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How to raise a Ghost
part 1

From the dawning of history of the magic lantern there was a strong connection with death and everything that has to do with it. The story goes that one of the inventors, Athanasius Kircher, scared the living daylights out of irregular churchgoers by projecting images of the devil and the death on the paper windows of their simple houses.
Phantoms and ghosts, churchyards and skeletons were regular returning subjects during magic lantern shows.

In October 1833 an illustrious apparition could be seen in Amsterdam, at the 'Oude Schans'. This phenomenon draw a good crowd every evening, until it turned out to be a trick. Probably some students, using a magic lantern, were responsible for the illusion.

In 1834 Jacob van Oosterwijk Bruyn publiced a smal rhyme that the Amsterdam people sung for a long time:
Al op de Oude Schans
Daar is de Spokendans
En aan de overzij
Daar lopen de meisjes vrij.




The days of witchcraft and sorcery are happily past; and when in this nineteenth century any phenomenon savouring of the inventions of romantic fiction gains the public ear, explanatory suggestions, based on known principles of science, are immediately forth-coming, and the mystery is soon solved.

This was well illustrated in the case of the popular illusion called "the Ghost," which attracted so much attention at the Polytechnic Institution a few years ago. This illusion has special claims to notice in the present work, on account of the Magic Lantern, as a source of brilliant light, being indispensable to its successful production.

The frontispiece so clearly shows the conditions necessary to be observed in this, the modern method of." raising a ghost, that a verbal description is almost unnecessary. It will be seen that the spectators are placed in a distant and for the most part elevated portion of an assembly-room, which is darkened. In front of these is a stage, upon which actors are engaged.

The spectators regard both as living actors, while in reality one is but "the shadow of a dream," and "coming like a, shadow, so departs." The real "woman in white" stands under the stage, concealed from the spectators by the usual board near the orchestra; the Magic Lantern, illuminated by the oxyhydrogen light, directs its beams full upon her figure, the reflection of which appears as far behind the inclined plate of glass as the real figure is in front. The living actor on the stage, notwithstanding his expressive attitude of surprise, really sees nothing, and is simply staring at a portion of space where he has been previously instructed "the apparition comes," the spectators alone being so situated that they "take false shadows for true substances."

It will thus be seen that the peculiar feature of the exhibition consists in associating living actors with those which are merely visionary, and in so sustaining the illusion that no distinguishable difference shall appear to the spectators until the requirements of the scene necessitate the vanishing of the spectre. The disappearance or "vanishing" of the Ghost is produced by simply turning of the light either suddenly or gradually, according to circumstances.

The minute details requiring attention are such as result from reflection: e. g., if the phantom has to raise her right arm, the left arm of the solid figure under the stage should be raised. Similar points should be attended to in dressing the person whose reflection will be seen by the spectators; if armed, the sword should hang on the right side; if writing, it should be done with the left hand, &c., &c.

Source: The Magic Lantern. How to buy and how to use it; also How to raise a Ghost, by 'a mere Phantom'. London, Houlson and Wright 1870.


Dutch Translation: De Tooverlantaarn. De Wijze van samenstelling en gebruik, alsmede De Kunst om een Geest op te wekken, door een Spook. Amsterdam, C.L. Brinkman, 1873.


De Phantasmagoria van Robertson.

Étienne-Gaspard Robert was fascinated by science from a young age and studied physics at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, becoming a professor specialising in optics. His work with optics would later be extremely useful for his theatrical career, but in 1791 Robert left Belgium and moved to Paris, intending to pursue a career as an artist.

After his move to France, Robert began developing the show that was to make him famous: the phantasmagoria.
Robert took the basic technology of the magic lantern and applied his knowledge of optics to it so that the projected images could expand or shrink in size. Robert secured a patent for a magic lantern on wheels – the Fantascope – in 1799.

Skilfully painted slides were used for the images of ghouls and phantoms. The use of smoke and mirrors helped to conceal the projectors, and Robert employed a cast of actors and ventriloquists to provide music, movement and voices to add to the spectacle.
Les Spectres (the Ghosts). French trade card, depicting the trick of the ghost illusion on stage, and advertising a chicory-product.
Another way......


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