Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Transparent figure, moving fast!

Ghost torchI was waiting for a train when I noticed the figure alongside the track, maybe 10m away. People near the railway track usually wear high visibility clothing so this dark figure attracted my attention. I suddenly realised, to my amazement, that the figure was transparent! It moved quickly, away from the track, and vanished! The figure wasn't projected onto the background like a shadow. It appeared to be a solid object, but transparent. The sighting was brief, lasting only a second or two. I think, as a transparent figure that vanished, it qualifies as a ghost!

Transfixed and a little shocked, I stared at the scene. Then the source of the ghost became obvious. There was a very young tree, consisting of a single thin trunk with large leaves coming from it, around 1.5 m tall, at the exact place I'd seen the ghost. The tree was blowing around in a stiff breeze. It moved far enough, occasionally, to come in front of an overhead electrification mast. As it did so, the tree became much less visible. I should say that, though it was daylight, the whole area of the sighting was in deep shadow. The position and motion of the tree in the wind exactly matched the fast moving shadowy figure I'd seen. I never saw the figure again, only the tree.

So, I have no doubt that it was a glance misperception. This is the first transparent misperception I've seen. I didn't even realize that they were possible. I'm assuming it's a function of the low lighting. I've misperceived several trees or plants as human figures or faces but they were always solid-looking. In all those cases the lighting was good. The transparent effect could also be to do with the leaves in the tree being in frenetic motion, due to the wind. Whatever the cause, it seems that misperception cannot be ruled out as a possible cause of, rather rare, transparent ghost sightings.

The vanishing act was also very interesting. Usually, with a misperception, the ghost doesn't vanish, like a movie special effect, it is simply no longer visible. That's because the misperception 'breaks' and only the misperceived object remains visible. In this case, however, the figure actually visibly disappeared. I'm assuming this is because I could not see the misperceived object, the young tree, as it blended in with the mast behind. So, it seems misperception can produce two effects I had not previously suspected - transparent objects and vanishing objects.

One question that remains is, how could I get a visual substitution of a transparent figure when I've never seen such a thing in real life? The answer is, of course, that I've seen transparent figures many time as special effects in movies. And, as I recently experienced personally (see here), fictional sources are not a problem with misperception.

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