Pepper's Ghost

Definition

Theater

  • A striking Victorian stage effect used to create the appearanceof a ghostly figure on stage. The illusion was the origin of the expression"It's all done with mirrors". Henry Dircks, a retiredengineer, was the first to suggest that a piece of glass held at anangle of 45° to the front of the stage could be used to throwthe image of an actor concealed in the orchestra pit onto the stage.John Henry Pepper (1821 - 1900), director of the Royal PolytechnicInstitution in London, bought the idea from Dircks in 1862 and renamedit 'The Ghost Illusion'. Dickens used it that Christmas Eve for adramatic reading of his The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain(1848).

    Pepper's Ghost, as it became known, first appeared on theprofessional stage in 1863, when it was used at the Britannia Theatre,London, and at Wallack's Theatre, New York. The effect's novelty valuesoon wore off, however, mainly because the reflected ghost could notspeak and was difficult to position. It survived into the 20th centuryat provincial fairs, but was superseded on stage by back-lit gauze.

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