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Old 6th November 2007, 05:02 PM   #1
Kiosk
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Magnificent Example Of Pareidolia

A Canadian friend of mine has sent me this photo, which she took at Warsaw Caves in Ontario, and I had to spend an hour (supposedly) convincing her that it wasn't a ghost. Generally, when I look at "spooky" photographs, I burst out laughing. This time, I could actually understand why she was spooked - it's possibly the best bit of pareidolia I've ever seen.

The thing is, it's so good that I'm still not 100% convinced it's not just some beardy, cap-wearing guy with bad teeth standing in the cave, reflecting the sun in his eyes and grinning like a demonic dork. On closer inspection, the facial proportions look wrong (unless he's got a very long beard and has had his face bashed in with a saucepan), and there's a tell-tale ridge along the back wall that runs in line with the bottom of his "cap", so I don't think this is some kind of put-on. But I'm not completely certain, because the "face" looks so different from the surrounding rocks, and the large "orb" and general lens flare (which would of course provide clinching proof of ghostly goings-on to a woo) unfortunately obscures the bottom half of the figure, so you can't see if there's a pair of legs there.

I appreciate that this thread would fit better into this subforum if I'd turned up saying "HAI GUYS I THINK THIS IS A GOST DO U???"... sorry. I was going to put it in "Science", but I figured the pareidolia thing was best at home here, especially in light of the marvellous tablecloth-folding ghost on the other thread.

Here it is anyway (you might have to click on a thumbnail):



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Old 6th November 2007, 05:06 PM   #2
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I must admit it is good, it certainly spooked me. Much better than the tablecloth.
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Old 6th November 2007, 05:35 PM   #3
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Jack Nicholson caught spelunking during a "Heeeeere's Johnny!" moment?

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Old 6th November 2007, 05:43 PM   #4
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So OBL is still in his cave.
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Old 6th November 2007, 05:48 PM   #5
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Actually, the first thing that came to mind upon seeing the unenlarge version of the pic was, "Oh, the Caddy Shack gopher has been fossilized". Maybe the face is Bill Murray?
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Old 6th November 2007, 05:52 PM   #6
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Far more convincing than Creekfreak's bigfoot! AND some bonus orbs too!
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:04 PM   #7
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wow, what a great picture. however, I swear I've seen this picture before as supposed ghost evidence... are you 100% positive your friend took it?

also, is it just possible that a real human being was in fact in the cave?
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:12 PM   #8
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What are you supposed to see in the picture? I just saw rocks.
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:17 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Elizabeth I View Post
What are you supposed to see in the picture? I just saw rocks.

you need to brighten the picture a whole lot to see it...
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:18 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by iMaGiNaTioN View Post
wow, what a great picture. however, I swear I've seen this picture before as supposed ghost evidence... are you 100% positive your friend took it?
I saw some of the other pictures she took at the same time, definitely the same caves. It's possible, as I say, that I'm being put on, but I like the picture so much that I wouldn't really care if it came from somewhere else.

Originally Posted by iMaGiNaTioN View Post
also, is it just possible that a real human being was in fact in the cave?
That's exactly what I thought at first, but she swears not. If so, then on close inspection it's a slightly odd looking human being (apologies if you're reading this). Occasionally I do look at it and think "ah, there's just someone standing in there", most of the time it just looks like a happy fluke in the rocks. Half the reason I posted it here was to get another perspective, because I still can't be sure.

Last edited by Kiosk; 6th November 2007 at 06:27 PM. Reason: Pressed send twice by mistake (I should get some sleep)
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:42 PM   #11
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it's either a living human being in the cave, or just the rocks giving the illusion of one. since ghosts dont exist
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:52 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Kiosk View Post
I saw some of the other pictures she took at the same time, definitely the same caves. It's possible, as I say, that I'm being put on, but I like the picture so much that I wouldn't really care if it came from somewhere else.



That's exactly what I thought at first, but she swears not. If so, then on close inspection it's a slightly odd looking human being (apologies if you're reading this). Occasionally I do look at it and think "ah, there's just someone standing in there", most of the time it just looks like a happy fluke in the rocks. Half the reason I posted it here was to get another perspective, because I still can't be sure.



Well, lets see: why does she "swear not"? Why is it completely impossible that an actual human being was in the cave? Cause that's what it looks like to me: a human being.

If she was in the cave and saw no one, that still doesn't qualify (to me) as a proof that it is absolutely impossible that there was a guy in the cave. Not seeing someone, doesn't mean the person couldn't have been hiding in another spot.
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Old 6th November 2007, 06:55 PM   #13
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OK, I'll be the first to say it. It's a streetlight.

Seriously, my guess is that it is most likely just a trick of the rocks and light. Pareidolia can be a powerful thing. If it is a person, is the scale correct? It is hard to tell from the first photograph, but I wonder if the shape is too small?
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Old 6th November 2007, 07:19 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Well, lets see: why does she "swear not"? Why is it completely impossible that an actual human being was in the cave? Cause that's what it looks like to me: a human being.

