The evolution of Magic lantern leads us to the theater performance named ‘Phantesmagoria’. This is the first live performances of its kind in known history. The show projected images of ghosts, skeletons and demons on the screens with live smoke effects. The images projected were frightening and created eeriness amidst the audience. The show relayed on Magic lantern for projection and used lateral projection techniques.
The term ‘phantesmagoria’ comes from two Greek words. “Phantesma” means ‘image and “Goria” means ‘assembly’. Now the mechanism of the show is self explanatory. It is a visual art of combining light and live sound and projecting it artistically. The German performer of entertainment, Paul Philidor, created what may be considered as the true Phantesmagoria show in 1722. In the shows they showed zooming effects, composite images (combining two or more images together), and movements comparable to camera movements and dissolved imagery. However the history of Paul Philidor remains unknown.
Like other forms of shows, phantesmagoria also saw many versions, improvised with the unique imaginations of the performers. Etienne Gasparo Robert (aka Robertson), is a notable multifaceted personality. Robertson was a Physics professor, an avid painter, and a (Belgian) stage magician. He is referred here because it was his shows that were the most widely imitated phantasmagoria shows around the world. Mesmerized by one of Phildor’s shows in Paris, in 1793, Robertson got glued with that art. He toured almost in all the major cities of Europe and later he performed in New york in 1803. The audience of his shows, around the world immensely terrified and had an unprecedented horror experience.
In the mid 19th century the art of photography evolved which reinvented the show business, upgrading the quality of the shows. The paintings in the slides were replaced with photographs pumped freshness into the art. Langeheim Brothers, in 1849, became the first to incorporate photographic slides in their phantasmagoria shows.
One would wonder what sort of fantasy that would’ve driven people in large masses, to witness Robertson’s horror shows and to send a chill under their spine. Every art gets its reach amidst the audience which is largely influenced by the societal mass psyche and the popular preferences of their time. The advent of 18th century became the age of Romanticism. The era saw a new found love among literary enthusiasts. It was the Gothic fiction or Gothic horror as it is popularly known. This genre combines the elements of horror and romance, a rare ensemble one might think of. It gathered a huge fan base toward s the second half of the 18th century. The most popular literary work of Gothic fiction is Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. It is the work that belongs to the Victorian Era, which still haunts the readers for centuries. It has also inspired many versions of Stage plays and Cinema. Another noted writer of the same genre is Edger Allen Poe. It was in such circumstance where horror became the popular preference Robertson showcased his shows. No wonder it pulled the masses.
Here is link for someone who is interested to know more about this Show man.