Desperately Seeking Psychic Photographer
I am writing in the hope that your readers may be able to help me in a little research I am doing, in my position of Publicity Officer for the Wairarapa Archive.
We have in our collection a pair of albums of local cartoons and photographs made by a local photographer, Edward Arthur Sanders Wyllie, in the 1880s. In following up the life of Wyllie, I stumbled onto his later career as a “psychic photographer”.
It seems that when he left Masterton in 1886 he went to America and continued in his photography career, which ultimately proved to be a failure, so he moved into providing his “psychic” photographs.
He became one of the world’s foremost exponents of this art, and is mentioned in all the modern works on the phenomenon. I have been unable, however, to locate any copies of his work, either in New Zealand or in the places one might expect them to be overseas — British and American Societies for Psychical Research, Mary Evans Library (UK), Californian State Library, etc.
I know there were copies of Wyllie’s “work” in New Zealand as a man calling himself the “Rev S. Barnett” gave a lecture on Wyllie at the time of his death in 1911. This lecture, given in Masterton, was illustrated with glass slides of Wyllie’s exposures. I assume this to be the same S. Barnett who was a prominent Spiritualist in New Zealand, and who authored a Celestial Survey of New Zealand which must surely rate as one of the most incredible books ever printed in New Zealand.
I am writing to you in the hope that either you, or one of your readers, may have an interest in skepticism in this area, and may know of the whereabouts of some of these “psychic” photos. I have some poor quality reproductions of some, from a photocopy of an old book.
Any help that you can afford me will be most appreciated.
Gareth Winter, Lansdowne Nursery, 65 Te Ore Ore Road, Masterton