Parkes, F. M.

Parkes, F. M.

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In 1872, the year in which Frederick Hudson obtained the first English spirit photographs, F. M. Parkes and M. Reeves also produced photographs of spirit images. Parkes and Reeves were in England; Parkes lived at Grove Road, Bow, in the East End of London.

Parkes was described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as “a natural psychic.” He had verified visions as a child. He learned of Spiritualism in 1871. Parkes was a photographer and, with his friend Reeves—the proprietor of a dining room near King’s Cross railroad station—he started experimenting to see if he could get spirit pictures like the ones obtained by Frederick Hudson.

Initially only odd streaks, as of light, appeared on Parkes’s photographic plates. After three months of trying, however, he did get a spirit inage when photographing Dr. Sexton and Dr. Clarke of Edinburgh. According to Doyle, “Dr. Sexton invited Mr. Bowman, of Glasgow, an experienced photographer, to make a thorough examination of the camera, the dark room and all the appliances in use. This he did, and declared imposition on the part of Parkes to be impossible.” Sexton subsequently wrote enthusiastically about Parkes in the Christian Spiritualist magazine.

Nandor Fodor says that Parkes was unable to obtain full spirit pictures unless his wife and his partner Reeves were present, somehow lending psychic energy. Spirit directed Parkes to have the photographic plates in his possession, in the darkroom, previous to their being placed in the camera. Since this would tend to raise suspicions of tampering, he had a hole cut in the wall of the studio so that observers could monitor the plates throughout the whole process.

According to Doyle, the most striking thing about Reeves’s photographs was the great variety of the designs. Doyle said, “Out of 110 that lie before me now, commencing from April, 1872, and with some intermissions extending down to present date, there are not two that are alike—scarcely two that bear any similarity to each other. Each design is peculiar to itself, and bears upon the face of it marks of individuality.” The Rev. William Stainton Moses commented further in Human Nature, “A considerable number of the earlier pictures … were allegorical. One of the earliest, taken in April, 1872, shows Mr. Reeves’ father holding up a cross above his head and displaying an open book on which is written ‘Holy Bible.’ Another shows a cloud of light covering two thirds of the picture, and made up of the strongest medley of heads and arms, and flashes of light, with a distinct cross in the center.” There were also angels, giant hands, floating figures, multiple faces, and a large eye, among other things.

Sources:

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Past Life Recall see Reincarnation Peck, Shelley see Edward, John
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