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Boursnell, Richard (1832-1909)

Boursnell, Richard (1832-1909)

British spirit photographer who is supposed to have obtained psychic markings on his plates as early as 1851, but when accused by his partner of spoiling the plates, he stopped taking photographs himself until 40 years later. A repetition of the same annoyance then occurred. W. T. Stead, a journalist interested in psychic subjects, claimed that the markings were psychic and prevailed upon Boursnell to sit for spirit photo-graphs. He was strikingly successful, and in 1903 the Spiritual-ists of London presented him with a signed testimonial and a purse of gold as a mark of their high esteem. A spirit photography exhibition of 100 chosen photographs was displayed in the rooms of the Psychological Society at Portman Square. Eighty-nine negatives taken by Boursnell in conjunction with S. W. Woolley between 1897-1907 were preserved at the British College of Psychic Science.

Like almost every person engaged in a form of psychic photography, Boursnell was accused of fraud. William Usborne Moore wrote in Glimpses of the Next State (1911) that he provided complete proof of a fraudulent production to the London Spiritualist Alliance. Duplicates, triplicates, and quadruplicates of Boursnell's spirit pictures were numerous. A tracing could be made from one form in one photograph to the form in another, and not the slightest difference in detail could be discovered. Nevertheless, Admiral Moore believed that Boursnell had genuine powers and was an excellent clairvoyant, for Boursnell repeatedly described the spirit forms before he made an exposure, and the extra on the plate completely corresponded with his description. However, this is hardly satisfactory as proof, since Boursnell could have been describing extra spirit forms already prepared.

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