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Peppers Ghost Hologram

This is the ultimate guide to creating a Pepper’s Ghost effect in 2022.

In this new guide, I’ll show you how to create a professional illusion that can be used in theater productions, museums, haunted houses, and amusement parks.

Here’s how a Pepper’s Ghost illusion works:

How the Illusion Works

Now that we’ve covered some of the lore behind Pepper’s Ghost, let’s get into the technical portions of how this works. Below is an example of one of method you can use to make this visual illusion.

*Skip ahead to 1:26 to see how Disney uses the world’s largest Pepper’s Ghost effect in their Haunted Mansion ride*

There are two versions to making this illusion come to life through the designs of Dircks’ and Pepper. Both father’s had their own method to creating Pepper’s Ghost. Companies of today are less likely to use these older methods. Today, computer based projects and animation software are more often utilized.

Dirck's Version

Dircks’ design used crafty lighting and reflection manipulation through glass panes. An actor playing a ghost stayed out of sight of the audience by being under the stage. Hence why most theaters didn’t want to use this method and redesign the stage floor to fit an actor beneath. The actor would stand across from a glass pane placed perpendicular to the theater floor. Through light manipulation, the ghost would illuminate onto the stage. The strength of the light determined how strong the apparition appeared on stage. The placement of the glass on the stage then reflected the actor to the audience on stage. This simple technique is still used today in amusement park attractions and rides.

Pepper's Version

Pepper’s method was able to bypass the issues Dircks’ creation faced. His technique could fit into almost any existing theater venue design. To use this trick, two rooms are necessary. The audience is facing one room, unaware of a second identical room. The second room holds objects or the actor out of sight of the viewer, only to be visible once light enters the space. The main room has a plate of glass placed at a 45 degree angle. When light enters the second room, the main room dims its lights to make the effect stand out. The reflection shows the hidden objects and actor within the second room, appearing in the main room out of thin air. This method is still popular in carnival shows like Girl to Gorilla, a film you can preview below this text.

Tools & Materials Needed

  • Glass Mirror
  • A Light Source
  • An Empty Room
  • A Display Box

Step 1: Building at Home

Step 1: Understanding Pepper’s Ghost and How it Works

To design a haunting hologram for Halloween, you will need a few materials to get started. The main components throughout are a pane of glass, a light source, and a space to setup your scene. I recommend starting small with a shoe box sized display to test your idea. Once you’ve tested your illusion, you can go bigger by setting up two rooms like the slider display below. Have your glass be placed 45 degrees between the two spaces. Then project your light into the second room holding your objects, while your main room remains empty. You can play around with the amount of light you want to use, as well as if you want a stationary object or live actor in the second room’s space.


This trick can work with photos, videos, or live performances

Step 2: Alternative Version

Step 2: Modern Technology

An alternative method to making this age old illusion, is to use modern day technology. Pre-made 3D models get made on computers, smartphones and animation software. These images are then projected onto an Optical Beam Splitter on stage. Compared to the ghost like look of Pepper’s Ghost, CGI holograms are view-able from all sides. These holograms come across in a crisp, clear high definition displays. This helps make the holograms appear even more life like being fully rendered. Video projection and motion capture technology combined create CGI “digital doubles.” These digital doubles can be of celebrities, politicians, and world leaders of today and years past. Old footage of performers can be altered in animation software to bring dead celebrities back to life. Famous performances like Tupac at Coachella in 2012 and Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Awards in 2014 make use of such technology.

Pro Tip 1:

pro tip 1

Programs like p5.js allow you to create an animation that can be projected onto a glass mirror on stage, giving an even more life Pepper’s Ghost effect without a live actor, prop and large stage room being needed on standby.

Pro Tip 2:

pro tip 2

You are also not limited to just using a glass mirror or Plexiglas to bring holograms into the real world. A smartphone can be all you need to summon fantastic illusions and holograms.

