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By Sarah Ledjmi on

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostly encounter at the Museum

As Ghostbusters hits our IMAX screen, we turn to our archives to explore the spooky ‘spirit’ photography of William Hope.

The long-awaited remake of the movie Ghostbusters will introduce a whole generation to a range of 1980s delights: the boiler suit, slime and its electric green hue, and synthesiser music. But while I am excited to see these popular culture staples remixed for 2016, I’ll also pay attention to the depiction of the real stars of the movie: the ghosts! A hazy glow, a halo of smoke or transparency effects are typical methods to represent spirits on screen or paper. The National Media Museum is the place to see them all: bursting to life in 3D in our top of the range IMAX cinema, or silently hiding in our collection.

If you’d like an encounter with our more discreet ghosts after the sound and fury of Ghostbusters, explore our digital gallery below. These ‘spirit photographs’ were taken by William Hope c.1920. Active in the paranormal circles of early 20th century England, Hope capitalised on 2 factors: the enormous popularity of spiritualism at the time, and the relative mystique surrounding the photographic process. Although some of Hope’s contemporaries doubted the veracity of the spirits in his photographs, he also had fervent supporters such as Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of Sherlock Holmes. Hope’s pictures were eventually discredited: he had used a process called double-exposure, where a single image is created by exposing the film several times. It appears that no actual ghosts inhabit the photographs… or do they?

See some selections from our collection of William Hope’s spirit photography below, or explore the full gallery on Flickr.

Elderly couple with a young female spirit
‘Elderly couple with a young female spirit’ c.1920, William Hope. © Science Museum Group collection
Man surrounded by signs of spirit presence
‘Man surrounded by signs of spirit presence’ c.1920, William Hope. © Science Museum Group collection
A séance
‘A séance’ c.1920, William Hope. © Science Museum Group collection
Couple with a spirit in their car
‘Couple with a spirit in their car’ c.1920, William Hope. © Science Museum Group collection
Joe Thomas and unidentified spirit
‘Joe Thomas and unidentified spirit’ c.1920, William Hope. © Science Museum Group collection
Family group with two spirits
‘Family group with two spirits’ c.1920, William Hope. © Science Museum Group collection

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