Simulacrum - face on a tree stump
We generally perceive our world as an ever-changing scene. Even if the scene doesn't change, we move our eyes around a lot to get different views of it. Thus we view life as a bit like a movie. With so much going on visually, we tend to only see properly what is directly in front of our eyes, having only a general impression of the periphery. When taking a picture this effect can become worse - we concentrate on what we are trying to photograph and the mechanics of taking the photo.
Looking at a photograph we see a scene frozen in time. It allows us to concentrate on details of the scene we may well not have noticed at the time the photograph was taken. As well as orbs, mists, etc, we see simulacra.
TVs that aren't on
From time to time we there appear photographs of TV screens, apparently showing a programme in progress. However, the photographer claims that the TV was switched off at the time of exposure. This could be a case of poor memory but not always.
Older style cathode-ray tube TVs have a reflective, glass front. They can, when turned off and viewed from an angle, strongly reflect bright light sources. These could give the impression, on a photo taken of the screen, that the TV was on. The newer flat TVs have a less-reflective plastic front so it's unlikely we'll see this effect with them.
The very act of taking a photograph can generate momentary reflections that we don't see at the time. These are generated by a very quick, powerful transient light source right next to us - the camera flash.
Weird lights produced by a flash
In the photo above, an issue of ASSAP News is pictured. However, there is an odd white crescent shape in the bottom right-hand corner. This was not visible before or after taking the photo. It was caused by a shiny surface, off the right-hand side of the field of view, reflecting the flash momentarily into the picture. In certain circumstances, such a reflection could look like a paranormal light, an orb or even a ghost.
In the picture above you can see a transparent slide for an overhead projector. It is suspended in front of a tiled wall. The weird glowing UFO shaped light is a reflection of a torch in the plastic slide. This is similar to Pepper's Ghost, a device used in theatres to project a transparent apparition onto a stage using glass. This effect should be visible to someone taking a picture through glass (such as a car windscreen or window) but might not be noticed at the time of the exposure.
A simulacrum is an object which appears to be something else. A typical example might be seeing a 'face' in clouds.
The picture on the far left of this page appears to show a face on a tree stump. It is a little difficult to see as it is a small picture. This is deliberate because closer inspection would reveal that the 'face' has, in fact, been deliberately carved into the wood! So, technically, it is not a simulacrum. Indeed, it is an example of art imitating life!
There are many examples of photographs that appear to show faces or figures that, if they were viewed from another angle, would be revealed for the coincidental layout they are. People are good at recognising human shapes but sometimes the tendency can go too far and we see non-existent meaningful shapes in random patterns.
Still photographs are particularly prone to producing simulacra. This is because, generally, we cannot go back and look at the scene from another angle.
One obvious cause of a strange dark shadow across a picture is having an object in front of the lens at the time of the exposure. However, an equally mysterious dark shape can appear if there is an object is partially obscuring the flash unit, even if the lens is entirely unobstructed. That is what has happened in the photo below. So, if you see a mysterious, shadowy black shape on a photo, it could be something obscuring the flash unit.
© Maurice Townsend 2006