One of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2017

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"Thrilling... an absorbing read that captures the energy and ingenuity of the period."
Book List
"In The Apparitionists, Peter Manseau takes us on an expedition through the beginnings of photography and its deceptions...  Manseau has created an exceptional story of how photography intersects with the hope that some heretofore unexplored scientific process will reveal something about the nature of man and our limitations."
Errol Morris, New York Times Book Review
"Manseau develops these threads so that The Apparitionists itself is like a photograph—each successive chapter adding depth and shade and specks of mystery, until the final result magically appears, provoking as many questions as it provides answers."
Karen Abbott, Wall Street Journal
"Given that the path loops through the Civil War, the telegraph, P.T. Barnum, spiritualism and a trained seal, it's impressive that The Apparitionists is as brisk a read as it is... Manseau finds a clever balance of historical remove and the immediacy of suspense, and manages to maintain a — perhaps necessary — agnosticism when it counts. Because as diverting (and telling) a history as it is, in the end, The Apparitionists is a biography about why we believe."
Genevieve Valentine, NPR
"The Apparitionists is breezy, clever, and exuberant."
"Wide-ranging and thought-provoking... In our age of digital manipulation, it is more important than ever to scrutinize every photograph, whether or not they contain ghosts."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Written like a novel but researched with academic rigor, this account of a photographer whose work seemed to incorporate images from the spirit realm stops short of either endorsing the veracity of the photographer's claim or debunking his work as a scam... A well-paced nonfiction work that reads more like a historical novel.”


“In this meticulously researched study of America’s dalliance with spiritualism..Manseau provides comprehensive context for his chronicle of Mumler, placing him at the intersection of the Spiritualist movement and the rise of the photographic art, and in the context of the Civil War, which acquainted Americans with death on an unprecedented scale.
Publishers Weeklystarred review

“More than just a fraud, William Mumler was a pioneer in the new art of photography—a striking technology that not only offered new levels of immediacy but also immediately offered itself up to manipulation, provoking questions of authenticity even as its uncanny effects offered a tantalizing vision of the unknown. He was a huckster, but like all successful hucksters, he was a perfect reflection of his time. Peter Manseau's The Apparitionists recreates Mumler's life with a scholar's poise and a storyteller's grace, offering an enduring portrait of the nineteenth century through one of its most unlikely figures.”

—Colin Dickey, author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

“Manseau has become the foremost chronicler of the deep American desire to believe in the weird, the strange, and oddly wonderful. His latest is lighthearted and yet grave, a profound consideration of death and doubt illuminated by a 19th century gallery of genius and ingenious deception. The dead speak in this brilliantly entertaining tale.”

Jeff SharletNew York Times bestselling author of The Family




Also by Peter Manseau:



Melancholy Accidents: Three Centuries of Stray Bullets and Bad Luck