Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A glowing transparent ghost!

Transparent objectThere is a popular idea that ghosts are transparent. Another widespread idea is that some ghosts, at least, glow. This latter idea may explain why so many people hold ghost vigils in the dark. Paradoxically, actual ghosts sightings are usually of witnesses seeing quite ordinary looking human figures. I have seen a number of ghosts myself and they all looked like perfectly ordinary people. So, you can imagine my shock when, recently, I saw a transparent, glowing ghost!

I was on a bus when I noticed this bizarre figure standing on a small patch of grass in an otherwise tarmac and concrete urban landscape. The figure vanished within seconds, just in case I had any lingering doubts that it was indeed a ghost! So what was going on?

I soon realized that the ghost was a reflection in the bus window of a real person on the opposite side of the street. The figure appeared transparent because it was a reflection. It appeared to 'glow' because it was strongly illuminated by the orange sunlight of the setting sun. The area of grass was, by contrast, in deep shadow, making the figure look as though it was glowing. What made the ghost so convincing was that it appeared to standing on the grass and was of ordinary size. Also, no objects apart from the figure were reflected in the window. Had the figure appeared above or below the ground, or looked particularly magnified or diminished, I would have spotted it at once as a reflection.

The whole effect relied on coincidence. Firstly, the lighting had to be just right to strongly illuminate only the 'ghost' but not its accompanying background. The grass also needed to be in shadow. On a subsequent trip to the same location, on the same bus, I could clearly see a whole scene reflected in the window, not just passing pedestrians. Clearly the sun had to be at a particular angle for just one figure to be illuminated. Secondly, the figure had to be reflected in such a way that it appeared to be walking on the grass, not below or above it. The area of grass is significantly elevated above the pavement opposite, which probably explains that. Thirdly, the figure needed to be a credible size in the reflection. I think this effect was due to the fact that the bus was on the same side of the road as the person who became the ghost. This meant that the reflected figure appeared a natural size in a reflection in the bus window opposite. If the bus had been on the opposite side of the road, the figure would have looked a different size.

I suspect the ghost effect only works at a particular time of day on a few days a year, due to the angle of the sun. I say this because I travel on that bus route regularly and always look at that grass patch. That's because I am a birder and the grass often attracts interesting birds. I must have done this trip thousands of times in total but only ever seen the ghost once! That gives a good idea of how rare a coincidence it must be.

Having seen this particular ghost I now see that is entirely possible for witnesses to report glowing, transparent ghosts. So why are there so few reports of such phenomena? It is odd, given that many people actually expect ghosts to be transparent and glow. My own best guess is as follows. Firstly, if this case is anything to go by, it may takes a rare coincidences to produce a glowing, transparent ghost effect. Secondly, witnesses may realize quickly that they are seeing a reflection. Thirdly, even if the witness thinks it IS a ghost, they might consider it so fantastic that they dismiss it as imagination.

Whenever a transparent ghost is reported it is always worth checking for the presence of windows or other reflective surfaces at the scene of the sighting. This is obviously an important factor where someone reports something strange from inside a vehicle of some kind.

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