On seeing and photographing a ghost

On seeing and photographing a ghost

There is a constant stream of photos  in the media and online that purport to show a ghost or some other anomalous phenomenon. For me they almost all have two things in common. Firstly, the anomaly was not seen at the time the photo was taken. Secondly, they almost never look obviously like what they are claimed to be. Indeed, the anomaly often has to circled so you can see what people are talking about. Put these two factors together and the most obvious explanation is generally a photographic artefact.  In other words, it is a visual effect produced by the photographic process rather than an actual object that has been photographed. It could be caused  by over- or underexposure, slow shutter speed, focus problems, reflections and other factors.

Always more interesting are photographs of things that were seen as anomalous when someone took their photo. Such photos are  much rarer, even though most people now habitually carry a camera in their phone. It is likely that the surprise of seeing something anomalous catches people out so they don’t think of photographing it. Often incidents are also of very short duration allowing little time to react.

Another possibility is that someone photographing an apparent anomaly then discovers its true nature from the resulting picture. Obviously such incidents are unlikely to be reported so we've no idea how common they are. So when I saw a human figure recently that was surprisingly immobile.  I have often seen very real human figures standing in that exact spot so I clearly misperceived what the photo revealed to be bush, as a person. Misperception  is all about seeing what you expect to see rather than what is actually there. The lighting was poor which would explain my mistake. Such incidents could result in reports of a ghost if the figure ‘disappears’, while a witness looks briefly away, to be apparently replaced by a bush. Instruments were supposed to make paranormal research less ambiguous. But this is a, sadly rare, example of a photograph explaining a ghost rather than creating one.

Author :© Maurice Townsend 2021

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