Bid For a Piece of the Past in London’s Auctions

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Antique auctions are something of an institution in London. But when it’s a photograph taken by London’s most famous literary icon going under the hammer, the city is in for an exciting bid.

While most auctions attract only professional dealers, collectors, and those with a penchant for Russian art, occasionally there comes an auction that everyone wants to see.

Last year, possessions of the East End’s notorious Kray twins were auctioned for more than £100,000 and next month it’s the turn of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes detective series.

Doyle not only documented life in 19th century London through his fictional characters, but he was also a paranormal photographer.

His ghostly photograph, believed to have been “taken with one exposure only,” is said to be the ghost of a young girl sitting on the lap of a young man. Whether the spirit in the image is indeed real or not, the signed 2.5 by 4.5-inch photograph is expected to reach a substantial sum.

The photograph is being auctioned by London-based Fraser’s Autographs, on June 17, 2010. Auctioneer Olivia Odell said the image “is quite chilling to look at,” and added, “It is certainly a completely unique piece signed by the great man himself.”

Although Conan Doyle’s most famous character, Sherlock Holmes, was strictly a man of scientific reasoning and logic, following the death of his wife in 1906 and then the death of his son to battle, Doyle became fascinated by spiritualism. Convinced of the existence of fairies and spirits he became a member of The Ghost Club, founded in Cambridge in 1862. Was this Doyle’s 19th-century method to deal with grief?

London’s auctions attract collectors from all over the world. When a sale is as conversationally provoking as Doyle’s spirit photograph, wouldn’t we all like to bid for a piece of London’s history?

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