W.E. – Great Thinkers Gallery: Lola Taft

The Mother of Shadowism

1911 – The early shock

It happened at the age of 10, her parents were away, and the nanny had fallen asleep. She stood up to get a drink of water from the kitchen, thought she heard something, turned around abruptly, and then saw what appeared to be a much larger version of herself stretching out on the floor.

When her parents came home that night, the nanny complained that Lola had been all hysterical and difficult to handle. Mr. and Mrs. Taft were patient people but had no tolerance for anyone speaking badly of their child, and so the young woman was promptly dismissed without a letter of recommendation.

In her bedroom that night and with both parents present, Lola tried to explain what she had seen, her eyes all red from having cried for hours. “It’s true mama and papa,” she swore. “The shadow was in front of me.”

“It is not possible,” said her father, a state-employed librarian who possessed impressive knowledge about a number of things. “Shadows are behind us my darling, and then only when there is strong sunshine or a strong source of light on a darker background. You must have seen a ghost!”

The word “ghost” made the child burst into tears once again, and Mrs. Taft slapped her husband’s wrist while trying to comfort her daughter. “This is no time for lectures, however correct,” she complained, which sufficed to send her husband to bed with a yawn. It had been a long evening, much talk and intake of wine and food, cigars for the men.

1923 – Free at last

Now a young independent woman, Lola had left home and taken residence in a remote cabin high up in the Wilmington Mountains, where she studied the Moon and its light, the slow wanderings of seasons and transitions between day and night. Using expensive cameras donated by the Willmar Foundation, she constantly photographed herself and her surroundings in the hope that her own shadow would appear in front of her. She had never succeeded, but made a decent profit selling some of the pictures to eccentric collectors back in Buenos Aires.

1926 – The Great Revelation

This was the year when she had to return to the city, worn out from loneliness and the unsustainable mix of soup and bread with only the weekly bottle of condensed milk. Although she carried no visible proof of her sightings, she did claim – as backed by detailed journal entries – to have seen her own shadow in front of her many, many times while in the mountains. She gave lectures on the subject, which proved a divisive undertaking, as those who believed her could not get along with those who labeled her a fake.

In 1928, now aged 27, she published her monumental thesis Tan Cierto Como la Combra Ante mis Propios Ojos Propios (“As True as the Shadow Before my Very Own Eyes.”) It was turned down by the university’s Doctoral Commission, but widely publicized in academic journals and beyond. Basically, it consisted of drawings and her diary entries, as supplemented by talk about the paranormal. “Without the paranormal and abnormal, there could never be normalcy,” she claimed in the preface. “It is our utter fear of succumbing to mysterious forces beyond our control that holds us in check, compelling us to lead regular and productive lives.”

She died from tuberculosis in the following year, and her final words upon her death bed were reported to have been: “My life had only the weight of my own shadow.”

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