When is a man like a horse?

By Phil Plait | July 15, 2008 10:09 am

The answer to the title question is easy: when someone looks at a fuzzy blob in a picture and says it’s a ghost.

Uh, what?

Take a look at the picture taken by people visiting the site of a 363 year old battle:

UK ghost

The picture, credited to the Northampton Paranomal Society, is claimed to show a soldier from that battle.

Riiiiigggghhhtt.

The money quote from the article is this:

“When we saw it, when we were looking back through the pictures, we were gobsmacked.

“We’re saying that it’s a soldier. Some people can see it sitting on a horse and some people just see it as a walking soldier.”

Yes, the picture is so clear they can’t tell if it’s a human being or a horse!

And that’s from the leader of the paranormal society.

Still, it looks more like a soldier than a tub of spumoni looks like Jesus:

Jesus in spumoni

I circled it to make it more obvious. Jesus? I see General Zod. Or Emperor Ming. Or the old school Doctor Who nemesis The Master.

Seriously, if two dots and a curved line can be seen as a smiley face — and it’s impossible not to see a smiley face — then slightly more complicated randomness can be seen as either a man or a horse… if you wish hard enough.

So I think all these apparitions are nothing more than wishful thinking. A ghost, a horse, Jesus, Mary, even General Zod, are all products of our minds trying to make patterns out of random noise.

That’s my claim, and I’ve steaked it.

Tip o’ the ectoplasmic residue to Dave Pearson for the ghost story, and to the several folks who sent me the scoop on the spumoni.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia

Comments (59)

  1. Kaptain K

    I can’t see Jesus (or any other figure, for that matter) even with your help!

  2. TSFrost

    The first thing I saw was that General Zod’s hair looks like that famous photo of the Loch Ness monster.

  3. Sili

    Zod with a mullet, yes.

  4. Vernon Balbert

    [quote]and to the several folks who sent me the scoop on the spumoni.[/quote]

    Ar-ar! Scoop on the spumoni! I get it! It’s a pun! ;)

  5. lurker_above

    So a group of paranormal enthusiasts go to an English battlefield looking for paranormal activity. To the surprise of absolutely no one, they point to a blurry patch of light in a photo as evidence of paranormal activity.

    Aren’t preconceptions great?

  6. The top image is obviously a kid with blond hair, wearing a deerstalker and carrying a magnifying glass.

    As for the spumoni, that’s gotta be Frank Zappa.

    My favorite so far, though, was the Robert Mitchum rag:
    http://degroof.blogspot.com/2007/10/face-recognition.html

  7. Ray M

    Well, I still think my observation of God in today’s APOD is *far* more convincing…

  8. John

    The ghost picture is from Naseby. There are two problems with this.

    1. It is still not certian where the battle was acually fought. This has caused problems with planning permission for housing in the area.

    2. The battle was fought on the 14th June 1645. Britian adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. At this time the UK was 11 days behind the rest of Europe. Today this gap would be 13 days. So if the ghosts appear on the anniversary of the battle, then the ghost spotters should be on the battlefield on the 1st June.

    This issue of dates actually presupposes that ghosts follow a 365 day cycle. This would make things complicated for Muslim ghosts. The Islamic calander is 354 days in length. So do Muslim ghosts appearing a year later appear 354 days later, or 365? What happens to ghosts from battles fought between the Christian and Muslim armies during the Crusades? Depending on whose calendar you use, the anniversary will be 11 days apart. Do the Christian ghosts appear to fight the battle 11 days after the Muslim warriors?

  9. Navneeth

    BA, I’m surprised you cannot see the stick horse! It even has a blue ball hanging on to it.

  10. madge

    These get more lame and desperate as time goes on. I mean PLEEEZ people. Our brains try really hard to make sense of random patterns. We are VERY good at it. It don’t mean SQUAT! :)

  11. Dave

    I agree with TSFrost – until I read “General Zod”, I was thinking “Nessie”.

    As for the “ghost”, I think Phil has misunderstood – it’s not either a man or a horse, it’s either a man standing, or a man on a horse (cavalry soldier)*. The second is what I see, anyways.

    *Oh, okay, or a blob….sheesh!

  12. Brian Gefrich

    You’re seriously saying that this isn’t unquestionable proof of ghosts?

    I mean, what more could you possibly need?

  13. OtherRob

    Ghost horse! Run!!

  14. Jose

    That’s clearly a ghost soldier being followed into battle by his army of… bedsheets?

  15. John

    It looks like the photo’s had its contrast and brightness turned way up, and maybe had some colors adjusted (seriously – bright cyan & pink in the background, and in the grass??). While it’s not as manipulative as editing individual pixels, it’s still possible to manipulate the edges of the pareidolian silhouette to be more anthropomorphic than in the original.

  16. If you want another one of these “spooky” images, see the Flying Spaghetti Monster
    in a fireworks photo from what appears to be Seattle:
    http://www.venganza.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/fireworks2.jpg

    To me, it’s more compelling than the ghost in the article’s photo.

