Friday, 20 January 2017

Ghostly face!

Reflected treeCan you see the ghostly face in the photo (right)? I see photos all the time that I'm told contain the faces or figures of ghosts when I can see no such thing. This suggests to me that we are dealing with photographic misperceptions. These are misperceptions sufficiently 'strong' that some people, at least, see them all the time. Normally, misperceptions in photographs don't survive for long because it is possible to examine them over an extended period of time and you can zoom in and look at them more closely. But occasionally some survive such close examination, especially if it not possible to zoom in or enhance the photo. In contrast, misperceptions in 'the wild' are often seen as fleeting glimpses in poor viewing conditions.

I strongly suspect that if I could see what others were seeing in ghost photos it would be a real human face, not something that merely resembles one. That's because in misperception the real object is visually substituted with an image from our memories.

I put the picture (above right) up for the last blog post but had not noticed the 'ghost face' in it at the time! Now, when I look at the top right corner I see a pale face framed by long grey hair. If you can't see it, the face is traversed by the branch that forms a diagonal line across the top right corner. I see an 'eye' just to the left of the branch and a bizarrely upturned mouth below the 'nose'. The photo below shows the area of the apparent face.

Reflected tree (detail)Amazingly, I can still see the partial face, even in this zoomed version (right), though it is not as clear. So what is the 'face' really? Looking at this detailed view, I think the 'face' is primarily formed by the branches of the reflected tree. The 'eye' and 'mouth' are overlapping branches, I believe. The 'hair' is also outlined by branches. It only appears like thick bushy hair because of the presence of the 'face'! I think the fact that the tree is seen in reflection (in a puddle) also helps the misperception. It softens the appearance of the tree branches.

I think the thick diagonal branch that bisects the 'face' actually adds to the overall effect. I strongly suspect that if it wasn't there it would be obvious that the 'other eye' is most likely missing. I've noticed before that such 'partial' images in misperceptions in the real world are often particularly effective. Statistically, it is easier to find a group of objects that appear together to resemble half a face than a whole one. And our brains seem happy to recognise partially obscured objects.

Misperceptions appear to be perfectly real, so do I see it as an actual real life face in this photo? No, it looks like a drawing of a face. To that extent it appears real but, no, I don't see a normal living face. The face also looks a little grotesque. However, if I was expecting a ghost face there is no reason why it should look entirely 'normal'. The faces of ghosts portrayed on TV and in the the movies are often unnatural-looking.

Regarding this photo, as always with misperception, what you see will depend on the device being used to view the photo.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

White shape walks away!

Reflected treeI looked up to see a white shape n the distance. My first thought was that it was a person. But it didn't move so I decided it must be something inanimate, though I wasn't sure what. It was just another case of misperception! But then, completely unexpectedly, the object started moving - walking in fact. It was a real person after all!

It occurred to me that the vast majority of misperceptions I notice are of inanimate objects appearing as human figures or animals. I suspect this is probably typical of most misperception that people notice. A recent example is the RSPCA who apparently get a lot of calls about animals in distress that turn out to be inanimate objects (see here).

So why might misperceptions of inanimate objects as people be more frequently noticed than the other way round? I think it is simply because people (and animals) are more important to us than inanimate objects. It is also less likely that someone would misperceive a person as an inanimate object because people rarely stay still for long.

We all misperceive al the time but very rarely notice it. My experience suggests that most misperceptions that ARE noticed are human figures. And given that they often 'vanish', it is little wonder they get reported as ghosts. They do not really vanish, of course, they simply revert visually to their real form, such as a tree (see here). I suspect misperception may be the biggest xenonormal cause of paranormal reports.

PS: The picture is a tree reflected in a puddle!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Phantom snow boarder

Mystery sky objectMost people won't see this. In fact, it may only be me that can! The picture (right) shows a mystery object in the sky that I photographed recently. As is so often the case with anomalous photos, I noticed nothing unusual at the time of exposure. But when I looked at the photo later, I was astonished.

What I saw was a wispy figure standing on a flat board - a snow boarder in mid-air! However, the picture was taken in a city and the object was several tens of metres in the air!

You're probably looking at the photo and thinking, how is that a mystery? I believe this is how it happened. I noticed the odd object in the photo and zoomed in to see what it was. In doing so I think I zoomed in just enough for me to misperceive the object as a 'flying snow boarder'. I am, as regular readers will be aware, prone to noticing misperceptions so someone else, seeing the exact same scene, would probably have see nothing odd at all. But that is the nature of anomalous photos - some people see a ghost or UFO, others don't.

So what natural explanations did I consider? I thought it might be a part of a distant crane suspended by wires that were too thin to show up in this view. In a similar vein, I wondered if the object could be something at the top of a thin white pole. There were some cranes nearby but other photos I took from different angles showed none in that position, nor any pole or the mystery object itself. I also considered the idea of a cloud but the sky was overcast and the object was clearly well below the cloud base.

Mystery sky objectIt was only by zooming out a bit that I finally realised what I was really looking at! So here (right) is a version zoomed out. Now it looks like a bird - a gull to be precise. There were plenty about at the location so it makes perfect sense. The 'wispy figure' is the gull's wings and the 'board' its body.

Usually when you zoom in to an object in a photo it becomes clearer what it is. However, when the object is near the limit of resolution for the photo it may become pixelated and actually look different, as in this case. Just for a while, though, I really thought I'd caught something very strange in the sky - a phantom snow boarder perhaps!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The unexpected return of fame month!

