castleinset1We have just announced the initial results of our project into ‘ghostly’ photographs.

The findings will be discussed in depth at Hauntings: The Science of Ghosts on 4th April at Edinburgh Science Festival. However, we have some initial results on the Hauntings website, including the top ten ‘ghost’ pics from the study (click the link above, and then the ‘experiments’ tab).

In terms of print and web, the story has been featured all over the place, including The Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman, The Daily Express, The Sun, The Metro, BBC, CNN, Yahoo, Sky News, The Guardian, and Fox News.

TV and radio has included R4’s Today Programme (at 8.55), GMTV, BBC Breakfast News and CNN. AOL have a video about the story here.

Sky News clip below:

And thanks to the nice people over at Derren Brown’s blog for posting another link to this blog.

Feel free to post comments about the pic. Back on Monday.

31 comments

  1. Is there any way of getting hold of a copy of the original image so that the public can look closer and make their own minds up? From what I can see in the images currently available is that there is a bit of a facelike blur. Cerainly I see nothing to distinguish a period costume. It should not be so much as ‘Experts Baffled’ but public baffled by fuss over nothing.

  2. These are the world’s best ghost photos? Well, so much for the Theory of Ghosts! Nothing but hoaxes, edits, reflections, and imagination. These ghosts are as laughable as the Man In The Moon and the Face On Mars.

    In the 60s, we had similar crazes about skulls in liquor ads and the word “SEX” on cracker boxes. Try it yourself: study a photo of a glass filled with wet ice cubes, and you will soon see skulls, horribly distorted faces, and so on. Study a box of crackers, and you will soon find the word “sex” hidden in a dozen ways. Play any audio backward, and you will hear hidden messages. You can also find any word or phrase hidden in the Bible in a dozen ways.

  3. Should the spirit of a human continue after their death and other humans were able to pick up on their presence, surely that would take place entirely in the brains of the humans….

    The spirit of a human soul would not be reflective to electromagnetic waves as it, by definition, is not made of atoms. (If it were made of atoms that means that every murder/unresolved death CREATES matter. That seems a little odd)
    Also, if ghosts are “made” of light (or any lepton you care to mention) WHERE did the energy come from? Not the bollocks “energy” that hippies claim as their own but ENERGY, the stuff you measure in Joules…

    The most convincing ghost picture would be of lots of people looking really scared at absolutely nothing. And that has it’s own problems in terms of credibility.

  4. Kelly, your comment is spot on. The human mind has no direct contact with reality. Our brain simply memorizes what inputs it gets, then processes memories to churn out imaginative scenarios. Problems arise with feedback, when the brain treats its own output as real input, when the monsters we imagine start to hide under our beds.

    BTW, your blog is interesting, but (a) the wavy background can induce wooziness [another brain product] and (b) how about allowing comments, so other minds can contact yours?

  5. I was in my local hostelry for lunch today and the TV was showing Sky News. At about 12.15 a respected psychologist was doing a piece about ghosts and stuff…

    And then the TV screen went dead. I thought the landlord was switching channels and looking for the horse racing, but he looked at me gobsmacked. Then he had to reset the whole TV system in the pub.

    Spooky, or what?

  6. It’s an interesting enough subject, but not completely practical. Unless, of course, you’re just looking for something to make it difficult to fall asleep at night, then this kind of study is perfect.

  7. I see the Telegraph’s number 1 rated story at the minute is “Victorian `ghost` picked up by Google Street View” outside the Millenium Centre in Cardiff:
    http://bit.ly/ans0J
    They point out that it’s “the scene of murders and unsolved mysteries going back 200 years” and quotes local medium Jane Cohen as saying:
    “But what is really strange is that she doesn’t appear as a full figure – you can’t see all of her.”

    Here’s the original image on Google Maps:
    http://bit.ly/dQdai
    and if you move along the street slightly and look back you’ll see all of her!
    http://bit.ly/lcrmU
    If anyone’s used Streetview for more than 10 minutes they’ll recognise the effect….
    Anybody know of any living history exhibitions at the Millenium Centre last June?

  8. Re: the victorian lady on Google Street. Haha, that’s great. Lots of people dress like that all the time in Edinburgh. I’ve done it myself on a number of occassions. No one bats an eyelid at you in the street (it’s the city of numerous ghost tours). Perhaps this lady is going to a costume party.

  9. This images head overlaps some of the bars and mesh in the window. This suggests it’s not a person, and I’m not the type of person that believes in ghosts, so it is most likely a photoshoped image.

  10. I believe it is very possible that this is a ghost. Anyone that has had a personal experience of their own can compare to someone else’s experience and they are all different. If you want to see some additional ghost pictures, EVP’s, or video footage, go to http://www.outtasight2.bizland.com
    and check out the investigation results page. We approach investigations as skeptics…but leaving your mind open to the possibilities…that’s the hard part. Is this real…is that real…no one knows for sure, that’s what were all trying to figure out.

  11. THE PICTURE YOU HAVE DOES NOT MATCH THE SAME PITURE OF THE BOY. HIS HAS ANOTHER WINDOW ABOVE THE ONE THAT THE IMAGE IS, YOURS DOES NOT. CAN YOU EXPLAIN PLEASE.

  12. Here is a detailed analysis that proves that the alleged face in the window is an illusion formed by random stones, lights, and shadows. This is a great example of pareidoliac apophenia, the well-known illusion in which our brain sees human faces in random collections such as leaves, underbrush, running water, hanging laundry, or pebbles. This has combined with the power of suggestion that we are looking at a woman. No, we are actually looking into a dark room with some highlights playing on the ceiling!