  17. Ad Hominid

    If there’s a horse under him, he is standing on its back, like a circus rider. I think his weapon is an AK-47 but a soldier in 1645 would not have been carrying a shield (triangular “object” on the right).

  18. Todd W.

    Phil, you missed the ewok in the lower right part of the spumoni.

  19. browncoat

    All I see is a low quality phone picture with a lot of noise/distortion, and a tub of ice cream. Where the hell do you people pull all these random stuff out of?

    Now I’m hungry!

  20. Joy

    Well, in the second photo, it kinda looks like Jesus’ mother with her veil, although it’d have to be blowing to the side. Maybe she’s in the middle of a tornado? Hmmm…perhaps Mary’s trying to tell the Italians that there will be a serires of destructive tornadoes (or other windy events) in their area soon?

    Jose: Sorry, definitely not seeing the bedsheets, just some…blob.

    Cheers!
    Joy

  21. Crux Australis

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing…that someone will stare at their tub of spumoni for long enough to see Jesus, or that you folks call ice-cream “spumoni”! What the…?!

  22. Michelle

    …That jesus looks like what jesus would like if he was an asian artwork alright.

    At least Jesus looks tasty. The other soldier one… Bah to that.Sure it looks sorta maybe perhaps like a shape of a man.

    …Wait… Is he holding a marshmallow? He’s totally holding a marshmallow on a stick!

  23. When people become ghosts do their clothes, guns, horses, and saddles become ghosts too?

  24. Gareth

    I nearly cried when I saw that picture from Northampton Paranormal Society.

    Perhaps I should see if they have a forum so I can go ridicule them.

  25. John said:
    1. It is still not certian where the battle was acually fought. This has caused problems with planning permission for housing in the area.

    2. The battle was fought on the 14th June 1645. Britian adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. At this time the UK was 11 days behind the rest of Europe. Today this gap would be 13 days. So if the ghosts appear on the anniversary of the battle, then the ghost spotters should be on the battlefield on the 1st June.”

    Well, John, don’t blame the poor ghost! Maybe he’s just a little confused.

    Phil said:
    Yes, the picture is so clear they can’t tell if it’s a human being or a horse!”

    It’s a ghost, Phil. What do you expect, they’re “see-through.”

  26. Ross

    Er, Phil, that’s no mace. And Jose, it looks like he’s not leading an army, but sending his army forth ahead of him.

    You should expect this sort of thing from ghosts, they’re natural exhibitionists.

    Oy vey. Why does my pareidolia have to be so perverted? Why can’t I see nice things, like the Holy Mother?

  27. Aramael

    I can’t get over the fact that a guy called Toxsic is the co-owner of an ice cream shop.

  28. LaCreption

    A ghost only occurs at particular places in a certain mindset. I’ve seen ghosts during school camp when we were walking a long time in a pitch dark night without equipment and we were lost. A few times I ‘saw’ people on bicycles approach and I automatically stepped aside to let them through. Only to wake up. Others experienced similar things. Being tired and/or lack of visual input does some great things. I guess a bit of wishful thinking should create some great experiences.

    This picture is stupid.

  29. Kevin White

    Reminds me of mrpicassohead.com!!

  30. TheBlackCat
  31. MJBUtah

    My absolute favorite about the spumoni Jesus was the quote on the local news story that “he melted, but we’ll check again in 3 days”.

  32. JT

    I can see the armored knight on horseback pretty clearly, but why is he sitting side saddle with his legs crossed and why does his lance have a marshmallow on it?

  33. MJBUtah– That’s brilliant! I wish I had thought of that. Man, that’s funny. I LOLed. :)

  34. Viewer 3

    I may be known around here for my refusal to declare the supernatural “impossible” by definition, but I think it’s easy to agree how ridiculous this is. I’ve seen a billion pieces of “ghost evidence”, photos and video, and I’ve yet to see anything that either can’t easily be faked or isn’t the usual Jesus-in-a-pringle routine.

    If Jesus wants to show himself to me, I’d hope he’d pick something more significant than the wood grain pattern on the side of my home theater speakers.

  35. Jose

    OK, I was wrong about the bedsheets. After a more thorough scientific evaluation, I’ve determined it’s actually army of spongebobs and shopping carts.

    And just to the right of spumoni Jesus’s chin there’s clearly a yeti giving the pledge of allegiance.

  36. Funkopolis

    I was going to eat the Spumoni Zod for desert, but my dad says I have to finish dinner first. At least that what I think he means. He just sort of glowers at me and shouts “MEAL BEFORE ZOD!”

    I think I’ll go for a Gelato Jesus instead.

  37. Tarrkid

    KNEEL BEFORE SPUMONI!!

  38. Tarrkid

    Damn. Funkopolis did it first… And better…

  39. Jose

    When people become ghosts do their clothes, guns, horses, and saddles become ghosts too?

