Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Spirits

It comes as a shock to some people that the creator of Sherlock Holmes, that paragon of observation and not theorizing before one has data, believed in fairies and spirit photography.

On the right is a heavily retouched photograph of Doyle with spirit photographs from his collection.

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin has an extensive archive of Doyle material including his personal collection of spirit photographs. During a visit to the HRC we were thrilled to see this wonderful collection.

The Case for Spirit Photography, shown below is one of our special treasures. It has crossover interests to us since we collect Sherlock Holmes material and this 1925 defense of spirit photography by his author is fascinating. After the death of his son, Doyle became a true believer in spiritualism and in lectures and writings defended many that seem obviously fraudulent.


Doyle with spirits

The card photograph on the right of a "ghost" girl sitting on the lap of a boy was likely made by a member of the Crewe Circle. It bears the signature of Arthur Conan Doyle in heavy, black ink. "Taken with one Exposure only." is printed on the card. The signature indicates that Doyle witnessed the making of the photograph and attests to its authenticity.


After Doyle's death in 1930 he often appeared as a spirit in photographs such as the retouched detail on the lower right.


*Note: In October 2007 this section of our site was expanded and rearranged. If an image is not in an expected place, please try one of the other pages from the list below.

Spirit Photographs: How our collection started/Brewster & Mumler
Spirit Photographs: A Tintype Spirit Photograph
Spirit Photographs: Carte-de-visite spirit photographs
Spirit Photographs: Cabinet card spirit photographs
Spirit Photographs: Post card spirit photographs
Spirit Photographs: Post cards of unknown mediums
Spirit Photographs: Doyle and the Spirits < You are Here
Spirit Photographs: How to make a fake spirit photograph
Spirit Photography: Bibliography & Links

Related interests of the Victorian Era and early 20th century in our collection:
Memento Mori - Remembering the departed: post mortem and memorial photography in the 19th and early 20th century
Mesmerism - "Flint the Mesmerist"
Phrenology - The study of human personality from the shape of the head

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**NOTE** All items on the Collection of Collections web site are in our private collection and are NOT for sale. From time to time duplicate items from our collection will be offered for sale in the Do You Remember This? shop on the GoAntiques cyber mall. Visit the Do You Remember This? inventory page for photographica and toaster related collectibles.

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Updated on 4/2011