Pepper’s Cone is where you place a curved surface on a table to reflect the image on a 2D display. There are a few tips and tricks you will need to obtain this illusion, which can be found in the video above.

Pepper's Dome

This hologram dome is similar to the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion. It creates 3D images off a 2D surface.

Pepper's Glass

The looking glass is a unique interpretation of the Pepper’s Ghost effect. It creates an object inside of a piece of glass that you can interact and play with.

DIY Smartphone Version

You can even create your own Pepper’s Ghost illusion with your smartphone.

Bonus Info: Other Applications

Bonus info-

Pepper’s Ghost is commonly made through stage illusions in theater, but it has also been shown in amusement parks, museums, television shows and movies, as well as at live concert performances. Some of today’s modern rides use computer generated images instead of real models reflected back to the audience. Here is a list of other Pepper’s Ghosts you may come across out at these locations.

Twilight Zone (Walt Disney World)

The above video shows the ballroom dancing from the Twilight Zone attraction in Walt Disney World. The video gives you insider footage of the attraction, and how it works.

Myster Lodge (Knott's Berry Farm)

The above video shows a part of the Myster Lodge (Knott’s Berry Farm) where he creates the Pepper’s Ghost illusion in fire.

Ghosts of the Library (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum)

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum exhibits a Pepper’s ghost illusion where a ghost of Abraham Lincoln makes an appearance.

Hogwarts Express (Universal Studios)

The Harry Potter Universal Studios uses the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion that allows people to “walk through a brick wall” to reach Platform 9 3/4.

Aside from the wonders amusement parks can offer with these illusions, live concerts have really upgraded their style by bringing performers to life! They can even sometimes bring deceased performers back to life as well. Singers like Gorillaz, Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson and Frank Zappa have all been brought to life through this technology.

These types of displays take more custom projection media server software, as well as specialized stretched film with added animation overlays

Bringing Non-Living Celebrities to Life

The video above shows a performance that was created using the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion that allows artists who are no longer living to perform for a live audience.

Tupac Shakur

In 2012, Tupac was able to perform with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre for a Coachella live performance. Tupac was created using the Pepper’s Ghost mirror illusion.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was also able to perform for a live audience as well using the Pepper’s Ghost illusion.

Gorillaz 2006

The Gorillaz were able to create a Pepper’s Ghost effect, too!

Graveyard Games

This haunted house is a Universal Studios original. They created the story-line, characters and implemented realism to make the story behind the house come alive.

When you are waiting in line they have a huge projection screen showing a live Facebook feed of two teenagers, Sid and Nancy, and their antics to damage the cemetery where the glowing mother resides and watches over. Normally she likes children but not when they are there to do wrong.

This haunted house has two mirror illusions that I have seen and found in my walkthroughs: an infinity mirror and a pepper’s ghost illusion. I’ll outline them in the details below and a timestamp of a walk-through from YouTube. The video is not mine but it does show the illusions quite nicely.

One of my favorite parts is actually not a mirror illusion but a sound illusion. At the very end there is a dark tunnel that has been completely sound proofed.

When the person turns the camera toward the skeleton they are frightened and in an instant the scare-actor disappears. You don’t see a mirror though in its place so it has to be a pepper’s ghost effect to show the wall behind where the scare-actor appears and disappears.

At 1:38 when the person holding the camera rounds the corner, they are met by the same actor coming from behind a black curtain. This is because in order for the pepper’s ghost effect to work, the actor has to be in a dark area and illuminate themselves to be seen.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hello, I imagine that your beam splitter mirror, for the pepper’s ghost above, involves a film adhered to a piece of glass/acrylic or some sort of coating. The piece didn’t look particularly thin in the video. How is it that the reverse side of the mirror does not also reflect some light, creating a double image? Thanks

    1. Hi! Thank you for your interest in our products! The glass itself has a specialized coating on it that allows it to be both transparent and reflective. We have different thicknesses of the beam splitter glass! 🙂 The light travels through the glass. Here is a video that demonstrates the quality behind the glass

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