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How to make the Hologram Pepper's Ghost Illusion

A Pepper’s Ghost Hologram is a super neat effect created by placing a display out of view. Then projecting into a transparent mirror known as a beamsplitter mirror. These Illusions are seen all over the World in haunted houses, hands on exhibits, Universal Studios and even Disneyworld.

A Pepper’s Ghost Illusion uses an animation on a Black Background to create a floating image in midair.

The essential device employed to stage the illusion is an optical beam splitter operated in a mirror to combine two images towards the audience point of view. The image of one scene is reflected from the glass surface towards the viewers. The image of a second scene is transmitted through the glass! If you look closely at the photo beneath, you can see the gentlemen jumping through what looks like a wall, but it is actually a reflection of a wall. (Click on the image to get a better look)

The Pepper's Ghost Illusion in Action

The stage lighting is controlled to selectively illuminate the objects observed, being careful not to create reflections on the glass itself, which is invisible to the observers. The combined image is genuine and not an illusion. The illusion element of this effect is the audience not detecting the glass. That is why it’s crucial to have the very highest grade dielectric beamsplitter mirror with no tint. 

Pepper's Ghost vs. Hologram

A hologram is a physical structure that uses light diffraction to make a 3 dimensional image. Although, a hologram is a photographic recording of a light field rather than an image formed by a lens. When a laser beam is split up to make a hologram, the light waves in the two parts of the beam traveling in identical ways. The information is burned permanently into the photographic plate by the laser beams. So a hologram is effectively a permanent record of what something looks like seen from any angle.

Peppers Ghost Illusion, a hologram

Now the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion is sometimes called a Hologram, though it is not consider a hologram. A Pepper’s Ghost Illusion is a optical illusion using ray optics, this is the science of how much light will travel.

Who invented this Illusion?

In the 1860’s, Henry Dircks was an inventor that had built an optical illusion that had manipulated effects using light and glass, this was called the Dircksian Phantasmagoria. though, this really didn’t gain any attraction because the invention was super expensive and complicated.

A gentleman, John H Pepper, came up with an easier way to use Dirck’s effect using only a sheet of glass. This soon became very popular, naming the illusion after him, Pepper’s Ghost. 

Over the years, haunted houses and amusement parks started to adapt all sorts of variations of this illusion.

DIY Pepper's Ghost

Making a Pepper’s Ghost Illusion is quite simple! You will need the following materials:

  1. A display Box
  2. A light Source
  3. A Mirror, glass or Plexiglas/Acrylic
  4. Empty Room/Space

Once you have all of the materials, we can get started.

You will need to place your glass at a 45 degree angle between both of your spaces. You can use some type of mount for this, or simply rig something so the glass stays in place.

Now, you will need your light source, this can be a flashlight. Place your objects you are using on one side, along with your flashlight. You will need your main space empty to achieve this effect. You will need to play around with the amount of light, and angel of the glass. Watch the video below for a better understanding.

Pepper's Ghost around the World today

You can find this Illusion in so many places around the World in cinema’s, amusement parks, concerts, television, theatre, and so much more! The first appearance was in 1862 on stage of The Haunted Man.  

In this play, a large piece of glass was placed at an angle on the stage, then the image of an actor would reflect onto the stage. This gave the illusion of ghosts on the stage.

House of Haunted Hill

This film was brought to us in 1959, directed by William Castle. The base line of this film is if you want to win $10,000 then you must stay in the house overnight. Throughout the night in this haunted house, ghost seem to appear and scare all the people in the house. The ghost you see in the fil, is the effect of the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion. This film is still shown all over the World using the same mirror illusion.

Pepper's Ghost Illusion in House on Haunted Hill

Ghost of the Library

This illusion has Abraham Lincoln involved, also Mary as well as their contemporaries momentarily. The scene is placed in a Library, where Mr. Lincoln comes back to life. The host of the Library then places a old Civil War coat and suddenly transforms into a Civil War Solider that had passed in a battle. The way this is created is by using the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion, vapors, and smoke. The vapors then were able to condense to form images that looked real.

Pepper's Ghost Mirror Illusions around the World

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

This Museum is the largest Tennis Museum in the World, inside of one of the room is the ghost of John McEnroe’s. He was a former professional American tennis player. He is shown using a Pepper’s Ghost Illusion at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum located in London, England.

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock, United Kingdom. This being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, this is a great tourist option when you are in the UK. The ghost of Eighth Duke is within the walls of this historical Palace.

Blenheim Palace
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