Try Making a Brocken Specter on Your Next Walk, They’re Seriously Cool

Try Making a Brocken Specter on Your Next Walk, They’re Seriously Cool

The Brocken specter, or Spectre of the Brocken, is the term given to a clever optical illusion that was originally noticed on Germany’s Brocken peak, giving it the nickname Brockengespenst. It occurs when a person or item casts a shadow onto a cloud or mist, giving it an advantage. 

The result is a massive shadow that appears too projected from a great distance and occasionally moves even when the person or item producing it stays motionless. If you were not aware of the process, witnessing anything like this may lead you to believe in specters, sometimes known as ghosts. Brocken specters have been photographed extending and widening their creators’ legs and limbs, giving people behind them the alien-like look of a radioactive Mr. Burns coming from the woods.

As the sun casts its shadow on the three-dimensional cloud or collection of mist, its form becomes twisted. The amplification of the person throwing it onto the adjacent cloud makes it appear as though it was thrown to far-reaching sections of the landscape, making them appear large. Better yet, clouds are living things, and as their water droplets move, so can the shadow that causes it to move. As your silhouette generates a funky, waving shadow giant, the effect gives the entire ensemble a psychedelic atmosphere. It was nature’s Wacky, Waving, and Inflatable-Arm-Flailing Tube Man.

Try Making a Brocken Specter on Your Next Walk, They’re Seriously Cool

The impression of a halo, or glory, which appears as multicolored rings around the shadow of the head, is the technicolor cherry on top of the optical illusion. When light interacts with water droplets, it produces concentric circles that vary from red to blue, resembling a rainbow dartboard. While glories are generated in the same way as rainbows, they differ in that the angle of glory from its source is considerably smaller, causing light to diffract, reflect, and refract at different angles in water droplets.

Hiking is the ideal method to uncover excellent misty possibilities if you want to try your hand at producing your own Brocken specter. The optical illusion’s namesake, the Brocken summit in Germany’s misty Harz Mountains, is an excellent location to start. 

Since Johann Silberschlag first described Brocken specters in 1780, occurrences have been common. If the Brocken is not within walking distance, you may go to any high-altitude location that has misty, overcast weather with a ray of sunshine.