November 6 & 14, 1885: Mr. W. M. Keeler
(Attempt to Reach Agreement on Terms and Conditions)

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When Mr. Keeler, a well-known "Spiritual Photographer," was in the city, the Acting Chairman called on him, and requested from him in writing a statement of his terms and the conditions under which an investigation by this Commission could be held. The following reply was received from him:

1614 Green Street,       
Philadelphia, November 6th, 1885.       


DEAR SIR: -- In regard to giving the Photographic Seances I feel that I am obliged to ask an observance of the following conditions: That there be three Seances, for which I shall expect the sum of $300. I desire only the regularly appointed members of the Commission on your side to be present, I to have the privilege to invite an equal number of persons, if necessary, to harmonize the antagonistic element which might be produced by those persons not in perfect sympathy with the cause.

I must have the right to demand, if conditions make it necessary, the exclusive use of the dark room and my own instrument.

The Seances to be given at your own residence.

As I cannot guard against the influences which others may bring, I shall expect to be paid the afore-named sum whether my efforts prove satisfactory or not, although I hope for the most favorable results, and to this end I would urge the members of the Commission to surround me with the most congenial and harmonious conditions possible.

These Seances to begin on the 12th inst.

If this meets with your approval an early answer is solicited.

Very respectfully,       
W. M. KEELER.       


I called this morning (Saturday, 14th November, 1885), on Mr. W. M. Keeler, and told him, in effect, in the very words as well as I can remember, as follows: that I had received his letter of the 6th inst., containing his terms, and had consulted the Commission in regard to them; and that our conclusion had been quickly reached. He must know how very simple a process this 'composite photography' is, and that among photographers there is no mystery whatever in it. For his own process he claimed a Spiritual Agency -- this agency we were willing


to accept (in my own case I was anxious to accept it) if, after a thorough investigation, his process could not be explained by well-known physical laws. The conditions he demanded were such as to render any investigation simply silly. His exclusive use of the dark room, which could have nothing to do with Spiritual forces, for the Spirits had already done their work in the Camera, utterly precluded us from discovering whether his processes were in anywise different from ordinary photography. He wished to know in what way this prevented us from detecting fraud if the operations took place in a private house where he was a stranger. I replied that without for a moment impugning his honesty, he must know that unless we were present with him in the dark room, we could not affirm that our marks had not been duplicated on substituted plates.

Furthermore, that we had regarded his terms as intentionally prohibitory. The demand for three hundred dollars was so extraordinary that we could regard it in no other light than as a desire to avoid an investigation altogether. I asked him what his ordinary charge was, and he replied two dollars for each sitting, and that he made from twenty to forty dollars a day, when he settled down to work.

That there might be no misunderstanding, I repeated my reply to his wife: that we were ready to investigate, if we could be allowed to watch the very points where material agency ceases and spiritual begins, but these very points Mr. Keeler forbade us to examine, and that the failure rested with him.

At one time his vexation (which was manifest) a little ran away with his discretion. He asked, with somewhat of a sneer, 'How did you expect to investigate it?' I replied that 'I could not answer for others, but for myself I should have liked to have him say, when we of the Commission met him, The Spirits are present, through my Mediumship, here is my Camera in which the Spirits will manifest themselves on the sensitized plates, take it, and so long as I am present with my influence, do what you please.' He laughed outright and said 'That would be a good thing.'

I endeavored throughout the interview to impress him with our utter incredulity in the spiritual nature of his photographs, and yet to give him no loop to hang a charge of discourteous or illiberal treatment on. I asked him to give me, in my private capacity, a sitting at his earliest convenience, and that I should not be satisfied with less than a cherub on my head, one on each shoulder, and a full-blown angel on my breast. He laughingly assented.

Acting Chairman Seybert Commission.      


I ought, perhaps, to add that I showed to Mr. Keeler a composite photograph taken by one of my sons, wherein a Spirit quite as ethereal as any of Mr. Keeler's, appears in the background. He looked at it, and returned it to me without remark.

H. H. F.     

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