Haunted 6 year old girl or just pareidolia?

By Richard Workman

Early August 2018 a local newspaper in Somerset, England published a story about a 6 year old girl who appears to have a baby haunting her photographs.

The article in Somerset Live, (Girl, 6, haunted by mysterious baby face for years) shows three photographs which purport to show a ghostly spirit hovering over the shoulder of the 6 year old girl.

Upon initial inspection the photos do indeed seem to show a face. One of the photos appears to show not only a face but a head and shoulders of what appears to be a young infant.

The mother of the girl said, “It’s really freaky. I’ve had others say it’s her hair, while others have said they can’t see anything.”

So if it’s not the ghostly apparition of a child haunting a 6 year old girl, what is it?

Well the usual suspects in ghost photography are digital image manipulation or some other kind of fakery such as multiple exposure. In this instance the images don’t seem to warrant this kind of investigation.

It’s more likely that the images are genuine but our interpretation of them isnt.

Step forward the science of pareidolia.

Pareidolia is a psychological condition in which the mind interprets an image or a sound and turns what is a random stimulus as a familiar pattern. We see faces in everything, from the face on Mars to a cloud drifting by. In 2004 a grilled cheese sandwich was sold for $28000 on ebay as it was purported to contain an image of the Virgin Mary.

Additionally it has been theorised that believers in the paranormal or those with firm religious beliefs are more likely to see faces in objects where no such image actually exists. In a paper by the Division of Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, suggested that these people are on “high alert”, and looking for danger. 

The holy grilled cheese
The holy grilled cheese

It’s also suggested that women are more likely to see faces in objects as there is a clear differentiation between genders regarding visual response to infant facial recognition. The ability to recognise faces quickly is an evolutionary survival imperative.

Pareidola could be responsible for many reported paranormal experiences. The mind often refuses to accept that nothing makes sense and will always try to fill in the gaps. A good paranormal investigator should always eliminate pareidola.

However, all of the science could of course be wildly wrong and a 6 year old girl from Somerset is indeed haunted by the a child spirit.

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