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Welcome to Curious History - Named one of the 20 best Tumblrs by MSN. The world is filled with strange and natural wonders. You will find them here. Please consider a small donation (upper left corner)!

Ghost Photography of the 19th Century

Photo manipulation is nearly as old as photography itself, and what early photographers lacked in Photoshop, they made up for in ingenuity. Photographers identified nine different methods that could aid in the photographic imitation of “spirits”, including techniques like multiple exposure and combination printing. As David Brewster, in his 1856 book on the stereoscope, explained: 

For the purpose of amusement, the photographer might carry us even into the regions of the supernatural. His art, as I have elsewhere shewn, enables him to give a spiritual appearance to one or more of his figures, and to exhibit them as ‘thin air’ amid the solid realities of the stereoscopic picture.

William Mumler was the world’s first known “spirit photographer”. He photographed people who were morning the loss of a loved one and would superimpose their image on the photograph to show that they were still with them in spirit.

Mumler got caught with his fraudulent photography because of P.T. Barnum. He had captured an image of Barnum posed next to a ghost of an exceptionally notable variety: that of the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln. During Mumler’s 1869 hearing for fraud, Barnum was called to the witness stand to testify against Mumler. Barnum would serve as an expert on “humbuggery.”

Spirit photography lived on well into the 20th century, fueled in part by the Civil War and, later on, by World War I. In the U.K., in the aftermath of the first Great War, the spirit photographer William Hope would develop a following for his work that included Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes’s creator supported Hope against claims of Mumlerian fraud and wrote a book called The Case for Spirit Photography in 1922. He would also end his friendship with the famous Harry Houdini when the magician publicly claimed that spirit photography was “farcical.”

(Source: The Atlantic)

The Haunted Manor in Gdansk, Poland

In Gdansk, a charming city in Northern Poland, there is a hill. Local residents still refer to it as “Devil’s Hill” due to an old legend. The legend states that this little hill, surrounded by a deep forest and swamps, was a favorite place for witch gatherings. During these gatherings, it is said that some nasty demons were summoned. Legend also says that a very large stone located on the top of the hill was brought there by the devil.

In 1886, the mansion was a home to a restaurant and between 1925 and 1933 it was the headquarters to the Gdansk Freemason’s lodge. After World War 2, the mansion was used as a local television station’s headquarters. All occupants believed the building was haunted and was continuously disturbed by “unknown” forces.

Today the building remains derelict and no one claims ownership. Many of its floors are highly unstable and the south wing of the mansion didn’t survive last winter as two floors collapsed. The only reason the entire building is still standing is due to a solid external wall.

(Source: talkurbex.com)

The Demon Cat of Washington DC

The ghost cat or ‘Demon Cat’ is a popular story. This creature haunts the basement of the Capitol building at night, usually spotted around the hall between the Crypt of the Capitol and the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Tourists can even see little paw prints on the floors of this hallway if they look close enough. The story goes that Capitol Hill, then Jenkins Hill, was once the home of a den of black cats, but once construction of the Capitol began (in 1794) the cat’s den was destroyed along with the family of cats. The mother cat now roams the halls of the basement of the Capitol building where presumably the den was located, searching for her young. Even though there are no unattended pets allowed in the Capitol, late night staffers and visitors have noticed an animal making quick dashes around this area of the building. The cat’s paw-prints beneath the Samuel Morse memorial can bee seen in the second picture.

Sightings of the creature have mysteriously been followed by tragic occurrences throughout the United States. One such account tells of a Capitol Police officer who noticed a quick black dash across the floor. As he moved closer to catch a glimpse of the animal, its shadow grew bigger and more menacing. Then, quickly, it disappeared. The next day, 1 November 1918, a story in the newspaper described the worst rapid transit system accident in New York City with over 90 deaths.

source 1, 2

The Warren’s Occult Museum and Other Scary Stories

Just in time for Halloween, stories of real hauntings. The pictures above were not taken at some cheesy haunted house, they are real artifacts from cases involving demons, murder, witchcraft, and the black arts. If you think only ghosts are responsible for hauntings, think again. Some people believe that demons are real and Ed and Lorraine Warren have spent their entire careers proving this fact.

