Timeless Tuesday – June 2014

Tuesday June 24, 2014

Fort Wayne News 12/26/1901Am I the only one that thinks the picture from this week’s article looks like something from Scooby Doo?


Fort Wayne News edition 12/26/1901 pg 6

Weird Tales of Specters

Records of Psychical Society Tell of New York Ghosts

The records of the Psychical Research society do not prove that there are ghosts, but they do show that there have been many weird and mysterious happenings which have never been scientifically explained.

The society’s records furnish a number of interesting ghost stories from Greater New York. The first specter reported was popularly known as Sheppard’s ghost.

Joseph B. Sheppard was a night watchman who patrolled Third avenue between Thirty-fifth and Fortieth streets. In March, 1878, he aroused a sleeping man at Thirty-ninth street and First avenue. Soon afterward a heavy body was heard to fall with a sickening splash into the East river.

Sheppard was missing from that very moment, and investigation led to the belief that he had met with foul play at the hands of the wayfarer whose slumbers he had interrupted. His body was soon recovered and buried from his son’s house.

Shortly after the funeral the east side became a flutter with excitement. On the water’s edge near Thirty-ninth street hundreds watched a mysterious floating flame. This supposed spirit fire danced aimlessly about and glided just over that part of the river’s surface where Sheppard’s body was seen to sink. When pursued, this spectral flame vanished like breath in the wind.

Later a strange figure was seen to haunt the Thirty-ninth street wharf. Many identified it as the ghost of Sheppard. The phantom, it was said, would gesticulate toward those with whom that ill fated man had happened to be acquainted in life, but ignored the many who had been unknown to him. It always appeared to be arrayed in the clothing and slouch hat worn by him on his nightly rounds.

These visitations are said to have continued throughout the spring of 1878, and so vivid was the resemblance of that weird shade to Sheppard that many who viewed it grew to believe that it was really the old watchman still alive, masquerading in the darkness, and that his family had been mistaken in its identification of his corpse.

“The haunted house of Graniteville” was the next psychic phenomenon to set New York agog. This edifice stands on the left side of the road leading from Graniteville Corners, Staten Island, just above the grounds of Isaac Van Name. It is an ancient three story mansion, standing alone.

In 1879 it was occupied by David Decker and family. The Misses Decker, daughters of the household, occupied the second story rear room, just over the kitchen. The Deckers had been in the house but a short time when the women of the family commenced to complain of “queer noises and strange movements” beginning always about midnight and continuing until about 2 a.m.

The Misses Decker said that the bed in their room was lifted from the floor, bearing them with it, and that their furniture rattled furiously about the room. David Decker was a practical and conservative man. Superstition was unknown to him.

To satisfy the girls that they were merely suffering from a bad case of “nerves” the father invited Captain George Wood and five other neighbors to spend the night with him in the haunted chamber.

The next morning this committee of hitherto skeptical researchers calmly reported that they had witnessed enough to substantiate the theories of the frightened girls.

While the seven men were seated upon the iron bedstead of the chamber it repeatedly raised about five inches from the floor and at intervals continued suspended in the air. The Decker family immediately left the house, which remained vacant some years.




Tuesday June 17, 2014

San Francisco Chronicle 12/03/1893This week’s article goes a long way (and boring at times so be warned) to show that even over 150 years ago, people were faking photographs to produce “freaks”. Sometimes just for the fun of it, sometimes for deception.  It makes me wonder if the photographers of days gone by would appreciate the ease at which pictures can be faked now, or if it was actually a “science” to them?  You have to admit it took a LOT of work to produce a fake picture.  These days its just the click of a mouse.  I have always loved seeing the attention to detail paid in faking old pictures, especially daguerreotypes and tin types.




