Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Face at a window vanishes!

WindowThe ghostly face at a window is a particularly common form of anomalous photograph. But in all the cases I've personally examined, the photographer noticed no face at the window at the time of exposure. This leaves open the possibility that most, if not all, of these ghostly faces are actually photographic artefacts. I've certainly not come across one that didn't have a natural explanation - yet!

Cases of people actually seeing ghostly faces in windows are, in my experience, far rarer. So, I was taken by surprise recently when I noticed a shadowy face in a window which then vanished. It didn't turn or move away - it simply vanished out of existence! A ghost, then!

I had no reason, at first, to doubt that the face wasn't that of a real person. It wasn't particularly distinct but, given that it was in shadow and apparently a little way back from the glass, that's what you'd expect for a real face. It was of a size and position where you'd expect to see a face at that particular window.

Taken aback but continuing to watch, I then realised there was still 'something' in exactly the same position, but it wasn't a face. After changing my angle of view as much as I could, in several directions, I realised that the object was the reflection of a dark cloud. It had features that happened to resemble, in size and position, the mouth and eyes of a human face. It was, then, clearly a misperception.

I think this incident probably illustrates why ghostly faces are not seen that frequently in windows by eye witnesses. There were a number of factors that had to come together to produce this misperception.

Firstly, I, the witness, had to be at the correct angle to see the reflected cloud. If I'd been simply walking past the window, instead of standing still, I doubt I'd have noticed it. In a still photograph, of course, the viewer is always at the same angle to the window!

Secondly, the cloud had to be dark and have features in the correct configuration to resemble a face. A bright cloud simply wouldn't have looked like a face. The fact that the room behind the window was also in shadow helped. A real person's face in that situation would have looked pretty much like the one I saw. The sky was overcast, which helped.

Thirdly, the position of the 'face' was crucial. It corresponded to just where an average height person's face would be if they stood just behind the window, looking out.

So, given that all those factors needed to come together, it makes sense that ghostly faces produced by reflection are not often reported.

I have seen other window ghosts before - see here for instance.

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