The Psychedelic Phantasmagoria Shows of the 18th century!

CANNABIS CULTURE – Although little recognized, in the 18th century sure magicians would make the most of medicine together with smoke and mirror illusions to persuade audiences that they had witnessed speaking and shifting ghosts and apparitions!  While researching Liber 420: Cannabis Magickal Herbs and the Occult,  one of the issues I used to be most fascinated to study was the drug infused phantasmagoria exhibits of the 18th century, hosted by the controversial masonic determine Johan Schröpfer and others.

1420 illustration Giovanni Fontanna “magic lantern”

Interest in necromancy, and magic typically, went barely extra mainstream in the 18th century. Magicians have been typically entrepreneurs, and it didn’t take lengthy for some to comprehend, magic is the stuff of leisure! Figures like Johann Georg Schröpfer (1730-1774), Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803), and others  started to make the most of medicine, together with mirrors, smoke, sound results, and different methods, in 18th century staged seances, that left the audiences satisfied that they had seen the lifeless rise, and witnessed different occult miracles. Shaman’s and magicians have all the time used such trickery to set the stage for magical ceremonies, for simply as ‘by thy personal religion thou artwork healed”, so too with magic, by thy personal creativeness do you achieve entry into the hidden realm. In indigenous shamanic ceremonies, whistles that make the sounds of native birds, beats on drums that sound like charging hooves, followers to make the sounds of flapping wings, are utilized by attendants, typically unseen, as particular results to induce an area the place actuality begins to interrupt down and the world of magic can start to take grip.

Although Schröpfer might have popularized these strategies, it’s on no account clear he invented them. Many of these methods might have already been in use, in additional personal ceremonies for a while. As the 1420 illustration of a demon being projected from a Magic lantern by Giovanni Fontanna above demonstrates. . One  wonders if different medieval and renaissance magicians have been utilizing such methods? Dr. John Dee, as an example, “first gained reputation for sorcery at Cambridge, where his ultra-realistic stage effects for a performance… scandalized audiences…” (Dickson, 2016). As Aubrey’s Brief Lives additionally famous, “the clever stage effects he introduced into a performance of Aristophanes’ Peace procured him his lifelong reputation of being a magician” (Aubrey, 1697). One might speculate that this will have performed a task in some of the witnessed accounts of some of Dee’s magic, simply as medicine might have.…

 A 1646 version of Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae by Athanasius Kircher, gave particulars on the development of his stenographic mirror projection system, however warned that impious people may use these as a way of scary and manipulating extra gullible individuals. Kircher steered hiding the projector for higher impact, and is alleged to have projected the picture of dying onto the home windows of those that had develop into apostates, as a way to reinvigorate their religion and scare them again to church.

Books like Physiologia Kircheriana Experimentalis (1680), by Johannes Stephan Kestler, provided detailed directions with illustrations, on projectors like ‘magic lanterns’ and the digital camera obscura demonstrated how they could possibly be used to make spectre like pictures on partitions and on smoke. This similar “magic lantern’ might be seen as the delivery levels of what would later grow to be cinema.


Techniques in involving magic lanterns and the digital camera obscura depicted in Physiologia Kircheriana Experimentalis (1680)

Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (1671).

Such methods have been taken to new heights in the 18th century. The magical use of mirrors, fumigations and candles doubtless led to an consciousness of how reflection and projection performed with these parts. Trying to repeat results that have been effectual, led to their research, in addition to curiosity in the optical sciences. Friar Bacon was experimenting with mirrors and different strategies of optical phantasm in the 13th century. The 1420 llustration Giovanni Fontanna depicted a demon projecting Laterna magica, “magic lantern”, and for some purpose photographs of dying, demons and spectres appear to have gone hand in hand with these primitive projectors. As Tom Ruffles, explains in Ghost Images: Cinema of the Afterlife:

The Magic lantern, extra versatile than the mirror and digital camera obscura, had been developed by the mid-seventeenth century. Unfortunately its origins are obscure… and… with classical accounts, it isn’t all the time clear how a described impact was achieved. For instance, Benvenutor Cellini’s autobiography in 1558, provides an account of a necromantic ceremony carried out  at the Coliseum in Rome; T. C. Hepworth describes the occasion. There was a fireplace, perfumes and “drugs of fetid odour.” Spectators have been confined inside a circle, every with a job to do. The figures appeared solely after an hour and a half, which would go away lowered the

