Buguet, Édouard (fl. 1875)

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Buguet, Édouard (fl. 1875)

French spirit photographer who, in an alleged partial trance, produced remarkable likenesses of high artistic quality of deceased relatives of his sitters. Most of these spirit photo-graphs represented well-known people, but comparatively obscure people also reported obtaining surprising evidence of spirit presence. Buguet's reputation rose, and he was acclaimed for the feat of photographing the double of the Rev. Stainton Moses in Paris while the medium was sitting in trance in London.

However, his successes in London in 1874 were negated by the huge scandal over spirit photography that broke out in Paris in April 1875. Buguet was arrested for fraud. After he confessed, he was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 500 francs. In his confession he admitted that his spirit photographs were produced by double exposure. First he dressed up his assistant to play the part of the ghost; later he constructed a doll to replace the human assistant for the body of the ghost. The doll and a large stock of heads were seized by the police at Buguet's studio.

A verbatim account of the trial was published in Leymaire's book Procès des spirites (Paris, 1875). Leymaire's husband, who was editor of the Revue Spirite, admitted having suggested to Buguet to follow in the footsteps of W. H. Mumler, and he was also sentenced to one year's imprisonment and a fine of 500 francs. Many witnesses were confronted during the trial with Buguet. Even when Buguet repeated his confession, many protested and refused to doubt the evidence of their senses.

Stainton Moses believed that at least some of Buguet's spirit photographs were genuine and said that the persecution bore traces of clerical origin, that the judge was biased, and that Buguet must have been bribed or terrorized to confess and to manufacture a box full of trick apparatus. In an article in Human Nature in May 1875, Moses stated that out of 120 photo-graphs produced by Buguet, evidence of recognition or of the operation being produced under test conditions was available in 40 cases.

William Howitt also spoke of an organized conspiracy of the Jesuits against Spiritualism. Lady Caithness was quoted by Epes Sargent as declaring that out of 13 spirit photographs obtained by Buguet, "we distinctly recognized the spirit forms of five dear ones whom we had never hoped to see again on earth. We were perfect strangers to the medium, who had never heard of us before. That there may be no doubt about the identity of my late husband, he brings in his hand the family crest and emblem." After his liberation, Buguet himself agreed, retracted his confession, declared that he was tricked into it, and stated that a promise had been held out that in case of confession he would be acquitted.

However, Camille Flammarion was convinced that Buguet cheated. In Mysterious Psychic Forces (1907), he stated that Buguet, "having allowed me to experiment with him, let me conduct my researches for five weeks before I detected his fraudulent methods and mechanism. While I was pushing my investigation a little farther I saw with my own eyes Buguet's prepared negatives." Buguet was but one prominent example of fraudulent psychic photography.