Thursday, 17 March 2016

Was the ghost in focus?

White wallWas the ghost in focus? It's not necessarily an obvious question to ask a witness but it could be important. To understand why, I'll describe an incident that happened to me recently.

I happened to glance at a plain area of white wall illuminated obliquely from behind me (pic right). I noticed something very odd. There was a faint but quite distinct repeating pattern on it. It looked to be in a slightly different shade to the rest of the wall. It strongly resembled a relief wallpaper (also known as Anaglypta). The only problem is, the wall is plain painted with no pattern on it! Having said that, there are very faint, slight undulations in the wall. They are on the scale of millimeters in length, only noticeable when around a few centimetres distance and randomly distributed. The patterns I could see were perfectly regular shapes, repeating exactly and on the scale of centimetres across, plainly visible from a metre away. Just like a wallpaper. As the photo shows, such patterns simply don't physically exist on the wall!

It was clearly an unusually striking example of a misperception. I was seeing a wallpaper pattern from my own memory! I found, unusually, that I could reproduce the effect with the exact same lighting conditions and some persistence. Then I tried an experiment. I had no idea beforehand what the result would be. The experiment was simple - I took my glasses off. Regular readers will be aware that I am short-sighted. To my surprise the 'wallpaper pattern' was still plainly visible. And, unlike the surrounding wall, it was IN FOCUS! This meant that it could not possibly be a real wallpaper pattern because that would have been out of focus without my glasses.

So, here we may have a test concerning ghost sightings. Suppose, for instance, that the witness is short sighted and not wearing glasses. They could be in bed, for instance. If they could see a ghostly figure and it was IN FOCUS then it could well be a result of misperception. If the figure were objectively real it ought to be out of focus.

In what might be the dullest ever illustration of something paranormal, the photo (above right) shows the wall that produced the 'wallpaper pattern'. The specific area where the pattern appeared was the light stripe in the middle. The effect relied on very specific lighting and only appeared after a few seconds viewing. If anyone can see a regular pattern in this picture, please let me know! I can't, by the way.     

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