The Trouble with the Internet

It’s mid-August so, of course, I’m deep in research and planning and crafting for this year’s October programming. Since part of the program is more like a haunted house than an exhibit I’ve been looking for super creepy elements to scatter throughout the house and there is no shortage of nineteenth-century spooky images. A quick Google search will yield results ranging from movie scenes, to old photographs, to faux scientific collections.

Even these nineteenth-century marionettes seem creepy!

One thing that keeps cropping up is a series of images of nineteenth century photographs with people missing their heads! Sometimes they are holding their heads and others times they are just headless. I assumed that somebody who found nineteenth century items creepy photoshopped a bunch of images. Well, that’s what I thought until yesterday!

I stumbled upon a Swedish photographer named Oscar Gustave Rejlander learned various processes to alter negatives and create trick photography. Having a trick photograph of yourself taken became a fad as people had their pictures taken without heads, reversed heads, and other strange situations.

A Dream of Christmas

It appears that Santa is visiting the sleeping child in this photograph from the George Eastman House Collection.

Photographic technology was a new phenomenon so people loved dabbling with it and seeing what it might produce. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell if all of the nineteenth century images are real or if some have been cleverly photoshopped by others. And this is the problem with the internet.

Stop by the Whaley House for one of our October events to learn more about these strange images.


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