Friday, 14 February 2014

Being stared at by a ghost!

CrowRegular readers will be aware of the 'door ghost' I see from time to time (if not please see here). I haven't seen that ghost much of late. I'm not sure why, perhaps because I'm so used to it. Anyway, recently I've had a couple of unnerving experiences at the same 'door ghost' location. At first I was just vaguely aware of 'something' behind me, seen in reflection, but paid it little attention (as you do)! Then, on the latest occasion, I became distinctly aware of 'someone' looking right over my shoulder, disturbingly close!

What made this experience slightly alarming was that this person was in a completely different position to the usual door ghost. And, being over my shoulder, it clearly couldn't be a misperception of my hand! So, another ghost entirely!

A closer inspection soon revealed that it was actually the reflected view of the silhouette of the hood on my coat. Here in the UK we've been suffering a series of nasty storms and I've got used to wearing a coat with a hood every time I go out, something I rarely do normally. When I first saw the 'person' I was vaguely aware of a face. I could not make out any recognisable features but I was, nevertheless, convinced it was a face looking over my shoulder.

It was clearly another case of misperception, like the original door ghost. But what about the strong impression I formed that the 'face' was staring at me? Being stared at is an oddly common feature of ghost reports. My interpretation of my misperception is that my brain decided that the hood was a face because there was nothing above it and a face is the highest point of a human figure. I suspect that it decided the 'face' was looking at me because, what else would it be doing just behind my shoulder! This is the logic of expectation, which plays an important part in misperception. And there is another relevant factor at play here. I've noticed that misperceptions are often things you want, or don't want, to see! I think you can guess which category this sighting fits into. This might explain some other cases of motionless ghostly figures apparently staring at witnesses

Another recent sighting of mine provided an interesting variation on this theme. I saw a black bag blowing around in a street, a common sight in the recent windy weather. I could not see it well because I was looking towards the sun and the bag was in an area of deep shadow, quite common viewing conditions for winter. I was, nevertheless, curious and changed position to get a better look. The 'bag' turned out to be a crow! Most misperceptions I've experienced have been of inanimate objects seen as people or, more rarely, animals. So this example shows that it can also happen the other way round.

Another interesting point, which might explain why I notice misperceptions so much more than other people, is my curiosity. If I hadn't been curious, I'd still think I'd seen a black bag! I have, on several occasions, seen a human figure at a window. On closer inspection I then realised it was a misperceived plant. But if I hadn't bothered with that 'close inspection', and later found evidence that there was no one in that room at the time, I might have concluded that I'd seen a ghost!

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