Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Lake side ghost seen AND photographed!

Old man ghostIn most ghost photos I've examined, the ghost was not actually noticed at the time of exposure (suggesting a photographic artefact in many cases). And on the few occasions when a witness actually saw a ghost and took a picture, the resulting photo usually does not show anything like what they reported. So an example of a ghost that was seen at the time, and looks very similar in the photo, is rare. Here is just such a case which happened to me recently.

As I came around the corner in the path I immediately saw the distant figure across a lake (pic right above). It looked to me like an man with a hat and brown or green clothing, or so I thought. For several seconds I looked at the man without having any doubt that he was a real person. It then struck me as odd that the figure didn't move. Not even slightly! Ordinary people rarely stand so still. And, being familiar with the area, I knew there was no statue there. Oddly, I never thought it was a ghost though I could see how others might. I realised it must be a misperception, probably of a tree. A telephoto photo (pic lower right) revealed what it really was.

In many reported ghost sightings the witness believes they are looking at an ordinary human figure at the time. It is only when the figure does something odd, like standing statue-still or vanishing, that people start to suspect it might be a ghost. In some cases the witness only realizes they were watching a ghost after the observation has ended. This might happen if the figure was in a place where it is known for certain that no one was present, like a locked empty room for instance. So the fact that I thought, for several seconds, that I was watching an ordinary human being is quite typical of many ghost sightings.

Even in the first photo (above) it still resembles a human figure to me, though others may not think so. How you see it will probably depend mainly on your device's display and how susceptible you are to seeing misperceptions.

Some interesting questions arise from the sighting. For instance, why did I decide it was a man? And why wearing a hat? Looking at both photos now, it may not appear obvious!

There is, however, a big difference between watching a distant object for a few seconds and being able to study a photo closely for as long as you like. I can see where the 'hat' comes from: it is the flat top of the figure. It is obvious from the size of the 'figure' that it would have to be an 'adult' rather than a 'child'. I have other photos of the same scene where real people walk next to the pollarded tree. They are a very similar size. But why a man rather than a woman? I honestly don't know! I suppose it was 50:50 and my brain chose arbitrarily. The clothing colour clearly came from the actual hue of the real tree.

Old man figureWhen we misperceive we may see a human figure drawn from visual memory. However, its individual features will be constrained by the object being misperceived. So two witnesses who misperceive the same tree are likely to agree, broadly, about what the 'figure' looked like. There may be detail differences, though. Someone standing next to me, for instance, might have decided the figure was a woman. I believe the human figure we see when we misperceive is probably a generalized archetype rather than any specific remembered individual. But it will always be altered to look like an individual by the characteristics of the object being misperceived. I've no idea of the details of how it works but no doubt that will emerge in time.

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