Mills Novelty Co. | Illusion




Audiences are fascinated by the art of illusion and are often game to be deceived by their distorted perceptions. In 1904, Mills Novelty Co. used a similar deceptive technique with their ‘Illusion’ machine. Taking one cent from the player, the machine invites the player to look deeper inside the cabinet and find his or her true nature.


This machine is quite rare. The player may believe he is to view a movie, but when he places his face in the view finder, what he in fact sees is a mirror reflection of himself. Once a coin is inserted in the machine, the electrical rheostat transforms the mirror image through a glass prism into that of a skull, or a baboon, or even a lobster! The illusion claims to show players as they truly are and how they may be viewed by their friends and family.


The cabinet for this machine is a, small and elaborate quartered case, plentifully decorated with moldings and artistic decals which are a standard of the Mills Novelty Co. The magnificent oak flames in the wood are a perfect contrast to the fine lines of the cabinet. It was usual in arcades for several Illusion machines to stand side by side, all offering different transformations to the player.


This project was started as a commission to build just one machine. In total, National Jukebox Exchange produced three machines.


Read more in No Tampering! A Guide to Papa's Re-creations.

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