The Brocken specter is said to live among the cloudy ridges of Germany’s Harz Mountains,
a monster of huge proportions. Named after the mountain’s highest peak, the giant casts
a huge shadow on the fog that often surrounds the range. Legend also says that the
creature wears a headdress of oak leaves and carries an uprooted pine tree.
Visions like the Brocken specter are also seen around the world, in places where the sky
and terrain combine in such a way that the sun projects the shadow of the viewer on
clouds or fog several times larger than his or her real size.
Psychologists think that observers misjudge the shadow’s actual size because the shadow
looks flat, lacking numerous three-dimensional cues normally used to judge size and
distance. When trees and other objects appear together with the onlooker’s shadow, the
mind perceives a creature as tall as a tree. Apparently, the Brocken specter has spooked
many climbers, causing them to fall to their deaths.