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Psychical Society Galls Bocock Spirit Pictures a Fraud
Report Made After
WITHOUT denying * that
it may be possible to
photograph spirit? of the
departed, the American Society for
Psychical Research after six years
of Investigation has finally conclud?
ed that the celebrated Keeler-Lee
photographs of the ghost of th? late
Rev. Mr. * Kemper Bocock repre?
sent nothing more than crude
"For those whose brain cells are
still capable of faint oscillation,"
writes Dr. Walter F. Prince, Ph. D.,
in part two, volume thirteen of the
"Proceedings" of the society, "the
case is complete."
From a lay point of view th? for?
ty-four reproductions of th? "spirit
photographs" and "spirit writings"
of the departed clergyman in the
"Proceedings" seem sufficient to con?
vince any one with a bare gleam of
intelligence that the case never was
anything but a cheap piece of fraud.
The supposed spirit pictures were,
for the most part, made by "double
exposure/' a common trick fre
" quently and legitimately employed by
commercial and portrait photog?
raphers. But Dr. Prince's report
of the fraud also is a doubl? expo?
sure, for in addition to exposing the
fraudulent "spook" photographs he
exposes the fraudulence of some
To Photograph "Ghosts"
The society became interested
/ back in 1914, when sixteen "spirit"
photographs were presented for in?
spection by Mrs. Marguerite du
Pont Lee, a pbilathropic woman of
means living in Washington, D. C.
She is a member of the multimil?
lionaire du Pont family of Delaware.
Some of the pictures were likenesses
of the Rev. Mr. Kemper Bocock, and
Mrs. Lee informed the society that
they had been made several years
after the death of the reverend gen?
tleman. The investigating officers
of the society say they believe Mrs.
Lee honestly thought the pictures
were actually counterparts of the
ghost of her lamented religious in?
structor, who died in 1904.
Mrs. Lee had been associated with
the minister in the conduct of a
charitable institution which she has
caused to be built. They had many
tastes in common and were quite
sympathetic with each other.
In an article based on the sixteen
"spirit" photographs written by
James Hyslop, Ph. D., the secretary,
of the American Society for Psychi?
cal Research and which was pub- ;
lished in the proceedings issued in
1915, it was stated:
"He (Mr. Bocock) died a few
years ago and apparently gave rise
to automatic writing by Mrs. Lee.
This automatic writing one day told
her she could take photographs."
To Mrs. Lee that meant more than
the ability to take ordinary photo?
graphs; it meant that she had the
supernatural power to photograph
the souls of the dead?in a word,
So Mrs. Lee purchased a camera
and began to experiment. After
three months of fruitless endeavor,
during which she made many photo?
graphs of portrait paintings of her?
self and Mr. Bocock, Mrs. Lee's
faith was "rewarded". Balls or disks
of white light began to appear mys?
teriously on her negatives when
these were developed. Unaccounted
for faces appeared in the pictures.
Many such phenomena occurred
and according to the article by Dr.
James Hyslop, secretary of the so
| clety, published in the "Proceedings"
of 1915, they were all of such a
character that a Philistine, as Dr.
Hyslop calls unbelievers, would at?
tribute to light-struck films, double
exposures and reflected lights.
In his supplementary report Dr.
Prince says of that first report by
his colleague, Dr. Hyslop:
"While it did not question the per?
sonal good faith of Mrs. Lee and
was scrupulous perhaps to excess
in setting forth all that could be
said in favor of her view of the
facts, rendered the Scotch verdict
of 'not proven.' Some of th? data
had an impressive affirmativ? ap?
pearance; others (such as Mr* Heel?
er's absoluto refusal to submit to
any expert investigation), pointed
in the other direction, but the facts
were not then sufficient In quantity
or sufficiently under control to per?
mit a positive conclusion."
"Mr. Keeler" was ?ven mor? im?
portant in this caso of psychic phe?
nomena than Dr. Bocock's ghost.
