Ghost Illusions

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Ghost Illusions can refer to a theatrical technique or it can be (part of) the name of a particular theatrical presentation. Often in vaudeville style productions.

The term

The term Ghost Illusion (or Ghost Illusions) usually refers to a version of the famous "Pepper's ghost" illusion[1], named after the English scientist John Henry Pepper (1821–1900) who popularized the effect in a demonstration in 1862. His demonstration was usually referred to along the lines of "Prof. Pepper's Ghost" or simply The Ghost.

In stage performances of this kind the usual process is that the audience faces a stage or room with various objects in it, and then - on command - various ghostly objects or individuals appear to fade in or out of existence in the room, or objects in the room transform into different objects.

The technique, like the magic lantern, has been widely used in the theatre (as well as in amusement parks, museums, television, concerts and so on) since that time.

Specific theatrical presentations by this name produced in South Africa

Ray and Cooper's Ghost

1865: Presented as "Prof. Pepper's Ghost, as exhibited at the Polytechnic, London" in the Theatre Royal Cape Town by the Ray and Cooper Company on 6 November, apparently "illustrating the drama of Faust ". Also performed were The Harvest Storm (Hazlewood) and the Bal Masqué (Minstrel show)

1865: Repeated (as Ghost) in the Theatre Royal Cape Town by the Ray and Cooper Company on 13 and 14 November, now with The Harvest Storm (Hazlewood), selections from Faust and Marguerite (Carré) and Which shall I Marry? (Suter).

D'Arcy Read's Ghost Illusions

1871-2: Performed (exhibited) on tour in the Cape Colony, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town by D'Arcy Read and the D'Arcy Read Theatrical Company. The first performance took place as part of a Grand Fête Champetre, held in the Company Gardens, Cape Town, on 27 November 1871 and apparently playing on and off till 17 February, 1872.

See also D'Arcy Read and the D'Arcy Read Theatrical Company


D.C. Boonzaier, 1980. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 192-3, 201-2, 230-254, 292-299, 319.

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