Friday, 17 January 2014

Creating a ghost

transparent objectI was looking out of a window when I suddenly sensed that something was 'wrong'. There was 'someone else' in the empty room with me! The 'someone', a dark figure, was clearly visible in my peripheral vision! A ghost? I turned slowly to get a better look. The 'figure' instantly turned into some clothes hanging over the back of a chair.

I have noted here before how clothes on a chair can give a powerful misperception of a human figure. So I decided to do an informal experiment, to create my own ghost (see definition here)! I draped a blanket on a chair so that it occupied roughly the same area that a person would if they were seated there. I then went about my everyday business, hoping to forget about the blanket and see if I later misperceived it as a human figure. The blanket was uniform in colour and, unlike clothes, had no arms or legs. It didn't strongly resemble a human figure.

At first the experiment was disappointing. Even when I forgot about it, the blanket failed to get misperceived. Then I realised that I was always approaching the blanket so that I first saw it in my central vision. When I tried approaching it in such a way that my first view was inevitably peripheral, I started to get the brief, but definite, impression of a seated human figure. It seemed that the first view of the object was crucial, which makes sense in terms of misperception. When approached peripherally the 'figure' was present even when I was expecting it. This ties in with the experience above where I only noticed the clothes on the chair for the fist time in peripheral vision.

Another thing that strongly increased the chances of getting a misperception was being pre-occupied. I tried visualizing an emotive scene that pretty much completely took my attention. Then when I moved so that the blanket suddenly appeared in peripheral vision, there was a particularly strong impression of a human figure. The 'emotive subject' had absolutely nothing to do with anyone sitting in a chair, so neither expectation nor suggestion was playing a part. Instead, I think distraction was the key element. This ties in with my experiences of the door ghost that is most likely to appear when I'm completely preoccupied with something else.

And the photo? Not a blanket on a chair! So, instead I used a photo from some experiments I've been doing to find out the best way to get transparent objects in photos. It turns out that it is best if the transparent object is only in the frame for a short time, maybe less than a second, otherwise it looks too solid. The object here is a scrap of paper. The blue background was added in software (the only alteration) to give the impression of a desert scene! Yes, xenonormal experiments can be whimsical. Real life ghosts are seldom, if ever, reported as appearing transparent. However, photos showing transparent figures, almost always caused by a long exposure, continue to be reported as ghosts.

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