Reflections in History: The House of Mirrors
The North American carnival: a mystique-filled entertainment bonanza this is as much a part of American cultural history. With springtime warmth occurring all across the county, these traveling carnivals will no doubt be moving into the area sooner rather than later, not to mention all of the amusement parks that will soon be opening their doors. With so much fun and excitement on the horizon, Superior Mirror thought we’d celebrate the turn of the season by highlighting the best attraction of them all: the Hall of Mirrors. How can we not plug the theme park ride that makes mirrors look cool?
A brief history
Funhouses may be all the rage today, but before we had a mind-blowing visual experience travel from town to town, Paris was the place where mirrors shined. Located in the Palace of Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors was built in the 17th century as a commission from King Louis XIV of France and features twenty-one gilded archways made entirely of mirrors. With a total of 357 mirrors used throughout the hall and the fact that a single Venetian mirror equaling the cost of a large navy ship, the undertaking was one of the most grandiose and expensive decorating endeavors in history! Fast-forward to the 1900’s and the Hall of Mirrors received its first evolution in the now famous novel, The Phantom of the Opera (1911) where the Phantom himself builds a labyrinth of mirrors to help protect his secret hideaway by confusing and tricking his enemies with countless reflections. Already associated with mysticism and the unknown, it’s no surprise that this idea struck the perfect chord within American culture, fueling the rise of the “funhouse” used in carnivals the world over.
The labyrinth of mirrors that distorts our minds and bodies today is much the same as its origins, with a few exceptions. Mirrors no longer cost a national fortune to produce, and so funhouses are typically much larger and more elaborate than their ancestral single-room exhibits. Besides the confusing mirrors themselves, glass panels separating sections are also used as unexpected obstacles to tease visitors by showing them parts of the maze they cannot reach. Convex and concave mirror bubbles are used to distort and warp a person’s reflection into amusing or frightening shapes, and placing mirrors on the ceiling or floor is used to distort a person’s sense of direction.
Keep your eyes peeled for our next blog, and the next time you hear of a funhouse in your area, think of how mirrors make all that fun possible!