In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Best Pareidolia Ever

The term pareidolia (pronounced /pæraɪˈdoʊliə/) describes a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para-paraphasia, disordered speech)—and eidolon—"image" (the diminutive of eidos—"image", "form", "shape").
—"beside", "with" or "alongside"- meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong.

Have you seen Jesus today? The photo above may be a good chance. You can see the clear profile of a giant bearded man with closed eyes. It does resemble common representations of a fellow named Jesus. Even though that enormous Jesus head doesn’t quite fit into the rest of the image. What’s going on there? The child died short after the photo was taken”.


If you look carefully you may recognize that the photo is of a Victorian couple, with a small child sitting on the knee of the man. And then you may realize that that child is Jesus. Or rather that the big white hat of the little one is Jesus’ forehead and his tiny right forearm is Lord’s upper beard. Jesus’ hair is the vegetation in the background. Simply amazing.

“What is most likely, and maybe no less compelling—are the false head and other anomalies just ‘meaningless’ coincidences in which we find/attach/force/desire meaning?”, she asks.

That we first realize a giant face in the photo, even though it doesn’t fit the rest of the image, is probably not a coincidence. We have more neurons dedicated to promptly identifying faces than the ones that recognize Victorian kids sitting on their dad’s lap. That’s why pareidolia happens so often with faces. You don’t usually see Victorian kids in the clouds.

An explanation that I hope doesn’t make this any less compelling: this is really the best pareidolia case ever.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Phone calls from the dead

This is a phenomenon in which people literally receive phone calls from the dead. The deceased caller usually had a close relationship with the recipient.

In such calls, the telephone usually rings normally, but may sound flat and abnormal. Usually the connection is bad and the voice of the deceased fades. The voice is recognizable, however, and usually speaks familiar or pet names and words. The phone call is terminated abruptly, either by the caller or by the line going dead. If the voice is too faint, the recipient may hang up in frustration.

If the recipient knows the caller is deceased, he or she may enter a state of shock and hang up immediately. If the recipient does not know that the caller is dead, he or she may talk as long as thirty minutes. Usually such calls occur within twenty-for hours after the caller's death, although, some calls have been reported as long as two years from the time of death.

Generally the purpose of such mysterious calls seems to be to leave a farewell message, or a warning of an impending danger, or information needed by the living. Actress Ida Lupino received a phone call from her father six months after his death; he told her the whereabouts of some papers to settle his estate.

Other calls have been made in apparent observance of holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. The caller may just speak a phrase such as "Hello Mom, is that you?"

Such phone calls have gone in the opposite direction too. The caller carries on a normal conversation with the recipient only to later discover the recipient was already deceased at the time when the call occurred.

Although there is no satisfactory explanation for the strange calls from the dead, there have been several theories put forth. One holds that the dead do place the calls through supernatural manipulation of the telephone mechanisms and circuitry. Another holds that they are hallucinations caused in part by Psychokinesis (PK) accomplished subconsciously by the recipient. Other theories suggest that the calls are pure fantasy, or tricks played on the living by low-level spirits.

Most modern parapsychologists do not take such calls seriously. In the early twentieth century, investigators modified the telegraph and wireless with the hopes of communicating with the dead. Thomas Edison, whose parents were Spiritualists, worked on but never completed a telephone that he hoped would connect the living with the dead. During the 1940s the "psychic telephone" experiments were conduct in England and America in attempts to reach the dead. Again, interest arose in the 1960s when Konstantin Raudive announced that he had captured voices of the dead in electromagnetic tape.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Red Eyes in the Darkness

Two red lights stare at Chris Black's motion-controlled camera from an impossible vantage point. Click on the picture to get a closer look. The lights are in the upper center part of the photograph.

Dry brown leaves cover the floor of deer hunter Chris Black’s wooded property near Park Hills in Southeast Missouri. Black keeps a small camper there during deer and turkey seasons and, while he sleeps in the camper to get an early start, motion-controlled digital cameras strapped to trees take photographs of, hopefully, deer.

He captured lights on those cameras in 2006, lights that shouldn’t have been on his property miles away from roads. He captured more this year.

Black thinks something highly strange is happening on his property.

“The same property, right before deer season, and more strange lights,” he said. “This time with three deer in the photo and these lights are fire red.”

A daytime photograph (above) shows two deer, one grazing and one apparently startled, maybe by the noise from the camera. Behind the deer is a plain of dead leaves and young trees. All normal.

Then there’s the night picture.

Three deer, one in the foreground, stand looking at the camera, their eyes shining with the flash reflection. But about 10 feet off the ground are two red lights set apart like eyes.

“They aren’t that hard to see,” Black said. “Right above the deers’ heads, they look like two red eyeballs without a face.”

Taillights? No. The trees in the night picture match the trees in the day picture. There’s no room for taillights in these images and the lights are much higher than any truck. But Black sees more than just the lights.

“There are a number of things in this photo which disturb me,” he said. “The first thing is the odd-looking expressions on the deer themselves. They look as if someone just screamed, ‘hey.’”

All three deer in this picture are looking directly at the camera.

“And they all looked at the camera at once,” he said. “None of the other photos taken during this three-day time frame show all the deer in the background looking in the direction of the camera at the same time.”

Black’s camera took 65 pictures, many of which have multiple deer in a frame.

“Usually, there will be one or two with their heads down feeding, and maybe one looking in the general direction of the camera, but never directly into it,” he said. “To me it looks like they are all focused on one thing and sort of mesmerized by it.”

After Black downloaded the photographs onto his computer, he took a closer look at the red lights – that one frame the only one with the red lights – and didn’t like what he found.

“When you zoom in on the red light on the left; now this is going to sound off the chart, but I swear when I zoomed in on it, I can see a face in the light,” he said. “It’s not at all hard to see. Plain as day there is a little face inside the glow. To me it resembles (a) little devil face.”

Black and his father stayed in the camper most of the first week of deer season, Black’s brother came the fourth day. That night Black’s brother slept in a bed against the far edge of the camper next to the canvas wall. The next morning, something was bothering Black’s brother.

During the night, something happened. While Black’s brother slept with his arms above his head against the canvas, he something touched his arm.

“He said he didn’t move because he thought it might be a deer’s nose pushing against the canvas of the camper,” Black said. “He said he wasn’t asleep but he felt something solid touching or pushing against the canvas and against his arm. He said it moved from one side of his arm, towards his head, then back along his arm.”

The brother froze, not wanting to startle whatever was outside.

“Then he fell back to sleep,” Black said. “It was only then that I told him about capturing the lights on my trail camera. I just think it’s awful strange that he would experience something weird like that in the same weekend that I captured more weird (stuff) on my camera.”

But Black wouldn’t have considered a paranormal explanation for the two red eyes staring at his deer camera if it wasn’t for the lights he captured two years ago.

“It seems like there are just too many things to pass off as imagination, or coincidence,” he said. “I’m convinced that this property is haunted. In some way, by something, but I don’t know what. But when it gets caught on camera that’s hard evidence that I’m not seeing things. (above taken from "From the Shadows" by Jason Offutt )