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Fantasmagoriana or Collection of the Histories of Apparitions, Spectres, Ghosts, etc. (1812)

Related: 1812 - phantasmagoria - ghost - horror fiction


This is a general term that is used to describe a shifting series of imaginary or fantastic images as seen in a dream or fevered imagination. The term appears to have derived from a magic lantern experiment in 1802 presented by a Frenchman M. Philipstal. Variants of the term have been used to describe apparitions of phantoms, such as by Jean Baptiste Eyries in Fantasmagoriana or Collection of the Histories of Apparitions, Spectres, Ghosts, etc. (1812).

This is the work from which Lord Byron read aloud to Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (later Mary Shelley), Claire Clairmont, and J. W. Polidori on the night of June 16, 1816. Springing from Lord Byron's reading was the suggestion that each member of the party should write a ghost story, which culminated in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein that was first published in 1818. --Shepard, Leslie A., ed. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 3rd ed., Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1991. via http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/phantasmagoria.html [Aug 2006]

It was indeed upon a ‘dark and stormy night’, during the summer of 1816 that an eccentic group of English literati gathered at the Villa Diodati. The atmosphere at the Villa was charged by the violent streaks of lightening that licked at the mountain tops and split a black sky.

As the wind outside whipped up the surface of lake Leman into a cauldron of waves the occupants of the Villa; Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Dr John Polidori, Percy Shelley and Claire Clairmont, whipped themselves into a gothic frenzy with recitals of haunting poetry and ghost stories.

The stories that they read came from a book, originally written in German, that had recently been translated into French. The book that they read from was called Fantasmagoriana. --http://www.fantasmagoriana.com/ [Aug 2006]

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