'Swindle's Ghost' is a term for an optical illusion that some psychologists have offered as a possible scientific explanation for ghost sightings. Actually, I doubt that many sightings are a result of this phenomenon, but I like the name.
Newsday Special Correspondent Paul Brock (May 15, 1967) offered this explanation:
One after-image, which psychologists believe has given rise to many reports of nocturnal apparitions, is called "Swindle's Ghost." It was first described by the American psychologist P.F. Swindle, about 45 years ago.
It can be summoned up by anybody. Using no more ectoplasm than a table lamp, friends can join you in this weird experiment, right in your own living room. Choose a dark moonless night and draw the drapes securely so that no stray light from street lamps or passing cars enters the room. Group the chairs near a table or floor lamp with one person directly alongside it to switch it on and off.
First, everyone must remain in the darkened room for at least 10 minutes before the experiment begins, so that the eyes can adjust completely to the darkness. Then, each ghosthunter must look steadily toward the lamp but not directly at it. They must keep perfectly still and keep the eyes from moving during the time the room will be illuminated and immediately afterward.
Now turn on the lamp for a full second. Turn it off. Shortly after you will see the whole scene loom up in the darkness with startling clarity, and the ghost impression will last for some time. Not only will everything appear exactly as it was when the light was on, but many precise details will be evident which could not possibly have been noted during the brief illumination...
The same optical illusion occurs when someone reports that he has seen a ghost in a graveyard at night. If a man is passing a graveyard at night and the moon breaks through the clouds just as he is opposite a white tombstone, in a few minutes he might see a vague white form loom up before him. The moon's illumination has created the 'ghost' which the man actually does see, but which is only an after-image— in the image of "Swindle's Ghost."
Swindle observed that if one experiences a very bright flash, one achieves a very powerful positive afterimage that may last over a period of hours. "Swindle's Ghost," as it is referred to occasionally, is a conscious image sustained purely by cortical activity; it is an image created by a stimulus that is not present during later observation. In spite of the absence of a distal stimulus, the image is very real. Observations by Gregory, Wallace, and Campbell (1959) and Davies (1973) attests to just how real it is; if a Swindle's Ghost image is a corridor, and one walks down it in total darkness, one seems to be walking, briefly, through his or her own afterimage.
Operation Wandering Soul was a propaganda campaign and large scale psychological warfare attempt exercised by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War...
U.S. engineers spent weeks recording eerie sounds and altered voices, which pretended to be killed Viet Cong, for use in the operation, with the intended purpose of instilling a sense of turmoil within the enemy, the desired result being for the soldier to flee his position. The tape, dubbed Ghost Tape Number Ten, was played on loudspeakers outside U.S. bases.
After Dean Goodman crashed his car into a canyon in early 1978, something ate his body. His mother assumed it was his German shepherd, Prince, who had survived the crash and remained at the scene for three weeks until Goodman's body was found. She wanted the dog put down.
More details from Skeptical Inquirer magazine (Winter 1978):
this gross injustice was narrowly averted when North Hollywood psychic Beatrice Lydecker interviewed the dog and found that Prince had in fact been wrongfully accused. "I have this ESP with animals," Mrs. Lydecker explained. "Prince had been traumatized by the accident. All Prince could talk about was his dead master."
Coyotes and wild dogs, the German shepherd said, had eaten the body, despite Prince's valiant efforts to drive them off. The canine hero's life was spared, owing to this timely information. A local police sergeant observed, "She says she got the information from the dog—and I've no evidence to dispute that."
As opposed to phone calls from telemarketers, who are more like the living dead.
"Scientific" parapsychologists D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless have recently discovered a startling fact: that dozens of people have had telephone calls from the dead. "The weight of evidence has convinced us that there are surviving spirits making attempts to contact living people" through the telephone, Bayless told the National Enquirer. Their new book, Phone Calls from the Dead, describes fifty such cases. Unfortunately, if the person receiving the call realizes that he is speaking to a spirit from the Beyond, the call is usually over within seconds, they say. Some postmortem calls arrive, appropriately enough, over dead telephone lines. Rogo believes that these calls occur when a spirit manipulates electrical impulses in the phone to reproduce the sound of its own voice. "We've stumbled on a whole new mothod of psychic communication!" says Rogo.
— The Skeptical Inquirer - Summer 1979
William Lyon MacKenzie King (1874-1950), Canada’s 10th and longest serving Prime Minister was a devoted dog owner in life and in death.While active in politics King had an achingly dull public image, which was certainly at odds with the goings-on in his private life. What the Canadian populace wasn’t aware of was his séances, his consultations with spiritual mediums, table-rapping sessions, tea-leaf readings and communing with the spirits of the likes of former PM Wilfrid Laurier, his long-deceased mother, and of course his dear ghost dog, Pat. That he owned and frequently used both a Ouija board and a crystal ball was published in Time Magazine in 1953, news that shocked the nation. Rampant rumours circulated about King’s oddities, some true, most false. That King had Pat stuffed by a taxidermist so that the little dog would always be by his side turned out to be untrue. King’s detailed diary entries, published after his death in 1950 revealed that King consulted the dead Pats during these séance sessions in manners of international political policy, conscription, and Liberal Party Leadership.
King, obsessed with death and the afterlife, often expressed his wish to communicate with the living after he died, just as he hoped to be reunited forever in the spirit world with his three Pats; “we shall all be together in the Beyond,” he wrote, “of that I am perfectly sure”.
Shirley Cromartie was working as a housekeeper at President Nixon's Key Biscayne retreat when, in 1971, she was arrested for shoplifting. She admitted to the crime but insisted that it hadn't been her fault. She explained that a mysterious woman wearing a wig had approached her in the store's parking lot, asked her the time, and had then released a "jasmine-like scent" from her left hand. Cromartie immediately fell into a trance, and the woman instructed her to steal four dresses, which Cromartie proceeded to do.
A medical expert testified that he believed Cromartie was telling the truth.
The Philadelphia Inquirer - Oct 23, 1971
An odd story. But what are we to make of it? There's a couple of possible theories:
Theory 1: Ms. Cromartie got caught shoplifting and made up a b.s. story to explain away her actions.
Theory 2: She was totally nuts.
Theory 3: She had an encounter with an extraterrestrial! UFOlogist John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies, advanced this theory. He speculated that the mysterious, wig-wearing woman was actually a "woman in black" (the female counterpart of a "man in black"). He noted that "Women in Black" cases often describe them as wearing wigs, and the aliens are fond of asking people what time it is.
But why would an alien being bother to make a housekeeper shoplift some dresses? Keel speculated, "perhaps this was not some small demonstration for the benefit of President Nixon, similar to the power failures that seemed to follow President Johnson in 1967. (The lights failed wherever he went ... from Washington to Johnson City, Texas, to Hawaii)."
Some people who take ESP tests score so badly that ESP researchers have theorized that their low scores can't be attributable to chance alone. These low-scorers must be using "Negative ESP' to avoid getting correct answers.
Their entry at THE SKEPTIC'S DICTIONARY lets us know: "Since the death of Mr. Parker in 1964, the Kabalarians, headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., have been led by Ivon Shearing who was sentenced to five years in prison in 1997 for sexually abusing several teenage girls over a twenty-five year period."
The Amazing Kreskin's Supernatural Dating Society hopes to serve as a love connection for all those with an interest in "visitations by aliens, haunted houses, extra sensory perception, astrology, mind control, curses, spirit healing, vampires, zombies, prophecy, contacting the dead, mind reading and anything in between."
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.