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Theatre Ghosts
Theatre Ghosts: The Ghosts of Theater
Throughout the history of theatre, and into film history, ghosts and spirits have been used
for a variety of purposes. They represent the supernatural and unknown. They seek revenge
or give guidance. They are a formidable enemy or an ally with unearthly powers.
Early Ghosts of Theatre
Ghosts have been a part of theatre nearly as long as
theatre has existed. Early on, ghosts were inhuman-like.
They were forces, incapable of exhibiting complex
human emotions or thought processes.

The Roman philosopher, Seneca, included ghosts in his
plays. His ghosts’ sole purpose was to seek revenge for
things that had happened to them while they were alive.
In medieval theatre, the role of the ghost changed.
Instead of revenge, they sought favors.

A more humanized ghost became popular in plays
from the time of Shakespeare to present.
Humanized theater ghost
William Shakespeare included numerous ghosts
or spirits in his plays, including the ghost of
Caesar in Julius Caesar and the ghosts of Edward
Prince of Wales and Henry VI in Richard III. He
often used ghosts to represent the struggle within
the psyche of his characters. In Macbeth, the ghost
of Banquo appears to Macbeth, and only Macbeth,
as he struggles with his ruthless, evil desire to
achieve power. The suppressed part of Macbeth’s
subconscious is brought into the open when the
ghost of Banquo appears. In Hamlet, the ghost of
Hamlet’s father is a representative of the
supernatural forces that are swirling over Denmark
after King Hamlet’s murder. (“Something is rotten
Shakespeare Ghost of Theater: Banquo
Above: The Shakespearian ghost of
theatre, Banquo, appears in the open.
in the state of Denmark” 1.4.90.) His appearance in the form of a ghost and message to
Prince Hamlet is the supernatural’s attempt to re-establish the natural order of Denmark’s
Pepper's Ghost effect is used in theatre productions It is much easier to include a ghost in a theatre
production through writing, though, than it is to
portray a ghost on stage if it is to look believable.
Pepper’s Ghost technique is an illusion used
in theatre since the 1860’s that makes objects,
including actors playing ghosts, appear
transparent. It can make objects appear or
disappear, and it can give off the illusion that two
objects have morphed together. In order for the
trick to work, there must be two rooms, a main
room and a mirror room that the viewer is unable
to see. Using lighting tricks and a sheet of glass,
objects in the mirror room appear transparent in
the main room if there is light in the mirror room.
When the mirror room is darkened, the image in
the main room disappears. This technique has
also been frequently used in attractions at
amusement parks, including the
Twilight Zone
Tower of Terror
in Disney World.
Above: Illustration of how the ghost
person can be projected onto glass.
Today, ghosts of theater have made their way
into many movies and television shows.
(We have compiled a list of ghost movies and what we feel are the
top ten ghost movies to see.)

When one realizes just how many movies, TV shows and plays have
been made that include ghosts, there is no doubt that a strong belief
in the afterlife continues to permeate our culture.

Also see: Theatre Ghost Picture
Angels & Ghosts!
Theatre Ghosts - Ghosts of Theater Copyright 2011 Angels & Ghosts, LLC