One of my favorite things to do is trying to figure out how something is done. I was one of those kids that would take things apart to learn how they are built and then put it back together, most of the time. My absolute favorite attraction is the Haunted Mansion, and going through I’m always amazed at how the Imagineers created some of the effects that still excite fans to this day.
When I first started to research the effects of the Haunted Mansion and how things were done, I read a lot about “Pepper’s Ghost” not to be confused with a Ghost Pepper..ha!. Pepper’s Ghost is named after the English scientist John Henry Pepper who used the effect in a demonstration in 1862.
The place I kept reading about, that used this effect, is the Grand Hall or as it’s most commonly referred to, the ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion. This scene in the mansion houses many different Pepper’s Ghost effects. From the numerous spirits that materialize in the ballroom, from the elderly woman sitting in the rocking chair to the ghosts coming in the door, to the group around the table celebrating a birthday, one of the ghosts at the table is Great Caesar’s Ghost. Some of the other ghosts in the ballroom include the dancers, the two gentlemen having a duel and let’s not forget about Pickwick, the spirit drunkenly swinging from the chandelier by his cane.
So you may be wondering how the Pepper’s Ghost effect works to make the ghosts appear and disappear before your eyes. The basics of the effect involves placing a large piece of glass at an angle between a brightly lit “stage” room into which viewers look straight ahead and a hidden room. The glass reflects the hidden room, kept dark, that holds a “ghostly” scene.
As you pass by the ballroom scene, the effects are above and below the track you are riding along in your Doombuggy. I found a great image to give you a visual of how the set up is done. This image is from the site Haunted Dimensions and I wanted to share it with you.
The effect appears and disappears, due to the light being turned on and off on the animatronic that is then reflected and displayed for the guests of the Haunted Mansion as they pass by the scene.
With all the technological advances and the way things can be done, Disney is still using this effect over 150 years after John Henry Pepper used the effect for his own purpose. You can also find this effect used in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror when you see the elevator passengers appear down the hall as you make your way up the tower. Pretty interesting, isn’t it? I hope you found this as fascinating as I did… till next time!
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