Phantasmagoria

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Interpretation of Robertson's Fantasmagorie,1867

Phantasmagoria was a type of live entertainment and horror show from the 1800s. It use one or more magic lanterns to project frightening images such as skeletons, demons, and ghosts onto walls, smoke, or semi-transparent screens. Typically rear projection was used to keep the lantern out of sight. Mobile or portable projectors were used; this allowed the projected image to move and change size on the screen, and multiple projecting devices allowed for quick switching of different images. In many shows the use of spooky decoration, total darkness, sound effects, (auto-)suggestive verbal presentation and sound effects were also key elements. Some shows added all kinds of sensory stimulation, including smells and electric shocks. Even required fasting, fatigue (late shows) and drugs have been mentioned as methods of making sure spectators would be more convinced of what they saw. The shows started under the guise of actual séances in Germany in the late 18th century, and gained popularity through most of Europe (especially England) throughout the 19th century.