuccessful experiments to obtain psychic
photographs in their own home, went on an impulse to Hudson’s
studio, which was nearby. A white patch resembling the
outline of a draped figure was obtained behind Mr. Guppy’s
portrait. The experiment was repeated with increasing success.
After report of these pictures spread, the accusation of imposture
soon arose, but, according to Alfred Russel Wallace,
even those who were most emphatic about fraud believed that
a large number of genuine pictures were taken. Wallace obtained
two different portraits of his mother, representing two
different periods and unlike any photograph taken during her
William Howitt obtained the likeness of two deceased sons,
one of whom even the friend who accompanied him was ignorant.
A Dr. Thompson obtained the extra of a lady whom his
uncle in Scotland identified as the likeness of Thompson’s
mother. She had died in childbirth and no picture of her remained.
The editor of the British Journal of Photography investigated,
using his own collodion and new plates. He found abnormal
appearances on the pictures. Nevertheless, from time to time
Hudson was caught cheating. Once he was exposed by Stainton
Moses, for whom he produced many spirit photographs that
agreed with his clairvoyant visions. To play the part of the
ghost, Hudson occasionally dressed up or made double exposures.
The duplication of the pattern of the carpet and other
parts of the background showing through the legs of the sitter
and of the ghost was ingeniously explained by refraction—the
spirits being quoted as saying that the spirit aura differs in density
and refracting power from the ordinary terrestrial atmosphere.
Such resourceful explanations, coupled with the belief
that Hudson produced many genuine spirit photographs,
helped to reestablish his shaken credibility.
However, according to psychical researcher Harry Price, in
his book Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter (1936; reprinted in 1974),
Hudson used an ingenious camera manufactured by Howell, a
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Hudson, Frederick A.
famous London maker of conjuring apparatus. This camera
was of the old square wooden type and contained a light metal
frame that in its normal position rested on the bottom of the
smaller of the camera’s two telescopic portions. This frame
held a waxed paper positive of the desired ghostly ‘‘extra.’’
When the dark slide was pushed into the camera, it actuated a
lever, raising the frame to a vertical position in contact with the
photographic plate. When the picture was taken, the extra
image was also printed on the plate. When the plate was drawn
out of the camera the frame automatically fell back to its hidden
Fifty-four ‘‘spirit photographs’’ taken in this way are reproduced
in the book Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings,
by Georgina Houghton (1882).
Price, Harry. Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter. London Putnam,
1936. Reprint, New York Causeway Books, 1974.