"Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?" - Edgar Allan Poe
"In the real world, as in dreams... nothing is quite what it seems" - Dean R Koontz
Date: 5th July 2018
“I just saw something! It was like a dark shadow that just moved across the end of the corridor. I saw it out the corner of my eye!”
As humans, our visual system allows us to interpret, or assimilate, information from our natural environmental surroundings. Seeing is what occurs when the cornea and lens of the eye focuses light from these surroundings onto the retina.
The retina is actually an outgrowth of the brain and so is considered to be part of the central nervous system of the brain. Its function is to convert light into neuronal signals that can be seen and therefore interpreted by our brain into the images we see and know… or not know.
The human visual system is such that it can only perceive light of a visible source. Visible light is in the range of wavelengths between around 390 and 700 nanometres of the electromagnetic spectrum. The range is from the visible ranges of Ultraviolet through visible to Infrared.
Visuals in the Paranormal…
As we have established in an earlier blog, not all paranormal activity is restricted to the dark hours and can be experienced during the daylight. However this is where the visual aspect of the paranormal can become blurred if only going out at night, not only for the criteria to use torches for safety but for using infrared illumination and also ultraviolet (otherwise wrongfully but commonly known as ‘full spectrum’ vision) for cameras and camcorders, etc.
In the realms of the paranormal it is quite normal for everyone to see things differently. Now that is not entirely down to each of us having different focal ranges (short or long sighted, etc.) but more down to the way the brain interprets what our eyes actually see. Our brains are complex organs that can extrapolate a myriad of information at any one time.
Also our brains give us the vast array of tools to have a great imagination. Nothing wrong with that as it’s great to have an imagination, but in the paranormal world we need to ensure we do distinguish between what is real and what is not… and unfortunately this line can become very blurred.
For this blog we delve into the visual discrepancies that we might find ourselves experiencing. It’s nothing at all new or anything to identify a problem, but what is key to understand is that we as human beings can interpret images in differing ways depending upon how our individual brains process the images we see.
As humans we are vertebrates… having a backbone or spinal column. All vertebrate eyes have a blind spot. This is where the optical nerve fibres and blood vessels in the eye route before the retina, thus creating a blind spot where visual imaging does not register with our brains.
When driving a vehicle there is a section of your vision from the viewpoint of your position in the vehicle known as the ‘blind spot’. This is compensated for by the use of wing mirrors to give you vision in this area.
Can you remember the ‘blind spot’ test image? See below.
If you close your left eye and look at the left ghost, move closer to the screen and eventually the ghost on the right will disappear...
Now this visual phenomenon is all down to the fact that images can’t be processed by the eye in that part of the eye due to the lack of those nerve fibres. This occurs every day of our waking lives but we just don’t see or register it in our normal everyday activities as the brain just ‘fills in’ from the background and surrounding visuals or just omits it altogether.
But in the paranormal field, when our senses are on the most alert the slightest shift in visual stimulus could be interpreted as a ghost when in fact it might have been something in our blind spot that suddenly appears.
This is where if you fixate onto a certain thing for a long time, the outer-most images will try and blend into the background surroundings. Examples of this are below.
The 'Lilac Chaser'.
If you look at the + in the centre of the Lilac Chaser without blinking, eventually the lilac dots become grey and the 'moving' dot appears green:
This is 'seeing is believing'.
If you look at the dot in the centre without blinking, eventually the blue outer circle will disappear and blend into the background white...
Again, similar to that of the blind spot, Lilac Chaser or Peripheral Annulus, we might find ourselves looking into one particular area of a building, say a corridor or doorway and then because we are fixated on ‘something’ in the distance our brain tries to ‘fill in’ the image with background visual information – and as paranormal investigators this tends to be darkness.
Now once that darkness has imprinted itself onto our brain if we shift our focus even slightly the ‘fill in’ disappears and we capture what is actually there – if only for a brief moment – and that can cause one to think they see movement of shadows, etc.
After images are a type of optical illusion that is maintained by the brain after exposure of the actual image has gone. In other words if you stare at a picture for a certain amount of time, the image gets imprinted… then if you shift your gaze (generally to a white background) you can still see the image for a brief time.
An easier way to describe after imaging can be put more simply by using a TV screen. If an image on a TV was left frozen for considerable time, a phenomena known as image burning was caused. This was more prevalent in older CRT monitor type screens but still occurs in modern LCD, Plasma and LED TVs under what is called ‘image persistence’.
There are two main types of after images. These are positive and negative…
Positive After Images - allows one to see the exact same images that maintain their colours. This is thought to be down to a phenomena called ‘retinal inertia’ which is the process of the visual nerve impulses being stimulated for a short time after the image has gone.
Negative After Images - are those that invert the colours (IE red becomes green and vice versa). This is all down to something called ‘opponent-process theory’ of colour vision.
A great example of negative after image is what is called ‘negative photo illusion’... as in the image below...
If you look at a negative image of a normal photo…
Transfer your gaze to a white background and you will see the normal full-colour image.
Look at the picture on the left. If you concentrate on the red green blue dots on the left picture...
Then after 20 seconds look to the cross on the white area on the right...
...what do you see?
This is the phenomenon that is caused after looking at a moving stimulus for a given time – usually anywhere between 10 and 60 seconds – and when you look away to a fixed stimulus the motion appears to go in the opposite direction.
Check out the below video off You Tube. Watch the centre of the video and try not to blink. Then when the image of storm clouds appear they will look like they are bulging and moving... but they aren't. Try just looking at the storm clouds without the swirls and it won't be moving.
NOTE: If you are susceptible to motion sickness or other form of medical condition that might affect you then please do not click on play.
There are many types of optical illusions. This is where the brain thinks that certain images are moving but in fact they are stationary. The creative and design of the images are as such that they lend to the 'motion' effect.
Look at the centre dot and move back and forth... the outer two circle image rings appear to be moving and rotating.
Another optical illusion image is below...
The picture on the left appears to be spirals, but it really is a collection of circles so drawn to create the spiral effect...
Peripheral Drift Illusion
This is the effect of where we see a static unmoving image not in direct vision as ‘moving’. Our brain interprets anything from patterns or repetition in an image that is just out of the eye’s area of focus.
Also this is a possible illusion that causes the 'shadow people' effect. In the field of paranormal, shadow people are experienced by numerous people. Quite often shadow people are depicted as being demonic in nature but this really is quite farther from the truth than you might realise.
Another researched and general theory on shadow people is that they always seem to occur in low-light or in darkness. Why is this?
Again it might be down to the way the eye draws in the visual and the brain interprets the images.
The below image depicts this anomalous illusion perfectly...
So by looking around the above image just off your point of focus you can clearly see movement... like waves in the image although there is no motion at all.
Check out Sarah Chumacero's blog regarding Peripheral Drift on her website Living Life In Full Spectrum... Sarah is an absolute credible and rational person when it comes to the paranormal and she has researched this extensively.
Well it is very clear that what we see with our eyes can easily be deceived by the brain. This too can be evident on paranormal investigations and as such we must ensure we define exactly what is actually happening. When on a paranormal investigation - be it in a private group or on an arranged 'ghost hunt' - you must always question everything and anything to really ascertain a rational explanation before jumping into the claim it is paranormal.