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The best ghostly images in the world (supposedly)

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« on: July 07, 2009, 02:18:36 pm »

The best ghostly images in the world

An eerie image of a figure in period costume at a Scottish castle has spooked experts conducting the biggest ever investigation into photographic evidence for ghosts.

The picture, taken in May 2008, appears to show a man or woman in a ruff peering out of a barred window at Tantallon Castle.

No mannequins or costumed guides are employed at the castle, and three photographic experts have confirmed that no digital trickery was used on the photo.

Even confirmed ghost sceptic Professor Richard Wiseman, who led the study, admitted to being puzzled.

"It is certainly very curious," he said. "We ran it by three photographic experts and they said it hadn't been Photoshopped at all.

"The figure appears to be in period costume, but we know 100% that Tantallon Castle is not the sort of place that has dummies or costumed guides; they just don't go in for that sort of thing.

"I suppose it could be a visitor looking a little bit strange. Perhaps someone will come forward. Another possibility is an odd reflection of sunlight, but it does look very like a person. The explanation is not obvious."

Tantallon Castle, a ruined fortress dating back to the 14th century, stands on a remote rocky headland near North Berwick on the Scottish east coast. It was badly damaged in an attack by Oliver Cromwell's forces in 1651.

Christopher Aitchison, who took the photo, said: "I was not aware of anyone, or anything, being present in my picture, only noticing the anomaly when I got home.

"Staff have verified that there were no sinister dummies in period costume or historical re-enactments going on that day at the castle. I did not notice any nice old ladies wearing ruffs walking around the stairs! Some people have suggested its just light reflecting on rocks and one person suggested it may be King James V of Scotland."

Psychologist Prof Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, who has made many studies of the supernatural, launched the investigation a month ago.

Members of the public were asked to submit ghostly images for experts to analyse, the best of which were posted on the website www.scienceofhauntings.com.

More than 250 pictures were received from all over the world and more than a quarter of a million people voted for what they considered to be the most convincing photos.

"The Ghost in the Castle" took first place, winning 39% of the votes.

Runners up were as follows:

:: Second place; "The Ghost in the Woods": The picture appears to show a strange ghostly figure in the trees. Sceptics' explanation: Probably simply a mixture of shadows, leaves and branches.

:: Third place; "The Ghost on the Street": A strange shadowy figure appears next to the couple in the picture. Sceptics' explanation: The blurring in the image suggests a long exposure. A person may have walked past the photographer unnoticed.

: Fourth place; "The Ghost on the Beach": A mysterious dark hooded figure stands at the water's edge. Sceptics' explanation: The figure is an illusion created by an indentation in the rock face.

:: Fifth place; "The Ghost in the Mirror": A ghostly face appears in a car's wing mirror. The photographer says no-one else was around at the time. Sceptics' explanation: The face could be a reflection of a headrest, someone standing nearby, or the result of digital manipulation.

Most of the "ghost" images of mysterious-looking orbs, mists, figures and faces were easily explained, according to co-organiser and photographer Gordon Rutter.

He said: "Orbs can be caused by the camera flash reflecting off tiny dust particles, mists can result from condensed breath in front of the lens, long exposures can create ghostly figures, and apparent faces are often people seeing patterns in random shapes."

The study is part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Experts will discuss the findings at "Hauntings", a one-day public festival event examining the evidence for ghosts on April 4.

Co-organiser Dr Caroline Watt, from Edinburgh University, said: "Even though we had the public submit their most mysterious photographs, the images we received don't provide compelling evidence for spirits. If ghosts are out there, it seems they are somewhat camera shy. There were possible normal explanations for the majority of the pictures and so we're surprised that, on average, about 15% of those voting thought that the photographs portrayed genuine ghosts."
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