For over five decades, Ed Warren and his wife Lorraine have been known as the world’s most renowned paranormal investigators, working on famous cases that were first documented in books and then made into blockbuster horror films such as The Amityville HorrorThe Haunting in Connecticut, and more recently, The Conjuring

Ed died in 2006, but Lorraine continues to appear on numerous paranormal reality shows using her psychic gifts. Lorraine is a gifted clairvoyant, while Ed was the only non-ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church. Together they have investigated thousands of hauntings.

The Warren’s Occult Museum exists inside the Warren’s own residence. If you take the tour, it is strongly urged that you do not touch anything. The objects on display all come from real cases of the Warrens and it is said their negative energy can attach itself to you. The spike that was reportedly used to kill a boy in a satanic ritual (portrayed in The Conjuring) is featured there, along with their most famous resident, Annabelle the Possessed Doll (shown in the first picture).

If you are looking for a great horror story to read on Halloween, the supposedly true story of Annabelle the Possessed Doll (shown in the first picture) might just be the one. Not only did the doll change positions and move from room to room, she even left notes for her weary owners and attacked one of them. She also reportedly caused the death of a motorcyclist on a tour of the museum with his girlfriend. He taunted the doll while rapping on the glass of her case. After being asked to leave the tour, the cyclist lost control of his bike and died while his girlfriend was unharmed. You never know what can happen if you mess with the wrong doll…

sources 1, 2, 3, 4; museum pictures by jayb928

A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

Several centuries ago, many practicing Christians, and those of other religions, had a strong belief that the Devil could give certain people known as witches the power to harm others in return for their loyalty. A “witchcraft craze” rippled through Europe from the 1300s to the end of the 1600s. Tens of thousands of supposed witches—mostly women—were executed. Though the Salem trials came on just as the European craze was winding down, local circumstances explain their onset.

The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil’s magic—and 20 were executed. Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later.

  • The Witch no.1 - The story of the witchcraft accusations, trials and executions that captured the imagination of writers and artists in the ensuing centuries; engraving by Joseph E. Baker, 1876.
  • A girl is accused during the Salem Witch Trials; engraving by Howard Pyle.
  • Witch Hill - A young woman is led to her execution during the Salem witchcraft trials; painting by Thomas Satterwhite.
  • Witchcraft at Salem Village - The central figure of the courtroom is usually identified as Mary Walcott; engraving by William A. Crafts, 1876.
  • Examination of a Witch by Tompkins H. Matteson, whose paintings are known for their historical, patriotic, and religious themes. Dozens of people from Salem and other Massachusetts villages were brought in and put to varying levels of questioning.
Read the whole story at Smithsonian.

Pep, The Cat Murdering Dog — Sentenced to Life at Haunted Eastern State Penitentiary

Inmate C2559, better known as Pep, “The Cat-Murdering Dog”, was admitted to the Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924. Prison folklore says that Governor Gifford Pinchot sentenced Pep to Life Without Parole for killing his wife’s cherished cat. Governor Pinchor said Pep was a mascot for the prisoners. Pep lived among the inmates for about a decade.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was operational from 1829 until 1971. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its innovative wagon wheel design. At its completion, the building was the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected.

Many people believe Eastern State Penitentiary is actually haunted with records showing that, in the early 1940s, inmates and officers reported supernatural phenomena, including seeing the ghost of Al Capone. Since Eastern State was abandoned in 1971, the number of reported ghost sightings has increased. Paranormal TV shows such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and MTV’s Fear explored the paranormal at Eastern State. Ghost Hunters captured footage of what they believe to be a ghost.

The prison is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark which is open to the public as a museum for tours. Guided tours are offered during the winter, and during the warmer months and self-guided recorded tours with headphones are also available. The recorded tour is narrated mainly by Steve Buscemi, with former guards, wardens and prisoners also contributing.

sources 1, 2, 3