He is William M. Keeler, now about
eighty years old and employed as a
photographer by a government bu?
reau in Washington. -It was he
who took most of th? photographs,
and, incidentally, he has stated that
ho took spirit photographs for Pro?
fessor Robert Hare, who died in
Mrs. Lee, explaining how she got
in touch with Keeler, said that she
first wrote to Dr. Hansmann, like
'T'HE "spirit" of the Rev. Mr. Bocock here appears in an
?*? Elizabethan costume. The investigators point out that
the spirits appear to have adopted in every detail the costume
of a well known period of English history, but in this case a
masculine spirit appears in a garb that in this sphere was
used exclusively by women
wise a spirit photographer, of Wash-1
ington, in 1912. Discussing this In?
dividual Dr. Prince says:
"It was Dr. Hansmann, likewise
a spirit photographer, of Washing?
ton, who induced Mrs. Lee to go to
Dr. Keeler. I wrote to Dr. H. in
the spring of 1912. He recommended
Mr. Keeler, and I wrote to him at
once for a sitting. Dr. Hansmann
?strange how many of the spirit
photographers are 'doctors' of a sort
?died in the summer of 1912, and it
was probably his failing health that
caused him to pass over a promising
customer. It was this Hansmann
of whom Dr. "Richard Hodgson wrote
to Mr. F. E. W., on December 13,
1899. Hansmann certainly, some
years ago, apparently had a great
deal to do with fraudulent mediums,
notably the Keelers."
The photographs offered by Mrs.
Lee were classified in four groups
by Dr. Prince, as follows:
CD Impersonal and apparently un
purposive pictures marked in some
part by large light disk, or present?
ing the exact appearance of having
resulted from double or triple ex?
posure, or showing various dark
spots, curves and bands. The pho
, tographs showing only spots, curves
! and bands were, however, not pro
I duced by a camera, but by tying the
I plates, inclosed in a black paper and
an opaque envelope, to Mrs. Lee's
! forehead and keeping them there for
I an hour.
(2) Photographs representing some
I scene or object devoid of anomalies,
except that it is*declared not to
have been before the camera.
I (8) Photographs of human faces
and figures among which the fea?
tures of the late Rev. Kemper
Bocock are most commonly recog?
nizable. Often the pictures appear
in some setting of people or natural
(4) Photographs of script, sup?
posed to be directly produced upor
the sensitive platea by Mr. Bocock
end other spirits and conveying
declarations regarding the photo?
graphs, mainly of group 3, and other
matters of interest.
All told, Dr. Prince examinee
about 4,000 of the supposed spirit
prints. He- learned that the agencj
of Mrs. Lee wa3 most frequently in
dependent in the production oj
group one of the photographs
Classes 3 and 4, he learned, seeme?
never to have been wholly clear o?
connection with Keeler.
In that connection Dr. Princ?
"Mrs. Lee was quite confident tha
she both took and developed a fe\
of the plates which proved to bea
mysterious portraits, without Di
Keeler's hand having touched them
but she did not claim to have don
both unless she was at least in hi
house and personal vicinity at th
stage when the pictures were take:
or developed, or both."
Still Making Them
Dr. Prince writes that the photc
graphic material in the case pre
gressed in a steady stream?Keele
is still making them?and day afte
day the investigator spent goin
over them with a magnifying glas;
This was done, of course, with th
sanction of Mrs. Lee, whose attitud
toward his efforts is described by I>
Printe as follows:
"Mrs. Lee was the very soul c
''? candor, was ready to answer an
| question, manifested no Eve-lili
! curiosity about the voluminous not?
! taken, and with evident, if somewhi
? confident sincerity, declared h?
i wish that some one would really a
tempt to demonstrate the hypothes
of fraud. Whomever else the ev
dence may attaint of fraud, ho\
ever, everything in the case exemp
On the word of Mrs. Lee and
brother of the dead clergyman D
Prince learned that there exist?
; OPIRIT land apparently keeps right up to date on the latest
^ dances. At the time the Rev. Mr. Bocock died, this dance
had not yet come into vogue, but his "spirit" is here seen in a
pose suggestive of Mr. and Mrs. Castle
only two photographs of the Rev.
Mr. Bocock made during his life?
time- In both of these the subject
was'photographed while seated and
showed only his head and chest.
