Term generally used for a shifting series of imaginary or fantastic images as seen in a dream or fevered imagination. The term appears to have been derived from a magic lantern entertainment presented in 1802 by the Frenchman M. Philipstal. Variants of the term have been used to describe the appearance of phantoms, as in the collection of stories by Jean Baptiste Eyries, Fantasmagoriana, or Collection of the Histories of Apparitions, Spectres, Ghosts, etc. (1812). This was the volume that Lord Byron read aloud to Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (later Mary Shelley), Claire Clairmont, and J. W. Polidori on the night of June 16, 1816, which, along with the consumption of opium, stimulated their imaginations after Byron suggested that each should write a ghost story. The game culminated in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, first published in 1818.
Eyries, Jean Baptiste. Fantasmagoriana, or Collection of the Histories of Apparitions, Spectres, Ghosts, etc. Paris: F. Schoell, 1812.
phan·tas·ma·go·ri·a / fanˌtazməˈgôrēə/ • n. a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream: what happened next was a phantasmagoria of horror and mystery.DERIVATIVES: phan·tas·ma·gor·ic / -gôrik/ adj.phan·tas·ma·gor·i·cal / gôrikəl/ adj.
a series of phantoms or imagined figures.
Examples : phantasmagoria of contending angels, 1875; of terrible bright colours, 1880; of feathers, spangles, etc., 1822; of figures of ghosts and phantoms; of more prodigal and wild imaginations, 1880; of the sky, 1853.