.Early poster of conjuror Benevol Antwerp / Belgium


, Conjuring Arts, Illusions, Magic, Physique Amusante, l' Escamotage... etc.
all have a close relationship with Pre-cinema, Photography and Film.

"Showing wonderful events in front of the onlooker's eyes with the purpose to amaze and to deceive him/her is the "Great Art" of the Magician"

Early Visual Media are able to "conjure-up" wondrous effects in front of our eyes.

The "
Girl playing the badminton" in a Théatre Praxinoscope is an amazing optical trick based on the same principle of the Pepper's Ghost in the theatre.

Spirit Photographs conjure-up ghosts by means of deceptive techniques.

The films of Magician Georges Méliès show pure magic and are the precursor of special effects in today's cinema. More on Méliès.

Magicians use Photography, Film & Television to prove their magic is genuine.

The Revival of Spirit ism became possible at the end of the 19
th. Century with the help of photography.

Many Stage Illusions use optical trickery also found in scientific, optical and "philosophical toys".
See the first Conjuror on Television
Dictionary of Jacques Lacombe
Early Conjuring Books cover a wide field of subjects.

Not only the "conjuring arts" as we known them today but also the demonstration of early scientific inventions, unknown to most spectators of the Magician. Showing these, often new, scientific knowledge was the secret of the conjuror.

Robert Houdin (1805 - 1871) greatest' "Prestidigitateur" of the 19
th. Century decided to learn the art of magic after reading the "Dictionaire Encyclopedique des Amusmens des Sciences Mathématiques et Physique" (1792) by
Jacques Lacombe.

In his mémoires Houdin wrote about this encyclopaedia: Volume dans lequel j'ai puisé mes premières inspirations dans l' art de l' escamotage.

This historical important volume covers: Amusemens de Géométrie / Amusemens d' Arithmétique / Amusemens d' Astronomie / Amusemens de Gnomonique / Amusemens de Physique / Amusemens de Mécanique / Amusemens d' Optique /Amusemens d' Acoustique ou Musique / Amusemens de Catoptrique / Amusemens de Navigation et d' Architecture / Pyrotechnie sans feu et purement Optique / Pieces d' Artifice / Pieces Hydraulique / Traits Occultes ou Trompeurs / Nombres Magique et Cartes / Combinaisons Magiques / Tours de Gibeciere / Figures de Magie Blanche devoileé.

In other words, this dictionary covers a huge part of the 18th. Century scientific knowledge unknown to the general public. Demonstrating this knowledge was the science of the conjuror.

.Anonymous Dutch Conjuring book published in Ghent / Belgium

  Conjuring and Pre-Cinematic & Pre-Photo history

In Jacques Lacombe's richly illustrated (as well in many other) historical conjuring books, many important devices who also have their role in Pre-Cinematic history are found:

Camera Obscura, the Peepshow, the Magic Lantern & slides, Anamorphic images, the Panorama.

Also an important spectacular Phantasmagoria projection technique, showing Ghosts on a smoke curtain is illustrated and explained.

The major musical instrument used during Phantasmagoria performances is vast described since the dictionary was published less than 30 years after the invention of the Glass Organ or Glass Armonica by Benjamin Franklin. 1761

The Glass organ was most suitable to lustre the Phantasmagoria atmosphere since it produced a weird haunted and uncanny sound.

Play a tune on the virtual Glass Armonica in the Franklin institute online.
Or see Cecilia Grieweck's historical Glass armonica web site.

See the Glass Armonica from The Bakken Library and Museum
Read text below from from Cecilia Grieweck's web site.

"The Glass Armonica was an instant success. Marie Antoinette took lessons on it and Dr. Mesmer, the famous hypnotist, used it to put his patients into a deeper trance.
Composers started writing for it. The most famous...Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, Richard Strauss, and Saint-Saens.

By the mid-1800's, it suddenly lost its popularity, and gradually vanished. Superstitions ran wild.. Armonicas were said to drive performers mad and evoke spirits of the dead because of its eerie and haunting sound. It had a rebirth in 1982 through the efforts of the late master glass blower named Gerhard Finkenbeiner, of Waltham, Massachusetts. The "new-old" Armonica is now reaching into many corners of the world and has moved into the 21st century"
Cecilia Grieweck

  Approved historians, travelers, philosophers and physicians of all ages
.Histoire Curieuse et Pittoresque des Sorciers


The Fascination for Magic
, Ghosts and the Supernatural was popular in the 18th. Century & 19th. Century. Popular books and journals on the subject where published.

"Histoire Curieuse et Pittoresque des Sorciers"
(1846), Mathias de Giraldo describes a series of apparitions and Vampirism. The book is illustrated with naive woodcuts as seen left.

The themes in the book, Devins, Magiciens, Astrologues, Revenants, Ames en Peine, Vampires, Spectres, Fantomes, Apparitions, Visions, Gnomes, Lutins, Esprits Malin, Exorcisme, etc., are of great interest to the conjuror, master of the implausible.