Always the Same Angle
"The most astonishing thing about
the alleged spirit photographs of
Mr. Bocock up to the report of
1914," writes Dr. Prince, "is that
the face was always at the same
angle to the beholder. It might be
looking a little to the left or a little
to the right, but it was at the same
angle, reversing like one's face in a
mirror. In the report (Dr. Hyslop's)
?re sixteen Bocock photographs and
all maintain the exact angle, which
I may call one-third right or one
third left, meaning approximately
one-third the distance from squarely
to the front to the right profile or
Tq prove that this was a sus?
picious circumstance the investigator
took thirty-two photographs of men
from magazines in the order in
which he found them. The facial
angles were almost as varied'as the
photographs, except that six were
But in the sixteen Bocock's pic?
tures published in 1915 the face
stares at the beholder from precise
! ly the same angle, right or left.
"I have been unable to find facial
differences," writes Dr. Prince,
"which could not be accounted for
in the following ways: (a) Revers?
ing, (b) Photographing larger or
smaller, (c) Variously tilting the
head to accord with the position of
the trunk. If one will make an oval
opening in a sheet of paper and
place it over any Bocock picture in
such a way that the head appears
erect in the opening, while the rest
of the picture is covered, he will
appreciate the force of this point,
fd) Paring away the edge of the
hair on top or on the side, or even
a portion of the ear or the cheek,
(e) Photographing or printing dark?
er or lighter, (f ) Retouching, either
by way of removing something, as
the glasses, and, incidentally, in
his features show no appropriate
rapture, while his calm gaze passes
Well, as Dr. Prince says, even
Mrs. Lee concedes "a certain degree
of dependence" upon the life photo?
graphs, and he adds that it is sug?
gested that Bocock thinks about one
or, the other of these two photo?
graphs, and that this affects the
Another feature of the spirit
photographs that Dr. Prince consid?
ered curious was that while the face
was invariably photographed at the
same angle no such limitations af?
fected the hands, which are found
photographed in almost every posi?
"Strange," ponders Dr. Prince,
"that spirit agencies, which can
photograph hands clasped, hands in
pockets, hands extended, hands ges?
ticulating, hands playing the violin
or piano, hands guiding in the mazes
of the dance, hands with fingers out?
spread, hands clenched, hands in
every conceivable position should
not be able to turn the chin one inch
from its position in one or other
of the life photographs,, or to part
the lips in the slightest in thousands
"Nor is the clothing which Mr.
Bocock wears in the photograph of
alleged spirit origin limited by his
memory of the two taken on this
side of the veil. Indeed, if the object
were studiously to avoid resem?
blance, the success could hardly be
An Extensive Wardrobe
"If all the clothes shown repre?
sent memories of clothes formerly
worn by him, Mr. Bocock had cer?
tainly maintained an extensive and
versatile wardrobe. But this is not
the case?for example, we find him
in a spirit of George Washington's
regimentals, with every fold exactly
as it is in a well known picture of
the Father of His Country. Mrs.
Lee admits this and herself called
attention to the fact, which she con?
sidered quite remarkable! In this
y'HIS is not a .spirit photograph, ivith the shade of the Rev. Mr. Bocock and another spirit
* mingled with the folds of the flag, but is a faked, picture made by the American Society
for Psychical Research as a demonstration of what can be clone with a camera
some cases a part of the eyes, or
adding something as by way of
! altering the hairline on the temples
or lengthening the mustache, (g)
1 Making the head unnaturally long
' and narrow, as can be done by
photographing a portrait in a slant?
ing position, and by other processes.
"Except for such minor divergen?
cies, which could be produced as de?
scribed, the faces throughout the
whole big series are identical with
those in the two known life photo?
graphs. Thousands of photographs
, of Mr. Bocock and not one of them
with face turned square to the front
exactly in profile or turned two
thirds away in either direction,
Thousands, and whether he stands
amid the wonders of Yosemite, 01
sits at ease in some luxurious apart
[ ment, or addresses an audience wit!
| uplifted hand, or plays a violin, oi
| dances a dance invented on eartl
;;ince his departure, or endeavors t<
1 plant a kiss on the lips of his fail
partner?but with evident danger t?
her eai*?in all he is resolved to pre
serve one or the other of two facia
angles, exact to the fraction of ai
inch ; in all he maintains that 'keep
of the photographic studio ; he smile
not, exults not, wonders not, grieve
? not, nor ever once opens his lips, bu
! is as if fixed in the calm of Buddh
] forever. In short he seems cor
? demned to maintain the expression o
' his two life-photos as well as thei
angles of position. In one phot?