If she was in the cave and saw no one, that still doesn't qualify (to me) as a proof that it is absolutely impossible that there was a guy in the cave. Not seeing someone, doesn't mean the person couldn't have been hiding in another spot.
It's not impossible at all, I'm well aware of that - it's a public space, after all, where people go to look at caves - which is why I'm still kind of in two minds (should probably have added a question mark to the thread title, but I haven't slept for two days). It looks like a human being to me too, it's only when she insisted there was no one in there that I looked closer and noticed that it also kind of doesn't look like a human being, especially round the teeth and chin.

Originally Posted by Monza View Post
OK, I'll be the first to say it. It's a streetlight.
Excellent! I was hoping someone would do the "streetlight" honours.

Originally Posted by Monza View Post
Seriously, my guess is that it is most likely just a trick of the rocks and light. Pareidolia can be a powerful thing. If it is a person, is the scale correct? It is hard to tell from the first photograph, but I wonder if the shape is too small?
Not sure. Looking at the enlarged section, the ear part looks like it could be behind the rest of the face (i.e. deeper into the cave), but the quality's too poor to really tell. I know I'm going to be puzzling on this one for another hour if I don't force myself into bed - I usually hate examining photos like this, but unlike Pareidolia v Ghost, Pareidolia v Stray Human is a genuine puzzle. The fact that it doesn't really matter either way will probably only sink in tomorrow morning...
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Old 6th November 2007, 09:05 PM   #15
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I've got some photo editing software that will bring up the lost details in the shadows. Here's the result.



There wasn't a lot of detail to be recovered but it does look a lot like someone was in the cave.

Steve S.
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Old 6th November 2007, 09:08 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by steve s View Post
I've got some photo editing software that will bring up the lost details in the shadows. Here's the result.

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...138dbc5bb7.jpg

There wasn't a lot of detail to be recovered but it does look a lot like someone was in the cave.

Steve S.
It looks like he is wearing a baseball cap. I think that is a person as well. But he has a weird face. Oh heck, I don't know. I hate my brain sometimes.
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Old 6th November 2007, 09:08 PM   #17
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The first thing I thought was an Ewok from starwars
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Old 6th November 2007, 09:10 PM   #18
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I don't know, the proportions don't seem right. Try drawing the outline of the left half of his face. I can't get anything that looks convincingly human. And look at the position of his ear relative to his eyes and nose. Typically the human ear runs from the top of the eyeline to the bottom of the nose, but this guy's ears seem to be more or less centered on the eyeline.

It could be a person. I wouldn't be terribly surprised. But to me it looks more like a rock with two fortuitously placed bright spots. Cover up the bright spots with a small object and tell me how much it looks like a face.
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Old 6th November 2007, 09:35 PM   #19
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It looks exactly like a person peering up and to his left from behind the rock. So, you woon't see much of the left side of his face.
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Old 6th November 2007, 10:01 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Diagoras View Post
I don't know, the proportions don't seem right. Try drawing the outline of the left half of his face. I can't get anything that looks convincingly human. And look at the position of his ear relative to his eyes and nose. Typically the human ear runs from the top of the eyeline to the bottom of the nose, but this guy's ears seem to be more or less centered on the eyeline.

It could be a person. I wouldn't be terribly surprised. But to me it looks more like a rock with two fortuitously placed bright spots. Cover up the bright spots with a small object and tell me how much it looks like a face.
I have to disagree. I've been messing with the image and the face is a different color than the rest of the rocks. It looks like a face no matter what you cover up, or how you flip the image. He's also wearing a baseball cap, and possibly a hooded sweatshirt (was it cold when these pictures were taken?) This is one heck of an illusion if it is one.

Is it not possible that it was so dark looking into the cave that your friend just didnt see this guy until the picture was developed?

A simple trip back to where this was taken should answer alot of questions.
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Old 7th November 2007, 02:38 AM   #21
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Funny little bearded man,with a skull structure that isn't quite human, living in a cave ...?

Are you sure this photo was taken in Ontario and not Moria?
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Old 8th November 2007, 07:55 AM   #22
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How wonderfully creepy. He's even behind two giant orbs.
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Old 8th November 2007, 08:03 AM   #23
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As for the face, it is no wonder people seek out a face in orbs, or in smike (World trade center, etc). I recall one show about ghosts where people claimed to see faces in orbs. Humans being instinctually are drawn to seek out patterns and symmetry in nature. So, naturally, someone is going to try and construe a pattern out of nothing.
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Old 8th November 2007, 09:26 AM   #24
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I'd be more convinced that it's something if it were not accompanied by orbs, which are pretty sure to mean that there was dust in the air or on the camera's sensor, or both, and put the accuracy of any poorly detailed spots in question.
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Old 8th November 2007, 09:58 AM   #25
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Been looking at this again today - after seeing the tweaked version, I'm now 60/40 that it's a person, rather than 60/40 that it's rocks. The gleaming "eyes" are maybe too much of a coincidence, especially as, if you're standing in the dark, a camera flash can do that.

