ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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Maurice TownsendWelcome to the ASSAP paranormal blog! Though this blog is aimed at anyone interested in the paranormal, it will be of particular interest to the paranormal research community. Updated frequently, but not regularly (don't expect something new every day!), it covers any paranormal topic, as well as highlighting recent changes to the ASSAP website.

Whenever new information becomes available on a subject ASSAP covers, it is added to the relevant pages of the website straight away. So, just because you've read a page, don't assume it will still be exactly the same when you next look. That way the ASSAP website remains an up to date research resource.

The photo (above right, pic by Val Hope) is the ASSAP blogger himself, out looking for anomalies wherever they are to be found, so that you can read about them here. To contact the ASSAP blog, email here.

Important note: If anything in this blog does not make sense, try following the links in text! If it still doesn't make sense, that's probably my fault ...

Previous blog pages ... (including ghosts, UFOs, poltergeists, flying rods, miracles, orbs, hypnotic regression, big cats, vampires, near sleep experiences, premonitions, shadow ghosts, paranormal photos, auras, river monsters and dozens of other subjects)

NB: WDTHDWP = 'what does this have to do with the paranormal'

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23 April: Witness testimony versus photos!

Apparent figure by fenceI was wondering recently, which type of evidence is better for a ghost sighting - witness testimony or a photograph? Here's what I came up with.

There are two major problems, as I see it, with witness testimony. Firstly, there is the problem of attention. You only pay attention to one thing at a time in your field of vision. You are aware of other things around but not to any great degree. So if you see a ghost, which is an extremely rare experience, you will focus your attention on it. The problem with that is there may be other details in the surrounding area, visible to you but not really noticed, that could point to a xenonormal explanation for the ghost. So vital clues to the true nature of the ghost will be missed. When I've seem ghosts I've only seen the apparition at the time but afterwards looked around for clues about a possible xenonormal cause. For most ghost witnesses it is a once in a lifetime experience and they will only notice the ghost itself. Contrast that with taking a photo of the same scene. It will possible to examine the whole scene at leisure, looking for clues to what is really happening, Cameras may be aimed at a particular subject but they record all they details of the view with equal precision.

Secondly, there is the problems of memory. Every you recall a memory it can be. and often is, changed. And the altered memory then overwrites the original in your brain. What is more, you think of the new memory as entirely accurate, forgetting the earlier version. In this way, a memory can change over time, depending on how often it is recalled. But it always appears to be a true memory, irrespective of what really occurred when the memory was first made. Photos clearly do not suffer from this problem. Provided they are not edited or compressed they will remain the same indefinitely, even when copied.

Having said that, there are problems with photos as evidence of ghosts. By far the commonest ghost photo is one where nothing was seen by the photographer at the time of exposure. The apparent ghost only appears in the photo on later examination (like the photo of the figure in a tricorn hat featured above - see here for details). I have made a  close analysis of over three thousand anomalous photos, taken over several years by over one thousand different photographers using dozens of different digital camera models. In almost all the cases the photographer did not see an anomaly at the time of exposure. The great majority of those I examined were found to be photographic artefacts. These are the results of photographic faults, such as long exposure, over- or under-exposure, objects out of focus, reflections, low lighting, low resolution, perspective distortion, image noise, refraction, diffraction and so on (see here for an account of these effects). Overall I have found no evidence to support the popular idea that ghosts can be invisible to witnesses while showing up in photos of the witnessed scene. Thus, in the case of ghosts that supposedly only show up in photos, I have to say that witness testimony is superior to photos!

So which is best - witness testimony or photos? Overall, I have to say photos for the reasons given above. But witness testimony is obviously also helpful when carefully collected. Ideally witness statements should be gathered soon after the event using techniques like cognitive interviewing for maximum retrieval of accurate memories. Witness testimony is almost all the evidence we have for many anomalous phenomena and is the basis of almost all we know about things like ghosts (see here).

