Halloween is coming! If you’d like to see ghosts without any danger attached, here’s the book for you: ‘Spectropia, or Surprising Spectral Illusions’ (first published in 1863) “showing ghosts everywhere and of any colour”. The images are wonderful in their own right – directions below (no technology needed!)


Plate III
This will give a white spectre
Plate IV
This black skeleton will give a white spectre
Plate IX
This orange figure will give a blue spectre

And this blue figure an orange spectre

Plate XI
This green figure will give a red spectre

And this red figure will give a green spectre


“To see the spectres, it is only necessary to look steadily at the dot, or asterisk, which is to be found on each of the plates, for about a quarter of a minute, or while counting about twenty, the plate being well illuminated by either artificial or day light. Then turning the eyes to the ceiling, the wall, the sky, or better still to a white sheet hung on the wall of a darkened room (not totally dark), and looking rather steadily at any one point, the spectre will soon begin to make its appearance, increasing in intensity, and then gradually vanishing, to reappear and again vanish ; it will continue to do so several times in succession, each reappearance being fainter than the one preceding. Winking the eyes, or passing a finger rapidly to and fro before them, will frequently hasten the appearance of the spectre, especially if the plate has been strongly illuminated.Those who use gaslight will find it convenient, after having looked at the plate as above described, to extemporise a darkened room by having the gaslight turned low; or one end of the room may be darkened by placing a screen before the gas, lamp or candlelight.”

If you can’t see anything, you’ve only got yourself to blame:
“Should any one not be able to see the spectre’s features, the reason will be, either that the eyes have been allowed to wander, or the head to move, while looking at the plate.”

If it really doesn’t work, and so you’re not leaving disappointed: here’s an example of a ‘Hold-to-light’ postcard – of the ‘White Lady’ at Berlin Castle:

Schloss Berlin
Postcard image
Weisse Dame - Schloss Berlin
The same postcard when held ‘to the light’


  1. Those are brilliant. What a cool book. The orange figure worked a treat, I didn’t think it would as it’s late here and the light is gloomy and artificial, but with the aid of some rapid blinking I saw a pale blue ghost on my ceiling 🙂 The green one worked too. And the black. (I’m typing while trying these out 🙂 )

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