San Francisco Chronicle edition 12/3/1893 pg 1


 Mysteries Produced by Photography

Ghost Pictures Not Hard to Make

A Process Which Results in Five Portraits at a Shot – Curious Freaks

(Copyright by S.S. McClure, Limited, 1893)

Ghosts – not Ibsen’s kind but some that looked like the good old-fashioned sort – appeared a number of years ago in daguerreotype and tintype plates exhibited by certain photographers in New York, Boston and elsewhere. These ghosts, which were occasionally visible in photographic prints of the modern kind, excited the liveliest curiosity for a time. Occasionally they were unscrupulously advertised as visitors from the spirit land. Even in comparatively recent times it has been claimed that the camera has photographed shadowy images invisible to the human eye.

The ghost pictures generally took the form of a figure of hazy and transparent outlines hovering near a seated figure or near a standing figure that might or might not be in a conscious attitude. The normal figure occasionally exhibited recognition of the ghost, appealingly holding out a hand or starting back in alarm.  Although these pictures were most frequently offered as a pleasantry and often were devised to carry out personal jokes of one kind or another, they frequently imposed upon the credulous, especially those who had a leaning toward spiritualistic beliefs.  In fact “mediums” were photographed with a crowd of spirit faces hovering about them.

The simple secret for a ghost picture is this: The person performing the part of the ghost takes his (or her) place in the tableau with the sitter, who is to appear natural. We will suppose that the camera is to remain open for five seconds (in the old days it was likely to be forty or more) in order to perfect the image of the natural figure. At the end of the exposure of one or two seconds the camera opening is closed, the “natural” figure being warned not to move; the “ghost” figure steps out of the scene and the camera is opened again for the remainder of the five-second period.  Thus then the ghost has made a one or two seconds impression on the plate, and the natural figure a full, normal impression of five seconds. The result is also that such of the accessories, background, etc., as were obscured by the dimensions of the ghost figure during the two seconds are photographed during the remaining three seconds and shine through the ghost lineaments quite after the authentic habit of backgrounds in the case of apparitions.

So much for the old ghosts.

Now the modern photographic sleight-of-hand man thinks he as a trick worth two of this. “What,” says the camera wizard of to-day, “do you say to this?” and thrusts under your eyes the photograph of a man shaking hands with himself and introducing himself to himself, from a third position in the middle of the scene – three figures all of the same person! Or perhaps he shows you the picture of another man carrying himself upstairs.

The camera wizard waits for your expression of astonishment. If you are posted, he is disappointed. If you are not and are ready with a question revealing your bewilderment, he is delighted.

In the modern photographic “mystery” the plot certainly has thickened considerably. Let us look at some of the phases of these modern mysteries.

Here is a strange picture, called “Gentlemen of the Jury,” in which a middle-aged gentleman of serious mien is seen in the attitude of a lawyer addressing a jury. The twelve heads of the jury are before him; while a figure midway between the speaker and the jury appears in the attitude of the stenographer taking down the speech. The jurymen exhibit various expressions from amusement and excitement to yawning indifference. The stenographer is busy. The speaker is intent on his “observe, gentlemen,” or something to that effect.  Thus there are fourteen heads in the picture, and they are all portraits of the same person.  The speaker is talking to himself, the stenographer is writing down his own speech.

Curious in a different way is the picture of a man in his shirtsleeves, kneeling and holding aloft two chairs, on which he again appears, with elbows resting on one chair and feet on another. The absence of every effect of exertion in the lower figure serves to accentuate rather than destroy the mystery of the illusion.

sfc120318932cropIn another single figure photograph we are startled by the attitude of a man armed with bottle and wine glass, who appears to be poised head downward, his smooth cranium resting on another wine glass, which is supported in a plate resting on a box. The draping of the clothes suggests the actuality of the inverted position, and the realism of the background and surroundings cleverly supports the first impression, that the figure was upside down when it was photographed.

sfc120318933cropMore striking and grotesque is the picture showing a young man “helping himself saw himself in half.” Two figures hold a double-handed saw and the one to the right looks down in apparent dismay at the shocking sight of a severed body, the upper part of the trunk resting on a stool where it is assumed to have been placed as if for an execution, the lower part of the trunk and legs lying on the floor. The three faces are obviously the same. Unfortunately for the perfection of the somewhat ghastly illusion, there are two right arms, or at least one right arm and a half.


