What is a two-way mirror?
Also known as a one-way mirror or a transparent mirror, it is a piece of glass that has been coated with a super thin layer of metal. It is placed between a darkened room a lighted room, which allows a person in the darkened room to see through the glass, but a person in the lighted room to only see his own reflection. Mirrors like this are usually used for security purposes. Police use them in interrogation rooms so that they can see the suspect, but not vice versa. Cameras can be hidden behind them to catch shoplifters, and news programs employ them in the form of teleprompters.
If, however, the lights in the darkened room are turned on, the mirror becomes transparent on both sides. This is how we can produce ghostly images in mirrors for our haunted house!
Uses in Haunted Houses
If you’ve ever gone through one of Disney’s Haunted Mansion or Phantom Manor rides and been amazed by the hitchhiking ghosts that seem to sit beside your reflection, you have seen a two-way mirror at its fullest spooky potential. We can create a similar effect in our own haunted houses without too much effort. The mirror does most of the work for you!
Just set your mirror into a false wall in your haunted house and place something spooky behind it. Then find a way to click on the lights at just the right moment for the maximum scare effect. Depending on the size of your mirror and what you have available, you can hide a person in a costume, an animatronic or just a scary portrait behind your mirror. Your victim will walk down the hall and at first see only their reflection. Then, when the time comes, light up your ghostly apparition and let the mirror do it’s work. Your victim will suddenly see what is behind the mirror. Eek!
We find that strobe lights work well for lighting up your apparition – some of them can be set to timers, and others have foot controls. For smaller mirrors, a flashlight under your chin is the simplest and most effective method for getting that traditional scary face.
How to make your own
It’s fairly easy to buy a two way mirror online, and it’s not too expensive. But then there is the matter of having it shipped, which could be expensive and a big hassle, depending on the size you choose. Then you will have to find a frame that fits and looks right. I have found that it’s easier to make your own.
You will need:
- Picture frame of your chosen size and style
- Privacy window film (mirror style)
- Adhesive spray
- utility knife or razor blade
If you plan on putting a person behind your mirror, you should choose a larger-sized picture frame. You may want to use a poster frame, but the thicker the frame, the better. If you can find a large antique-looking frame (try a second-hand shop or check around at garage sales), that would be ideal. A neat idea is to paint your frame black or crack the paint to make it look old.. Just don’t damage the frame too much that you can’t get the glass back in!
After removing the glass from your frame, you will apply the privacy film to one side. This film is usually used on the windows of cars and buildings to keep people outside from seeing in during the day. (If you’ve ever stopped to check out your reflection in the side of a building, there were probably people inside laughing at you.) You can buy this film at some auto parts stores, or at Home Depot or Lowes. I found mine at Home Depot for $25, but you will also need to buy the adhesive spray and the package of tools, unless you already have a small squeegee and a utility knife (razor blade).
The only company I know of that makes this mirrored film is Gila. See their website here: http://www.gilafilms.com/Residential/window-film-mirror.htm
Follow the directions in the package (Gila rolls their instructions into the film) to apply the film to your glass. See our video below for a tutorial. It’s easier to attach the film to a loose piece of glass than a window because there’s no measuring involved. Just lay your glass on top of the film and cut around the edges.
Make sure you cut the film so that you have an extra inch on all sides. Next, you may want to ask a friend for help, as it’s easy to crease the film or get it stuck to itself when you work alone. Apply the film and squeegee it as flat as possible, removing any bubbles. When you trim the excess film off the edges, it doesn’t have to be perfect, as the edges will be hidden beneath the frame. You may want to hold the squeegee on the edge of the glass when you pull the excess away, as it tends to stick and pull up what you’ve already squeegeed down.
After you’ve trimmed and dried the film, place the glass back into the fame with the film facing forward.
Installing your Haunted Mirror
False walls are the key to a great haunted house. Monsters can hide behind them and spooky hands can reach out from them and grab passers by. They are also the place to install your haunted mirror. You will need to cut a hole in one of your false walls to hang your mirror in front of. It should be smaller than the outside of your frame, but larger than the visible glass so you can hide the seam of the wall behind the frame. Your guests should not be able to tell there is anything strange about the wall.
If you want to get really advanced (or just don’t want to sit around behind a wall for hours) you can put a TV or computer screen behind a small mirror and loop a spooky video on it. You can make your own video if you like – It should be black most of the time to allow for the appearance of a normal mirror. Then create bright, ghostly images that emerge from the blackness. Do this by simply moving into a beam of light (flashlight under the chin works) and make a scary face! You don’t have to limit yourself to just faces – get creative, you can put anything behind your mirror!
After your get your video up on the screen, you will want to turn the contrast way down because even when the screen is black it can emit a glow that will alert your guests that something’s up. You may also need to cover the sides of your screen with black cloth or paper (paint it black if you have an old spare) and make sure all lights on the knobs and power button are hidden and won’t glow through. Then push the screen up behind the mirror and let it work its magic!