Obviously, the photographer tries to capture these phenomena on his light sensitive plates with success! Long exposure, double exposure and dark room manipulations where not common knowledge to most people in the early photographic era.

In London appeared VOL I for the YEAR 1793 of the long-drawn-out titled journal:
"The Wonderful Magazine, and Marvelous Chronicle of Extraordinary Productions, Events, and Occurrences, in Nature and Art" See GOOGLE group for coverpage.

The eye-catcher, further on the frontcover, mention the expressions: Miraculous!, Queer!, Odd!, Strange!, Supernatural!, Whimsical!, Absurd!, Out of the Way! and Unaccountable. Unfortunately, my copy mysteriously lost his Extraordinary illustrations.

Still, this journal is "collected from the writings off the most approved historians, travelers, philosophers, and physicians of all ages and countries" sic.

In the publication year of the first issue of "The Wonderful Magazine, and Marvelous Chronicle", 1793, Louis XVI was condemned to death by the National Convention. January 20, 1793.
The next day his execution took place with the guillotine. The last page of the magazine describes the execution of Louis XVI with the guillotine "...the fatal instrument of death"
Etienne-Gaspard Robertson's
Phantasmagoria shows caused one of the earliest examples of political censorship on the animated projected image when he conjured-up the ghost of Louis XVI.

Suchlike tricks in pre-film, film and photography where common practice in these pioneer period. In 1897 Albert Hopkins wrote a "bible" of conjurors: "Magic, Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, including Trick Photography". Indeed, the Great Art of Magic found a major inspiration source and outlet in
18th. & 19th. Century media inventions, especially Photography and Cinema.

The theme of Ghosts ever remained popular until the 20th. & 21th. Century.

The colorful poster of the Belgian Illusionist Fria Ned (Frans Immerechts, 1911 - 1985) shows the apparition of a female Ghost inspired by "Alladin and the Magic Lamp". The Genius of Bagdad, as he named himself performed for many years in circuses both in Spain and Belgium.

Today's interest in ghostly apparitions can be found in the recent exhibition
"Le troisième Oeil. La photographie et l' occulte" in the Musee Européene de la de la photographie, Paris.

Later this year the exhibition will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York: The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult (26/09/05 - 31/12/05)
A rare Ghost Tintype, on display in this exhibit, can be seen here with the kind permission of the
American Museum of photography and their online exhibit" Do you believe?"

A brief history on Spirit photography can be found on
Beyond the Grave.
More Ghost are based in the
Haunted Museum. and or at the Boston University.
The most famous case on spirit photography is the story of
William Mumler.
For those interested in the Fantastic arts, visit the
Cornell university Library.

Of course do not forget to visit the Ghost's on Early Visual Media before they will visit you themselves!
I would welcome all Ghost images and Ghost story's by Visual Media visitors. thomas@visual-media.be

.Simon Witgeest   An Early Magic Lantern in a vintage Dutch Conjuring book. (1781)

Isabelle Garcia collection
"Het nieuw vermeerdert natuurlyk tooverboek ofte speel-toneel der konsten"
Simon Witgeest (hand colored copy)

This popular conjuring book was written by Simon Witgeest.
The first edition of this book dates 1679, the last circa 1830.

Witgeest illustrate a bizar looking Magic Lantern, together with a long slide showing circular images. The informative Dutch text described how the lantern was used.

This original 17th. Century conjuring book was very popular. At least 17 different editions in Dutch are known and 15 German editions between 1702 and 1798.

The book also describes the basic principle of the Camera Obscura without illustrating it.

Although many editions where printed in subsequent centuries, an original copy is difficult to find. Left 
Isabelle Garcia collection.

The book still remain popular since at least two 20th. Century Dutch photographic reprints are published.
A reprint of the first 1679 edition was done in the Netherlands by Sijthoff-Leiden, 1967.
A reprint of the 11th. edition was done by Ripova (no date)

Obviously, references to optical devices or often found in vintage conjuring books. For example, the technique of smoke projection as mentioned above.
The book also mention Folkloristic Medicine.

Prestidigitation, Juggling & Circus in stereo- tissue photographs.
See the website of Timothy Trust who I met at the Genste Feesten 2009.

Children Conjurors


The theme of Conjuring is also often found in stereo (tissue) photographs. Above we see 5 children playing with "cups & balls" The scene is a small clay diorama similar to the stereo diableries.
Suchlike dioramic tissues (with against the light effects) are found in a variety of themes.
These genre tissues views have a long tradition originated in transparent & colored Peepshow views.
Two further French albumin stereo-tissues show a juggler and clownish actors.
Juggler at work

Clownish actors


!!! Below you find the most Eerie and Ghostly places on Early Visual Media. But be aware, many other pages are haunted too !!!

Find a book on Phantasmagoria Projection techniques


Copyright: 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016 - 2017 - 2018 by Thomas Weynants
he online Media Archaeology Museum version (24) Jan 2017 to Dec 2018 - All rights are protected by SOFAM.be