How are these things done? A person cannot be in two or more places at the same time. Three methods of producing these illusions are illustrated by the accompanying pictures, which are faithfully drawn from the original photographic prints. The first is shown in Colonel Pennington’s picture, made by himself. These three figures were made on one plate while it rested within the camera. While the image of one figure was being impressed on the negative plate the plate was being screened from the action of the light in those parts of its surface which were reserved for the other figures. The trouble in such a matter is to present the showing of the line of demarcation between the three separately exposed areas of the plate.

Generally this line, not necessarily a sharp one, and, preferably, one that is not sharp, is made to fall in a fold of drapery, to follow some dark line where it will be unnoticed, or to cross some dark field in the plate. Every precaution has been carefully observed in the Pennington plate, in the original print from which there are only one or two points whereat the experienced eye may detect the method of procedure.

“Gentleman of the Jury” is a simpler matter, consisting of keeping a background so dark that the plate will not be affected by it. Thus a light object in any part of this dark area will affect the sensitive plate in the camera without altering the condition of other parts of the plate and by moving the illuminated object form one point to another fresh images are produced on the plate, each being unaffected by the taking of subsequent images on adjacent parts of the plate film.  Special measures have been taken in this instance to clear the plate between the images. The dark background is familiar in scientific photography, especially in the study of animal locomotion. Photographs of jumping and running are made by the use of a camera to which is fixed a rotary exposing apparatus. The rotary “exposer” is perforated with two or more openings, during each passage of which across the lens opening an exposure is made. In this way from ten to twenty distinct photographs of a jump are taken on one plate. Naturally the figures overlap each other, but there is an authentic record of the position of the figure at each stage of the movement and the relation of this position to all the others.

The processes her sketched belong to the order of “freak” photographs that are considered the most legitimate by the photographic “sharps.” There are many variations on the method. Thus a boy seated on a bench leans in one exposure to the right, in another to the left, giving him the appearance in the final image of a being with two legs but with two bodies, two heads and four arms. But these are the commonplaces of the comic processors.

A form of “freak” which the sharps regard as much less scientific is illustrated in the other examples above mentioned. The figure holding aloft the two chairs, and a duplicate figure in another attitude, is an instance of double printing so cleverly done as almost to defy detection. The figures are separately photographed, and in the first printing a space is reserved on the paper by placing a mask precisely corresponding to the figure and accessories that are afterward to be printed in. In the second negative everything is masked out save the feature that is to be printed within the space left by the first mask. Such printing has to be very prettily done to deceive the eye into thinking that the whole is an ordinary photographic print, and in the present instance the closest scrutiny is required to reveal the functions.

The gentleman of the bottle and glass is another case of double printing. In photographing the figure right side up the trousers are pulled up, the flaps of the coat similarly treated, the bottle and the glass pointed down, the heels lifted and the shoulders drawn up to add to the illusion the figure is inverted. A print being taken from the photograph of the figure, this is neatly cut out and laid on a negative containing the background, so that when the print is made, a white masked spot remains in the middle. As in the previous case the negative containing the figure is now masked so as to print the figure only. The sheet containing the background is now placed under the masked negative containing the figure, and the latter is thus printed in the inverted position within the white space left by the first mask.

But for the error as to the arm the saw “freak” is very well done, the detail of the illusion being skillfully wrought out. The two standing figures are easily made on one negative by the process mentioned – excluding one part of the negative from the action of the lens while the other is being exposed. The other figure is photographed separately – on another plate; the print containing the standing figure is masked to receive the two halves of the other figure and these are then printed in, just as a printer runs his sheet through his press twice to print in two colors.

A form of photographic novelty that is something more than a “freak” and that promises to come into fashion as a portrait sensation is shown in the produce of the “photo-multigraph,” which gives five portraits of one person at one time. The result is a right and left profile, a right and left three-quarter view and a “rear elevation,” affording an opportunity to see all the phases of an individual’s head. There is so wide a variation in many cases between the right and left side of the face, and consequently in the appearance of the profiles and three-quarter views, that the value of the photo-multigraph becomes quickly apparent. Indeed, this is a kind of composite photograph.

