Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A leaning figure vanishes!

Crows in a treeTo most people it wouldn't have appeared that interesting but I seem to have an insatiable curiosity. What I had noticed was someone, in light clothing, leaning over a car bonnet in the street below. Having only seen the figure in peripheral vision, I decided to get a better look. But as I approached the window, the leaning person vanished. So, a ghost then!

As I looked at the car, I noticed it had a headlight assembly that swept back well onto the bonnet. I realized that this was in the same the position as my 'leaning figure'. Returning to the position where I first saw the figure, I also realized that the window was steamed-up (it was a cold morning) to produce a random shape such that, when coupled with the headlight assembly, it strongly suggested a human figure. It was not the definite human I'd seen before but that is in the nature of misperception. It almost never works twice for the original witness, even in the exact same circumstances. I tried viewing the scene in peripheral vision but the original definite human figure did not show up again, only a light-coloured human shape.

What made this incident more than a 'run of the mill' ghost misperception was that two completely separate visual elements combined to form the figure - the headlight assembly and the random shape in the steamed-up window. The two objects were perhaps 20m apart physically and yet they combined, in my peripheral vision at least, into a single object. The incident is also a further example of a coincidence (the chance alignment of the headlight and a random shape in a steamed-up window) causing an apparently anomalous phenomenon. I could not exactly reproduce the phenomenon event though I investigated it at the time. Imagine trying to investigate the incident days or weeks later. The crucial factor of the steamed-up window would almost certainly not have been recalled by the witness and it is unlikely the car would still be present.

All of this shows just how difficult it is to investigate misperception. I strongly suspect that many more apparent paranormal reports are caused by misperception than is generally supposed.

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