Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Ghost in red?

Red ghostOn two occasions recently I've seen a sign as a ghost (see here and here). It might seem unlikely to some that a sign could be misperceived as a human, or ghostly, figure. Then, unexpectedly, I found I had a chance to illustrate the phenomenon of ' ghostly signs'.

I was looking at a photo I'd taken recently when I noticed a figure in the background that I hadn't noticed at the time. It was someone in the distance, apparently dressed in red. You can see the figure in the photo here (right) which is a cropped version of the original (otherwise completely unedited). The figure appears to have a small head and rather prominent shoulders.

I really thought this was a person (or ghost), at first glance. Zooming in the 'figure', it looked too rectangular. Looking at other photos, taken at the same location at the same time, I found several examples of rectangular red signs with similar proportions. By chance, there was also a very real person in a red top in one photo. However, their shoulders were nothing like as square! Interestingly, this person was around the same height as the red signs.

I'm in no doubt that the red object in this photo is one of the signs at this site. It may not look terribly convincing, to most people, as a human figure, particularly on prolonged close examination. However, it does demonstrate that signs can be of similar height and proportions to real human figures and in locations where people might well stand. I think the photo shows that signs are a credible source of ghostly misperception, when seen briefly, in peripheral vision or poor viewing conditions.

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