Hudson, Frederick A.

Hudson, Frederick A. (b. ca. 1812)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Frederick A. Hudson was the first English spirit photographer. According to Nandor Fodor, the physical medium Agnes Guppy and her husband had been trying to obtain spirit photographs but without success. On a whim, they went to Hudson’s studio and had him take a picture. When developed, it showed a white patch that looked vaguely like a draped figure. Encouraged, Hudson took another photograph and this time it again showed the white, draped figure standing behind Mr. Guppy. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The History of Spiritualism, however, he says that the first sitter for Hudson’s spirit photographs was a Miss Georgiana Houghton, who described the incident in her Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings (1882).

William Howitt (1792–1879), a pioneer English Spiritualist and constant contributor to the Spiritual Magazine, had a photograph taken by Hudson that showed very clearly the likeness of his two deceased sons. A friend who was with Howitt at the time did not even know of the existence of one of the sons. Howitt called the images “perfect and unmistakable.” A Dr. Thompson, of Clifton, had a spirit show up on his photograph that was later identified as Dr. Thompson’s mother, even though no photograph of her had ever been taken before. Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913), the famous British naturalist, obtained two different portraits of his mother. They were quite unlike any other photograph of her taken when she was alive and were from different periods of her life. He said of the pictures, “I sat three times, always choosing my own position. Each time a second figure appeared in the negative with me … the moment I got the proofs, the first glance showed me that the third plate contained an unmistakable portrait of my mother—like her both in features and expression; not such a likeness as a portrait taken during life … yet still, to me, an unmistakable likeness.”

Hudson’s photographs were examined by J. Traill Taylor, the editor of the British Journal of Photography, who then had more pictures taken, but using his own collodion and plates. There were spirit figures in all the pictures. Taylor observed “Collusion or trickery was altogether out of the question.” However, from time to time it seems that Hudson deliberately cheated and made double exposures. It seems he was afraid of losing his power to produce the pictures and so tried to satisfy the constant demand from clients. He was not above dressing up in costumes and photographing himself so that he could later use the picture as half of a double exposure with a standard portrait. He produced a number of spirit photographs to agree with Rev. William Stainton Moses’s visions, but Moses exposed them as fake. Over the years, however, Hudson did re-establish his credibility.


Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933