Face shape is still very weird though, and it doesn't look like distortion or motion blur (e.g. the man moving his jaw at the instant the picture was taken). And what's with those teeth? If it is a person, it can only be former BBC disc jockey and "Old Grey Whistle Test" presenter, "Whispering" Bob Harris...
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Old 8th November 2007, 10:19 AM   #26
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Ok, it's a cave formation. Caves form from dissolution of limestone, which is CaCO3. This is the same chemical formula for Calcite, which is known for its cleavage. The "eyes" and "mouth" are probably reflections of light on cleavage planes of calcite (boy, are there going to be jokes on this one).

The "eyebrows" are created by the same effect. As limestone dissolves and re-crystallizes into calcite, it leaves a little pocket that the crystals form inside of. So, the rim of the pocket casts a shadow.

The "flesh" is caused by a 3D image being rendered in 2D. To the right of the "face" is a light-colored plane with a dark line in between that betrays the original 3D shape of the block. Limestone frequently has this sort of cube-shaped fracturing pattern to it. It is also possible that there is some algae or weathering process taking place on the plane that has a different color, hard to tell without seeing it. More likely just a different shadow cast on a differently oriented block of rock.

Hope that helps.
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Old 11th November 2007, 08:09 AM   #27
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My first impression was that it was just a guy in a cave regardless of what the woman said about nobody being there. Also, what's being considered as teeth seem to my eyes to be the lower lip. The eye shine is no big deal. Fun picture, though. We've got hear what historian says about it.
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Old 11th November 2007, 08:26 AM   #28
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Here is an extremely brightened version, for those of you who can't crank up their monitor brightness to the level of a thermonuclear fusion:



Would be cool to have the original pic from the camera.
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Old 11th November 2007, 09:02 AM   #29
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To me it looks like a bearded man standing in the shadows, I can see his right arm (with his elbow bent as if he was supporting himself) & hand and can even see a hint of what could be spectacles.
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Old 11th November 2007, 09:08 AM   #30
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Thats just locknar in his cave
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Old 11th November 2007, 09:45 AM   #31
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It's gumboot!
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Old 11th November 2007, 09:48 AM   #32
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Looks like a mad geologist smiling for the camera.
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Old 11th November 2007, 10:18 AM   #33
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baseball cap - check
black jacket - check
bearded - check
glasses - check
evil smile - check

It could be this guy:


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Old 11th November 2007, 10:27 AM   #34
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Yeah, that's a person alright.
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Old 11th November 2007, 10:29 AM   #35
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IT'S HIM! IT'S PHIL PLAIT!
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Old 11th November 2007, 11:27 AM   #36
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Kiosk shows this page with brightened version of the image clearly showing dude saying cheese to the camera to female friend prompting the requisite "But... but... I coulda sworn..." and another textbook example of the fallibility of people's perceptions and observations coupled with a strong desire to believe in unfounded silliness is noted at the JREF forums.
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2 prints, 1 trackway, same 'dermals'? 'Unfortunately no' says Meldrum.

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Old 11th November 2007, 11:31 AM   #37
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Yep. It's Phil. Magnificent. And scary. I like this one much better than the demon dog in the anniversary photo shown on CNN. Surely it's a sign of something. Did anyone get off drugs after seeing this photo? Start taking drugs?
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Old 11th November 2007, 11:43 AM   #38
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I'm dearly hoping the women Kiosk mentions in the OP is his ex that he spoke of in the 'My Ghost Story' thread:

Originally Posted by Kiosk View Post
I was briefly seeing a girl with an "open-minded" attitude to woo, who claimed her building was haunted. I just sniggered at her insistence that strange things happened in her flat, especially as the examples she gave were pretty ridiculous.

(snip) Still not 100% sure what that was about, and her mockery of my attempts to work out a rational explanation were rather irritating.
That would of course be my blatantly transparent desire to see arrogant woos have the rug pulled out from under there fantasies.
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2 prints, 1 trackway, same 'dermals'? 'Unfortunately no' says Meldrum.

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Old 11th November 2007, 11:49 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by articulett View Post
Yep. It's Phil. Magnificent. And scary. I like this one much better than the demon dog in the anniversary photo shown on CNN. Surely it's a sign of something. Did anyone get off drugs after seeing this photo? Start taking drugs?
I did both!
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Old 11th November 2007, 01:01 PM   #40
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Wasn't the same woman, no - sorry. To be fair, it was relatively easy to convince this one that there was nothing paranormal going on here, the only mystery being whether it was an actual person or a bunch of rocks that looked like a face.

I think the "flesh tone" on the face is the best argument against pareidolia here. In the brightened versions, that colour really stands out against the rocks. Hard to believe that the one section of the cave that looked like a face would also be the one section that's flesh coloured, especially when it's perfectly possible that someone could have been in there. Looks like I was right to be dubious even of the "coincidental rock arrangement" theory.

Still time for the "it's a rock" side to come back, though.
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Many of the medical profession are sceptical about my work. They point to my record of treatment of athlete's foot sufferers - 84 dead, 65 severely wounded, and 12 missing believed cured. But then, people laughed at Bob Hope. People laughed at my wife when she wrapped herself up in greaseproof paper and hopped into the Social Security office - but that doesn't mean that Pasteur was wrong.
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