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called forth shrieks of terror and amazement. Amongst the most appalling of these figures, was the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow, so inimitably described in the Sketch Book: it will be remembered that the body of this trooper having been buried in the church-yard, its ghost was believed to ride forth every night in quest of its head, and that the rushing speed with which he passed along the hollow, like a midnight blast, was owing to his being in a hurry to get back to the church-yard before day-break. This rapid movement was admirably represented in the phantasmagoria : at first the figure appeared extremely diminutive, and at a great distance; but almost immediately its size became gigantic, and it seemed as if within a few feet of the audience, and then suddenly vanished. After an instant of utter darkness, the figure was again visible at a great distance; the schoolmaster, Crane, was also seen belabouring the starveling ribs of his steed, old Gunpowder, and quickening his pace towards the very spot where the spectre was stationed. The whole audience were breathless with horror. Crane arrived at the bridge, over which the headless figure opposed his passage.
upon us !” cried a faint voice from one of the back seats, “ the ghost has found his head, and is carrying it before him on the pommel of his saddle.” — “ Hush, hush,” cried another voice; Crane's horse had taken fright; away he dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Crane's flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse's head, in the eagerness of his flight. The goblin pressed hard
upon he was not more than a yard behind him, when he was seen to take up his head, and with gigantic force to hurl it at the pedagogue; it encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash; he was tumbled headlong in the dust; the goblin whisked past like a whirlwind, and the company were once again in entire darkness.
Upon my word,” exclaimed Mr. Seymour, “ this is one of the most complete illusions I ever witnessed.”
“ It is most ingeniously managed,” said the vicar.
Papa,” cried Tom, “ I am quite impatient to learn how so extraordinary an effect can have been produced. You told me this morning that
a phantasmagoria was nothing more than an improved magic lantern; but how is it possible for the slides to be so managed as to make the figures approach and retire from you, and above all, to make them move their bodies, and throw their arms into different attitudes ?”
“ In the first place, the figures only appear to approach you, for they are thrown upon a surface which never changes its place; the whole is therefore an optical illusion, arising from the fact that we estimate the distance of an object by its apparent magnitude; when, therefore, the figure began to diminish in size, the mind instantly assumed that it was receding from the eye; and the illusion was still farther heightened by the absence of all other objects by which it might be compared.”
At this moment Mr. Seymour was interrupted by the appearance of the performer, who announced his intention of submitting another optical illusion, which he trusted would afford equal satisfaction.
“ Papa,” cried Tom,“ how much do I regret my ignorance of optics. It is a cruel disappointment to me that I should witness so many curious exhibitions, without being able to
understand the principles upon which they depend.”
“ I promise you, my dear boy,” replied Mr. Seymour,“ to instruct you in this branch of science during the Christmas vacation. Enjoy, therefore, the present amusements, and instead of repining at your ignorance, anticipate the pleasure which you will receive, when you shall be able to explain them.”
A series of extraordinary effects were now exhibited by means of concave mirrors. Aërial images were produced, so illusive in their appearance, that the spectators could not believe in their immateriality, until they attempted to
In this manner were presented flowers, fruit, a human skull, and a dagger; the latter of which terrified the spectator by the sudden and violent manner in which its point approached him. With this illusion the amusements concluded; the light of day was admitted; and the performer stepping forward, announced the termination of his exhibition in the words of Shakspeare:
“ Our revels no are ended : these our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
The villagers, as they poured out of the booth, and mingled with their companions in the fair, with their wonted propensity for the marvellous, related, in most exaggerated terms, the wonders they had encountered in the region of shadows. Nothing is swallowed with more avidity than tales of mystery, especially if spiced with a few grains of horror; we cannot, therefore, be surprised at the anxiety so generally manifested by those who had not yet witnessed the optical performances to exchange their tickets for such as would secure their admission into the popular booth. The crowd, however, which had assembled round the spot was soon dispersed by the appearance of a placard, announcing the suspension of all the performances for two hours; and informing the populace that the interval would be devoted to various sports and pastimes in the adjoining field.
Before the spectators had quitted the fair for these new points of attraction, a flourish of trumpets was heard, and Giles Gingerly, the American mountebank, appeared on his stage, in the midst of the astonished multitude. He was an extremely tall and thin person, dressed in a suit of pepper and salt cloth; he wore a