When This Photo Of Lincoln’s Wife Was Developed, An Eerie Figure Could Be Seen Looming Behind Her

As William Mumler prepares his camera, Mary Todd Lincoln remains perfectly still in her seat. The photographer goes on to snap an image of the former First Lady before developing the film. But then something very strange happens. Mumler spies a creepy shape in the background of the photo that’ll send a chill down your spine.

Photographic portraits back then involved a lot of work and patience. So you couldn’t just snap a picture on a whim and be done in seconds. We can’t imagine how Instagramers would’ve got on in the past! Anyway, Mary certainly got more than she bargained for after holding her pose for the required 60 seconds.

According to The New Yorker, the photo was taken by Mumler in 1870. By that point, Mary had been a widow for around five years following the assassination of her husband Abraham Lincoln. The U.S. president passed away after suffering a gunshot wound to the head in April 1865.

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Prior to Abraham’s untimely death, he’d cut a very noticeable figure. From the wiry frame to his choice in top hats, it would’ve been hard to miss him! Alongside that, Mary’s husband had a distinctive face, too, appearing both solemn and weary. So you’d be able to recognize the former president if you saw him, right?

Keeping that in mind, let’s cast our minds back to the moment when Mumler was developing Mary’s picture. As we mentioned earlier, the photographer uncovered a chilling sight when the image became clearer. At that stage, it seemed for all the world that Honest Abe was standing behind his wife.

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How could that be? Is it a weird camera trick? Or are we truly looking at photographic evidence of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost? It’s a head-scratcher for sure, and the picture has continued to fascinate people for the past 150 years. And as well as the infamous photo, the Lincolns already had some intriguing ties to the paranormal world.

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Mary was actually a firm believer in the paranormal by the time she tied the knot with Abraham in 1842. And that fascination appeared to rub off on the future president, as he began to look into “spiritualism.” Imagine an episode of Ghost Hunters with these two! But it wasn’t all fun and games.

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For instance, following the deaths of Abraham and Mary’s two sons, the latter staged a series of séances in the White House itself. Despite her efforts, though, the History.com website has reported that her husband wasn’t a regular participant. And the U.S. leader also experienced a chilling premonition prior to his murder.

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After being shaken up, Abraham recalled what he’d seen to Ward Hill Lamon, who recorded the conversation. Abraham said, “Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers. ‘The president,’ was his answer. ‘He was killed by an assassin.’”

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Pretty spooky, right? But even after Abraham died at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, the former’s connection to the supernatural didn’t fade away into history. That’s because several people have claimed to have seen his ghost in parts of the White House over the years. And you’re sure to recognize a few of those names.

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As per History.com, the sightings began when Calvin Coolidge’s wife Grace saw Abraham in the Oval Office. According to her, the ghostly figure was near one of the windows. We can only imagine how strange that must’ve been! Mind you, Winston Churchill’s brush with Honest Abe’s specter was perhaps even weirder.

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In 1940 the U.K. prime minister was staying in the Lincoln room at the White House. And after enjoying a soak in the tub, a naked Churchill spotted Abraham near the fireside. The British leader apparently chirped, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” That certainly sounds like something he’d say!

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But not everyone took Abraham’s ghostly appearances as well as Churchill did. The Washington Post reported that Queen Wilhelmina was also a guest in the Lincoln room a couple of years later. As she slept, the Dutch royal was supposedly woken up by a tap at the door, prompting her to investigate.

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Wilhelmina answered the door, only to find Abraham standing before her. As per the newspaper, she passed out from shock. Can’t say we blame her! And in other cases, the likes of Ronald Reagan and Lady Bird Johnson both sensed that Honest Abe might’ve still been kicking around the White House.

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But why does Abraham’s spirit supposedly still lurk within the White House’s walls? Is there any kind of explanation? Well, one man tried to answer that question in October 2017. His name’s Jared Broach and he’d established the Nightly Spirits tour business, taking in haunted locales around America. The president’s former home was on that list.

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After doing some digging, Broach shared his findings with The Washington Post. “They say Lincoln always comes back whenever he feels the country is in need or in peril,” he stated. “They say he just strides up and down the second-floor hallways, and raps on doors and stands by windows.”

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That certainly lines up with some of the stories that we’ve spoken about so far. Yet as it turns out, Abraham isn’t the only specter that’s hung around the White House. According to the same newspaper, First Ladies Dolley Madison and Abigail Adams have both been spotted there down the years.

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And if that wasn’t enough, a woman named Annie Surratt is said to be lurking there as well. Her mom was implicated in Abraham’s death and so was executed. Since the younger Surratt herself died, people have claimed to hear her voice outside the White House asking for her mom to be freed.

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It’s safe to say that if the Ghostbusters really existed, they’d have their work cut out for them in the nation’s capital! The strange goings-on there even had one of the presidents on tenterhooks during their term. Harry Truman was the man in question, and he penned a note to his partner during 1946 about a constant tap on his door.

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“I jumped up, opened the door, and no one was there,” Truman recalled. “I went out and looked up and down the hall, looked in your room and Margie’s. Still no one. I went back to bed and there were footsteps in your room whose door I’d left open. I jumped and looked and no one was there! The damned place is haunted.”