Crows in a treeIt was the very last day of 2016. Suddenly, out of the blue, I saw a celebrity - a well-known sportsperson. According to the original 'fame sighting pattern' December is a 'fame month'. However, after missing out in August, the last one, I'd thought the apparent pattern was broken. So, I wasn't even thinking about celebrities at all.

Regular readers will know what this is all about. For everyone else, here's a catch up. I had noticed my tendency to see more famous people than I thought was 'normal' - an average of 0.23 per month. I do not seek out celebrities, I just see them during my normal everyday activities. What is really weird is that, recently, I appear to have been seeing them at regular intervals, every four months. Random events should not occur at regular intervals!

So the recent sightings are as follows: April 2015, August 2015, December 2015, April 2016 (2 weeks late). The expected August sighting never occurred but now there is one in December apparently resuming the previous pattern. I'm even beginning to wonder if maybe I walked near a celebrity in August and simply never noticed them!

Even before this pattern of sightings appeared, I'd been seeing around 0.23 celebrities a month going back many years. The non-appearance last August hardly dents that average. To me, at least, it still seems a high number of sightings for someone who is making no effort whatsoever to seek out the famous. It will be interesting to see what happens in April.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Vanishing mouse!

Leaves and lens flareI was waiting at a railway station recently when I noticed a mouse, or something like it, scamper across the the other end of the platform. But before it reached the far side, it simply vanished! Astonished, I went for a closer look. Even as I approached the area I realised what had happened. It wasn't a mouse, or any other animal, but a wind-blown leaf. But I certainly thought it was a mouse while I was watching it. Having seen squirrels on that same platform before, a mouse would not have been so extraordinary. So, it was a clearly a case of a misperception where the movement of the misperceived object played a crucial role.

Obviously, wind-blown leaves are rarely mistaken for mice but there were a number of factors at play here. Firstly, the leaf was a fair distance away, about 25m or so. Secondly, though it was daylight the sky was overcast giving unusually poor light conditions. Thirdly, the leaf was blown along the ground at just the right speed to resemble a scampering mouse. It turned over and over giving the impression of a something running. Fourthly, I think recent rain contributed both to the dark overall appearance of the leaf and its unusual rolling motion. I saw the 'mouse' for a couple of seconds initially and was completely convinced at the time that I was watching an animal. It was only when it stopped and 'vanished' that I began to wonder. The vanishing act is easily explained - the wind suddenly dropped the leaf so that it fell flat on the ground.

And the picture? Well I was looking for a photo of autumn leaves and I found this one with a nice bit of lens flare, right of centre, to add anomalous interest.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Grey fuzzy thing!

One winged thingYet another strange photo (right)! This one shows a grey fuzzy 'thing' attached to a thin branch at the top of a tree. The 'thing' has an appendage of some sort pointing out above while other appendages appear to attach it to the branch. The main body of the object appears more or less featureless. So what is this strange anomalous thing?

There are clues in the picture. The right end of the 'thing', including the vertical appendage, looks oddly fuzzy. The appendages at the left end are more sharply defined so the 'thing' cannot be out of focus. This suggests that motion blur is responsible for the fuzziness in part of the object. The position of the 'thing', on a branch, is also a big clue.

Bird by branchThe 'thing' is actually a small bird which has just taken off from the branch. Here is a zoomed view of the same photo (right). It is possible now to see that the blurred section at the right end, and the appendage, are fast moving wings. The 'appendages' by the branch are the bird's tail and one of the its legs stretched out having just let go of the branch.

I took this photo by accident. It was part of a sequence of photos of the bird on a branch. I deliberately 'zoomed out' the first version of the photo above. In many anomalous photos that I've seen it is not possible to get greater detail like this by zooming in because the resolution is too low. So you only have a photos like the zoomed out one above. It is also rare for there to be other photos taken of the same scene at the same time.

Unfortunately low resolution is a feature of many anomalous photos. The picture may be good enough to show its main subject well but the small 'anomaly' may not contain enough detail to determine its true nature.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Strange glowing yellow dots

Glowing yellow stuffThere are strange things everywhere if you look closely enough. Take the photo (right) here that I took recently. The picture shows a cobbled pavement covered in fallen leaves. But there is also something odd. There are lots of glowing yellow dots! What might they be?

The vast majority of photographic anomalies are found when a photo is examined after exposure. The anomaly was hardly ever seen at the time the photo was taken. This is significant because the photographer will often not remember much about the circumstances of the photo being taken after the event. This can result in 'unknown' human figures, taken to be ghosts, showing up when they were simply real people present but not noticed by the photographer at the time. When someone is concentrating on taking a photo they can easily not notice quite obvious things in the background of the picture.

Then there are other oddities whose explanation actually lies just outside the frame of the photo and which were, again, not noticed at the time. This picture is an example of that type of anomalous photo. Although the photo was taken in plain daylight, there was a streetlight on nearby. Its bright yellow light is being reflected in the wet street cobbles leading to the 'glowing yellow dots' seen here. Since streetlights are seldom on during daylight hours, it's not an obvious explanation to someone looking at the photo after the event.

So it is not a photographic artefact. The effect was 'out there' in the real world, not just in the camera. I DID notice it at the time, which is why I took the picture. However, it could easily have only been noticed after the event by someone who either forgot about the lit street light or never even noticed it at the time. It is a case of missing information being the key to explaining the effect. I get frustrated with many anomalous photos that I'm sure could be easily explained if only there was another picture available of the same scene taken from a different angle. In this case, a photo showing the lit street light would have helped! I often ask people with anomalous photos if any other pictures were taken at the same time. Sometimes there were and they can be really illuminating.