Monday, 2 November 2015

Why do witnesses so rarely take photos of ghosts?

Misperceived 'woman'Encounters with ghosts are rare. And, until recently, few people routinely carried a camera around with them. So, it's little wonder that there are few examples of witnesses actually photographing ghosts that they were watching. However, in recent years a large proportion of the population has started to take mobile phones pretty much everywhere. And a lot of these phones contain built-in cameras. So shouldn't we be seeing an upsurge in the number of ghosts photographed by witnesses while seeing them? In my experience, I'd say we are not. But why not?

It is a puzzle. In my experience, there are certainly many more ghost photos around today than there used to be. However, a high proportion of them show objects or figures NOT seen by the photographer at the time of exposure. Some people regard this as an indicator of their paranormality. But it is also a key characteristic of photographic artefacts, which is what many of them, on investigation, turn out to be.

The numbers of photos taken by witnesses actually seeing a ghost at the time remains oddly small. Talking to hundreds of ghost witnesses to ask why they didn't take a photo, when they could have, would be impractical. Perhaps it should become a standard question in future investigations! With that option out I decided to examine my own experiences for an answer.

I've seen a number of ghosts but rarely got any photos of them. Thinking back I realised there are several reasons for that. Firstly, in most cases, I thought I was seeing an ordinary human at the time, so I had no reason to take a photo. This is a common experience with ghost sightings. Secondly, most sightings didn't last long, often just seconds, giving little time to react. Thirdly, on the occasions when I realised at the time that there was something odd going on, I was reluctant to stop watching the ghost, in case I missed something vital. I suspect these reasons apply to many other ghost witnesses.

The answer to such problems is probably wearable life-logging technology. Only once photos can be taken with little or no effort, without needing to take your eye off the ghost, are such pictures likely to become more common.

So what can we expect to see when we get more of these photos? From the few existing examples I've seen, what is photographed is often radically different to what the witness reported seeing. This is unsurprising given that many ghost sightings are caused by misperception or hallucination. The photo accompanying this post (above right) is an example. The background is described here. I do hope the number of such witnessed ghost photos does increase. I can't wait to analyze them.

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