17 April: Ghostly animal sound!

Two ghosts"Everyone should get off the plane eventually", 'If I go somewhere big", "Ah, the feel". These are a few of the odd phrases heard by my acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR - see here for a description of this phenomenon). They are not obviously addressed at MA and sound more like one half of a conversation. My favorite of these recent quotes is "They're here!". It sounded like someone calling out and could be reassuring or sinister depending on the context, which is unknown.

Now there has been a new development on these spoken MWRs. Recently MA heard an animal sound rather than human speech. It was a sort of screech but MA could not identify what sort of animal it might be. The 'animal' sounded very close but there was no sign of any such creature nearby. This appears to be yet another another new variation in the MWR phenomenon. Animal sounds, where there are no known animals present, can give rise to reports of ghosts. Someone who experienced MWRs but who was not aware of their natural cause might report such sounds as ghostly or unexplained.

Of course, an animal sound from an unseen source doesn't have to be ghostly. As a birder I'm well aware that real animals are heard much more often than they are seen. But MA experienced the feeling of 'coming out' of a MWR. So clearly some animal sounds can have a source other than an animal!!

The photo, which has nothing to do with the foregoing, was prompted by the previous post concerning ghost photos. Though no ghosts were seen at the time of exposure, there appear to me to be two figures in this photo. The left figure appears to me to be tall and robust with heavy arms, one on its head. The right figure appears to me to have a long beard and is watching the other figure. As this appears to be misperception, you may well see none of this. The 'figures' are,. once again, pollarded trees.

9 April: Can ghosts be photographed? Yes, no, maybe!

Two ghostsCan ghosts be photographed? In my opinion, based on analyzing thousands of anomalous photos, yes. no and maybe. To clarify, by ghosts I mean: a human (sometimes animal) figure, witnessed by someone, which cannot be physically present. This definition (see here) is based on actual reports of ghosts. It does, however, not contradict more traditional definitions. So here are the answers in turn.

YES: To my surprise it turns out that ghost sightings caused by misperception can occasionally be photographed. Though misperception is subjective multiple witness can misperceive the same object as a human figure. And I've found that the misperception can even be seen on a photo. In the example here (right) i quite clearly see 2 human figures. As misperception is subjective you may only see one or neither! I saw one of the figures at the time of exposure. Both of these 'figures' are really pollarded trees as a zoomed view of the photo readily reveals. For the original account of the photo see here. But it shows that ghosts caused by misperception can, rarely, be photographed.

NO: Ghost sightings caused by hallucinations, like near sleep experiences for instance, clearly cannot be photographed. Unlike misperception, hallucinations have no element external to the witness's brain.

MAYBE: Ghost sightings from other causes might be photographable. As always in science, the matter will ultimately be decided by evidence. However, we know people see such ghosts so, depending on how such sightings are caused, they might well be photographable.

The great majority of ghosts are reported to look just like normal humans. So there might already be many photos of ghosts out there right now that we don't know about. How could we tell if a normal-looking figure in a photo is actually a ghost? Well, if a figure vanished in front of the witness just after being successfully photographed, that would be a good indication. I don't know of any such cases but it is clearly not impossible. Thus, we cannot tell solely from the photo itself but would have to rely on a witness statement in addition. This puts us in the same situation as with a ghost that is witnessed but no photograph taken. There might be xenonormal reasons why a figure could vanish. It might be a real person, for instance, who slips out of sight as the witness looks away for a second or two. I have several times had figures 'vanish' in this way in front of me. It always turned out that there was some concealed alleyway, path or other exit that I only discovered by a thorough site examination. It might be more convincing if the figure was on a video, rather than in a still photo, when the figure was observed to disappear. The video would have to be checked for editing or malfunction, of course.

In the great majority of reported ghost photos, no actual figure was seen by the photographer at the time of exposure. There is a implicit assumption here that if a figure is only seen on a photo then it must be paranormal. However, photographic artefacts also only appear in photos but not in the real scene being photographed. In the thousands of anomalous photos I've examined the anomaly was almost always a photographic artefact (see here for types of photographic artefact). So I've found no support, so far, for the idea that ghosts appear in photos when they are not seen at the time of exposure.