    Duh. We can’t have people being haunted by naked ghosts. That would lead to ghost discrmination. No one in there right mind would try and dispell a a hot naked ghost.

  40. Jose

    damn spelling.

  41. Pisces

    I once saw a cloud that looked like an elephant…..Conclusive evidence that elephants are lighter than air!!!

  42. Here’s the John McCain Pancake, available for a limited time on Ebay:

    http://i301.photobucket.com/albums/nn63/lovegiantdesign/2mccain.jpg

  43. quasidog

    Well, my first reaction was, “that is a soldier”. I did not even have to think about. That is just what it looked like right off the bat. It is just another trick of the light sure, but if we are going to argue what it looks like: definitely a soldier in some sort of armor, either standing wide legged on a rise, or on a horse. Thats what it looks like to me sure. Light is cool. Finding faces in clouds is cool too.

    On another point however you (BA) said: “Yes, the picture is so clear they can’t tell if it’s a human being or a horse!”

    …. but the quote you seem to have derived that from said they see either a “soldier” or a ‘”soldier ON a horse”. …. they didn’t say they saw a horse, as it clearly looks like the soldier may be sitting on a horse with its wide legged stance.

    quote from paranormal: “We’re saying that it’s a soldier. Some people can see it sitting on a horse and some people just see it as a walking soldier.”

    …. so clearly in both cases they are saying it is either a soldier .. or a soldier seemingly sitting on a horse (which seems to be an invisible horse too). Nowhere in the article does anyone say they see either a soldier OR a horse. I am just pointing this out as this sort of error may give these people ammunition, saying they have been misquoted by you to make them sound stupid. (which is clearly is :P)

    They are full of it however I agree.

  44. Ted

    Maybe I am just perverted, but it looked like to ghost of John Holmes to me.

  45. Wildride

    My first thought on the spumoni man is the late Tony Jay. As to the horseman, it’d probably be easier to identify if you could see the coconuts as he bangs them together.

  46. Whatever happened to The Master, anyway? I fell behind.

  47. lurker_above
  48. madge

    @ Todd W
    Now all I can see is an angry Ewok shaking his fist at Jesus. LMAO! THAT my friend is what I call A SIGN! The Jedi will rule and the meek SHALL inherit the Earth :)

  49. Bruno Domingues

    … and in the news article at Telegraph, Adrian Perkin is quoted:

    “If this is genuine it’s a very, very, good example. It’s the best I have seen for many years.”

    … if that’s the best he’s seen in years, these guys really should get a life…

    I reckon the ice cream divinity is one of “the not so good ones”?

    Amazing… no, not amazing… IT IS INCREDIBLE…
    (maybe he can have them neutered)

  50. @lurker_above

    I agree with you
    Here you can see it more evidently

    http://musicglob.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/johnnie-walker.jpg

  51. BrownCoat

    Haha @ Johnny Walker

    Strange how paranormal “evidence” are poorly focused/exposed or tiny resolution photos or crappy phone camera videos.

    On the ice cream, I can see a fat bunny about 2 o’clock from the circle haha, it seems to be running and is happy?

  52. Michael Hirschi

    Our local news ran the spumoni Jesus story on the morning news. I first thought “Oh geez, another Jesus in the something made it on the news.” I wondered how long it would take BA to post this one. One thing, however, the news, and the ice cream store owner presented the story in a light hearted manner. Although not a word for word quote, the store owner said “Well, it’s been hot lately and spumoni Jesus has melted. What would be neat is after 3 days spumoni Jesus came back.”

  53. Dave Cabman

    Holy spumoni!

    That ain’t no Jesus. The second I saw it I knew it was George Harrison from “Yellow Submarine”

    Click on the small picture at the top of this page:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://members.aol.com/beatlefreak87/images/beatles%2520-%2520yellow%2520submarine%2520(characters).jpg&imgrefurl=http://members.aol.com/beatlefreak87/more3.html&h=708&w=810&sz=180&tbnid=2-zwZi_wZekJ::&tbnh=126&tbnw=144&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dyellow%2Bsubmarine%2Bpictures&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&cd=1

  54. quasidog

    … nup …. they still never said they saw a horse.

  55. Ahh, paredolia at it’s finest! I love paredolia! Makes looking at boring stuff more interesting

  56. Buzz Parsec

    I for one welcome our new frozen, lactose-laced overlords!

  57. In my country, we say that a horse is like a man. If a horse is angry, we say it’s like if a man is angry. If a horse is tired, we say it’s like if a man is tired. If a horse is sick, we say it’s like if a man is sick. If a horse is running, we say it’s like if a man is running. If a horse is hungry, we say it’s like if a man is hungry. If a horse is scared, we say it’s like if a man is scared. If a horse is dying, we say it’s like if a man is dying. If a horse is sleeping, we say it’s like if a man is sleeping. If a horse is homeless, we say it’s like if a man is homeless. If a horse is sad, we say it’s like if a man is sad.

  58. ME MAN

    I think that it looks like some guy with a mullet

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