Magic Shadows: The Story of the Origin of Motion Pictures

By Martin Quigley Jr. | Go to book overview
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IX
PHANTASMAGORIA

Magic lanterns mounted on wheels
and images projected on screens of
smoke make ghost shadow plays--Rob-
ertson "resurrects" Louis XVI--Théâtre
Robert Houdin, Paris, 1845, Polytechnic
Institution, London, 1848 and Nazi
Army, 1940--all use magic shadows for
supernatural effects
.

THE TONGUE-TWISTING word, Phantasmagoria, stands for a certain type of light and shadow show popular immediately after the French Revolution. It marked a definite throwback in the story of magic shadows. It was essentially a revival of the medieval black magic or necromantic use of light and shadow to trick, deceive and keep everyone "in the dark about light."

Phantasmagoria is the magic lantern illusion associated with making phantasms appear before an audience. The only contribution to the art-science is that it created an illusion of motion through the novel means of moving the projector instead of the slides or film.

The Phantasmagoria magic lantern was mounted on rollers and the lens was adjustable so that ghosts would appear to grow and diminish and move about. Certain dissolve effects were also produced. For Phantasmagoria the images--regularly ghosts--were projected not on a screen but on smoke, a factor which naturally contributed to the weird effects.

Phantasmagoria was most popular in Paris in the late 1790s, probably as some kind of a psychological reaction to the horrors

-75-

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