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William Castle has his head to thank for Illusion-O, the gimmick used to market 13 Ghosts.
While filming the movie, he began having constant headaches, so he went to see an eye doctor. It was there that a vision test sparked an idea.
“Wearing the heavy metal frames and looking through the assorted lenses, I felt I was in a strange, distorted world,” Castle remembered.
Eventually, the doctor found the right lens, and the director found the right gimmick.
Illusion-O, as Castle called it, would involve the audience wearing cardboard “ghost-viewers” (essentially 3-D glasses). When the words “Use Viewer” appeared on the screen, people could then decide if they wanted to look through the red lens to see ghosts or look through the blue lens to not see ghosts. The director even makes a cameo during the film to explain the “supernatural viewer”.
According to Castle, the process cost thousands of dollars, and he almost regretted the effort, which took a bit to figure out.
Thankfully, it paid off, and marketing for the film boasted about the free “ghost-viewer” stating:
“13 times the thrills! 13 times the screams! 13 times the fun! See the ghosts in ectoplasmic color!”
A float promoting 13 Ghosts also went around the city and even appeared at the Republican National Convention. People were dressed as ghosts and carried signs with slogans like “Bill Castle, The Only Candidate with a Ghost of a Chance” and “He Carries His Own Delegates: 13 Ghosts”.
Part of the gimmick also included the thirteen different types of ghosts (or as the poster said: “A ghost for every member of the family!”). They were:
1. Screaming woman
2. Clutching hands
3. Floating head
4. Flaming skeleton
5. Emilio, the cook (with a cleaver)
6. Emilio’s unfaithful wife
7. His wife’s lover
8. Executioner and a Head
9. A hanging woman
10. A lion
11. A headless lion tamer
12. Dr. Zorba
13. A question mark… because the last ghost would be whichever character met their demise...