Tantallon Castle Photo Is Most Compelling Evidence For Ghosts, Says Study
Web users taking part in a study investigating photographic evidence for ghosts were most convinced by an image of a figure in period dress passing by a window in the historic Tantallon Castle in Fife, it was announced today.
The study, undertaken as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, was launched a month ago when the public were asked to submit their most mysterious ‘ghostly' photographs for analysis. The best of these images were then posted on the project website, and visitors invited to comment, and vote on whether they believed the photographs contained a genuine ghost.
The findings will be discussed at ‘Hauntings', a one-day public event in Edinburgh on the 4th April, when a host of experts gather at the Science Festival to examine the evidence for ghosts.
"The response was remarkable", commented Richard Wiseman, Psychologist Professor at the University of Hertfordshire, who headed the study. "We received over 250 photographs from all around the world, had thousands of comments, and over a quarter of a million votes".
The majority of the images showed mysterious-looking orbs, mists, figures and faces.
"Many of the photographs can be easily explained", noted co-organiser and photographer Gordon Rutter. "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."
Top Ghost photographs
The top five photographs, ordered by the percentage of people who believed that they contained a genuine ghost (shown in brackets) were as follows:
Fifth place: The ghost in the mirror (26%). The photographer says that no one else was around when he took this picture of his car, and thus he cannot explain the ‘ghostly' face in the left wing mirror. Skeptics argue that the ‘face' could be a reflection of the headrest, someone standing nearby, or the result of digital manipulation.
Fourth place: The ghost on the beach (27%). The photograph appears to show a mysterious dark figure standing in the water, facing to the right, and wearing a coat with the hood up. Skeptics argue that this ‘figure' is actually an illusion created by an indentation in the rock face.
Third place: The ghost on the street (28%). The photographer says that nobody walked in front of the camera when the picture was taken, and thus he cannot account for the ‘ghostly' figure. Skeptics argue that the blurring in the image suggests a long exposure, and that a person may have walked down the ramp unnoticed and created the movement ‘trails'.
Second place: The ghost in the woods (31%). Taken whilst the photographer was out walking with his children and dog, this image appears to contain a strange figure in the trees. Skeptics argue that the apparent figure is simply a mixture of shadows, leaves and branches.
First place: The ghost in the castle (39%): The photograph was taken in May 2008 at Tantallon Castle (Scotland). The photographer was unaware of anyone in the opening, and says there were no manikins or staff in period costume at the venue. Skeptics argue that the figure might be an unnoticed visitor, an odd reflection of light against the wall, or digital manipulation.
A site visit to Tantallon Castle has confirmed that the public can access the area occupied by the figure, and that the rear wall there is made of rough stone.
"It is possible that the stonework there could give rise to some unusual shadows or perhaps a member of the public will recognize themselves and come forward" noted Wiseman. "However, at the moment the explanation is not obvious and so, assuming that the image has not been digitally manipulated, it is certainly very curious".
Commenting on the results as a whole, co-organiser and psychologist Dr Caroline Watt from Edinburgh University noted, "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 were surprised that, on average, about 15% of those voting thought that the photographs portrayed genuine ghosts".