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The Prisoner's cinema is a phenomenon reported by prisoners confined to dark cells and by others kept in darkness, voluntarily or not, for long periods of time. It has also been reported by truck drivers, pilots, and practitioners of intense meditation. Astronauts and other individuals who have been exposed to certain types of radiation have reported witnessing similar phenomena.[1][2]

The "cinema" consists of a "light show" of various colors that appear out of the darkness. The light has a form, but those that have seen it find it difficult to describe. Sometimes, the cinema lights resolve into human or other figures.[3]

Scientists believe that the cinema is a result of phosphenes combined with the psychological effects of prolonged exposure to darkness. Others have noted a connection between the form the lights take and neolithic cave paintings.[4][5]

Popular culture

The pilot episode for the original Twilight Zone series, "Where Is Everybody?," depicts elaborate, fully realistic hallucinations by a test subject undergoing prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation as part of research into human space travel.

See also


  1. Demirchoglian, GG (1973). On the effect of ionizing radiation upon the retina in man and animals. Life sciences and space research 11: 281–294.
  2. Fugelsang, C, Narici L, Picozza P, Sannita WG (April 2006). Phosphenes in low earth orbit: survey responses from 59 astronauts. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine 77 (4): 449–452.
  3. Walker, J.. The Amateur Scientist: About Phosphenes: patterns that appear when the eyes are closed. Scientific American 244: 142–152.
  4. Murchie, Guy (1998). The Seven Mysteries of Life: An Exploration in Science and Philosophy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  5. Stone, Andrea J.. Images From the Underworld: Naj Tunich and the Tradition of Maya Cave Painting, 10–11, University of Texas Press.

External links


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