The “Brocken Spectre”
The Brocken is the highest peak of the Hartz mountain range and the highest peak of northern Germany; having an elevation of 3,747 feet(1,142 meters). This wondrous mountain is located near Schierke in the Germany State of Saxony-Anhalt between the rivers Weser and Elbe.
Brocken has its legends featuring witches and devils. Johann Wolfgang von Gothe (1749-1832), a German writer and statesman, used such legends in his play Faust.
Since ancient times, people have discovered that, under the right conditions, as they stand on the mountain, a gigantic shadow of theirs can be projected. Of course, many people, far back in the past, assumed supernatural forces were at work.
When the sun shines from behind a person standing on the Brocken, and that individual looks down from a ridge or a peak into a mist or fog; which frequently occurs, they will see his or her very much elongated and magnified shadow. There is no definite object visible of physical perspective that establishes a true standard of size which makes the optical illusion seem all the more gigantic. The head of the shadowy figure is often surrounded by glowing halos- defined as “glory-rings” of colored light that appear directly opposite the sun when sunlight intermingles with a cloud of uniformed sized water droplets.
Legend states that a climber on the Brocken peak was started by a sudden appearance of a human shape in the foggy mist and fell into the valley below – essentially killed by their own shadow. Others claim those who see the apparition will die the very next day.
The “Brocken spectre” is actually a scientific phenomenon and can be witnessed under the right atmospheric conditions in many places around the world. To be visible the sun must be behind you, and at low angles. The observer is standing in a high area such as a mountain overlooking a valley casting their shadow into the region below. Water droplets must be along the path of the shadow which creates the effect, so misty rain is a contributing factor. The head of the shadow can exhibit rings of light or a rainbow halo and is caused simply by the diffraction of light.
In modern times Weathermen are familiar the Brocken spectre effect, which previously was known only by those who studied the supernatural many generations ago. The internet is filled with various examples and images of sightings.
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