Monday, 8 September 2014

Phantom birds and ghost keys

Not crow under treeIn the last few days I've seen two phantom crows and been mystified by an invisible ghostly rattling of keys. I'll go through these mysterious incidents in the order they happened.
Firstly, I saw a black object on a path that, in the corner of my eye, was a crow. As an avid birder, I can never resist looking at birds, even those species I've seen thousands of time. I suppose I could justify it by saying that crows are intelligent birds and you never know what new stuff you might see one do. The truth is, I just like watching them!
Anyway, as I looked more carefully at the 'crow', it turned into a plant growing in a tiny gap between a paving slab and the tarmac of the adjacent road. The plant's shape was vaguely reminiscent of a crow but the colour definitely green. Of course, peripheral vision tends to towards monochrome which would explain the colour discrepancy. Peripheral vision also distorts shapes, to some extent. So, mystery number one dealt with.
Not a crow eitherThe second mystery was another crow. I saw this one in direct vision. What is more, I got a photo of it (above right)! The bird is the dark object on the grass in the very centre of the photo. Though seen from some distance off, it is the right size and where where you'd expect to see a crow! Except it isn't one. As the second, telephoto, photo (right) shows, the object is a clump of leaves hanging by a fine branch from the tree above. The leaves appear senescent which would explain they look darker than those in the rest of the tree. From a distance, as the upper photo shows, the leaves look black.
The simple dark colouration of a crow probably explains why they are the most frequent bird that I 'see' that turns out to be a misperception of something else. There are plenty of objects around that, when seen in the shade, can appear black overall from a distance.
The third mystery is completely different. I was walking along a street when I happened to hear some keys jangling behind me. Out of curiosity I turned to see who it was. To my utter astonishment there was no one there! It was a quiet street with wide verges, no traffic at the time and almost nowhere to hide in the second or two it took me to turn round. Could this be a ghost?
I looked all around but could see nowhere that anyone could have gone without my seeing them. Then I heard someone talking. I looked around and saw there was a person in a car nearby, talking on a phone with their window open. This could easily have been the person with the rattling keys. I hadn't noticed anyone in the parked car until I heard them speak. I guess I tend to assume that parked cars are going to be empty!
So, how come I notice all these little mysteries all the time? For the 'crows', it is my tendency to notice misperception. For the 'keys incident', I think it's because I tend to always be on the lookout for odd things, not just when I'm in a haunted location. I've found that there are a lot more strange things going on than you might think. Most people, most of the time, simply don't notice them.

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