A hint as to the method of making the photo-multigraph is offered by the appearance in the negative of a line down the middle of the picture. This line tells the story of combination mirrors, which are the means of repeating the face as one sees it in a French folding toilet glass.

The photographing of several views of a figure is not new. Forty or fifty years ago photography was used to present studies of sculpture in this way. But the use of mirrors for commercial photographing as in the “photo-multigraph,” is new enough to be a profitable novelty to its inventor.

Photography is an energetic science. It has shown us the upper surface of thunder clouds in action. It has shown us the heart of a coal mine. The camera gets into the rigging of ships, and into catacombs. It registers vibrations in the vocal cords of the human throat. It is reporting men, as well as the earth, inside and out.

Alexander Black

Tuesday June 10, 2014

Washington Post 3/31/1912



I think this week’s article has given me my new catch phrase, “Fear and I were born together”, what do you think? It also makes me want to read The Confessions of a Justified Sinner, written in 1824, so that I can learn to shudder!!!!! (yes this is another one of those wonderful articles full of !)


Washington Post edition 03/31/1912 pg 2


They Are Afraid of Ghosts


(The Independent)

I don’t believe in ghosts, but am afraid of them, said a candid analyst of his own character. He believed not, but trembled. The same paradox is asserted of the philosophic Thomas Hobbes. He was afraid of ghosts which he did not believe in; but Hobbes was born in the year when his mother expected the advent of the Spanish Armada (1588). She was terribly alarmed, as became a woman who was not a naval strategist. Francis Drake, who did know his business, was not afraid; he asked leave to go and break the Spaniards up as they left their own harbor, Corunna, and have no more ado.  We know that he could have done it with the greatest ease, because his ships out sailed the gallant Spaniards – “left us standing still,” says one of themselves; and he had the better served artillery.  But Mrs. Hobbes, mere, did not know that, and was terribly alarmed; and so, says her famous son (famous, though nobody reads him).  “Fear and I were born together,” and he was afraid of ghosts, though convinced that ghosts do not exist.

Such is human nature, which is desperately illogical. I am rather more logical than the philosopher of Malmesbury. I have always believed in ghosts since I can remember, and would certainly be horribly afraid if I awoke and saw a hideous hag, her face expressive of the worst passions, squatting on my bed in the deep of the night – like the Colonel in Scott’s tale, “The Tapestried Chamber.” I read it when I was a very small and nervous boy, and have never got over the original impact. Yet, though in a less degree than Hobbes, I, too, am illogical, for I do not believe that there is anything really terrible in a ghost; and I never heard, on decent evidence, that a ghost did any mortal any harm, even, except once, in the way of nervous shock.  Thus, though I have passed unpleasant nights in haunted rooms, when in very bad health, I never had that feeling of nameless horror which we always read about in fictitious, made-up ghost stories. I never, in the most favorable circumstances, experienced an awful sense that I was not alone, that there was a presence, not myself – and not “making for righteousness.”

I have slept – or, rather, have lain awake – in bad health, in the room occupied, de son vivant; by that ghastly bride who was the original of Dicken’s Miss Havisham, in “great Expectations.” “She walks!” said my host when he bade me good night, and I had every reason to expect to see her. I was afraid that I was just the kind of invalid who was likely to see her, and get nobody to believe my report. I looked out for her. In Brahan Castle, when an undergraduate, ill and overworked, I had the haunted wing to myself, and never saw the ghost, that of a butler! I had no sense of an awful Presence. In short, having lain in many professionally haunted rooms, always with reluctance and apprehension, I never had any but a rational, though disappointed, expectation of seeing “the bodiless gang about.”

To be sure, once in a professionally haunted house, at 4 a.m., I did hear the rustle of silken skirts approach my room, and did hear the feeble twiddling of fingers at the outer door handle of my bedroom; now that door would not lock.  When I had heard enough of this, I asked aloud, “Who’s there?” Nobody replied. There was silence; no rustle of retiring silken skirts, merely dead silence. Any man ought to have jumped out and cried, “Boo!” but I was not on the level of the opportunity, and said, “Who’s there?” A long course of haunted rooms in which nothing ever occurred to me has hardened me; at haunted Glamis no bogey ever perturbed me; but I candidly admit that I would rather not pass a night in the chamber where Sir Walter Scott felt so eery for one out of the two times in his life. It is an eery chamber.

