A Truly Haunting DIY: Pepper’s Ghost Illusion

Pepper’s Ghost is an old theater illusion that’s perfect for a spooky Halloween setup.

A Truly Haunting DIY: Pepper's Ghost Illusion

Pradyoth Velagapudi, Columnist

The Pepper’s Ghost illusion is an old theater trick popularized by John Pepper in 1862. It is used to create a ghostly transparent image of an actor or model to simulate the presence of a ghost. The trick works by partially reflecting an image through a sheet of glass set at a 45-degree angle to both the hidden model and the audience. At this angle the glass is not visible to the audience and it also partially reflects the image of the model through, creating the illusion of a see-through spectral version of the model. Here is a fun and simple way to create a Pepper’s Ghost illusion of your own.

Materials:

  • A large cardboard box
  • A sheet of clear glass or plexiglass
  • A model (whatever you want your ghost to be)
  • Black paper or tape for the background
  • Decorating materials (to decorate the outside of the box)

Step 1: The Viewing Hole

Cut a small square in the bottom left corner of one of the smaller sides of the box. Make sure that the square isn’t longer than half the length of that side of the box, or too tall. This will be your viewing hole.

Step 2: The Background

Cover the inside of the box with black tape or paper. This will avoid reflection of extra light and intensify the illusion.

Step 3: The Glass

Insert the sheet of glass or plexiglass at a 45 degree angle (which should be diagonally across the inside of the box) to the viewing hole. Be sure to fasten it securely with super glue or tape. If using tape, use black tape to ensure that it is not too visible.

Step 4: The Model

Insert the model to the right of the viewing hole so that it is out of view when you look through–but also in front of–the glass.

Step 5: Decorate

Now is the time to decorate your box. You can make it look like a grave, a haunted mansion, or even wrap it in caution tape. Just remember, if you close up the box, you may need to light up your model inside.

You can also apply the same principal to insert a ghostly image into your photos without photo editing programs, or create a spectral floating head in your window at halloween. Just remember that bigger projects require bigger sheets of glass, and if you want to prank your friends with a ghostly version of you in the doorway, you’ll probably be spending hundreds of dollars on the glass itself. Whatever the case, just be creative, and you’re sure to have a Halloween to remember.