'Ghost' spotted at Dudley Castle (but are we just struggling with a case of pareidolia?)

The internet can't get enough of the 'Grey Lady'

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The Independent Online

A blurred outline in an image has led a couple from Birmingham to believe they may have captured the legendary Dudley Castle ‘ghost’ on camera – but experts say there is a much simpler explanation for the presence of the haunting figure.

Dean and Amy Harper took a series of photographs from the top of Dudley Castle tower when they visited the Dudley Zoological Gardens on 30 August.

Built in 1071, the West Midlands castle is billed as one of the most haunted in England.

When they began sifting back through their photos on their mobile phones, the couple noticed a grey shadow emerging from the court yard window of the Sharington Range Tudor palace, which they say takes the form of a woman and a child.

They believe the blurred outline is the ‘Grey Lady’ who has apparently haunted the castle for centuries (and even has a pub in the area named after her).

Mr Harper said: "On looking through the images that evening Amy saw a glow, as though a light was on, on the top window level. On zooming in we noticed on the bottom, inside an arch, there was a lady and what appears to be a little girl, too. 

"Neither of us are ghost hunters but we do wonder if this could be the Grey Lady ghost – the picture is quite clear."

However, experts say the ghostly apparition within the picture is actually much more likely to be an example of pareidolia – a phenomenon where people recognise distinct features or patterns in objects or images.

Commons examples of pareidolia are seeing faces in clouds or on pictures of the moon.

Christopher French – head of Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmith’s University explained: “It makes sense in evolutionary terms that we evolve brains so that if they make a mistake, they are more likely to see something that isn’t there, rather than miss something that is there and could be a potential threat."

Prof. French said people are more likely to see faces and human figures because they are the most significant stimuli for us, although they can also be animals and other objects.

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Dr Andrew Dunn, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, said people ‘see’ ghosts for a variety of reasons, while some are more susceptible than others.

He explained: “Children who naturally engage in fantasy worlds tend to see ghosts more often than most adults. Similarly, adults who want to believe tend to see ghosts more often than those who are sceptical.

“However, that doesn’t mean even sceptics aren’t susceptible to some degree, because our interpretation of what we see, hear and feel is influenced by our expectations and our physiological state.

“For example if you want to see a ghost then you are more likely to ‘see’ one simply because you tend to interpret the raw sense data as something supernatural (shadows are ‘signs’).”

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