Thursday, August 2, 2012

Spirit Photographs at the Library!

Spirit photography began in 1861 when Boston engraver William Mumler found ghostly images of his deceased cousin in photographs. The spirits reached Crawfordsville in 1869 when photographer A.D. Willis discovered to his dismay that spirits were clouding pictures he was taking. By the late 1880s the craze had mostly died down, but the library has recently discovered that spirit photography was still around well into the twentieth century.
The first picture is William and Bessie May Woodworth. Bessie was born in Crawfordsville in 1885; she married William in 1909. William eventually became the president of the Indiana State Association of Spiritualists. The family moved to Cook County, Illinois, where Bessie was a minister of the Psychic Science Spiritualist Church when she died in 1944. The image that appears next to William in this photo is believed by the family to be William and Bessie's child; the only surviving child mentioned in Bessie's obituary is an adopted son, Leonard Finch.
The next photo is of Benjamin and Dollie Clark (or to be more accurate, Myrtle Dollie Bright Shultz Clark). Dollie and Bessie were sisters, daughters of Cecil and Rachel Redenbaugh Bright. Dollie was married for the first time in 1909 to James Shultz, waiter at a cafe. Dollie had only just met James when they went together to the Tannenbaum clothing store and ran into Dollie's ex-beau of four years, Chick Holland. Words were exchanged, with Holland ultimately daring the new couple to get married. They were agreeable; James and Chick went to the courthouse and got the license. Dollie signed and the couple were married that night--probably not exactly what Chick intended! Sadly, the marriage only lasted about 13 years before Dollie filed for divorce, charging cruel and inhuman treatment and desertion. By 1930, Dollie had married Benjamin F. Clark, a pastor of a spiritualist church in Indianapolis. Dollie was killed in a car accident in 1953. The face on Benjamin's pants leg is believed to be Dollie's mother, Rachel Redenbaugh, who died in 1918. The other two spirits in the photograph are unknown.
Read more about spiritualism and spirit photography in Hidden History of Montgomery County, Indiana, available at the library, or see more photos of Dollie and Bessie on our image database!

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