The blue of the sea, the blue of the ocean, a white haze, a blue haze often seen on mountains, a blue moon, the colours of birds and butterflies, etc, all have detailed explanations, as do varying shades, especially of blue. Incidentally, if you want to see the bluest water in the world, go to Bora Bora, a small South Pacific island in French Polynesia. It is a major international tourist destination, famous for its turquoise blue lagoon and much else. There are so many shades of blue and turquoise at Bora Bora, they make visitors do a double take. Physicist Philip Gibbs has explained that “the colours of light are distinguished by their different wavelengths.  The visible part of the spectrum ranges from red light with a wavelength of about 720 nm, to violet with a wavelength of about 380 nm, with orange, yellow, green, blue and indigo between.  The three different types of colour receptors in the retina of the human eye respond most strongly to red, green and blue wavelengths, giving us our colour vision.”

According to Michael Kruger of the Department of Physics at the University of Missouri, “…the atmosphere tends to scatter shorter wavelength blue light to a greater extent than longer wavelength red light. Blue light from the sun is scattered every which way, much more so than the other colours, so when you look up at the daytime sky you see blue no matter where you look. This scattering is called ‘Rayleigh scattering’…We can also answer why clouds, milk, powdered sugar and salt are white…” However, the answer to the range of colours in the paranormal world is immeasurably more challenging and complex, a case of questions, questions and still more questions.

The paranormal world too has an array of colours with ghosts in varying colours often spooking those who encounter them. There are very detailed descriptions on record of white ghosts, gray ghosts, green ghosts, blue ghosts, black ghosts, beige ghosts… Do the explanations for light effects and other optical phenomenon in the atmosphere and the responders in our human eyes also account for the colour of ghosts? For example, as Emerald Catron  wrote, “…close your eyes in a completely dark room. When you open them, the colour you see is called ‘eigengrau’, which means intrinsic gray. It’s the shade of dark gray people see when there’s no light…” Since ghosts too are often sighted in “no light” conditions, could this account for frequent reports of gray ghosts?

Similarly, researchers at John Hopkins University took the average of light from over 200,000 galaxies and found that the universe is, on average, a kind of beige colour which they named “cosmic latte.” Could this possibly account for sightings of beige coloured ghosts? Or are the explanations deeper? Writer Helen Murphy Howell has pointed out that white ghosts are “often reported in rural areas or lonely roads. Commonly appearing to only one person, the story surrounding the ghost is often that of heartbreak or trauma…The colour white may in fact be due to a paranormal phenomena called ecto-mist. These strange fog-like shapes have been caught on video and photographs and are often seen as white whispy smoke…” Generally, white ghosts are supposed to be harmless. Blue, brown, black and other coloured ghosts have their own connotations.

Sightings of gray phantoms who seem to be as numerous as white ghosts are often accompanied by feelings of great uneasiness. And while on the subject of gray ghosts, could it also be that what is presumed to be a ghost is a physical species not yet recognised by science?  Take the case of Am Fear Liath Mòr,  also known as the Big Gray Man of Ben MacDhui or simply the Gray Man, a presence or creature which is said to haunt Ben Macdui, the second highest mountain peak in Scotland. According to Wikipedia, “although there have been many purported encounters with Am Fear Liath Mòr, few eyewitnesses have seen the creature. Those who have describe it as an extremely tall figure covered with short hair, or as an unseen presence that causes uneasy feelings in people who climb the mountain. Other eyewitnesses describe it as a large humanoid standing over ten feet tall and having olive toned skin with long arms and broad shoulders… Nearly all reports of Am Fear Liath Mòr include the sound of footsteps crunching in the gravel just out of sight…” Many people believe that ghosts or creatures like the Gray Man could quite possibly represent an ancient line of hominoids.

Is there something refractory or diffusive in the environment that would cause apparitions to take on a colour other than white or grey? Could it be that ghosts try to communicate their needs or their energy through colour, whether in dress or the hue that surrounds them?  In India, the spirit form of Pirs—Sufi masters or spiritual guides—is usually seen in green. At the dargah of Sufi Moiluddin Chisti  in New Delhi, we watched in stunned silence some years ago  the green robed figure of Bhanja sahib emerge from his grave, wander nearby for a while, and then re-enter his grave. There was an indescribable calm, positive energy radiating from him and all of us felt uplifted for days afterwards. Similarly, an encounter with the green robed figure of the Pir Sahib at his centuries old mazar in the forest at Lado Sarai in Delhi always leaves a remarkable  residual feeling of peace and a beautiful fragrance of fresh roses for several days.

Is the colour of ghosts just a coincidence?  Or is it that different categories of ghosts manifest in a different way that gives rise to a different colour? Certainly, there appear to be characteristics attached to particular colours. While all ghosts have supernatural powers, green ghosts, like white ghosts, are reputed to be benign and protective. However, when actually encountering a ghost and making assumptions based on its colour, there’s always a major catch, a real danger. That’s because several types of ghosts can deceptively change their colour or facial features in a split second from beautiful to ugly, from soothing green to evil black or whatever. Obviously, understanding the colour of ghosts requires lots more of continual research into the way we perceive them as well as environmental and paranormal factors. But largely because of the ephemeral nature of ghosts, that’s easier said or written than done no matter what their colour. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the 19th century American poet wrote in “The Haunted Chamber”: A form sits by the window,/ That is not seen by day,/ For as soon as the dawn approaches/ It vanishes away.

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