Friday, August 19, 2011

Superior Mirages

Another installment of the ABCs of the Paranormal!  I have been fascinated with the subject of superior mirages ever since I heard them discussed as a possible explanation for phantom armies of Gettysburg. Although there are many other explanations for the phenomena listed below, superior mirages do offer one natural explanation that should be ruled out completely before being substituted by a paranormal one...unless of course, you're like me and just love a good story!

A superior mirage is a type of mirage in which the image of an object appears ABOVE the location of the actual object.  This is due to a downward refraction of light that occurs when light rays refract or bend towards the colder, denser air located closer to the earth. Since the brain assumes that the light rays have taken a straight path from the object, the object appears to be floating in the air.  Most often, phantom images seem to float over the horizon, appearing as ghostly images in the sky. In other instances, objects that are below the horizon and out of our regular line of sight begin to loom onto the horizon.

This is a pretty cool phenomenon...but you may be wondering what it has to do with the paranormal?  It actually has a LOT to do with the paranormal when attempting to explain a variety of folklore and other supernatural tales of ghost armies, ghost riders in the sky, floating houses, and of course everyone's favorite haunted ship, the Flying Dutchman.

There are tales of modern day visitors to such battlefields as Gettysburg who report seeing phantom armies marching, or even in battle.  Although not all such types of apparitions can be explained so easily, one explanation to examine is whether or not an actual reenactment is being held nearby, causing the mirage of a phantom army to appear much closer to the viewer.  Sailors and others aboard sea-faring vessels need to especially watch out for these types of mirages, as the colder water leads to a type of superior mirage known as the Fata Morgana.  Distance boats and even shorelines can appear as approaching on the horizon, or floating upside down in the sky.

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