Monday, 3 December 2012

Experimenting with a ghost!

ShadowThere are very few ghost cases where there are prolonged sightings of an apparition. And I can think of no cases where the appearance of an apparition is predictable. So, any case combining those elements would be priceless, allowing serious investigation of exactly how ghosts work!

I haven't found a case like that, sadly, but I do have something similarly useful in my 'door ghost' or 'doppelganger' (see here). Briefly, I occasionally clearly see the reflection (in frosted glass) of a shadowy figure standing behind me. On turning round, there is no one there! I think that qualifies it as a ghost!

Investigation has led me to the conclusion that the 'figure', or at least its 'feet', are my own hand (!) reflected in the glass against a fairly featureless background. It is a misperception, apparently caused by mistaking the size and distance (as well as identity) of my hand (see here). The ghost always appears in the same position, meaning it is repeatable. And it can appear for prolonged periods, as long as I don't 'break' the misperception by moving. So it is a ghost that can be experimented on!

I did my first experiment recently. I noticed the ghost in its usual position. As ever, I had forgotten about it before it appeared! There are certain limited circumstances where a useless memory can be useful and this is one of them. Someone else would no doubt be prepared for the ghost every time they were at the door, so preventing its appearance! Only being able to see the ghost once I've forgotten its existence is a bit like being caught up in the plot of a weird movie! Cue cliche about life being stranger ...

So for my first experiment, I deliberately 'broke' the misperception by changing position and the ghost duly vanished. Then I resumed the exact position where the ghost usually appeared and looked at the reflection in the correct way. Nothing! No ghost! I already knew that once a misperception is broken it ill not reappear. However, that was based on experience. In this case, I demonstrated the point experimentally.

The fact that that an investigator suspects that a misperception is responsible for a particular ghost report can make it difficult to reproduce! As the investigator is aware of the effect, they are unlikely to see it, even if they are in exactly the right position in the correct lighting conditions. What is needed is an assistant who is NOT aware of the supposed misperception and so will not be expecting it. I am not sure (a) how practical this is or (b) of the ethics involved! Perhaps there could be a willing assistant involved who is deliberately, with their full knowledge, kept in the dark about where anything has be seen. Then they could examine several nominated sites within a building, only one of which has produced any sightings, to see if they witness anything. I'm not sure what we'd make of them seeing an apparition at one of the control sites. But it would be worth some experimentation I think.

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