Now, looking at made-up ghost stories, we have two recent batches. One is “More Ghost Stories,” by the learned Provost of King’s College, Cambridge. The other is “The Room in the Round Tower” and fifteen other ghost stories, by Mr. E.F. Benson. Each author candidly confesses his desire to make the reader’s blood run cold, to make him apprehensive, to make him look anxiously about him in his bedroom. Each author has given me entertainment, but neither has “frightened me,” as children say. Now. R.L. Stevenson in “Thrawn Janet” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and Hogg, in “The Confessions of a Justified Sinner” (try it O readers who wish to learn to shudder”, have “frightened me.” I threw down the manuscript of “Dr. Jekyll” and rushed to the security of bed; so did a very different kind of man, reading the book alone in a Highland house – and both of us ran away at the same point in our studies. In my very early boyhood, Edgar Poe made me feel frightened with “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Is that the book to place in the hands of a morbid infant of 10 summers? Many, many years later the style of the author seems to “have flowery components” which rather mar his effects. For an author who never introduces the supernatural, Poe is creditably alarming.

Did you ever read Dr. Jessopp’s plain tale of what occurred to him in the library of a country house, probably that of my Lord Orford? The scholar sat up alone, and late, in the library, diligently making notes from some rare old books. He admits that there was soda water in the room, about whisky he says nothing. He had nearly finished his notes when he observed, sitting at the table at right angles to himself, a clerical person, robust, rather red-haired, very clean shaven, whose large white hand lay on the table. This ecclesiastical dignitary wore an antique costume of corded silk, with a rather high, erect collar. The learned archeologist went on with his annotations (how I envy his pluck!) and paid no attention to his companion. But, laying down one book and taking up another, the last which he had to consult, Dr. Jessopp remarked that the priest was still there, dignified, handsome and silent. The doctor admits that he now began to distrust his nerve. He finished his work, replaced the books on their shelves, drank some soda water, lit his candle, and went to bed, without saying “good-night.”

Reader, wouldst thou have acted thus nobly? I confess that I would have made a bolt for it as soon as I saw the cleric, probably a martyred Jesuit of the cruel days of Queen Elizabeth. The learned antiquary told the talk in print, because people were always asking him about it. Why is it that the simple narrative “gars me a’ grue” more than all the horrors of Mr. Benson and the Provost of King’s? Probably just because there is nothing horrible or malignant in the demeanor of the appearance, except that he was certainly not a man of mortal mold.  But that is a good deal, and the thing might happen to any scholar, alone, after midnight, in an old library, making notes, for all I know, on the persecutions under Queen Elizabeth. I, too, am alone, late at night, as I scribble, and I find myself looking over my shoulder. Other men might have invited the Elizabethan specter to take “a modest quencher,” not I, and Dr. Jessopp left him to help himself.

Never but once did I think myself – for a moment, in the dusky gallery of a haunted castle – in the presence of the visible unseen. In that fraction of time I felt the sensation of cold in the region of the spine which people do feel in ghost stories.  But I went down to dinner, sincerely believing (I know admit, on insufficient evidence) that the specter was a housemaid. In almost all well authenticated ghost stories known to me the observer begins by thinking that the apparition is a normal human being. Consequently he is not in the least alarmed. He is only perturbed when the thing goes into a room with no outlet, in which, on examination made, there is nobody. A man and his wife, solid, respectable owners of a very recently created peerage, took a house in the country. The lady at once saw, in a mirror opposite her at dinner, in the long light of a Scottish summer, a woman in black walking on the drenched lawn. There might be a right of way, she did not know, and merely thought “that woman will get her skirts very wet.” When she met the woman in black on the grounds, and in the house, she said nothing to anybody, but when her husband saw the woman in the drawing room and remarked on the singularity of the intrusion, Lady – confided her own experiences to him. He kept on seeing the woman, she kept on seeing her; the servants complained of seeing her, and she advised them to take a pill! But she confessed to me that, the more frequently she saw the woman in black the less she liked her, and at last was averse to being alone. So they left at the end of their lease.

