Gerhard Mayer &
In 2013 a sounder of wild boars visited a clearing in the Freiburg Black Forest with a
remarkable regularity (roughly two to three times per week). A group of passionate huntswomen
and -men thus mounted a motion-sensitive wildlife camera. From one day to the next the animals
suddenly disappeared and at the same time the camera recorded three successive pictures from a
strange humanoid creature of about 10 cm height (Fig. 1). The huntswomen and -men speculated
about a causal relation between the animals' disappearance and the recorded creature.
They further speculated about spirits of the forest, extraterrestrial beings (aliens) and also
about the potential danger to enter this forest area once again. The speculations were further
inspired by media reports about the so-called “Atacama mummy“ (Fig. 2). This mummy received
considerable attention in the public and was also discussed as a potential alien.
Interestingly, it showed some similarities with and had a similar size as the creature
from the forest.
Finally in June 2014, one huntswoman sent the pictures from the wildlife camera to Gerhard
Mayer at the IGPP with the request professionally evaluate their content. She and her
colleagues had finally concluded that the creature on the pictures must be something paranormal.
During a subsequent interview the huntswoman confirmed that she had read about the case of the
After intensive examination of the pictures we finally found a more plausible conventional
interpretation: The proposed alien in question is most probably a typical jaybird (Fig. 3).
It is difficult to recognize because of the specific light conditions and occluding bushes.
The apparent eyeholes of the alien are most probably the dark stains on the jaybird's neck.
In Fig. 4 we entered the three pictures that had been recorded in immediate succession to
short movie. If one holds an imagination of a jaybird, it becomes suddenly very easy to
perceive its contours in the movie.
This case study is an interesting example of a more general problem of perception: The
information available to our senses is a priori incomplete, noisy and to varying degrees
ambiguous. We need to weight this limited information with information from other sources,
to construct as fast as possible the most probable perceptual interpretation. During this
process, both the spatial and the temporal context (e.g. the Acatama mummy from the media in
the present case) play a role, but also many other previous perceptual experiences.
Faces are a prominent entry into our perceptual memory. This may be the reason why we are
more than willing to perceive faces in many different objects (clouds, formations of stones,
tree barks, etc.), a phenomenon known as pareidolia.
The jaybird was obviously missing in the perceptual memories of the huntswomen and -men.
However, whether it really was a jaybird - at that time in the Freiburg forest - or after all
really an alien, and why the wild boars disappeared, remains open.
Graphical materials from: IGPP-archive, WN3-Gerhard Mayer/Untersuchung
„Bilder unserer Wildkamera“ (yet unlisted)
This archive material has
resulted in three scientific articles:
(1) Mayer G. & Kornmeier J. (2014). Rätselhafte Objekte auf den Bildern einer
Wildkamera oder: die Tücken der Wahrnehmung.
Zeitschrift für Anomalistik Band 14, 7-24.
(2) Kornmeier J. Mayer G. (2014) The alien in the forest OR when temporal context
Perception 43(11), 1270-1274.
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(3) Mayer, G., & Kornmeier, J. (2019). Mysterious objects in pictures taken by a wildlife camera:
The pitfalls of perception. In G. Mayer (Ed.), N equals 1: Single case studies in anomalistics
(pp. 297-312). Zürich: LIT.