Thursday, 25 April 2013

Two UFOs but NO ghost from a train!

Two UFOs but NO ghost from a train!

View from a trainTwo UFOs on one daylight train trip - not a bad haul, I thought. One of the triggers for misperception is seeing a scene for only a short period - a quick glance. The current, by no means exhaustive, list of things that trigger noticing misperception is here. It occurred to me, while on a train ride recently, that looking out of the window of a moving vehicle was going to produce a lot of 'quick glances'. So, I decided to look outside carefully on the journey, to see how many misperceptions I noticed.

Slightly surprisingly, I didn't see any ghosts. I really thought I'd see at least one! Perhaps it's the lack of scarecrows these days! Anyway, I DID manage to see not one, but two, UFOs. The first one looked like a large hovering bird. As a birder, I knew that there were no such animals commonly seen in the UK. The Kestrel hovers but it isn't that big. The Rough-legged Buzzard IS big and also hovers (one hovered over me once which was scary) but it is a rare winter visitor. Ospreys hover but only over water and they are rare too. What is even weirder is that I saw the same 'bird' hovering in exactly the same place on the return trip! By now it was obvious that the 'bird' was actually something artificial. The object appeared to be fluttering slightly in the wind. I don't know exactly what it was but it appeared to be suspended on a stiff wire from below, possibly a flying banner of some sort. From the distance the train passed by, you couldn't see the bit that held the 'bird' in place but, from the way it was moving, a flying banner seemed a likely explanation.

The second UFO was a light in the sky. Remember this was daylight so an aerial light was an unusual sight. The object appeared to be holding position, something which can be a little hard to judge when observing from a moving vehicle. There was a darker object attached to the bright light. As the angle changed, due to the moving train, it became obvious that the UFO was a hovering helicopter. Why it was using lights on a bright sunny afternoon I've no idea! The same object at night would, of course, have been more difficult to identify.

So where did this brief 'experiment' leave my ideas about 'quick glance' misperception and observing from moving vehicles? With the 'bird' UFO, I only saw it for a few seconds. If I hadn't seen it again on the return trip, I might still have not the faintest idea of what it was! The 'bright light' UFO was visible for longer, allowing a good identification. If it had only been glanced between trees, however, it might still be a mystery. I'm still sure I will see ghosts, as well, from trains in future and will try again. Perhaps the bright sunny conditions were not the best for briefly seen mysterious figures!

So why are there not more reports of ghosts and UFOs seen from moving vehicles? There are some, of course. UFOs are quite frequently seen from cars and road ghosts are, typically, seen from cars too. I can't recall any reports of strange stuff being seen from trains, though. Maybe people 'turn off' when they look out of train windows, not really noticing what's out there. I've noticed that few people even look out of the windows of trains these days. Most are using a mobile phone or laptop, others are reading and some asleep. Maybe some people DO see ghosts out of train windows but realise that a few seconds glance of a mysterious figure will not be taken too seriously! I will look hard for a ghost next time I'm on a train!

PS: The photo shows a view from a train. The small white UFO, top left, and large area of orange, towards the right, are a result of reflections on the window! Such reflections are a common cause of anomaly photos in pictures taken from vehicles.

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