In 2010, Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo published his eerie findings in the journal Perception. He called it the “Strange-Face-In-The-Mirror Illusion,” where his setup could guarantee that people observe startling, supernatural imagery. All he needed was a dimly lit room and a mirror.
Within minutes, people looking into the mirror would watch their own faces distort, into deceased love ones, archetypal creatures, or disturbing disfigurements. You can read an article about the study here.
Why does this happen? According to Caputo, our brains are hardwired to perceive faces. It’s the same reason we see shapes in clouds or trees. Because the mind can’t register dark spaces, it fills in the space with information. That causes people to see shapes and figures in the shadows.
This is also why creepy pasta rituals such as The Three Kings have yielded “results.” What people believe to be spirits are actually the brain’s misrepresentation of the darkness.
This begs the question, How can I tell if what I’m seeing is a spirit or a trick of the mind?
That’s what I’m going to talk about here.
Note: I will not discuss sleep paralysis in this post. That’s a different topic altogether.
There seems to be a common misconception about spirit work that sightings are a one-chance deal: you see a spirit once, and it’ll never appear again. That isn’t true in most cases. Sightings and experiences can be repeated, under different circumstances, at different times of the day. Sure, spirits are harder to perceive because they aren’t often tangible. But they can be perceived if you know what to look for.
First, let’s review what needs to occur for the shadow you see to be a trick of the mind. If you’re in a space with dim lighting, your mind will likely trick you. If you’re tired, or just woken up, your mind will likely trick you. If you add a candle to the darkness, you’re at an even higher disadvantage because the movement will alert your mind into fight or flight. Which leads me to the final point: If you’re afraid, your mind will likely trick you.
Spirits don’t only appear under these conditions. If you observe a spirit, you’ll still perceive it if:
There are many more examples, but those should give you an idea.
Let’s say, for instance, that you perceive a spirit in the middle of the night, in dim lighting, while feeling afraid and/or tired. This fits all the criteria for a common psychological phenomenon. In that case, doubt your experience. Never be afraid to doubt spirit work or a magical technique.
Let’s say that your experience meets the above criteria, but your gut is telling you that it was more than a trick of the mind. In that case, test it. Try to contact the spirit again other different circumstances. Use divination. Ask others for their opinion. Analyze the situation, and try to encounter the spirit again.
I hope this gives you a better insight into spirit work and determining whether or not that spirit is real. Feel free to comment or ask any questions!