Robert James Lees - Spirit Photography

Robert James Lees


Spirit Photography
The work of Robert Boursnell


    Alleged Spirit Photograph


A photograph by the`spirit photographer' Robert Boursnell (London,1898) showing Lees with, it is claimed, a spirit friend. Writer Melvyn Harris comments critically on this and other Boursnell images in his “Jack the Ripper – The Bloody Truth” (Columbus, London, 1987).

A similar image was published in the Illustrated Leicester Chronicle on 28th November 1929. It is likely that it was a Boursnell photograph that the Chicago Sunday Herald-Times illustrator used in the notorious Jack the Ripper article published 28th April 1896.

Boursnell was investigated by the Spirit Photography Commission set up by the Daily Mail in 1908. The Commission was comprised of spiritualists and technical experts from the photography industry. A member of the group, Mr. A. P. Sinnett, recounted how he was photographed by Boursnell. Sinnett purchased a package of negatives from a shop chosen at random, then opened them and loaded one of the plates into the plate holder and camera by himself. After the exposure, he watched as the negative was developed in the darkroom. Sinnett says he also examined the camera and found it "certainly free from tricks- I do not see how I could have been cheated under these conditions."

Sinnett was already well-known in occult circles, having conducted years of correspondence with "adepts" in the spirit world. This correspondence, known as "The Mahatma Letters," took place through the mediumship of Madame Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy.

Despite Sinnett's testimony, the Spirit Photography Commission could not reach agreement on the validity of Boursnell's work.

Today's paranormal investigators and research specialists have all but debunked the spirit
photography of the 19th century. Photographers claiming to possess spirit photos today 
would likely face legal action from family members and have to deal with serious Legal Career 
Management issues



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Further images by Robert Boursnell

© 2014 Stephen Butt