Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
Despite foul rumours to the contrary the magic lantern was not a Victorian invention. Its origins go back to the mid 17th century. Its invention is now generally attributed to the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, although he was reluctant to take the credit, considering it a mere novelty, open to abuse by tricksters and fraudulent mediums. Simple translucent imagery painted onto glass and furtively projected onto a bare wall or sheet was the modest basis for such devilry.
The first lantern showman of note was the Danish mathematician, Thomas Walgenstein, who in 1664 journeyed through Europe to Rome, conjuring up ghosts for rich nobleman and princes and then selling them the secret.
By the end of the 17th century, wandering lanternists were putting on small-scale shows in inns and castles, using a lantern lit with a feeble candle. Often these shows featured goblins and devils -- hence the name the "magic lantern".