I remember when I still believed in things like Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and even ghosts, goblins and ghoulies that go bumpthumpBANG in the night. Honestly, it was pretty difficult to shake those beliefs and, at 25, I still find myself wondering if that movement I saw out of the corner of my eye or that sound I heard over by the mantle was actually a ghost. Sometimes I even like to pretend that it was a zombie and run like a mad woman out of the living room screaming “Get the axe, honey, they’re here!”. Thankfully, I am armed with the knowledge of what my eyes, ears and mind commonly misinterpret and I can use that knowledge to explain away any false perception that supernatural beings may be creeping through my house at night. There are many ways that we can misinterpret the world around us and not even realize that what we are seeing or hearing is not what is actually there. For instance, let’s pretend that I just returned from grocery shopping and I’ve climbed the steep porch steps and walked into the tiny pool of yellow light that’s abundant with moths surrounding my front door. I’m terrified of gross, nasty, creepy-crawly bugs and I’m holding 4 increasingly heavier bags of groceries with one hand because I shifted the once even load over to the other hand so I can fish for the keys that have to be in one of those darned coat pockets. There’s something strange in my pocket and it feels like it might be a gross, nasty, creepy-crawly bug in my hand so my fight or flight response kicks in, causing me to fling that bug-like thing away from my vulnerable and bug-hating body. I go quickly inside to place the bags on the table and return to the tiny pool of yellow light to see if I can find evidence of what was once hitching a ride beside my keys and I find nothing but moths and darkness outside my back door. That had to have been a bug, then. I even pull out my cell phone and use it like a flash light to see if there’s anything proving the contrary nearby. I see nothing, so I shudder and shake it off and sprint into the living room to tell my boyfriend what had just happened. A moth or something must have flown, jumped or fallen onto my side and made its way into my pocket as I had stepped onto the porch. The next morning I let the dogs out to go boom-boom in the yard and I find a wadded up tissue that looks just like the face tissue I put in my pocket on the ride home from the grocery store last night with intentions of tossing it in the trash on the way in…It even has makeup on it that rubbed off of the tip of my nose… So, that wasn’t a bug in my pocket, after all! What a relief! I run inside to update my boyfriend on the story and he laughs and says that seeing isn’t always believing, even if you don’t actually see it and that at least I will remember this the next time I put my house keys and face tissue in the same pocket. This same idea can be applied to ghosts, goblins and ghoulies. As a child, the first time I heard a small critter run across the tin roof of my grandparent’s house, I really honestly believed that there was a ghost running down the hall. I jumped out of bed and ran to my grandfather’s aid and he assured me that even though it sounded like the footsteps were inside the house that they actually came from the roof and that little critters used that roof like a breeze way between trees. Ever since that night, instead of hearing ghosts running through the house, knocking on the walls or scratching at the windows, I hear things like squirrels running on the roof or pecans falling from the trees or branches scratching at the windows. There are many famous optical illusions that can illustrate some of the ways our eyes can misinterpret the world around us. Being aware of these sensory weaknesses can greatly reduce how often we jump to conclusions about things we see out of the corner of our eye. Plus, I’ve heard that ghosts are confused and repelled by optical illusions, so I draw one on each of my palms and I run around my yard in the dark with my palms facing out while loudly chanting, “I’m obscuring my property, be gone, you’re not welcome!” over and over again hoping the neighbors ask what I’m doing so I can share with them the power to alleviate their haunting intruders. I have prepared a list of some of my favorite illusions to illustrate how easy it is to misinterpret what you are seeing: The gray lines that surround the “bricks” in this image coupled with the staggered placement cause the eye to interpret the horizontal lines as slanted when they are actually parallel to one another.
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