Monday, September 15, 2008

Pareidolia Mondays: Ghost in My Window

A slight change of pace for this week's Pareidolia Monday: a story from a Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom news service (The Evening News) reporting on a picture snapped of an alleged ghost in the window of a Norwich church. Why does this count as pareidolia, you may ask? Because while it might not be a religious figure this time, the woman who took the picture still claims to see a human figure in the window of the old church.

Posted on Sept. 8, the story tells of a woman named Janice Mark who was taking photographs of the historic Norwich region, where the St Peter Hungate Church is located. Once she got the pictures home and downloaded them to her computer, she noticed what looked remarkably like a human figure in the church's window. See the above link for the photo.

The article goes on to quote Mark, who works for the company that owns The Evening News, extensively. Mark creates and entire picture of a "medieval preacher" from the glare produced on the window (more on that later):

“'If you zoom into the top window of the church, you can see an image of a white figure with a long bushy beard. If you look closely, you might be able to see his eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
You may just about be able to make out that the figure is wearing something on his head, which also goes down his back,' Mark said”

Rory Quinn, the chairman of the organization that maintains Norwich's historic churches, said he had never heard stories of any ghosts haunting this particular church, but that did not stop him from offering a suggestion as to who the ghostly figure might be:

“It could be the spirit of Mordecai Hewett, who gave his name to the Hewett School in Norwich. It's the 50th anniversary of the Hewett School next week so it could be something to do with that. There's a memorial to Mordecai in the church,' Quinn said”

Now, this is where the article takes a refreshing twist. Most of the time in paredolia stories like this, a believing witness and token skeptic are called in to offer two sides to the story. Granted, the skeptic is usually shoved in at the end of the piece and given one, two paragraphs tops. But, the people at The Evening News were able to find believer and skeptic in the same person: paranormal investigator and author Dominic Zenden.

Zenden, a self-proclaimed spiritual medium who has been practicing his "art" for 25 years, offered a surprisingly sensible explanation for the figure in the window:

“'It is the light relaxing back from the angle of the window to the camera. This is a very common misconception when it comes to photographs of ghosts.'”

Yes, of course. The classic case of a purveyor of the paranormal debunking some ghost sighting to provide an air of authenticity to his or her own business. You'll often see self-proclaimed mediums (media?) and psychics showing faux-skepticism toward paranormal claims that are obviously illegitimate. That way, they can rail against the dangers of "fake" psychics while drawing more business toward themselves. The Queen of Darkness herself, Sylvia Browne, has adopted this ploy several times.

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9 comments:

vertigo25 said...

What an awesome blog you've got here.

I was looking for information about "human footprint in dinosaur fossils," and found your post from back in July. It made me want to check out the rest of the blog.

Pareidolia and apophenia are two of my favorite psychological subjects (I actually thought that might be the case with the "fossil" until I saw the picture of it and realized it had to be a fraud).

When I saw the "ghost" for today's post, I thought it looked like a Klansman, or an ork from WoW. I still don't see what he describes at all. I must be doing it wrong :)

Anonymous said...

Thanking for taking the time to make a comment on the photo I took, a very interesting read. I just want to assure you that I am not really sure what this is in the picture, but when you zoom in, you can see the image of a human. It was the beard that threw me, it actually looks 3d, like cotton wool. The body is not part of it, this is light from a window the other side of the church. I was really shocked to find this photo, and reallt shocked tofind so many comments on the net relating to my sanity, my art, my talent of making stuff up and also my ability to doctor a photo (although I have no idea how to do this, so I must be clever to do it without knowing how!)

Janice Mark said...

By the way, you do realise that you are using a photo that is infact copywrited? And As the copywrite owner I have not given you permission to use it? Please can you remove from your site before legal action is taken.

Michael said...

Its funny how Janice Mark will allow her picture to be shown on the news and paranormal websites but not on a skeptical website. You can still find the picture by googling it though.

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