The Laterna magica in Oekonomisch-technologische Encyklopädie (1773)

audiences consideration threshold. (Ruffles, 2004)   

Another impact of this passage of time, not famous by Ruffles, is that it might have given sufficient time for the medicine to actually ‘kick in’! The popularizer of combining such optical illusions with magical invocation, necromancy and the use of medicine, at the very least in a extra public sense, is taken into account to be the Freemason and magician Georg Schröpfer (1730-1774) (Also spelled ‘Schrepfer’ in some accounts). Johann Georg Schröpfer (1730-1774) was at one time a celebrated Mason, historical past nevertheless has recorded him as a charlatan, who got here to a nasty finish, as his path of tips ran out, resulting in an early suicide. “Johann Georg Schröpfer’s seance shows of the 1760s… incorporated special effects, magic tricks, music, projections onto smoke and the use of hallucinogenic drugs to create seances for the purpose of theatrical spectacle” (Jenzen, 2016). Such methods have been additionally apparently utilized by Schröpfer in Masonic styled initiations.

 Schröpfer started his profession as a Leipzig espresso store proprietor. However, as Robert Masello has famous in Raising Hell: A Concise History of the Black Arts and Those Who Dared to Practice Them, “Schröpfer’s café offered something not seen on the menu in most such establishments—initiation into the mysteries of magic and the occult. Schröpfer, who joined Cagliostro as one of the most renowned sorcerers of his day, served up magic punch made from his own secret recipe, along with lessons in summoning the dead, for anyone brave enough to take them” (Masello, 2014). Una Birch’s 1911 Book, Secret Societies and the French Revolution, claimed that Schroepfer started his profession by means of mirror skrying. “Crowds in the market-place of Leipzig awaited the ghost of wonder-working Schroepfer, who had proven Louis XV. in  magic mirror his successor decapitated” and that in the similar interval that “Cagliostro was dazzling the people by magical experiments, [and]Cassanova was mystifying audiences, Schroepfer [was]professing, by means of his famous mirror, to evoke spirits” (Birch, 1911).

Schröpfer’s skills on this regard earned him the deal with, Gespenstermacher, which means ‘ghost-maker’ and the “Illuminatus of Leipzig”. Professor Fabio Camilletti, famous in his article, Phantasmagoria: creating the ‘ghosts’ of the Enlightenment: “While Schröpfer claimed his experiments to be true, all the effects he produced can be found, described in detail, in treatises on illusionism of that time. The technology that made them possible was that of the ‘magic lantern’, a rudimental projector which had been known to scientists… Schröpfer may also have employed mirrors, in order to create the effect later known as ‘Pepper’s Ghost’, which allows a shadowy figure to ‘materialise’ in a room (fans of the BBC’s Sherlock series may remember it from episode ‘The Abominable Bride’). It must also be added that the show was really challenging for audiences: people were forced to stay in the room for a whole day, and possibly narcotized through meals and drinks. Séances took place in the middle of the night, when fatigue and drugs might contribute to the effect” (Camilletti, 2017).

(Left) Various 18th century variations of the Magic Lantern. Much greater than a easy projector, multi layered slides, and a number of lamps have been utilized in mixture.












Many of the painted slide pictures had shifting elements, so eyes might roll of their sockets, and mouths might open and shut, together with different numerous results.  (Image from Phantasmagoria : The Dark Side of the Light, 2015) 

“Pepper’s Ghost”


Illustration for the development of a hidden magic lantern that could possibly be projected onto smoke from Nouvelles récréations physiques et mathématiques (1770).

