What do Aladdin and I have in common?
One of the coolest things in magic history is the magic lantern. A device which is essentially a medieval version of a modern slide projector. Although the history is a bit difficult to pin down, the magic lantern is generally thought to have been invented in the late 1650’s by Christiaan Huygens. However there is evidence that a similar device existed in the early 15th Century created by Giovanni Fontana.
Giovanni’s device projected an image of a demon and in fact this seems to have set the trend in how the devices were used for at least a couple of centuries as they were taken up by magicians and conjurers to project images of ghosts, devils, demons, animate inanimate objects or convince people that their loved ones could be spoken to from beyond the grave or even brought back to life.
By the 18th century they devices were being used in seances and eventually a Belgian inventor named Etienne-Gaspard Robert eventually created a theatrical show called “Phantasmagoria” using the devices to create a whole variety of images for entertainment.
As you might well imagine this is a real amazing kind of thing. A really cool bit of history for magic, theater and the movies.
So imagine how utterly floored, completely dumbfounded and increadibly stunned I am to now have in my possesion an actual antique Magic Lantern, complete with intact glass slides for the device. I am floored.
My birthday is coming up in a few weeks. My apprentice happened to find one at an estate sale yesterday and gave me an early birthday present. I am so moved words can not describe it.
It needs a little TLC but it is already actually functional. I need to sort through the glass slides and see what is there. Some are numbered so there may actually be a set telling a story. If so, I’ll need to find the story. When I’m ready I think I will try and add this to my Carnival.
But I have a real Magic Lantern. Just like Aladdin.
To give you an idea of the kinds of things that were accomplished with Magic Lanterns take a look at this video. The lantern I have isn’t as sophisticated as the one used to create these images, but the tech is very similar.
Posted on June 29, 2013, in Ancient Inventions, Carnival, Entertainment, Hoax, Magic - Historical and tagged ancient inventions, carnival, entertainment, magic, magician. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.