Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A rare transparent ghost!

I was transfixed by the transparent figure walking through the gate! There were many reasons for my shock. Firstly, as I've mentioned many times, while most people would assume a transparent figure was a ghost, they are hardly ever reported. Though common in fiction, the transparent ghost is a rare beast indeed in the wild. What made things even weirder (!) was I had just been idly turning over in my mind what I should blog about next. And here it was!

But let's rewind a little. I first noticed the figure in my peripheral vision. I was on a bus, which was stationary at the time. The figure was on the pavement outside, walking past a gate into someone's front garden. At that point I could not see that the figure was transparent but I still felt there was something 'wrong' with it. So I turned to look directly at it. I saw it was transparent figure but quicklly realised it was a reflection, in the bus window, of someone getting out of the other side of the bus. So, not a ghost, but it certainly looked really exciting for a whole second or so!

I think what made the figure a convincing ghost, if only briefly, was that it behaved just like a normal person (!), walking through a garden gate. And that was my original interpretation when I saw it in peripheral vision. But there was also something weird about the figure which drew my attention to it. So why did I think it was 'wrong'? Even though the figure was in unreliable peripheral vision, I think my unconscious brain could see enough to deduce it was transparent and so definitely 'not right'. Otherwise I might have simply assumed it was a real person and never bothered to look.

So here we have two factors interplaying: (a) my unconscious assumption that it was a human figure, because it behaved like one and (b) the sense of something being wrong, also unconscious. This is typical of many ghost report. Witnesses may report seeing an obvious solid, normal human figure but are nevertheless aware that there is something 'odd' about it. The figure might be strangely motionless, for instance, or in a location you would not expect to see someone. This kind of 'normal but weird' aspect is typical of misperception. It is caused by your brain making an unconscious guess about what something not seen well might be and getting it wrong. As a result, the guessed object does not behave as it should. See here for another recent example. The effect is, in summary, an interplay between the expected and the unexpected that leads to a feeling of something being eerie.

So what is the cause of other rare real-life sightings of transparent ghosts? While some might be reflections, particularly in dark conditions where the presence of a reflective surface has not been noticed by the witness. Others may be hallucination, like those caused by near sleep experiences. Could any be actually paranormal? Well, who knows, but the fact that the vast majority of ghost reports are of solid figures tends argue against this.

As to the fact that I was thinking about something to blog about at the time, well that's a coincidence!

PS: More coverage of ASSAP's 'big announcement' here and here.

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