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Edward Wyllie Spirit Photographer

Edward Wyllie

Lifespan: 1848 - 1911

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Studio: 330 Ellis Street, San Francisco, California

Edward Arthur Sanders Wyllie was a British spirit photographer who operated out of California. He was born in Calcutta, British India before moving to England at a young age. In 1886 he moved to California to work as a photographer.

An advertisement for his spirit photographs offered sittings with one photo for $2 from the hours of 10am – 5pm. [1]

In 1901 Rev. Charles Hall Cook participated in several successful experiments with Edward Wyllie in which he provided his own plates and operated under strict protocols. He describes the resulting spirit photograph stating, “I saw on it a face of remarkable beauty and distinctness, a face even more clearly defined than my own.”[2]

He was accused of fraud when an investigator discovered a master negative of spirit images in a house Wyylie had lived in and again when it was claimed that Wyylie had admitted to a method of palming small spirit drawings in luminous paint and pressing them into the photographic plate.[3]

An article published in support stated:

“Mr. Wyllie has already been tested at least three times by competent investigators and under such stringent conditions as might easily have prevented any satisfactory results—on one occasion by a professional photographer, Mr. R. Whitford, of Rothesay, who had not the slightest belief in the possibility of spirit photography. Upon developing the plate, to his astonishment, a face appeared on the coat of the sitter. He kindly and courageously attested this in a sworn affidavit, which has since been published. Mr. Wyllie also gave test séances to two different committees belonging to the Glasgow Association of Spiritualists, some of whom were expert photographers. The reports were most satisfactory.”

Light – April 16th, 1910

In 1909 he lost his gallery to a major earthquake and the “The Wylie Fund” was started to help support his return to London. Spiritualists were encouraged to contribute up to $50 each, which would be repaid or they could receive its value in sittings.[4] The fund raised over $240 (apx. $8,000 in 2022) and by 1910 he returned to London and continued practicing spirit photography. Upon his return, James Coates stated, “As Mr. Edward Wyllie is now in London, I trust that subscribers to ‘The Wyllie Fund’ will call upon him. I know that they will receive the best attention as far as lies in his power.”.[5]

He would pass away a short time later in 1911.

[1] The Religio-Philosophical Journal – Sep. 8th, 1900
[2] American Society for Psychical Research – 1916
[3] The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal – 1996
[4] Light – May 28th, 1909
[5] Light – July 16th, 1910

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