Tomb of Tutankhamun when it was discovered in 1922

5 Upcoming Weird Books You Can Preorder Right Now

From the bizarre true history of cursed objects and books bound in human skin, to the fictional tale of Southern style vampire hunting.

The Spirit Photography of William H. Mumler

Who created the first spirit photograph? Here’s the history behind the final October Instagram giveaway question.
William H. Mumler created the first spirit photograph

Since we’ve been giving away copies of Colin Dickey’s new book Ghostland all month in memento mori-themed “Boxes of Weird” for the October Instagram trivia contest, it only seemed fitting to reach out to the author himself for the fourth and final question.

Mr. Dickey graciously accepted the challenge, asking “Who created the first spirit photograph?”

Interestingly, the question highlights a quirky bit of history. In 1862 a New York jewellery engraver and amateur photographer named William H. Mumler created what is considered the first spirit photograph when he accidentally shot a double exposure image. He joked with a friend that it was a ghost. The friend believed him and began spreading the word. Soon business was booming for Mumler as people who had lost loved ones in the civil war flocked to him for one last photo of the deceased.

Mumler even captured a photograph of the widowed Mary Todd Lincoln with what appeared to be the spirit of her assassinated husband, President Abraham Lincoln. Mumler claimed he didn’t even know who the woman was when he photographed her, so he couldn’t have faked the photo.

William H. Mumler spirit photograph of Abraham Lincoln
Spirit photograph of Abraham Lincoln by William H. Mumler, c.1872


Ironically, P. T. Barnum took him to court in 1869. The showman, who was responsible for numerous hoaxes himself, was accusing Mumler of fraud. Mumler, he said, was taking advantage of people whose judgment was clouded by grief. He supported this with claims that some of Mumler’s spirits were still among the living, as well as accusations that he had broken into people’s homes to steal photos of the deceased. The famed spirit photographer was found not guilty, but the accusations were enough to end his career.

While Mumler’s original photo is considered the first official spirit photograph, a man named W. Campbell from Jersey City actually did it first. A year prior to Mumler’s photo, Campbell took a test shot of an empty chair. But when the plate was developed, the image of a small boy had appeared in the chair. Campbell was never able to reproduce it, though, so Mumler’s uncanny ability to capture ghosts again and again was favored by the burgeoning spiritualist movement.

While the answer we were looking for was William H. Mumler, technically W. Campbell could not be discounted.

After putting it to vote, the winner of the 4th and final question this Halloween season is:

Spirit photography
Spirit photography by Troy Walter @fiend4halloween

There were a couple other really great contenders:

Spirit photography
Art by T. Davidsohn @thmdvdshn

William Mumler spirit photography
Mumler Family Photo by Squid @spookysquids

Memento Mori

Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities

Thank you so much to everyone who played along this month, there were so many great entries! And HUGE thanks to Viking Books for contributing copies of Ghostland by Colin Dickey, Dead Sled Brand for the Hearse Drivers Union buttons, Grave Digger Candles for the black beeswax spine candles, and Poison Apple Printshop for “The Pallbearers” patches!

Happy Halloween! Follow @cultofweird on Instagram. And don’t forget, when you find weird things on your adventures tag @cultofweird or #cultofweird.

Here are the results of the previous weeks:

October Instagram Giveaway of Doom II

Win a box full of morbid curiosities for the 2nd annual Instagram Halloween contest.
Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities
Memento mori

Last October I asked Cult readers to answer trivia questions by posting photos or videos representing the answers on Instagram. The photo with the correct (and most creative) answer won a “Box of Weird” filled with Halloween trinkets and a copy of Cult contributor J. Nathan Couch’s book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?

There were a lot of great answers using skulls, bones, Legos wearing necropants, hand-drawn art and more. So…I’ve decided to do it again. Except I’m upping the ante this time. Last year’s zombie finger puppets, rubber bugs, plastic skeletons and nose-shaped pencil sharpeners were fun, but I’ve been gathering things all year to make these boxes of weird much weirder.

