‘Ghost Pirate’ Haunts AtmosFAN’s Waterfront Home

For centuries, the coastal waters around Charleston, South Carolina, have been a favorite haunt for pirates – especially when the moon is full and the tides are high. We should not have been surprised, then, to see that pirates also haunt here. This mysterious video of a ghost pirate was recently staged and captured by Deborah Stier Carson at her Meggett, S.C., home.

Instantly spooky and decidedly picturesque, it makes you wonder how long it took to make it look just so. Deborah’s answer? “It took about two minutes to set up in order to film on my iPhone,” she says.

That seems about as unbelievable as the ghost of Blackbeard materializing on her dock!

It turns out that the video Deborah sent us is from a prototype in miniature for a larger setup she plans to create this Halloween. So how did she do it … and do it so quickly? Deborah says she built a small Pepper’s Ghost box to create the illusion.

For those unfamiliar with Pepper’s Ghost, it is an illusion commonly associated with an attraction at Disneyland – no, not Pirates of the Caribbean, but The Haunted Mansion. Essentially, the effect is created by placing a piece of glass at an angle so that it catches the reflection of something that is hidden from the intended audience. Because the audience can’t see the glass, whatever is reflected onto that glass appears as though it is materializing out of nothing – like a ghost. This can be done simply by raising and lowering the light on whatever object is hidden from the audience’s view.

In Deborah’s case, she simply took a 16-by-20 inch cardboard box and cut a “viewing” hole in it. Then she outfitted it with some glass at an angle, placed an iPad hidden in the section you cannot see, and then displayed the “Ghost Pirate” individual decoration from Ghostly Apparitions 3 Decoration Collection. When a viewer looks through the viewing hole at the sunset, the pirate would mysteriously materialize. The two minutes it took Deborah to set it up mostly involved positioning the box so that the pirate appeared to walk the dock.

“When looking at the Pepper’s Ghost through the glass, it is much clearer than the unfocused image that was recorded by my phone, which defaulted to focusing on the background,” Deborah tells us. “However, the unfocused ghost on the video looks awesome, too.”

  • Click here to see a version of Deborah’s creation, one year later.

We agree! And here’s the best part: This video is only a test. Deborah built her Pepper’s Ghost box as a proof of concept – she plans to build a larger one for Halloween. Deborah intends to suspend a large piece of plexiglass from the post on her deck, and then place an old television playing Ghostly Apparitions 3 below the deck. “I should be able to achieve the required 45 degree angle by drilling a couple of holes in the bottom of the plexiglass and stake it out using tent ropes,” she tells us.

What an ambitious project! But maybe not too ambitious, given that it is only May and she’s already completed the hard work by successfully creating a stunning proof-of-concept. After all, this pilot project already looks great – so good, in fact, she plans to dress it up and turn it into its own haunted window for Halloween, using a different AtmosFX Decoration.

We cannot wait to see what the entire display looks like when she’s done. We are fans – and we know Deborah already has another one. “I convinced my grandson that I had a real ghost on my dock,” she says.

Deborah has already started work on her Halloween display – have you? October is coming sooner than you think, so it never hurts to start concepting your ideas now. And when you do, make sure to send us your photos and videos using this simple online submission form – there are other decorators from around the world who are looking to be inspired!

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