: graph he is addressing an audienc
| with book in hand, but his lips ai
i closed and his face is looking calml
over his right shoulder at us. I
others he is disclosed near wati
falls, on giant crags, but he is n?
looking at or betraying any intere:
in them. In another his arms ei
circle a lady most convincingly, bi
and similar cases his memory of his
own garments seems to have become
mixed with memories of other peo?
ple's garments. And there are other
pictures that the memory theory will
not touch at all, if the messages that
come with them are to be trusted.
One of them shows Mr. Bocock in
! Episcopal robes, for the script (pho
i tographed "spirit" writing) says
the has become a bishop. (He hadn't
: acquired that ecclesiastical rank
? when he died.)
"They indeed look like memories,
: since they have the orthodox Amer
I ican cut, but they are said to b?^
j what he now wears on the other
i A Changeable Body
"Nor is the body that fills the
clothes' limited by memories of lift
j photographs. And this is most curi
! ous, for, though we should have ex
I pected that in showing himself a;
; he now is, the newly elected pr?lat?
! could by dint of special effort brin.i
j his chin about the fraction of a:
! inch or raise his eyes a mere trifle
| On the other hand we should h?v?
! expected a certain stability in, say
! his measurements. But not sc
; sometimes he is shown tall and thin
j sometimes thick and1 short, some
? times betwixt and between. Her
I his hands are small and slendei
there large and muscular. Oftei
the head is disproportioned to th
trunk. The neck may be reasonabl
long or short."
The laws of optics in the spiri
world evidently differ from thos
which operate here, Dr. Prince face
tiously decides after finding amon
the spirit photograph, prints on
showing Mrs. Lee's astral body ei
gaged in a dance with a Bocock hea
with a Vernon Castle body, an
which picture is lighted from thr<
directions. On the woman's gow
light falls from the front as show
nrHIS picture, supposed to be a spirit photograph, really
?* puzzled the investigators for a time, but eventually they
discovered that the woman's figure was the reproduction of a
cover design of the Cosmopolitan Magazine for October, 1895
by the nicely balanced shadows with?
in the folds. But at the exact point1
where her chin begins, it comes from
her left, so that the left side of her
collar is in the shadow, while the
left of her chin and face is in the
full light. The - light strikes the
man's head, close by, from another
direction, somewhat to the right and
above the couple.
"Of course this thing would follow
? now and then," concluded Dr.
Prince," if one inserted heads in
collars not meant for them, without
observing that in the photographs
now compounded into one the light
came from different quarters."
In addition to the fashion in which
the dancing picture defies the laws
of optics there are other interesting
features. For example, Dr. Prince
Up to Date Dances
"I am informed that the dance is
one introduced since Bocock's death,
and as this represents what is
claimed really happened, Paradise
must keep posted and take a lively
interest in the fads on earth. The
gown is a bit youthful for the lady,
and the head a trifle hypertrophie
for the gentleman, but gowns and
maybe heads are a matter of taste."
Dr. Prince notes also that among
more than twenty-five "astrals" of
Mrs. Lee she is doing all sorts of
things, but with every facial muscle
in the same position and the cupid's
bow shadow in every one. The in?
"I will simply add that I have a
photograph of Mrs. Lee?not claimed
to be an astral one?which is the
original from which the others got
their heads, unless there were twen?
ty-five separate miracles."
Once the spirits made a ludicrous
error, and caused Mr. Bocock's head
to appear in female Elizabethan
garb. Besides that a portion of the
original woman's head is left show?
ing over the Bocock head.
In some instances either the spir
its or photographer Keeler or th<
Rev. Mr. Bocock grew very careless
"There were cases," writes Dr
Prince, "where the superimposing o:
the paper figure was so gross an?
undisguised that I involuntarily
attempted to pick the edge with mj
nail. In one the feet had conii
loose and rolled up over the edge o
the pantaloons and were so photo
graphed?a curl of white paper?
with no detriment to faith."
Another crudity was the use o
an engraving?revealed by the con
tact dots left by the coi-roding acid
with photograph heads of Eococ
'HIS is the real Rev. Mr. Kemper Bocock, who died in 190U.
In every case in which his spirit is supposed to have been
photographed by William H. Keeler his head is held at ex?
actly the same angle as in this authentic photograph
-,??....m? ..i, .. , i
Photos Created a
and Mrs. Lee. Th? dots nere not
visible in the heads.
