Conjure Up Pepper’s Ghost

For 160 years, Pepper’s Ghost has haunted theatres and stages across the globe. We’re going to show you how to summon this spooky visitor in your own home.

Don’t worry, Pepper’s Ghost isn’t a real spectre from beyond the grave. It’s a magic trick using the science of light and mirrors. It was made famous in the 19th Century when John Henry Pepper used it to create chilling ghost effects for theatres. While it bears Pepper’s name, people had been using effects like it since at least 1584. Believe it or not, this super old trick is still being used today.

Despite the unimpressed looks from the audience, Pepper’s Ghost is a fantastic special effect.

Pepper’s Ghost works by putting a see-through, reflective surface (like glass or thin plastic film) between the audience and the stage. At a 45 degree angle, it can reflect an actor hidden offstage, making it look like some transparent figure was onstage. Actors on the other side of the glass could pretend to interact with the reflection.

We made our own tiny version with this house (seen below), which normally has tea candles in it. You could use a shoebox or build a room out of Lego.

As well as the soon-to-be-haunted house, you’ll need:
– Paper
– Scissors
– Tape
– A light source (maybe a phone or a torch)
– Transparent, reflective stuff (We used the plastic packaging from a recent online order.)

Sure, it doesn’t look too spooky now, but just you wait!

First, we cut some plastic to shape and made a little paper ghost. Then worked out the perfect angle for the effect before taping them down.

Told you it would get scary. Look out! A ghost!

It’s important that the ‘real’ ghost is hidden from the viewer, behind a wall or around a corner.

This bit can get a bit fiddly. Just have patience. I believe in you!

We also covered up most of the windows in the wee house because it helps if there’s no excess light. This means there’s nothing interfering when you shine a light on your ghost, creating a good clear reflection.

The finished, ghostly product. Unlike most photos of supernatural creatures, this one’s not blurry.

It’s super simple but eerily effective. In fact, in these days of super-realistic CGI special effects, we still use Pepper’s Ghost on film, amusement park rides and live performances. When performers like Michael Jackson or Tupac are brought back from the dead for live concerts, they’re Pepper’s Ghosts – only instead of reflecting an actor, they’re reflecting a bright screen or projection. In fact, most times you see a hologram, it’s really Pepper’s Ghost made to look all blue and Star Warsy.

Happy haunting everyone!