Thursday, 21 November 2013

Followed by an invisible ghost

Red leafSeveral times recently I've heard someone following me along the same completely deserted street. On each occasion I turned around and could see no one there. It sounded like the same person each time as they walked with a peculiar shuffling noise. An invisible ghost dragging its feet, then? Well, no. On the last occasion I finally saw the real cause of the noise. Which is good because being followed by someone invisible is unnerving!

Meanwhile the door ghost (door what?) still puts in regular appearances, though it is yet to make any noise. I tried a couple of new 'tests' recently. Firstly, once I'd seen the ghost, I moved the hand (the one producing the apparition) very slowly. As I suspected, the ghost did not vanish as it would if I moved the hand quickly. The partial figure only vanished once the hand had moved a significant distance from where I normally see the apparition. I think it had, by then, moved to a position where a human figure no longer made any visual sense to my brain. So, it seems that misperception can survive movement of the object being misperceived, provided it happens slowly enough and doesn't go too far.

The second thing I tried was looking away, then looking back immediately. Also as I expected, this completely destroyed the misperception. It is a bit like closing your eyes to check if you are hallucinating. I suspect it happens because our brains can only be fooled once in such situations, something I'd already noted.

And the mysterious shuffling sound following me (if you haven't already guessed)? It was a slight breeze blowing fallen autumn leaves around on the path. I was surprised how much the leaves sounded like a human or animal shuffling about. It probably wouldn't have worked if the wind was stronger than just a slight breeze. If it had happened at night it would have been doubly unsettling as it would be difficult to see what was really going on.

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