As Renk Geffarth describes in The Masonic Necromancer: Shifting Identities In The Lives Of Johann Georg Schrepfer:

Johann Georg Schrepfer had a exceptional potential to stage necromantic performances that captivated his spectators all through all-night periods, repeated over the course of weeks and months. He raised the spirits of deceased celebrities of previous and up to date occasions and impressed his public by speaking to the spirits and giving them orders. The apparitions have been stated to be clearly seen, clothed based on the habits of their lifetime, hanging in the air, and screaming awfully. His spectators described the faces of the spirits they witnessed as human, however the materials seemed extra like smoke or vapor than flesh and pores and skin. By means of enthusiastic speeches, prayers, fragrant smoke, and punch consuming, Schrepfer caught the consideration of his viewers or, as his critics wrote, dazed them. During his periods, starting at midnight, the spectators needed to stay seated, having been advised that they might face immense hazard in the event that they disobeyed this rule. To full the rituals of his ceremonies, Schrepfer carried out blessings and used crucifixes and holy water. (Geffarth, 2007)

 The staged drug infused magic exhibits of Schröpfer have been advised as the origins of the basic Halloween Haunted House, as famous in Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night:

There are stories of seances that employed magical tips as early as the 1700’s comparable to these of Leipzig espresso store proprietor Johann Schröpfer, who used projections on smoke, sound results, electrical shocks, sensory deprivation, disorientation methods, and medicines to conjure supposed spirits. Schröpfer developed a cult following in Europe till his suicide in 1774. (Bannatyne, 2011)

Similar views are expressed in Theatre and Ghosts: Materiality, Performance and Modernity, “The first internationally known of such shows was created by Johann Schröpfer of Leipzig who, in the 1760s, converted his billiard parlour into a séance chamber with eerie music, sound effects, incense, hallucinatory drugs and ghostly sights projected onto billowing clouds of smoke.  …His effects lived on… in what came to be called the Phantasmagoria show, a major attraction in Paris during the revolutionary years” (Lockhurst & Morin, 2014).

A 1803 account from The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, makes it clear, that taking the mysterious punch was meant to reinforce the present!

He discovered a terrific quantity of friends there earlier than him, who have been incessantly plied with punch. M. refused to drink any factor, however Schröpfer pressed him very a lot to drink at the very least a glass, which   M. as firmly refused. At size they have been all carried out into a big corridor, hung with black material, the window-shutters of which have been closed. Schröpfer positioned the spectators collectively, and drew a circle round them, past which he strictly enjoined them to not stir. At the distance of a sew paces a small altar was erected, on which burned spirits; this forged; the solely mild that illumined the room. Schröpfer, uncovering his breast, threw himself on his knees earlier than the altar. He held in his hand a big glistening sword, and prayed with a loud voice, and with such earnestness and heat, that M. who had include the intention of unmasking the impostor and the imposture, felt in his coronary heart a pious awe, and sentiments of devotion. Fire flashed from the eyes of the supplicant, and his breast was powerfully agitated. He was to name the shadow of a well known character these days deceased. After having completed the prayer, he referred to as the ghost with the following phrases: “Oh! thou departed spirit, who livest in an immaterial world, and invisible to the eyes of mortals, hear the voice of the friends thou hast left behind, and who desire to see thee; leave, for a short time, thy new abode, and present thyself to their eyes!” Hereupon the spectators felt in each nerve a sensation, just like an electrical shock—heard a noise like the rolling of thunder, and noticed above the altar a light-weight vapour, which grew thicker by levels, until it allumed the determine of a person. However, M. noticed, that it was not a hanging likeness of the deceased. The determine hovered over the altar, and Schröpfer, pale as demise, flourished the sword above his head. M. resolved to step out of the circle and to go to, Schröpfer; however the latter perceiving his intention, rushed in the direction of him, holding the sword to his breast, and crying with a horrible voice, “You are a, dead man, if you stir another step!” M. was so terrified at the dreadful lone through which Schrofper uttered these phrases, and at the glistening sword, that his knees shook underneath him. The shadow at size disappeared, and Schröpfer was so fatigued that he lay prolonged on the flooring. (Karamfin, 1803)

This account signifies a quantity of issues, specifically: a lot of the showmanship of the invocation would, as famous earlier, have given sufficient time to for the punch to take impact, and its clear consuming punch was an necessary half of the course of, in the means Schröpfer inspired friends to imbibe. This was normal for Schröpfer’s workings.  “All the spectators first received a large dose of punch. This not only increased his profits, but also his guests willingness to see miracles. After the punch had fogged their brains enough, Schröpfer… began the performance” (Zglinicki, 1956)*. Also, Schröpfer cleverly stopped the debunker “M” from exposing, with a menace of mortal hazard, and this occasion additionally signifies, the present itself was so efficient that it even dazzled non-drugged attendees who had come out of skepticism, so both one thing tremendous pure occurred, or their have been particular results concerned.

