This 162 Year Old Trick STILL Fools People (Including Experts) in Disney World Every Day

Disney World attractions are full of so many amazing special effects that are well ahead of their time.

The Haunted Mansion

From the visual effects used in Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the groundbreaking OmniCoaster of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT, Disney is constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be. However, there’s one 162-year-old special effect that still could be one of the best in Disney World.

That special effect is Pepper’s Ghost, and we’re going to tell you all about it.

History of Pepper’s Ghost

The Pepper’s Ghost special effect was first used by an English scientist named John Henry Pepper in 1862 after showing off the projection effect at a theatre demonstration. As a result, a new kind of theatrical production became popular, using the effect in many ghost-themed plays.

Public domain photo of John Henry Pepper

It turns out Pepper was onto something, because that effect continues to be used in theater, movies, museums, TV shows, concerts, and more.

What IS Pepper’s Ghost

Pepper’s Ghost refers to a projection technique that uses an object, panes of glass, and some perfectly placed light. It usually involves a stage or set arranged in two rooms, one that people can see, and a second that’s hidden. The glass is placed in the main room at an angle that reflects the view of the hidden room.

Public domain diagram explaining Pepper’s Ghost

The glass catches a reflection from an actor or figure that you can’t see and then projects it into the room where you can see it.

How Disney World uses the effect

That sounds confusing, but Pepper’s Ghost is the effect you see inside the Haunted Mansion’s ballroom scene. All those ghosts dancing about that still fool people TODAY? Yep, it’s this REALLY old special effect.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s how Disney Legend Rolly Crump explained how Imagineers used it in the Haunted Mansion:

The ghostly figures are mannequins in a hidden version of the ballroom, and it’s their reflections that have bounced off the glass that you see in the version of the ballroom you see as your Doom Buggy goes by. The glass is angled in such a way that it makes the Happy Haunts seem to be dancing above the floor.

Haunted Mansion Ballroom Scene ©Disney

Even though we KNOW how it works, this 162-year-old “technology” still blows us away with just how good it looks each time. It just goes to show that sometimes, the best effects are the simple and older ones.

Check back with AllEars again soon for more.

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