Tuesday, 7 December 2010

I See Ghosts

My best way to check if it is snowing at night is to look out of the kitchen window at the glare of the street light. A week or so back, in the whirl and swirl of snow, I started to see strange shapes appearing in the distance, over the top of one of the houses. The more I looked, the more they became distinct, regular shapes: not just random patterns in the snow. They were there again last night, although this time in the eddying smoke and water vapour emanating from the chimneys.

There in the distance above the roof tops were tall towers, like some ancient castle silhouetted in the night, appearing and fading until the smoke and vapour disappeared as the people in the house want to bed.

This morning, before it was light, I got the camera out and took these pictures. The tall towers were there no more, but distorted patterns remained hanging above.

The camera moved in the picture above, but part of the castle apparition can be seen. You may feel that you have an explanation: it is just silhouette of the chimney below. Look again. The light source can be seen in the back and the angle would make it impossible for the chimney to be the source. There is no photographic trickery here, the house really has a distorted, shadowy image hanging around it.

I don't believe in ghosts. That is to say that I do not reject the possibility, indeed I like the idea, but I think the explanations based on sensory and recognition brain functions, human psychology, etc are more plausible. Indeed, I may have seen a ghost. We had two black dogs, Peter and Penny, who were constantly around the house. The last to die was Penny, on the left in the picture below. A few hours after her death, I was indoors and a black shadow passed behind me. I turned to look at her, but she wasn't there. I then remembered that she had died.

I was standing in direct sunlight and rationalised that it must just have been a short-lasting shadow. I thought about the way we creatures of habit completely misinterpret things around us, but that was it. It was only later that I realised that, should my general attitudes have been different, I would probably have been convinced that I had seen a ghost.

I am therefore quite comfortable with people's belief in ghosts and spirits, especially where the existence of life after death is as fundamental a part of people's understanding as it is here in Poland. I may get impatient about absolute, unquestionable proof being something like an 'inexplicable' loud noise in the home at the time of a death, ignoring the many unexplained loud noises we hear and immediately forget about; combined with the 'time of death' swinging between a pre-warning and a post-death visit, with the time of both the noise and death becoming increasingly vague as conversation continues. However, the truth is that my 'rational' explanations are, if anything, even more vague and uncertain. I am the one that has to understand why I reject a clear, simple, logical explanation, preferring a hugely complex set of human behavioural patterns that I do not even remotely understand myself.

My greater impatience is therefore targeted at those people who so completely reject even the possibility of the spirit world that they label believers as stupid, badly educated or primitive in some way. It is such people who are ignorant. They fail to understand that, to eliminate the possibility of there being ghosts, every single sighting will need to be examined to see if it can be explained by the physical and psychological principles we hold so dear. Even were it possible, the process would never end. All the believers have to do is prove one example. They have the intellectual advantage.

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