Victorian-era English scientist John Henry Pepper was a lecturer with a flare for theatrics. In the mid-1800s, he teamed up with civil engineer Henry Dircks to popularize a ghostly illusion that’s now called a Pepper’s Ghost.
In these three videos, multimedia artist and California College of the Arts professor Joshua Ellingson demonstrates how to create your own Pepper’s Ghost using a variety of containers, shapes, materials, and devices.
The magic can be found in a sheet of clear glass or plastic that’s positioned at a 45° angle. He explains:
“People have asked me how do you project into your container to make a Pepper’s Ghost, and I think it’s important to understand that that’s not how it works – it’s not a projection; it’s a reflection… let’s just have it in your mind that it’s more like a mirror than a projection movie screen.”
A bit more from Science.org:
“‘Pepper’s Ghost,’ as it is still known, made its debut at the Polytechnic in a Christmas performance of Charles Dickens’s Haunted Man in 1862. Dircks signed over to Pepper all financial rights in their joint patent, worth many thousands of pounds. But the two men soon fell out over issues of priority. Pepper’s Ghost later became associated with fairgrounds and popular cinema, featuring in Disney’s ‘Haunted Mansion’ ride and in classic films by Alfred Hitchcock and Francis Ford Coppola.”
In this Instagram reel, Ellingson demonstrates how to make a Pepper’s Ghost with a phone and snack packaging:
• Pepper’s Ghost ‘Hologram’ Illusion, a lesson activity from Vancouver’s Science World.
• Peppergram vs Hologram, a .pdf from Laser Classroom.
• Pepper’s Ghost Resources and Demos from Ellingson.tv.
• TKSST’s Pepper’s Ghost Background Videos Playlist from The Kid Should See This.
Find a few black background videos in this TKSST playlist, then enjoy these illusion and how-to videos next:
• Make a 3D “hologram” using your smartphone & a CD jewel case
• Turn your smartphone into a digital microscope for around $10
• Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion by Kokichi Sugihara
• The praxinoscope
• Quirkology’s 10 Amazing Optical Illusions (and how to make them)
• The Reversing Arrow Illusion: An amazing & easy trick for all ages