What is Pepper's Ghost?

Pepper's Ghost, an iconic 19th-century optical illusion, conjures ghostly apparitions seemingly out of thin air. Learn how this mesmerizing trick works and its captivating applications today.

Pepper's ghost is an optical illusion in which an object appears out of nowhere. John Henry Pepper introduced this method to imitate the illusion of sudden ghost appearances in theatres during the 19th century.

How To Create Pepper's Ghost?

The original Pepper's Ghost technique involves a hidden area containing an object and the show area.

Between these two areas is a piece of glass positioned at 45 degrees. This surface creates a ghostly image by reflecting the object from the hidden area into the show area. Additionally, the glass should be clear enough to look invisible to people from afar.

Each room has lights controlled by an operator. Firstly, the operator dims the lights of the hidden room, so viewers can't see the reflected image in the showroom. 

When lighting brightens in the hidden room, the image slowly appears in the showroom. For observers, a picture will reveal itself out of the blue.

Although it is possible to create the illusion in a well-lighted room, Pepper's ghost is more effective if the surroundings have low lighting.

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As said in the beginning, this technique originated in theatre plays in the 19th century. Back then, theatres would have a separate room beneath the main stage.

A person who will play as the ghost will act below the stage. Lights will illuminate the actor while mirrors reflect his image. Then, his reflection would travel towards the main scene, where the actor would appear ethereal among the audience.

You'll see this in amusement parks, carnivals, and museums today. To name a few examples:

  • The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland is a famous example that heavily uses this illusion. In an impressive scene, ghostly images of people eating dinner, dancing in a ballroom, and chilling around appear in a large banquet hall. The set-up consists of animatronics located in hidden areas. When riders arrive at the scene, lights illuminate the objects, and their images reflect in the banquet hall. 
  • Concerts have used this effect. During Coachella 2012, Tupac Shakur appeared as a "hologram". A projector above the stage projects a reel of Tupac's performance on a reflective surface below. Then, this surface bounces the image in a transparent film to create the "holograph" effect.

Created On
October 26, 2022
Updated On
December 28, 2023

Edgar Christian Dirige



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