"At first view," writes Dr. Prince,
"about the most convincing photo?
graph among those of which the
society possesses copies is that repre?
sented in Plate 25. Of none wai
more confidence expressed that it
was taken and developed under test
conditions, but no attempt was mad?
to identify figures. A!as, it is au
exact copy of the frontispiece ?a
'The Cosmopolitan Magazine' f0r
October, 1895, except that it is re?
versed and a little is pared away
from the left side of the bottom.
The original was drawn by Jos?
Cabrinety as an illustration for a
prose poem entitled 'The Pursuit of
Happiness.' If a spirit produced
that picture because it made a
strong impression upon him when he
was on earth then he certainly has
a great memory for details. I can
barely conceive of a spirit taking a
photograph, somehow, of a maga?
zine illustration, though I would ex?
pect him, if a bishop, to tell the
truth about it. But it is much easier
for me to conceive of somebody on.
this side who has a not too inquiring
client passing it off for what it is
In notes on his report Dr. Prince
reveals some of the information
supplied him concerning the circum?
stances attending the "taking" of
this spirit photograph. Mrs. Le?
wrote him as follows:
Mrs. Lee's Records
"I am glad to have an exaci
record as to how the photo to which
you refer was obtained. I copy from
the album in which the print is
pasted: 'May 14, 1914. Plates in?
closed in opaque envelopes by R. 3,
Baker, 1322 F Street. Taken by me
to Dr. Keeler's, 1339 Otis Street, at
night. Held in hands by Dr. K. and
myself until three raps were heard.
Developed at once. Plates never
left my hands for the fraction of a
second. Developed by me, Dr. K. at
a distance from developer.' " This
letter was written to Dr. Prince by
Mrs. Lee February 24, 1919, which
would indicate that at a fairly re?
cent date she was still confident that
the pictures had been made super
In showing how some other pic?
tures were supposed to have been
taken and developed Dr. Prince
quotes an inscription written by
Mrs. Lee on the fly leaf of an album
of 200 of the photographs:
"Photos taken by Dr. William M.
Keeler Sunday mornings with Cen?
tury camera. Some photos taken by
focusing camera on black curtain.
Exposure about half a minute. De?
veloped by Dr. Keeler. often M. da
Pont Lee present."
Balks at Witne
"A fact whose significance it is)
difficult to escape," according to Dr.
Prince, "is that Dr. Keeler will un?
der no circumstances allow a person
to be present during the photo?
graphing or developing who repre?
sents the Society for Psychical Re?
search or who is not entirely sais
factory to him."
Dr. Prince says that Heeler's
aversion to anything that savors of
' expert examination is of long stand?
In his relations with Mrs. Le*i
Keeler frequently produced spiv.t
photographs of script which pur?
ported to be messages from the Rc>.
Dr. Bocock. Mrs. Lee and the de?
parted minister had many "com?
munications" with each other by
this means, usually concerning the
A plate would he developed and
lo and behold, there would be a
message from ?oeoek himself.
Concerning these spirit writings.
Dr. Prince's report contains a cops
of a letter from Albert S. Osborn, s
handwriting expert, cf 233 Broad
way, and enlarged photographs com
paring Keeler's handwriting wit!
that there were by the same hand
writing expert's letter follows:
"I have examined numerous <""
ledged spirit writings which '?'- ?'
alleged came from spirit- through
orte W. M. Keeler and have compare?
these writings with ? letter signed
'W. M. Keeler' and an accompanying
envelope and in my opinion the
writer of this letter and envelope and
the writer of the var ous alleged
spirit writings purporting to com?
from Socrates. Abraham Lincoln,
Philips Brooks, Henry Ward Beecher,
are one and the same person.'
Similar tests wore applied *
Keeler's writings in rompa-*'-'
with the supposed messages fro;
Bocock. All the evidence indicate
that they were by the same han
and that hand Feeler's.
But, as Dr. Prince says, there >C?
are people who will continue t
have faith in the spirit photos of tii
Rev. Mr. Bocock, but that does n?
surprise Dr. Prince, because, he say
there are credulous people who U
sist that Houdini accomplishes h
sensational "escapes" by Wipe
natural means in the face of h
oft repeated statements that he do*
it all by main strength and in