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|“||Spectral viewers: you can see the ghosts with these.||„|
|~ Dennis Rafkin about the Spectral Viewers.|
Spectral Viewers are goggles/eyeglasses with special lenses that allow their wearer to see ghosts. Ghosts can usually only be seen through spectral viewers, though there have been several exceptions. These eyeglasses are featured in both the 1960 horror movie 13 Ghosts and the 2001 horror film Thirteen Ghosts.
In the 1960 film 13 Ghosts, the spectral viewers were invented by Dr. Plato Zorba as a method of seeing spirits. After Dr. Zorba was murdered by Benjamin Rush and the former's nephew Cyrus inherited his mansion, he and his family used the spectral viewers to see the 12 ghosts haunting the house.
The spectral viewers are large and resemble goggles. They are also dangerous, as when a fly flew by a pair of spectral viewers, the viewers electrocuted and killed it. At the end of the film, with all of the imprisoned ghosts having been released, what appeared to be Elaine destroyed the spectral viewers via telekinesis.
In the 2001 film Thir13en Ghosts, Spectral Viewers were used to see ghosts, originally by Cyrus Kriticos' ghost-hunting team and the 2 spirit liberators Damn Quinteros and Kalina Oretzia. When Arthur Kritocos, his family, Dennis Rafkin, Kalina and the Kriticos family's nanny Maggie Bess were locked in the mansion-like machine, they used Spectral Viewers to see the rampant ghosts that have been released as well as inscribed barrier spells on the machine's walls and panes of Ectobar glass. These Special Viewers are smaller, had lights along the peripheral corners, and more closely resemble plastic glasses.
- It is never really known nor ever discussed in any of the 2 films on how the Spectral Viewers actually worked. Some speculate they merely alter a person's perception of light as it strikes an object (a ghost, in this case) in such a way, the ghosts are then rendered visible. This might be similar to how corrective lenses bend and refract the light hitting a person's eye, improving visual clarity. It has also been theorized that the transparent material the lenses are comprised of, somehow operate on the same, ethereal plane as the spirits.
- As with several of his more famous productions, movie director William Castle used a gimmick to promote the movie. For 13 Ghosts, audience members were given a choice: the "brave" ones could watch the film and see the ghosts, while the apprehensive among them would be able to opt out of the horror and watch without the stress of having to see the ghosts. The choice came via the Special Viewer, supposedly "left by Dr. Zorba".
- In the theatres, most scenes were black and white, but scenes involving ghosts were shown in a "process" dubbed Illusion-O: the filmed elements of the actors and the sets — everything except the ghosts — had a blue filter applied to the footage, while the ghost elements had a red filter and were superimposed over the frame. Audiences received viewers with red and blue cellophane filters. Unlike early 3D glasses where one eye is red and the other is cyan or blue, the Illusion-O viewer required people to look through a single color with both eyes. Choosing to look through the red filter intensified the images of the ghosts, while the blue filter "removed" them. Despite Castle's claims to the contrary, not many heart attacks or nervous breakdowns were averted by the Illusion-O process; although the blue filter did screen out the ghostly images, the ghosts were visible with the naked eye, without the red filter.
- Because the ghosts were indeed viewable by the naked eye, the movie ran for years on television with no viewer needed to see the ghosts. DVD editions have varied in their preservation of the Illusion-O effect, with the latest DVD release including versions with and without the ghost outlines and a set of Special Viewers.
- Spectral Viewers were also called "Ghost Viewers".