Help us get to over 4,000 biographies in 2018.

If you know of a past magician not listed in MagicPedia, start a New Biography for them or Email us your suggestion.

John Henry Pepper

From Magicpedia, the free online encyclopedia for magicians by magicians.
Jump to: navigation, search
John Henry Pepper
BornJune 17, 1821

John Henry Pepper (1821-1900), a chemical engineer developed the Pepper's Ghost illusion, suitable for use in existing theaters.


John Henry joined the Royal Polytechnic Institute in London as a lecturer in 1848, giving talks on "The Wonders of Optical Science". The Royal Polytechnic was a permanent science-related fair, first opened in 1838. In 1854, the Institute titled him as "Professor Pepper", and he became the director of the exhibition hall.

Pepper enjoyed explaining science with magic and toured for several years with a Ghost Show.

"Pepper's Ghost" illusion, used in theaters allows a transparent holographic image (a "ghost")to appear onstage, alongside flesh-and-blood actors. In 1862, inventor Henry Dircks developed the Dircksian Phantasmagoria, a technique used to make a ghost appear onstage. He tried unsuccessfully to sell his idea to theaters. His method would require theaters to be completely rebuilt just to support the effect. Later in the year, Dircks set up a booth at the Royal Polytechnic, where it was seen by Pepper.

Pepper realized that the method could be modified to make it easy to incorporate into existing theaters. Pepper first showed the effect during a scene of Charles Dickens's The Haunted Man, to great success. Pepper's implementation of the effect tied his name to it permanently. Though he tried many times to give credit to Dircks, the title "Pepper's Ghost" stuck.

Pepper also developed an illusion called Metempsychosis, in which a statue comes to life.


  • The Boy's Book of Metals (1861)
  • The Playbook of Science
  • Cyclopaedic Science Simplified (1869)