Early magic lantern projections depicted cautionary religious and supernatural scenes, like sinners roasting in Purgatory and Death wielding a scythe. Luckily, magic lanterns weren’t used only by clergymen but also by a wide variety of entertainers and educators in homes, theatres and universities. While performers told jokes and fairytales, travelling showmen unveiled exotic locations, scientists revealed the latest discoveries and charlatan magicians spooked audiences with dancing skeletons.
Magic lanterns were made in all shapes and sizes from materials as diverse as biscuit tins and brass to mahogany and nickel. They were even mass-produced as children’s toys in the 19th century.