Thursday, 7 February 2013

Were ghosts grey in the 1950s?

Shadow ghostI've never come across any reports of grey (or monochrome) ghosts* but it doesn't mean they aren't out there. Ghosts are sometimes shown as grey in TV or movie ghost stories but the ones in real life are usually described as just like normal people. But I would not be surprised if there were a few reports of grey ghosts, particularly from the 1950s. How so?

Firstly, we know that some ghost reports are generated by near sleep experiences, where dream states mingle with real life scenery actually being viewed by the witness. Secondly, a report in last week's New Scientist mentions research which shows that most people dreamed in black and white in the 1950s but, by the end of the 1960s, in colour. It is thought that the transition of television from monochrome to colour over that period may be responsible. I had a dream recently which was clearly set in the past, some time in the 1950s I think. It was in colour, as my dreams are. But where did my brain get the imagery for the 1950s? I suspect it was from television or movies!

So, if people dreamed in black and white in the 1950s, would they have seen monochrome ghosts when they were caused by things like hypnagogia? Though it's a tempting idea, personally I doubt it. Our brains try to make sense of whatever we see, even if that means editing things a bit. So I suspect any hypnagogic ghostly figures would be of 'normal' colour, even if the witness usually dreams in black and white. Indeed, witnesses I've spoken to who experience hypnagogic experiences say the 'additional' dream elements look 'normal' compared to their surroundings. It is as if our brains adjust the dream elements to fit in realistically, however fantastic the hallucinated objects are. Whether it is a perfect fit, like getting shadows correct, I don't know but it is usually good enough to convince the witness that what they're seeing is real.

If anyone does have any reports of monochrome or grey ghosts, from any period, I'd love to hear about them. Of course ghosts, just like real human figures, will probably look grey anyway in low light conditions, so that isn't what I'm looking for. I want to know about any ghosts that look conspicuously grey against a well-lit background. If any investigator meets a witness who reports a grey ghost, it would be worth asking if they dream in black and white.

PS: I recently heard a weird, unearthly scream that appeared to come from the sky, though no obvious cause was visible. I did, however, have a restricted view as it was through a window. I tried 'replaying' the sound in my head and my conclusion was that it was most likely a large gull. Who knows what someone unfamiliar with gull calls would have made of it!

*Apart from the the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui which may, or may not, be a ghost but is in any case hardly typical. I've been near Ben MacDhui but never encountered the 'man' alas.

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