The Spirit Photographer

Howard Stanley Crewe (1871-1919) was one of the first spirit photographers.
These Spiritualists claimed to capture images of the deceased using tricks like double exposure.

Though Crewe’s images show the same signs of manipulation, his last portraits still puzzle researchers.

Howard, born in Chicago, was a struggling writer with a knack for photography. He made headlines in 1909 when he claimed to photograph the spirit of his recently-deceased wife, starting a thriving business.

In 1919, Crewe started seeing something unexpected in his pictures.

Crewe, alarmed, wrote a letter to his colleague William Hope, asking for advice:

“Something has contaminated my photographs. Whatever it is, it follows me wherever I go. I have tried changing locations, cameras… To no avail. It only seems to get clearer with every image.”

Hope replied: “It may be a true message from beyond, friend. Have you tried a self-portrait? This might make it show itself clearly.”

This image is Crewe’s last photograph, taken the day of his death. The damaged plate was found still in his camera, with no signs of tampering.

© Eduardo Valdés-Hevia