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Maybe it was Abraham? It sounds like his M.O.! But while Truman didn’t see the former president that night, many others have spotted him in a far more creepy setting outside the White House. We’re referring, of course, to the photograph that William Mumler took of Mary Todd Lincoln back in 1870.

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In the picture, Mary is sitting to the left wearing a dark outfit. Her hands are resting on top of each other, and she has a somewhat blank expression. Things start to become weirder from here, though. In the background, a faded image of Abraham appears to be looming over his wife.

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Despite the lack of detail, you can still probably make out Abraham’s face looking down towards the edge of the frame. The rest of his body is completely white, like that seen in traditional depictions of ghosts. But the creepiest aspect of the photo relates to his hands. They seem to be resting on Mary’s shoulders.

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It’s a truly unsettling sight that furthers the suggestion that Abraham’s ghost might be real. But before you jump to any conclusions on the matter, here’s something else to keep in mind. As it turned out, this wasn’t the first time that Mumler had photographed a “spirit” with his camera equipment.

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So you’re probably wondering who Mumler was, right? Well, he lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and initially plied his trade as an engraver. Away from his job, he developed a keen interest in taking photographs. But few people could’ve predicted where that would eventually lead the budding cameraman in the years to come.

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According to The New Yorker, the defining moment in Mumler’s photographic career occurred in the 1860s. It happened when Mumler took a pic of himself with his camera. Yes, people were taking selfies even back then! But as the image started to develop, he noticed something very peculiar. Specifically, the photographer saw “a girl made of light.”

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It wasn’t just a random girl, though. Mumler was convinced that he’d captured a shot of his cousin’s ghost. The engraver unsurprisingly looked to share what he’d found with the people of Boston, drawing gasps and praise from those who believed in the supernatural. And that was when his life began to change.

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But Mumler apparently wasn’t prepared for the overwhelmingly positive reaction he’d receive from the “spiritualist community.” Before he knew it, the budding photographer was being compared to mediums and the like, as he’d seemingly found a way to contact the dead.

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Mumler soon took advantage of his new-found status, though, and started a photography venture, leaving his old job behind. From here, he focused his attention on snapping “spirit photographs” for other people. History.com reported that he’d offer his services for around $10. That was a pretty big wedge at the time!

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But customers were willing to pay it, especially as the Civil War continued to rob people of their lives. And Mumler’s pictures followed the same pattern as the shot of Mary and Abraham. The so-called ghosts gave off a light color that made them look like specters. Was any of it real, though?

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Well, Peter Manseau offered his thoughts on this topic to History.com, as he’s written a book about Mumler’s work. “Mumler sold himself as someone who couldn’t explain what was happening or why he was chosen to take these pictures,” Manseau said. “He was as astonished as everyone else that suddenly his camera could take pictures of ghosts.”

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You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there were doubters. J.W. Black – a famed cameraman from Boston – was one of them. The belief was that Mumler had somehow found a way to play around with the pictures during their development. History.com claims that “superimposed negatives” or “double exposures” might’ve brought about the appearance of the so-called ghosts.

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So Black wanted to see Mumler’s work for himself and asked the former engraver to take a shot of him. After that, the pair made their way into a dark room where the picture came to life. To explain what happened next, Manseau detailed the moment in The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost.

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Manseau wrote, “Black watched as his own dark outline appeared on the glass, its form not unlike the photograph he had taken of himself seated with his newspaper. But then another shape began to emerge. ‘My God!’ Black said. ‘Is it possible?’” It’s speculated that the figure might’ve been his dad, who’d passed away during his teenage years.

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So if an expert such as Black failed to spot any nefarious tampering, could Mumler’s work be taken at face value? Might the Lincoln photo be legit? For the longest time, no one was able to prove that the pictures were fraudulent, even after watching the process firsthand. Yet cracks did begin to form after a couple of incidents.

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As per History.com, Mumler took a photo of a lady whose sibling had apparently perished in the Civil War. As with the other pictures, the brother’s spirit went on to appear in the shot. There was just one issue, though: he wasn’t actually dead! Incredibly, the man later came back from the conflict alive and well.

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How can that be explained? Well, the lady claimed that it was an “evil spirit” posing as her brother in the photo. And that wasn’t even the biggest of the faux-pas, if you can believe it. On a separate occasion, a customer was looking over Mumler’s spiritual photographs and spied someone very familiar.

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The man saw a spirit that looked just like his wife. Again, though, she wasn’t actually dead. But the most damning part of this incident is that she did visit Mumler’s shop for her own photos. So the suggestion is that the photographer might’ve pulled the negatives from those shots to create a “ghost.”

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If Mumler did it in this instance, could he have pulled off the same trick with the other photos? In the end, he was taken to court on fraud charges in New York in 1869. But guess what? The accusations didn’t stick, as the prosecution had no iron-clad proof. Oh to have been a fly on the wall in that courtroom!

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After that, Mumler went on to snap Mary Todd Lincoln the following year. And regardless of all the questions about legitimacy, her mind at least was made up. Manseau told History.com, “It was the last photo taken of her in her life. No one could dissuade her that it didn’t mean that Abraham Lincoln was still by her side.”

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