    First, examine the very first frame of the video, the one that shows the entire castle wall in question. It is a wall of unevenly placed, mutli-colored stones, highlighted by the sun at a very low angle, with bright spots and deep shadows. The wall has 5 windows, 3 of which are open to the back, which tells us we are not looking into large, dark rooms but into a narrow hallway built with openings on each side for defense.

    Thus, there are openings that allow light into the hall and produce additional highlights and reflections. For example, the window to the right of the ghost window has several highlighted stones in its ceiling. In fact, the brightest of these is just about where the ghost’s face is in the other window, which tells us that the light angle is just right to illuminate spots deep inside the various rooms. Note that every window around the ghost window has highlights that could form some illusion. So the entire wall is a mass of random shadows and highlights.

    Next, focus on the window containing the alleged ghost, and keep in mind that it may NOT be a completely dark room but may contain openings to the sun and to the sky. You are NOT looking at a face, but at the ceiling or the back of a narrow hallway, where the sun has lighted some of the stones. Enlarge the picture and you will see that the face dissolves into a few stones, arranged at roughly right angles just like the rest of the castle wall. One row of stones forms the forehead of the face, the row below forms the cheeks and the tip of the nose, the row below forms the chin. Vertically, two column of stones form the right and left forehead, cheek, and jaw. The middle column forms the nose, which is absurdly huge, running from the mouth all the way beyond the hairline. Finally, notice that the iron grating disappears over the face, because the face is actually light shining into the camera.

  13. Dr. Wiseman, interesting blog. But let me hasten to add that I am neither a photographer nor a camera expert. My remarks are strictly amateur, and my bias is against the existence of supernatural phenomena.

    Thanks for the link to the photo of the stonework in the background. It shows stones of various shapes, sizes and colors, laid at various angles, including many curves that could create human facial images such as the narrowing of the nose. For example, 60% up the left edge, then 15% to the right of the picture, I see a roundish stone with indentations like the eyes and mouth of a smiley face. Below that stone are 3 stones of increasing size that — properly lit — could appear like a dress with an apron over it.

    I’m of course not saying those are the stones in the ghost photo, but they do show how easily the brain can evoke images from randomness. Curiously, now that I have identified this figure, I see it immediately and happily point it out to everyone as ‘that statue of a girl with the apron’.

    Finding the combination of stones and lights that produce the ‘ghost’ face is like a 3D puzzle and should be left as an exercise to the next tourists to visit there. Hint: check for bodies of water near the castle; check the location of the parking lot to see if a windshield might have reflected light into the room; and visit the room with a flashlight to recreate the angles in the photo.

  14. No matter how realistic these photos are, the scientists are ALWAYS going to find a ‘rational explanation’ because their scientific integrity is going to be doubted and careers could be ended if they were ever to admit that , yes this could actually be a ghost.
    Some of their explanations, I think are laughable. If they can’t find any other explanation, then it has to be a ‘trick of the light’.

  15. Oh yes, it can be annoying how scientists are always trying to destroy childish beliefs. If doctors were to admit that storks bring babies, their careeers would suffer.

  16. Look you can produce a thousand page document on how the brain can be made to see anything from photos, it’s nothing new everybody knows that. But ‘ghostly’ photos are only a small part of what people are experiencing.
    Look, the reason I feel strongly about this is because my brother and I know we saw my father about a week after he died. We were in our early teens, outside doing nothing more than mending my bike and there he was, about 20 feet from us, looking and smiling at us and then he was gone.
    We both saw him, we were’nt grieving, we were’nt expecting to see a ghost, we’re not giddy ‘Most haunted ‘ types. We were doing nothing more than trying to mend my bike and there he was , absolutely no doubt about it at all.
    A lot of people continue to have very real experiences, which in most cases has nothing to do with possibly faked photos. So to dismiss their beliefs as childish is quite frankly narrow minded and very arrogant.

  17. Well, it turns out we don’t need any reflections from windshields to explain the ghost. I just came across this photo:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellissay/528645898/

    Seems that someone forgot to mention that there is interior lighting in that castle, so that we have lights inside the rooms, at a flat angle, on uneven rocks. Enough said, I think! I already see one scary face in this photo: 2 rocks below where the handrail ends.

    Simon: my beloved mother has been dead for 40 years, but I still dream about her occasionally, and sometimes I hear her calling me to dinner. Oddly, she even uses a nickname which nobody else knows! Is she a ghost in my mind?

  18. Yes but the difference is, that is just in your mind only. In my case two people experienced something very real independantly and at the same time without any prompting, prior thoughts or anything. And it was’nt when we were dreaming. It was outside and in broad daylight. Dreams are something you forget quickly, this was so real it feels like only yesterday despite the fact that it was over 40 years ago.

  19. i believe science and spirits exists along side each other. there are things that are beyond explanation. of course there are lights, humidity, heat and other technical factors that can create illusions, but i believe spirits do share the same space we occupy but perhaps in another dimension. many cases can be explain scientifically. but for some, scientific explanation is merely an excuse because we dont want to believe in the existence of spirits and other unexplain entities.

  20. I can explain the castle photo as light reflecting from uneven rocks and creating an illusion of a figure. I have no need to assume that ghosts exist, that they can be photographed, that one was there that day, that nobody else saw it, and so on.

    Even if ghosts do exist, that does not prove this is a ghost. You still have to eliminate lighting tricks, other tourists, teenager pranks, double exposures, and PhotoShop. Otherwise, rational discourse ceases, and we are free to claim everything is “beyond explanation.” Then why not claim this is Napoleon disguised as a kneeling woman, or a holographic projection of Mussolini in drag, or maybe it’s Satan visiting Tantallon Castle?

  21. i recently found a site via Science of Hauntings, Richard Wiseman with the top 10 ghost pictures with – the face in the castle window as #1. i cannot find this site now – can you help

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