* excerpted from a translation in (Kittler, 2010).

Unfortunately, no data of what substances have been utilized in Schröpfer’s numerous incense, salad and punch preparations. However, as Friederich Kittler notes in Optical Media Schröpfer owned a coffee-house, and that is the place his unique seances have been staged, and coffee-houses, “did not arise until after 1683 (after the relief of the Turkish coffee supplies, which to… unexpected delight were incidentally mixed with hashish)”. Kittler felt the Schröpfer “story makes clear how numerous medicine from espresso to punch to the lanterna magica (to not point out cannabis), all acted together to wash such nights in a spiritualistic twilight” (Kittler, 2010). Schröpfer was recognized to have regularly acquired by submit giant parcels, addressed to Baron Schröpfer, so he was clearly an importer.

An fascinating reference which will point out hashish in Schröpfer’s ceremonies seems in an 1825 version of The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century; Or, The Master Key of Futurity, and Guide to Ancient Mysteries, Being a Complete System of Occult Philosophy, which was by the Members of the Mercurii, (an occult society whose curiosity in Grimoires and medicines was mentioned in Chapter 15) contained an account about the ‘Awful Apparition of the Chevalier de Saxe, Invoked by Schrepfer’, and famous how Schröpfer inspired them “to fortify their nerves by partaking of a bowl of punch” and the way a skeptical attendee who had given the account, said “no inducement can make me put anything within my lips”, displaying the worry of being drugged.  Another account, beneath the title of ‘The Necromancer’, signifies others have been utilizing such methods of intoxication in magic at the time as properly. “…A plentiful libation was then made to the god of brandy, whose nostrils should have been extremely regaled with the grateful fumes of incense and burnt choices, each hero replenishing his pipe with a potent provide of India’s salutary weed” (Mercurii, 1825). As Tobacco was a ‘New World’ Plant, and India is a component of the ‘Old World’, it’s questionable if  tobacco is being referred to right here and whether or not hashish is what is supposed. This similar version had excerpts from the 16th century grimoire The Book of Magic, renamed The Book of Oberon, which Liber 420 discusses at size for its numerous references to medicine, and which the Mercurii owned.


That stronger medicine might have been burnt at ceremonies, is indicated in the works of Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803). Eckartshausen, is himself an interesting character, a one time member of the unique Illuminati, his work was influential on the later magic of The Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley. “Eckartshausen was one of the few alchemists who continued training the artwork into the nineteenth century. His main work is the Chemische Versuch, revealed in 1802” (Martin, 2011).

Eckartshausen claimed secret information of Schröpfer’s workings, and uncovered them with detailed illustrated directions for his or her recreation, together with giving the elements of the fumigants that aided such workings. As Eckartshausen defined, “the appearance of an optical image of the magic lantern is in the smoke…. The magic-lantern projects the image on the mirror; The slanting mirror throws it back, and so it appears in the smoke… it is necessary that the whole room be filled with a mist” (Eckarthausen, 1788-1792).

Illustrations from Eckartshausen Aufschlusse zur Magie (1788-1792)

A PHANTASMAGORIA; Conjuring up an Armed Skeleton, H.Humphrey, (1803)

Although utilizing different substances in addition to hashish, many of that are additionally recorded on the pages of the Picatrix, Sepher Raziel: Liber Salmonis, The Book of Oberan, and different Grimoires, an account of  invocation by fumigation carried out by Eckartshausen provides some fascinating insights into this space of magic. This account appeared in a 1841 version of The Familiar Astrologer, by ‘Raphael’ a member of The Society of the Mercurii, a magical group that as we noticed see in Chapter 15 had of their possession renaissance grimoires with drug references, and utilized these in apply, and is attributed to a member recognized underneath the identify ‘Philadelphus’. (This similar group, had written about Schröpfer’s ritual and indicated the use of medicine, in an earlier 1825 version, as famous, and that is indicative of this occult teams lengthy standing curiosity in the medicine of magic. Their account of Echartshausen’s magic is as follows:


    From the MSS. of Philadelphus.

