wildly curious
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Man Who Captured Lincoln's Ghost

Mary Todd Lincoln with Abraham Lincoln's "spirit" behind her.
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana

William Mumler was a 19th-century photographer who took portraits of people and the ghosts of their departed. And he made a good living at it until he was arrested for fraud.

RadioWest divider.

Americans after the Civil War yearned for signs from the other side, and that’s where the Spiritualist movement stepped in. But William Mumler didn’t just knock on tables and walls. He was a photographer who captured faint images of ghosts caressing those they had left behind. And he made a good living at it until he was arrested as a fraud. Historian Peter Manseau joins us Thursday to tell Mumler’s story and the story of a nation clinging to belief.

Peter Manseau is a writer and historian. He’s curator of American religious history at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. His book is called The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost. [Indie bookstores|Amazon|Audible]