There was no terror, no metus cadens in constantem virum, which, in old French law, justified the breaking of the lease. But a prolonged acquaintance with the woman in black culminated in a slight aversion.

Now, in made-up ghost stories, we commonly begin with a terrible sultry evening, and an apprehension of evil, then of an evil being, and then with terror which is not only paralyzing because of our extraordinary courage and fortitude! Sometimes our dog actually dies of fear, always he is terribly alarmed. I know but one instance in which any person, a young kinswoman of my own, was accompanied by a dog, a Dandie Dinmont terrier, when first the dog, and then the young lady, saw the appearance, on the top of Skelfhell, in Teviotdale. The dog was both angry and terrified; not so the lady, who recognized an intimate friend of her own. But when the friend softly and suddenly vanished away she knew why the dog was so much alarmed, and sitting down, she very properly made a note of it. The friend, some hundreds of miles away, had been dressed as the phantasm was dressed, and had been walking down a hill. That was all! But the dog had seen the phantasm, and was angry and afraid, like people in ghost stories. Thus, it appears, there must have been something uncanny and visible.

To come to the end of my meditations, there seems to be nothing fearsome, nothing calculated to strike terror, in a ghost – as long as the observer does not know or suspect that it is a ghost. But when he believes that it is, then the unknown nature of the entity does often cause alarm. A dog, on the other hand, recognizes at once something in a ghost which both angers and alarms him; why, we are unable to say, in our present perhaps irremediable ignorance of the nature of ghosts and the psychology of dogs.






Tuesday June 3, 2014








This article has helped me make a decision.  I refuse to be called a ghost hunter any longer, from now on I shall be Shannon, Spook Bearder Extraordinaire!! Hmmm.. maybe not, these people charged and we don’t….darn it


Chicago Tribune edition 12/11/1898 pg 18



A New Field of Business Enterprise in the Many Haunted Houses of England

Haunted houses are so scarce in this country that to have one in the family is an enviable distinction; but in England, where ghosts have had time to accumulate, haunted houses are below par. Agents and real estate men find them soul-harrowing problems, and many a roomy old English mansion stands empty all the year round because of its reputation for uncanny sights and sounds. However, even a graveyard wind isn’t so ill that it blows no one good, and out of the prevalence of haunted houses in England has developed a new field of labor for honest Britons. The ghost exorcist is one of the latest additions to professional ranks.

Of course, the exorcising of evil spirits dates back to earliest times; but ghost exorcising, as a practical, cold-blooded, unromantic business, at so many pounds a ghost, is fin de siècle. The ghost bearder must be a man without superstition, and with much of the wisdom of the serpent. He goes to the haunted house, makes himself known in the neighborhood, investigates thoroughly the foundations of the ghost stories, and if possible, exposes the absurdity of the reports.  Frequently he finds natural explanations for queer sights and sounds, and invites the neighbors in to see how the ghosts work. If that isn’t possible, he opens up the house, brightens it so that it loses its mysterious and hangdog look, persuades a few friends to join him, and proceeds to demonstrate that one may live with absolute safety and enjoyment in the place of ill repute.

In districts where the population is too ignorant and superstitious to be moved by reason, the wily ghost exorcist has been known to appeal to the superstition and court a reputation for supernatural powers of his own. He meets the ghost on its own ground, and drives out the belief in the bogie by a stronger belief in his proficiency in the black arts.  The things desired are the routing of the undesirable tenants and the earning of the guaranteed coin of the realm. If, in order to do that, he must deal in charms and spells, the successful exorcist will trump up charms and spells calculated to paralyze any ghost, and to instil serene confidence into the most ignorant rustic mind.

The exorcist earns his fee, the agent chortles in his glee, and the property-owner congratulates himself, and a poor discredited ghost goes wandering over the face of the earth a victim to modern business methods.

-New York Sun


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