The following is said by Eckartshausen, in his German work, entitled “Magic

Eckartshausen was acquainted with a Scotsman, who was not given to the follow of incantations, however merely acquired the information of a unprecedented course of, which had been communicated to him by a Jew. He made the experiment in firm with Eckartshausen;—it’s  extraordinary, and deserves to be associated.   

The one that needs to see a specific spirit, (both of a dwelling or lifeless individual), should, for some days earlier, bear a state of bodily and religious preparation. Very exceptional circumstances and correspondencies appear required between the one that needs to see the spirit, and the spirit itself, (circumstances we will solely clarify by admission that a dawning of the religious world begins on our aspect of the grave). When these preparations are accomplished, a fumigation from sure components (the information of which Mr. E. very correctly, from a worry of their abuse, declines to speak) is made in a room. The vapour varieties itself right into a determine, which is the good resemblance of the individual the operator needs to see / Magic lights, optical deceptions, &c., are right here out of the query. THE VAPOUR PRODUCES A HUMAN FIGURE, resembling him we want to see The following are Eckartshausen’s personal phrases:

— “Some time after the departure of the foreigner (the Scotsman), I repeated the experiment with one of my pals—he noticed and felt as I did myself. The observations we made have been these:—as quickly as the elements have been thrown into the chafingdish, a whitish determine types itself, and appears of pure measurement to hover simply above the chafingdish. It possesses a most good resemblance with the individual to be seen, solely that the determine is ashy pale. Upon approaching the determine, a substantial resistance is felt, one thing like strolling towards a robust wind. If it’s spoken to, no distinct recollection stays of what has been stated; and when the phantom disappears, it looks like awakening from a dream. The head is stupified, and there’s a nice tightness felt in the decrease elements of the physique. It is singular, that the similar look presents itself upon being in the darkish, or wanting afterwards upon darkish our bodies.

“The unpleasantness of this sensation was such that, nevertheless solicited, I used to be unwilling to repeat the experiment. A younger gentleman got here to me, and positively insisted upon seeing the apparition. As he was a person of a fragile structure and vigorous creativeness, I hesitated, and consulted an skilled doctor, to whom I found the whole secret. He was of opinion that the narcotics used should powerfully excite the creativeness, and may, underneath sure circumstances, be very harmful. He thought the preparatory varieties elevated the energy of their operation, and suggested me to make trial of their impact in very small parts, with out earlier preparations.

“This I did, in the future after dinner, when this gentleman, who dined with me, was current. The supplies have been all thrown into the chafingdish, when definitely a determine confirmed itself; however a shuddering, which I used to be unable to regulate, overcame me. I used to be obliged to go away the room for 3 hours; I used to be extraordinarily ailing, and had the determine always earlier than me. By the use of an awesome deal of vinegar, which I inhaled, and drank with water, I recovered, in the direction of the night; but, for 3 weeks afterwards, I felt a loss of power: and what’s most singular, is, that even to this time, once I assume on the circumstance, and look upon a darkish physique, a energetic illustration of the ashy-pale determine presents itself earlier than me. Since that point (provides he) I’ve by no means ventured to repeat the experiment.”

The following notice is added by a woman of erudition, who had learn Eckartshausen’s work, and remembers these particulars, viz. –“that sure earlier varieties and circumstances are required earlier than the operation takes place; upon omission of these, the operator is threatened with both loss of well being, madness, or the most critical derangement of his temporal circumstances. The particulars I don’t keep in mind distinctly, however I feel three days’ utter seclusion is commanded. During today, the operator should make use of himself in devotional workouts, he should typically flip his ideas to the topic he needs to see, should have a specific regard to him in his prayers, should recollect and dwell on his good qualities, and be very sure that no impure view mixes together with his want to see him. The topic should have dedicated no crime; and if a dwelling individual, he should have no wound in any half of his physique. This final situation is exceptional; the tendency of the different is clear, when it’s thought-about that they got here from Arabia (the place the Jew first discovered the secret), and subsequently originate with a individuals not professedly Christian. I feel it is going to be allowed that their piety is worthy discover.”

