These photographs of 'spirits' are taken from an album of photographs unearthed in a Lancashire second-hand and antiquarian bookshop by one of the Museum's curators. They were taken by a controversial medium called William Hope (1863-1933).
Born in 1863 in Crewe, Hope started his working life as a carpenter. In about 1905 he became interested in spirit photography after capturing the supposed image of a ghost while photographing a friend.
He went on to found the Crewe Circle – a group of six spirit photographers led by Hope. When Archbishop Thomas Colley joined the group they began to publicise their work.
Following World War I support for the Crewe Circle grew as the grieving relatives of those lost to the war sought a means of contacting their loved ones.
By 1922 Hope had moved to London where he became a professional medium. The work of the Crew Circle was investigated on various occasions.
The most famous of these took place in 1922, when the Society for Psychical Research sent Harry Price to investigate the group.
Price collected evidence that Hope was substituting glass plates bearing ghostly images in order to produce his spirit photographs.
Later the same year Price published his findings, exposing Hope as a fraudster. However, many of Hope’s most ardent supporters spoke out on his behalf, the most famous being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hope continued to practice, despite his exposure. He died in London on 7 March 1933.