Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of history’s most iconic detective,Sherlock Holmes, believed the French medium seen in these photographs, Eva Carrière, was authentic. You see, unlike his famous fictional creation, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a sucker.
The the Spiritualist movement of the late 19th century conned a lot of incredibly intelligent people, and probably attracted a few reasonably amused gawkers, as well. If you think there’s nothing interesting about a woman dragging out a bunch of newspaper cutouts and faking a connection with the spiritual world, please note that some of the pictures below are of nude Carrière, though her dirty pillows have been retouched. Yes, Eva C. regularly got naked and received paranormal gynecological exams from her “assistant” and rumored girlfriend, Juliette Bisson. It’s also said that she engaged in sexual activities with séance participants, so before you paint the attendants of such events with a broad and gullible brush—remember, this was before Internet porn.
The photos here are from the 1910s, when the séance craze was already winding down, thanks in no small part to “evidence” like this, I’m sure. Debunking spiritualists was quite the hobby of many a sober-minded Edwardian, and they weren’t particularly impressed with Carrière’s ectoplasm—identifiable as scraps of a French magazine. You’ll notice the faces featured in her communion with the spirits include Woodrow Wilson, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria and the French president Raymond Poincaré, none who were dead at the time…
Below, Peter Serafinowicz & Robert Popper’s brilliant spoof of spiritualism, “Radio Spiritworld,” the only station broadcasting from the afterlife to the living world.