Mr. E., in his second quantity, says that he might enterprise to offer the fumigating components with out worry, as the success of the experiment relies upon upon their actual proportions of Opium, Saffron, Aloes, Henbane, Nightshade, Poppy-seed, and Hemlock.

I need to right here remorse that the writer didn’t talk whether or not his personal experiments have been made with a dwelling topic, and what the state of that individual is perhaps throughout the operation.

From the similar hand, Eckartshausen acquired one other fumigation, which, utilized in a church-yard, would convey into seen existence the spirits of the individuals there interred; and an ointment which, upon being utilized upon totally different elements of the physique, would transport the spirit into any half of the world. These, nevertheless, have been composed of narcotics of such intense and fearful efficiency, that the writer states he by no means thought-about it protected to make use of them.

Communicated bv Philadelphia.

Although it has been steered that the record of medicine listed above, have been possible acquired from Schröpfer, it’s also value noting that an virtually equivalent recipe was give in Agrippa’s The Philosophy of Natural Magic (1531)Thus, the results of these substances, which in accordance with Agrippa have been used to “to make the image of spirits to appear in the air or elsewhere” have been certainly not new to individuals with curiosity in magic.

Such results from smoke crammed invocations have been additionally famous by Eliphas Levi, who wrote that “the intoxication of the incense and the exaltation of the invocations will soon transform the phantasmagoria into a true dream: we will recognize persons we had known, phantoms will speak” (Levi, 1856/2017). Levi,  as famous, refers to the use of  a “lamp” as in the magic lanterns, used to to reinforce such results, mixed with “redoubling the fire of the perfumes” and thru this, “something extraordinary and unexpected will occur” (Levi 1856/2017). Like Schröpfer, regardless of any results or “trickery”, Eckartshausen appears to have taken the invocations he carried out with fumigants fairly critically.

Karl von Eckartshausen had described his personal experiments with such suffumigations. He reviews that instantly after throwing the narcotic substance in a brazier, a life-size human physique appeared to seem proper above it, with a pale color and an ashen face. The smoke clearly affected his state of consciousness, for he couldn’t clearly recall his dialog with the spectre afterwards and felt numb as if awakening from a dream…. When he tried it once more, at a later date, he was overwhelmed by such worry that he needed to depart the room. The subsequent hours he felt very dangerous, and even for weeks afterwards stored feeling weak. All the whereas, he stored considering that he nonetheless noticed the ghostlike determine hovering in entrance of him. After this he by no means dared attempt once more…

As I’ve prompt elsewhere (Hanegraaff 2012…), such experiments with toxic narcotic suffumigations could also be of higher significance to the emergence of occultism than has beforehand been assumed. (Hanegraaff, 2016)

Curiously, the revealed English translation of von Eckartshausen’s Aufschlüsse zur Magie titled Magic: The Principles of Higher Knowldge, (1989) leaves the part on medicine out, with no reference to the edit, patched in such a means that you simply wouldn’t discover something was lacking in the translation in the event you simply learn by means of the part in query. This is fascinating with regard to the means many of the passages regarding psychoactive substances in magical grimoires, are handled of their trendy translations and the commentaries which accompany them, they usually have usually been skimmed over and ignored with no remark. This is how magic is misplaced….. and to this all I can say to whom ever made such a choice, is “Fick dich Miststück, Leck mich am Arsch!!”…. Ahem, as For Eckartshausen, the translation of his writings on medicine from Aufschlüsse zur Magie, that was used for Liber 420, does supply some fascinating insights into his views of such substances for magic functions, and their results, and is extra absolutely mentioned there.

A 1791 commercial for a stage model of the Phantasmagoria present. Over time it went from occult ritual to a staged efficiency, main the method with its primitive slide projectors for the later cinema.

Interestingly in the 19th century the methods of the Phantasmagoria went mainstream as a stage present, and from time to time some type of drug nonetheless appears to have been used. As properly,  phantasmagoria like results have been included into Victorian period Masonic rituals. For extra on the fascinating position of marijuana in magic take a look at Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal Herbs and the Occult 

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