Monday, 27 July 2015

The crouching figure

Haunted house floor planI turned round to see a strange, heavily-built figure crouching under a distant tree. Both tree and figure were silhouetted due to the lighting conditions. Then I remembered something. I'd actually been adjacent to that very tree just minutes before and seen the 'figure' close up. It was actually the gnarled stump of an old tree. So this was an example of a glance misperception leading to a ghost sighting.

This might have been a 'routine' ghost misperception but for one thing. Normally what happens is that you see the ghost and then realise it is a misperceived mundane object. From then on you never misperceive that object again, presumably because the unconscious bit of your brain remembers its true identity. But in this case I actually saw the object for what it was and only afterwards perceived it as a crouching figure. So why didn't the unconscious bit of my brain remember what it really was? I readily admit that I have a terrible memory but even I don't forget things in a just a few minutes. So what's going on?

My theory is that because the tree stump was seen from a different angle, in the distance and silhouetted, it looked sufficiently different to not be recognized. I do remember that when I first saw the crouching figure I did not immediately realise it was by a tree I'd examined closely before. If the conscious part of my brain was fooled then why not the unconscious bit too?

If my theory is correct then it means that misperceptions of a particular object are not always stopped forever by realizing what it really is. It may be possible for the same object to be misperceived by a witness more than once in sufficiently different conditions, such as lighting, angle of view and distance. It raises the possibility that the same witness may see the same ghost multiple times, from different positions or under different lighting conditions. Formerly I would have said that one witness seeing the same ghost multiple times would have reduced the likelihood that it was a misperception, but no longer. The key point to consider in investigating such a case would be the exact position of the ghost itself which would not vary. This fits neatly with the idea that some (many?) haunting hot spots, which are quite small areas where the same phenomenon is typically reported repeatedly, are caused by misperception.

No comments:

Post a Comment