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Pepper's Ghost Theatre

Difficulty Level: 5/5 very difficult

Parts and Tools

  • Timber pieces:
    • 500 x 250 x 10mm
    • 300 x 280 x 10mm
    • 300 x 500mm
    • 500 x 50 x 10mm
    • 280 x 50 x 10mm
    • 280 x 100 x 10mm x 2
    • 100 x 30 x 10mm
    • 30 x 30 x 10
    • 500 x 280 x 10 (lid)
    • 500 x 210 x 10 (door)
  • Plywood piece: 130 x 280
  • Pane of glass approx 280 x 150mm
  • Small ghost figure
  • 2 hinges and screws
  • Thin nails
  • PVA wood glue
  • Glue gun and glue
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Sandpaper
  • Protractor
  • Ruler
  • Tenon saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Acrylic paint and paintbrush

Instructions

The original Pepper's Ghost was used to great effect in theatres since the 1860s to create ghostly apparitions. A large plate glass was mounted at the front of the stage at a 45° angle which reflected brightly lit objects placed off stage essentially super-imposing these objects with the set and actors.

A common example of a 'Pepper's Ghost' can be seen when looking out of a window on a dark evening, a lamp or bright object in the room will seem to 'float' in the garden showing that the glass not only allows you to see through it but is also reflecting light from the object in the room.

This model represents the original stage version of Pepper's ghost and works in the same manner. There is quite a lot of carpentry required in this model but we have scaled this model so that measurements are easy to follow.

Fig 1: Base unit and walls
Fig 1: Base unit and walls

Fig 1 shows the base and walls of the model side-on. Each piece should be glued using PVA wood glue and then nailed. The timber used can be either MDF, chipboard or a softwood, the thickness of which should be 10 or 12mm.

Fig 2: Measurements of additional pieces
Fig 2: Measurements of additional pieces

Fig 2 shows the measurements of the additional pieces. These also need to be glued and then nailed into place. After cutting each piece, make sure all edges are smoothed using sandpaper.

Fig 3: Glass panal and 'stage' top in place
Fig 3: Glass panal and 'stage' top in place
Fig 4: Small block of wood holds pane in place
Fig 4: Small block of wood holds pane in place

Fig 3 shows the glass panel and 'stage' top in place. The stage surface should be plywood which should be glued and nailed down. The glass pane can be from a photo frame and should be angled at 45°. The pane is held in place by gluing and nailing a small block of wood to the side wall (see fig 4). Where the pane meets the stage top, glue from a glue-gun can be used to hold the glass in place more securely.

Fig 5: Ghost figure
Fig 5: Ghost figure

Fig 5 shows where the ghost figure should go. The figure can be anything you have to hand. Alternatively make a ghost shape from a piece of cardboard. Glue securely in place.

Fig 6: Lid in place
Fig 6: Lid in place

Fig 6 shows the lid of the model in place. Cut a hole in the lid just above the ghost figure. The purpose of this is to let light in and make the ghost glow. Use a wood chisel and sandpaper to create the hole. Alternatively you may insert a small lamp holder and battery to provide the light.

Fig 7: Door panel in place
Fig 7: Door panel in place

Fig 7 shows the side door panel in place. Ensure the panel is the correct size and attach two hinges as in the diagram. The door should be able to flap open revealing the inside of the model showing how it works.

Fig 8: Pepper's Ghost effect
Fig 8: Pepper's Ghost effect
Fig 9: Pepper's Ghost effect
Fig 9: Pepper's Ghost effect

Fig 8 and fig 9 show the Pepper's ghost effect. Light enters through the hole in the lid of the model and illuminates the ghost figure. The light reflects off the glass and out of the front of the unit. If viewing through the front of the model it appears the ghost is situated on the stage rather than up in the rafters. You may add a scene to the stage and even add other characters on stage.

Finally paint the unit in your desired colour. Make sure the inside of the model is painted in matt black to absorb any stray light.

Disclaimer

Before attempting any of the construction projects featured on this website, ensure you have, and know how to use, the appropriate tools, components and safety equipment and are competent to undertake the project. These guides are for information only and we hold no responsibility for any accidents, injuries or damage caused by the use or misuse of any equipment, project or information contained within this website. In short - use common sense and stay safe!