Since Cult of Weird deals in morbid curiosities, I decided to dig up four MEMENTO MORI themed boxes featuring macabre contributions from a few of my favorite brands, as well as a haunting new release by author Colin Dickey from Viking Books.

What’s in the box?

There are only 4 boxes, available exclusively through this contest. No, sadly none of them contain Gwyneth Paltrow’s head. But each one does include:

Dead Sled Brand buttons and patches from Poison Apple Printshop
Coffin keychain, Dead Sled Brand buttons, “The Pallbearers” patch from Poison Apple Printshop

Black spine Halloween candle from Grave Digger Candles
Black spine candle from Grave Digger Candles

White scarab specimen preserved in lucite
White scarab specimen preserved in lucite

Ghostland by Colin Dickey
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

How to Enter

Follow Cult of Weird on Instagram and watch for a new question to be posted every Monday morning throughout October. Get creative and share a photo or video representing the correct answer on Instagram. Mention @cultofweird in the description and include hashtag #cultofweird so I’ll see it.

The winner will be chosen on Fridays.

UPDATE: 10/29/2016 The contest has ended. Here are the results:

10 Morbid Must-Reads for the Fall Season

Morbid and fascinating book recommendations for the fall season from the Cult of Weird book club.
2016 Cult of Weird fall reading list

If you’re looking for a macabre read for the fall season, something to curl up to while the air turns crisp and the veil thins, look no further. The list below has some compelling new releases, as well as some older work you may not have been aware of, to keep your brain cells tingling and your spine chilling this Halloween season.

Related: Weird Book Recommendations

Morbid Curiosities

Morbid Curiosities by Paul Gambino featuring the oddities collection of Ryan Matthew Cohn
Paul Gambino examines the truly extraordinary and bizarre objects in the collections of Ryan Matthew Cohn, Evan Michelson, and more. These macabre curiosities are showcased, some for the first time, with beautiful photos and accompanying descriptions illuminating the dark corners of history through skulls, occult objects, sideshow ephemera, mummified body parts, vintage spirit communication devices and other oddities.


Ghostland by Colin Dickey
Ghostland is a haunted roadtrip through history by way of America’s most notoriously dark places, where the spirits of the past refuse to rest.

A Season with the Witch

Halloween in Salem, MA is the focus of A Season with the Witch by J.W. Ocker
J.W. Ocker, travel writer and chronicler of strange destinations on Odd Things I’ve Seen, spent a Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts to see what makes it the “Capital of Creepy.”

Anatomical Venus

Anatomical Venus by Joanna Ebenstein
Joanna Ebenstein of the Morbid Anatomy Museum explores the grotesquely erotic wax anatomy work from the past depicting beautiful female figures in varying stages of dissection.

Tales of the Peculiar

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
Ransom Riggs, author of the enchantingly odd series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, expands on the bizarre mythos he’s dreamed up with a new installment of stories from the secret history of the peculiar world.

The Ghastling: Book Four

The Ghastling book four
The Ghastling is a series featuring genuinely chilling short stories by various authors. Book #4 is the latest installment, and it promises to be even more gruesome than previous issues.

The Victorian Book of the Dead

Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodward
Victorian-era dead and mourning traditions, ghost stories, premature burials, post-mortem photography, and bizarre tales unearthed from newspapers and journals from the 19th century.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities by Gordon Grice
A beginner’s guide to creating your own cabinet of curiosities, from finding and identifying specimens to preserving and mounting them for display.

The American Way of Death

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford
First published in 1963, then later updated for modern trends in 1996, Jessica Mitford’s celebrated book exposes the US death industry with wit and humor, tackling the embalming process, cremation, funerals and more.

The Rose Of Paracelsus

The Rose of Paracelsus: On Secrets and Sacraments by William Leonard Pickard
From the description: “A Harvard graduate student and researcher explores a global entheogen system, discovering their practices leading to cognitive enhancement and, arguably, the next human form.”

Looking for more? Check out these Weird Book Club picks from previous years: