Panicked, he jumped off the mountain to his death
March 8, 2019 4:02 AM   Subscribe

In search of the Brocken spectre - a photo essay about visiting Burley Moor in Yorkshire to get a glimpse of an unusual optical illusion in the fog.
posted by Stark (11 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Fun article, I’ve seen these but did not know they had a name. Thanks!

Also, that final photo with the dog is wonderful.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:24 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I could totally see how earlier folk could have thought that a supernatural apparition of some sort. Cool!
posted by darkstar at 5:28 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

While procrastinating college homework, I read a book review that referenced Minnaert's Light and Color in Open Air. The Brocken illustrated the review. I immediately ordered both the reviewed book and Minnaert's tome, and have given either or both books as gifts to curious people a number of times since then.
posted by notsnot at 7:05 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

" … Here are Slothrop and the apprentice witch Geli Tripping, standing on top of the Brocken, the very plexus of German evil, twenty miles north by northwest of Mittelwerke, waiting for the sun to rise. …

As the sunlight strikes their backs, coming in nearly flat on, it begins developing on the peal cloudbank; two gigantic shadows, thrown miles overland, past Clausthal-Zelterfeld, past Seesen and Goslar, across where the river Leine would be, and reaching toward Weser. … “By golly,” Slothrop a little bit nervous, “it’s the Specter.” You got it up around Greylock in the Berkshires too. Around these parts its is known as the Brockengespenst."
--Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

c.f. David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon and the Brockengespenst
posted by chavenet at 7:14 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

One of the finest moments in fantasy is in Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark, and involves a Brocken specter.

I'll leave you to read the book, but I'll note that the title is a clever double pun (possibly triple), not vague fantasy glumph.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 7:31 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

And at dawn, when he awoke on the mountaintop, a messenger appeared to him in the sky to the west, and a ring of light shone around his head. And he trembled at the fear of him, and he ran down the mountain to tell the people all that he had seen.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 8:30 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

More literary references

Broken link, should probably point to here:

Found via
posted by filthy light thief at 10:21 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Thanks, filthy light thief.
posted by chavenet at 10:24 AM on March 8

I've seen this a few times and it can be really freaky if the light is right. It really looks like something else is following you or looming over you and can mess with your brain even when you know exactly what it is.

I've even had a form of it happen late at night without the sun. I was walking a beach really late at night in thick fog and it was almost impossible to see anything even with a flashlight. There's a lighthouse near the beach and when I had my back to it the beam would flash through the fog and cast a practically opaque looking shadow of myself on the fog that made my brain think something was rushing directly at me out of the dark at some impossible, alarming speed and it scared the everlasting shit out of me, like I had just turned around to see a bus or truck a foot away speeding towards me and I was about to get mowed down.

I actually yelped and tried to jump out of the way. Even though I knew what it was every time the lighthouse beam swept past me it just triggered my fight/flight reflexes because it just looked that much like some weird specter rushing at me out of the dark.

I even tried to get used to it because I actually like walking around in creepy fogs and feeling spooky and ethereal but it just kept freaking me out.
posted by loquacious at 11:35 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]

I've experienced the low-budget, non-eerie version of this, walking my dogs in the morning and seeing bright sunlight reflecting off of dew on the grass forming a halo around my shadow. The mist version here * is* more impressive, and I can see where it could surprise or creep you out.
posted by coppertop at 1:26 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

« Older She said she saw Gary’s spirit come to her   |   History Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments