Sepia toned photo of man sitting facing sideways on the left with a faded apparition of a child superimposed in the center
Photo from William Mumler Collection. Creative Commons.

In the mood for some spirits? Guilford Hall Brewery is offering more than just the kind you can drink on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m.

“Photos of Ghosts,” Baltimore’s first “Profs and Pints” event, promises to get the audience into the Halloween spirit, with Beth Saunders, art historian and photo curator at the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Saunders will lead a discussion on the “long, strange history of photos that purportedly captured the images of ghosts or other uncanny subjects, such as saints or projected human thoughts,” reads the press release. “She’ll tell tales of strange characters, project onto the screen unexplained images and famous doctored photos and discuss how various spiritual movements and advancements in technology converged to give rise to sensational images that became the focus of media coverage and of controversy.”

Profs and Pints is a program “devoted to democratizing access to higher learning and providing scholars with new audiences.” It launched in Washington, D.C. and has expanded to a number of cities, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Richmond. The Guilford Hall Brewery event will be the program’s Baltimore debut.

“Photos of Ghosts” will examine three moments in the history of spirit photography that “sparked public debates between skeptics and believers.” The fraud trial of photographer William Mumler, who rose to fame in the 1860s with portraits featuring “apparitions of the deceased loved ones of those depicted;” the case of Ted Serios, who in the 1960s claimed to be able to project his thoughts onto film; and more recently, orb photographs made with cell phone cameras.

Profs and Pints was founded in 2017 and has frequently brought speakers from Baltimore’s higher-education institutions to other cities for its programs. “[M]any of its audience members have been Baltimore residents willing to travel to attend its talks. With its expansion to Baltimore, it hopes to make its talks far more accessible to the city’s residents and more routinely showcase the scholarly talent of the colleges and universities in and around the city.”

“Many residents of Baltimore and surrounding communities already have enjoyed Profs and Pints events in Washington D.C., in Annapolis, or online,” says Peter Schmidt, the company’s founder. “By establishing a presence at downtown Baltimore’s Guilford Hall Brewery, I hope to make it easier for them and others in the area to attend Profs and Pints talks. They’ll be able to learn from outstanding professors for the price of an inexpensive ticket and whatever they want to order off the menu—or about as much as they would pay to go to the movies.”

Schmidt is a veteran education journalist and policy analyst. Since he founded Profs and Pints, the organization has staged more than 500 venue-based talks, and more than 200 webinars. The concept was inspired partly by the academies and symposia of ancient Greece, and its speakers aim to represent the full gamut of academic fields, including art, astronomy, economics, history, law, medicine, philosophy, political science, psychology, and religious studies.

Guilford Hall Brewery is in Station North at 1611 Guilford Ave.

“Photos of Ghosts” takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees, and can be purchased by clicking this link. At the door, prices are $17, or $15 with a student ID.

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