down, so that his jaw opens and closes as if he was
Then you have a crank on the other side and
as you turn it, coming up from under the bed and
up over the covers comes a rat to investigate the
man snoring. It gets closer and closer to the man’s
mouth. Finally, he swallows the rat. The audience
“Man has been fascinated
by projected imagery
ever since there were
shadows dancing on the
walls of a cave.”
DD: In your museum are handbills used to promote
magic lantern shows. The programs were not just
stories, but also lectures — travels in England, for
JJ: Yes, and there are many on the evils of drinking.
That was a big movement in England, called the
Band of Hope, and their motto was, “Water is best.”
A very popular thing was catastrophes — the
Youngstown flood, and the Galveston hurricane,
and the terrible fire somewhere, not to mention the
San Francisco earthquake. As one fellow wrote in
his autobiography, people seemed to love to go see
You could buy slides for 50 cents apiece. You could
not buy films; you had to rent them. Netflix of the
day, I guess you might say. There’s nothing new.
DD: A magic lantern show is a group of people sitting in a room, watching “horrible” images on a wall.
JJ: They also did science lectures. Some of the
shows were humorous. Some of them were educational. They used magic lanterns in churches to
DD: Those early films, though, were not very long,
JJ: No, they were very, very short. The earliest
ones were 50 feet, which is basically the length of
the table where George Eastman could lay out the
film — a liquid — and let it solidify, and then roll-cut
strips that were 35 millimeters [wide], and so at 16
frames per second, it doesn’t last very long.
At some point, I recall the story where this old
man talked to Edison about how to show these
films, and he said, “Well, just run them through three
times so that they get their money’s worth.”
There was no story. They had no message — no
nothing. They were just images of people moving,
and, in fact, they were not moving. They were really
sequential stills. Films for the Edison home kinetoscope were printed in three tracks on one film width
so the film could be run forward, then played again
reversing the reel, and then again forward. It was a
very unusual thing.
DD: One focus of your collection is how the secret
societies used the magic lantern for initiation
ceremonies and to reveal secrets that only the
JJ: Masons, for instance. They came up with a
marvelous device known as the hoodwink. Those to DD: These are hand-cranked machines.
be initiated were fitted with what looked like a set of JJ: They’re all hand-cranked. It’s a wonderful, click-goggles attached to a leather hood. The goggles had ing, mechanical sound that we don’t hear anymore.
a lever on either side where you could flip open the
eyepieces to see, or close them to keep the initiate
in the dark. They strapped it around the initiate’s
head, and led him into the inner chambers, where
he was shown a light-show presentation that told
the secret story of the lodge. That device gave rise
to the term “being hoodwinked.”
DD: The magic lantern comes to be part of the early
film industry starting in the late 1800s. The Edison
kinetoscope could project from slides and film.
JJ: You had Edison’s home kinetoscope, and, of
course, then the projecting kinetoscope, which was
the one that was used by more professional people.
DD: You have a beautiful collection here.
JJ: Nowhere else in the world can you go and see
the complete variations on how magic lanterns
were made and what they were used for. It really
was AV in every sense of the word, and it developed
into motion pictures. Man has been fascinated by
projected imagery ever since there were shadows
dancing on the walls of a cave.
The Magic Lantern Castle Museum follows the
use of magic lanterns up until the first generation of
film projectors. Judson decided to stop collecting
there, at the advent of cinema.