Just a reminder – the essay contest ends this Friday….at midnight! That comes off much scarier if you read it with a Boris Karloff accent. And speaking of horror:

A dive into the fascinating pre-history of cinema (or rather, as that grouping seems unfair, several disparate inventions that when lumped together chronologically sort of point the way to what would eventually become cinema) led to the phantasmagoria, a macabre performance incorporating special effects and gruesome projections by way of some form of magic lantern. Several popular phantasmagoria were even staged in tombs, though as they were abandoned Capuchin tombs I doubt the good monks minded much.

image from the Magic Lantern Society

One standout show was put on by Johann Georg Schröpfer, a coffee-shop owner-turned-necromancer/illusionist. He claimed he summoned spirits during his performances, and even held a seance for Prince Charles of Saxony. Unfortunately for Schröpfer, he believed his own hype and committed what appeared to be suicide, shooting himself in the head after telling a small group he would resurrect himself soon. Most sources repeat the same small bits about him, though this account goes a bit deeper.

Historically the phantasmagoria’s been wildly popular in lands rife with fear and uncertainty, including post-revolutionary Paris and America. Considering the current climate, perhaps it’s time for a revival.

Below are some magic lantern images, courtesy of Early Visual Media Archaeology

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