If you’ve visited Memento Mori in the Magic Kingdom, you’ve surely seen individuals taking part in the Spirit Photography. This offering allows guests to have a photograph taken of them that, once processed, appears to show off their spooky side. That is to say the photograph changes from the guest to what their ghostly apparition would look like if they were one of the 999 happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion. Of course, this isn’t the only example of spirit photography found inside Memento Mori.
These photographs, sitting atop an apothecary cabinet inside the shop, are recreations of famous daguerreotype, otherwise known as spirit photography. The practice of spirit photography has its roots in an effect that photographers know all too well, double exposure. William Mumler discovered a second figure in a photograph he took of himself in the 1860s, a figure that was actually a second exposure of his self. Finding that customers would pay to have otherworldly visitors in their portraits, especially if they were the dearly departed, Mumler began selling his works under the guise of a medium.
A typical spirit photograph would utilize previously developed photographs of deceased family members. These secondary pictures would be doctored into the photograph he had taken of the paying customer. Perhaps the most famous example of this method was a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln that included the ethereal appearance of her late husband, President Abraham Lincoln. Mumler would also take photographs of unknown individuals and incorporate them into photographs. This would prove to be his downfall as some of his “ghosts” would wind up being identified as currently living residents in Boston.
Others have taken up the spectral torch over time, including Fred Hudson, William Moses, and William Hope. Though many have been debunked, there are just as many who believe in the ability to take such spirit photographs, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Some of the ideas brought forth from spirit photography, such as Moses’ ability to photograph the ectoplasm, have become ingrained in the popular culture.
The recreations tucked away atop a cabinet, or hanging on the wall, inside Memento Mori harken back to a time when spiritualism was the talk of the town the world over. Just as in Mumler’s spirit photographs, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find some of these ghostly individuals strolling the streets. Especially if you were looking for them around Imagineering! No matter your take on spirit photography, Memento Mori has found a way to send out their message from regions beyond.