Eyes and Vision
'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.
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."
Some more info in the book Systems Theories and A Priori Aspects of Perception:
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.
You can find Swindle's original article here:
Swindle, P.F. (1916). Positive Afterimages of long duration. American Journal of Psychology, 27, 325-334.
From The Art and Science of Embalming
(1896) by Carl Barnes.
The illustration shows an experiment by the embalmer W.W. Harris to test the efficacy of injecting embalming fluid through needles inserted at the corners of the eyes. Harris showed that the fluid would come out the veins and arteries in the neck— and if the head were still attached to a body, would then presumably spread throughout the rest of the corpse.
Scientist W.E. Bailey predicted that, in the far future, our descendants may have only "one large, central, cyclopean eye".
Of course, who knows what humans may look like in a million years (if there are even any of us still around), but his argument sounds plausible enough to me (with my limited knowledge of neuroscience). Basically he argued that, over the past several million years, our brains have devoted more space to speech, and less to vision. Extrapolating that trend into the future, he concluded that the eventual merging of our eyes into one would be a more efficient use of the brain's resources, and so will probably happen.
Minneapolis Star Tribune - Dec 4, 1927
The gradual merging of man's two eyes into one may come about through the process of evolution, according to the predictions which W.E. Bailey makes in the Scientific American.
"Man's field of view," writes Mr. Bailey, "will become smaller and smaller. This, because his need of a wide field is growing less and less. This I say with full realization that we live in an age of automobiles, and that these vehicles render desirable a wide field of view. The automobile is probably a very transitory phenomenon. I even believe that, in the course of countless ages, the two human eyes will come closer together, the bridge of the nose will further diminish and sink (just as the animal snout, in man's line of descent, has been doing for vast aeons of time) and, finally, man's two eyes will again become one—just one large, central, cyclopean eye.
"It is likely that the merely servient (left) eye will shrink away (as the pineal eye has already done) so that the right eye will become the cyclopean. Certain it is that the left eye, even today, is being used less and less continually. Man's binocular and stereoscopic visions are being destroyed. That is the price he pays for his speech center.
"The great cyclopean eye, however, will regain stereoscopic vision by developing two maculae in the one eye, just in the fashion in which many birds have stereoscopic vision in each eye now. Although the field of view will then be narrower than now, the eye will probably be microscopic and telescopic; it will be exceedingly acute for colors, for motion, and for form; and finally, most important of all, it will probably be able to perceive as light many forms of energy which now produce in human eyes no sort or kind of perception.
"Because of the development of a speech center in man, there has come about what is called dominancy and serviency in human eyes, a phenomenon not found in other mammals. This means that, in the human, the brain does most of the seeing through one eye, even when both eyes are open. Dr. Thomas Hall Shastid, ophthalmologist of St. Luke's Hospital, Duluth, has found that from 95 to 100 per cent of the detail of any object comes through the right eye if the person be right-handed; while if the person be left-handed the left eye as a rule, but not always, takes up the major part of the detail. This condition, which he has been unable to observe in any other animal, may eventually result in consequences of vast importance to humanity."
In the 1970s, Chinese researchers investigated reports of children who had the unusual ability to read with their armpits. The kids supposedly could describe what was written on folded pieces of paper tucked beneath their armpits. And not just their armpits. Some kids could see with their ears, hands, or feet.
After careful study, the researchers concluded that, yes, the children did seem to have this ability.
Edmonton Journal - Feb 15, 1980
The researchers published the results of their study in Nature Magazine
, which is a Chinese journal not to be confused with the British journal Nature
. Thanks to the U.S. military's translation service, you can read these articles in English. They're posted on the website of the Defense Technical Information Center.
Here's a sample:
Wang Qiang and Wang Bin sat in the middle of the room and the observers sat in front and behind them. The lamp in the room was not very bright. They began with pieces of paper that had been written on before the test. They were placed in the ears of Wang Qiang and Wang Bin and the two girls were allowed to hold it in with their hands. After a little while, both girls said that there was no image and wanted to test it under their armpits.
Therefore, other pieces of paper were written on in another room by Shen Hanchang and Zhu Chiayi. The papers were folded twice and squeezed through the shirt from the backs of the subjects and placed under their armpits. The two girls held the sample against them with their hands. Besides the two writers, no one else in the room knew what was written on the paper.
