Popular Science



The rising death toll of the American

Civil War helped spur a genre of posed portrait in the late 19th century: A living person would sit for a picture, and the photograph­er would later splice in a half-transparen­t still of a deceased spouse or child, showing the long-gone loved one hovering in the background. At first these production­s were considered keepsakes, but they gave rise to elaborate forgeries that claimed to show real spectral visitation­s, supposedly captured thanks to newfangled camera technology. Nowadays we know better, but photograph­ic trickery isn’t dead yet. Many ghost hunters claim that spirits appear on digital shots in the form of “orbs,” even though camera engineers say those are probably just specks of dust illuminate­d by the flash.

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