Mingodrake wrote:1. Where can I find a good way to have a spirit appear that looks like it MIGHT be real ? Perhaps some sort of peppers ghost.
2. Should I even bother ? I think I can build a pretty strong act without it...would it seem more real without the effects?
3. How do I respond if a patron wants to contact " grandma" or whoever ? I'm saying no, but how?
4. What other material should I be studying ? For haunted magic that is... I am going back to our history and reading about the mediums of old and there methods . Any other ideas?
I'm not quite sure what to say overall as I don't know what you're trying to accomplish. Is this supposed to feel like a recreation of an authentic turn-of-the-century seance? Is this a spook show of some kind? What do you want your audience to feel they are participating in, and how do you want them to describe it afterward?
Once you've got that figured out, think about the way you want to structure the performance to meet those goals. Choosing effects is only part of this.
In answer to your above questions:
1. Methods are legion. For period techniques, see Keene's Psychic Mafia and Moore-Davis' Seance. (For audiences of 15 in a parlor show, your Pepper's Ghost possibilities are seriously limited.)
2. That depends on your dramatic goals and your performance venue. If you're doing a believable seance, I'd advise against it. Conversely, if you're doing a spook show, you pretty well must.
3. Well, why do you say no? I can tell you why I do: because I firmly believe that mediums are unnecessary -- that anybody can make peace with the spirits by simply shutting out all distractions, dimming the lights, closing their eyes, and being open to all possibilities. In time, a comforting memory may suggest itself, or a half-forgotten dream, or a scent, or a sound. (This kind of meditation can be a great help during the grieving process. And in the rare case that additional assistance is desired, I can always refer them to a reputable grief counselor.)
4. Reading spiritualism history is a great place to start. I also agree with prior advice about books for magical performers by Maue, Teller, and Burger, and happily add the works of Moore-Davis (Seance), Corinda (13 Steps), Annemann (The Jinx), Earle (Manifestations), and Waters (Mind, Myth & Magick). Lastly, I think it's a good idea to stay on top of the works of authors for the general public on such subjects as haunted places, allegedly true hauntings, ghost hunting, exorcisms, and so on. Your audiences are not Victorian, after all, so it's a good idea to know as much about the subject as they do.
Best of luck,