After 2 minutes 40 seconds, Wang Qiang said that she "recognized" it. Everyone told her not to speak but to write it down on the side. She wrote a "3" and also wrote "blue". They opened the paper and found there was a "3 6" written with a blue ball point pen. The "3" and the "6" were separated some distance and thus she had recognized one half.
I jokingly referred to armpit reading as a useless superpower, but the Chinese researchers would disagree. They concluded their study with this remark:
Research on this type of special physiological phenomenon will not only have a deep and far reaching influence on medical science but will also influence the semiconductor industry.
Alexander Barash of Illinois was recently granted a patent for an "apparatus for opening and holding eyelids open" (Patent No. 10842477
The apparatus includes a supporting platform having a Y-type shape and including an upper beam configured for extending between a nose bridge and a forehead of the patient and for positioning on the forehead, a left leg and a right leg coupled to the upper beam, and configured for straddling a nose bridge of the patient and for positioning on patient's left and right cheeks, and a cross-arm mounted on the upper beam of the supporting platform. The apparatus also includes an opening assembly mounted on the cross-arm and configured for pulling an upper eyelid up for exposing an eye and retaining the eye of the patient in the open position.
I guess that A Clockwork Orange
didn't count as prior art.
"Our gum will alter your irises!"
Carolyn Swanson of Hermosa Beach, California made headlines on account of Baby, her "seeing-eye cat." Somehow she had trained him to assist her as she walked around town.
Mrs. Swanson lives at 1029 Bayview Dr. in Hermosa Beach. Any day when she goes down the street "Baby" quickly moves along the fence ahead of her, jumps to the top of the first step and slowly waves his full tail, brushing her ankle. He does not move until she begins to count out loud the first of the seven steps down. Then lightly he moves on to the bottom step, meows to tell her the path is clear and out to the sidewalk and curb he moves, and again awaits his beloved mistress. Waving that beautiful tail and brushing her ankle, he without sound tells her of the curb step, and not until the traffic is clear does he stop waving his tail so that she may know to cross. Slowly they both cross, she having confidence in her steps because "Baby" is at her side, brushing her ankle with his tail, keeping her path straight. As they approach the curb he stops, announces the curb, and after she is safely upon it they move on.
— The Redondo Reflex - Dec 13, 1946
More info: life
Brattleboro Reformer - Dec 17, 1946
Another case of an improbable cure.
Eugene W. Phillips, 60, had been blind for 16 years. Then, in August 1972, he fell off his back porch, puncturing his back with a stick and hitting his head on the ground. But he also partially regained sight in one eye. His doctor concluded that the fall had jarred loose a membrane that had been covering the optic nerve.
Bonham Daily Favorite - Aug 8, 1972
Provo Daily Herald - Aug 9, 1972
We've reported a few cases on WU of people who have experienced accidental (and improbable) cures, such as the woman whose deafness was cured by a sneeze
. One of the most famous examples of this phenomenon is the case of Edwin Robinson, who claimed that being struck by lightning cured him of his blindness and near-total deafness.
The lightning strike occurred on June 4, 1980 when he ventured outside of his home in Falmouth, Maine to rescue his pet chicken from the rain. After lying unconscious for 20 minutes, the 62-year-old Robinson awoke to find himself cured of the ailments that had plagued him since a road accident nine years earlier. An ophthalmologist who examined him, Dr. Albert Moulton of Portland, said: "There is no question but that his vision is back. He can't move his eyes, but his central vision is back... I can't explain it. I don't know who can. I know some of my peers in Washington, maybe, will say it's hysterical blindness. I can't see it. It couldn't have lasted this long. From the physical findings originally, he was definitely blind."
Edwin Robinson reads about his miraculous recovery
Later, Robinson even claimed that new hair had begun to grow on his bald head. He remarked to the NY Times
, "I'm all recharged now, literally... It's coming in thick. My wife is all excited about it. I was bald for 35 years. They told me it was hereditary."
Los Angeles Times - July 5, 1980
Later, Timex took advantage of Robinson's fame to feature him in a 1990 ad. Although the messaging seems a bit confused. Once broken, but now miraculously fixed?
Also, it's hard to tell, but he doesn't seem to have a full head of hair. He must have lost it again.
St. Louis Post Dispatch - June 7, 1980