Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

Harry Price: first paranormal investigator to expose the fraud of “spirit photography”

Domagoj Valjak
A photograph of paranormal investigator Harry Price, taken by spirit photographer William Hope in 1922.

At the beginning of the 20th century, when a large percent of the population was still obsessed with ghost stories and supernatural phenomena, Harry Price entered the public spotlight as the Britain’s finest paranormal investigator and debunker of hoaxes.

His fame was well-deserved; he was praised by academics for his scientific methods in the research of the unexplained, and feared by hoaxers for his sharp-witted debunking skills.

A photograph of paranormal investigator Harry Price, taken by spirit photographer William Hope in 1922.

A photograph of paranormal investigator Harry Price, taken by spirit photographer William Hope in 1922.

As well as many prominent researchers of the paranormal, Price started as a practitioner of stage magic and conjuring. However, he was infuriated by many hoaxers who earned huge sums of money by selling their fake skills and joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1920. Although he dedicated his life to debunking fake psychic and alleged ghost stories, throughout his life he maintained a firm belief that paranormal phenomena are an undeniable part of reality and can be scientifically proved.

Price’s work was essential for revealing the fraud of the so-called “spirit photography”. Spirit photography was a very popular allegedly paranormal phenomenon at the beginning of the 20th century. After it was proved that the soul of a photographed person cannot be stolen by the camera, people started believing that photography was capable of capturing images of ghosts that roam among the living, or that it could capture glimpses of a dimension parallel to human.

William Mumler, the pioneer of spirit photography, tricked Abraham Lincoln’s widow into believing that her deceased husband was regularly visiting in a spectral form.

One of Mumler's most famous images, purportedly showing Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

One of Mumler’s most famous images, purportedly showing Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband, Abraham Lincoln

Harry Price was essential for exposing William Hope, the king of spirit photography. Hope was already famous for his claimed skill of capturing paranormal phenomena on his photographs when Price tested him at the British College of Psychic Science in February 1922.

A photograph by William Hope showing Price with a "spirit".

A photograph by William Hope showing Price with a “spirit”.

To the satisfaction of academics and skeptics, Price revealed that Hope was merely using his advanced photography skills to create an impression of ghosts hiding in his photographs.

Price continued to search for proof of paranormal phenomena, but he also continued to debunk hoaxes all over the UK. He is also famous for investigating the Borley Rectory, known as the most haunted house in England. Price claimed it as the only place which was undoubtedly genuinely haunted. Unfortunately, his own findings were later debunked by high advanced investigators.

Borley Rectory in 1892.

Borley Rectory in 1892

Harry Price influenced a number of people who dedicated their lives to both proving the existence of paranormal and debunking false claims. James Randi, known for his One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, cites Price as one of his primary influences.

Read another story from us: James Randi created the “One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.” No one ever claimed the prize

However, he resented Price for believing that paranormal phenomena can be documented and explained.

Domagoj Valjak

Domagoj Valjak is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News