Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A group of ghosts

'Group of ghosts'My first thought was 'oh look there's a bunch of people in historical costumer over there'. My second thought was. 'I wonder if they could be ghosts'? Don't ask me what historic era they were from as I'm not good at that kind of stuff. I'd guess at well before the twentieth century! I asked someone nearby if they could see the group. They could.

This incident took place at a railway station and the figures were standing on a crowded platform. That's important because people nearby were clearly leaving room for the figures, which leads me to conclude that they could see the figures too. Overall, then, the evidence points firmly to these figures being ordinary people in historical costume. I suppose they may have been on their way to a fancy dress party, historical reenactment or some similar event.

It got me thinking. In almost every ghost case I could think of, there is only ever one apparition seen at any one time by witnesses. In my experience, sightings of groups of ghosts are extremely rare. A single figure appears to be very much the norm. But why?

When looking for explanations for any aspect of ghosts attributes it is important to remember that ghost sightings have many different causes. Among the main ones are misperception, hallucination and real people. So, any general attribute of ghosts needs to apply to misperceptions and at least some of the other common causes. So why would people misperceiving tend only to see one figure rather than a group? In my experience, the most often misperceived objects are visually simple. It isn't hard to see a tree stump as a human figure when glanced in your peripheral vision. But what object, or objects, would visually resemble a group of people?

Tree stump as ghostBy coincidence, I took the photo here (above right) recently. It resembled scenes that have caused me to misperceive figures in the past. Though the scene didn't cause a misperception when I first noticed it, I thought it might if I tried hard enough. I tried glancing at it in peripheral vision but it didn't work. The problem is, once you've seen what an object really is, it's difficult to misperceive it. It demonstrated how the visual complexity of such a subject doesn't work well work as a misperception. In contrast, the photo of a tree stump (right) is visually simple and WAS seen as a human figure, both at the time of exposure, and later as a picture on the ASSAP website.

With hallucinations there are no obvious reasons why groups of figures should not be seen. My best guess, in this case, is that people expect to see single ghosts. A lot of ghost stories involve sightings of just one ghost at any one time.

Whatever the reason, the fact that a very large proportion of ghost sightings involve single figures is clearly an significant clue to the nature of ghosts.

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