Tuesday, 29 December 2009

I saw a ghost last night.

I don’t watch horror films late at night.  It’s not because I believe that the poltergeists or demons or Gremlins are going to creep into my room at night (was Gremlins a horror film?) but it’s because I don’t trust my mind and what it can do to make things real in my dreams.

I’m a rational person with no belief in the supernatural, but nobody appears to have passed that message to the part of my brain which writes the scripts for my dreams. 

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and glanced over at the curtain. The lights of London were coming in through the blinds and making shapes on the light-coloured curtains in front.  I looked at the curtains and said to myself “that shadow looks a bit like a person” and was awake enough to rationalise in my head that if I were a less rational person, I could easily mistake those shadows in the half-light for a ghostly figure standing in the corner of the room.

Can you guess what happened after I fell asleep again?  Yes, my mind took the rational view of a ghostly figure and turned it into a real ghostly figure.  This is why i can’t trust my mind with horror films late at night, you see.

The fact I saw the outline of a ghostly figure on the curtain at all is interesting, though – pareidolia is well worth a google looking up if you have a bit of spare time.  You can try experiencing this yourself, and you don’t even need to set up a complicated curtain arrangement.  Just find yourself a friend with patterned wallpaper in the bathroom – preferably the sort with a small repeating geometric pattern.  Then, next time you’re visiting and need the loo, stare at the wallpaper.  I swear it won’t be long before you start seeing faces and shapes where there are none.  I was staring at our bathroom carpet this morning and could swear that one of the Tweenies was perfectly outlined in the weave of the carpet.  And before you think it; we don’t have a CBBC-themed bathroom carpet.

So, try finding faces and shapes in a piece of patterned wallpaper and then next time you wake in the middle of the night and think you see something in the corner of the room, look twice and you’ll see that it’s just a shadow or flick of the light from a passing car’s headlamps.  And then just hope your mind’s capacity for nightmares isn’t as great as mine…

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