So, as I said. Yes, no, maybe.

3 April: The Vardoger connection

Shadow ghostI'd come across the word before but not really gone into the subject. Then my attention was drawn to vardogers by a blog post (see here). A vardoger is the appearance or sounds of someone, recognised by a witness, BEFORE they actually physically appear later on. I suppose it's a sort of premonition of someone's imminent arrival by apparently seeing or hearing them.

What struck me straight away was that this was very similar to my 'sounds behind music' phenomenon (see here). I will be playing loud music alone in a building when I hear the sound of someone entering through a door and sometimes moving around afterwards. However, when I turn off the music the sounds stop and when I look around there is no one there. The sounds are sometimes just the general sounds of someone moving around. But occasionally they match exactly the sounds of someone I know arriving in the building. And in every case I was actually expecting someone's imminent arrival. On occasions where I was NOT playing music I heard nothing. And on occasions where I was playing music but not expecting anyone there were also no unexplained sounds. So the expectation that someone was about to arrive was crucial, as it is with vardoger. It also never happens if I am expecting the phenomenon, even if all other conditions are satisfied. I have an example of this as I write this now - someone I expected has just arrived but I heard nothing in advance. I am, of course, thinking about the phenomenon so it doesn't work!

Regular readers will be aware that my theory for my own experiences is auditory hallucination. I think the loud music is crucial because it limits my ability to hear the real sounds of anyone approaching while I'm alone. I think it's a sort of survival mechanism to keep me alert while in a vulnerable position (alone and unable to hear sounds warning of anyone or anything approaching). One might say the witness I was put in a state of 'sensory isolation' by the loud music.

In accounts of vardogers there is no mention of loud music. However, there could still be a similar mechanism at work in at least some of the cases. The witnesses may have been heavily distracted by something to the extent that they were paying no sensory attention to their surroundings, once again potentially leaving them vulnerable. It is difficult to tell if this might be true from old vardoger accounts but if a new case comes along it is an avenue worth exploring. Also, I wonder if this kind of 'sensory isolation' might be responsible for other haunting type reports!

© Maurice Townsend 2019

ASSAP

Previous blog pages ...

  • Mar 2019 (including ghostly music, touched by a ghost, ghosts in hi-vis clothing)
  • Feb 2019 (including ghost appearing out of nowhere, hearing music when ghosts appear)
  • Jan 2019 (including staring ghost, are ghosts common, sense of presence, recognizing ghosts)
  • Dec. 2018 (including strange sound from sky, mocked by fate, comparing eye witness report and photo)
  • Nov 2018 (including another bolt from the blue, why aren't ghosts more common, seal in car)
  • Oct 2018 (including unseen in plain sight, street light interference, ghostly sounds - a purpose?)
  • Sep 2018 (including ghost crow, ghostliy sounds and attention overload, ghostly noises and day dreaming)
  • Aug 2018 (including how do you know when you're looking at a ghost, have ghostly voices stopped)
  • July 2018 (including new mini-OBE, 'sounds behind music' factors, followed by a ghost)
  • June 2018 (including hearing someone who isn't there, a bolt from the blue, when nothing happened)
  • May 2018 (including whether strange phenomena can evolve over time and the sleeping commuter phenomenon)
  • Apr 2018 (including should ghosts be commoner at night, book turns over instantly, 'garden poltergeist' returns)
  • Mar 2018 (including are rare events paranormal, like a time slip, strange leaning man, mystery flashing light)
  • Feb 2018 (including explanation for apparent precognition, ghostly figures, a huge invisible presence)
  • Jan 2018 (including ghostly conversation, ghost selfie, person vanishes, more stuff 'behind' music)
  • Dec 2017 (including a connection between reading and phantom sounds and investigating coincidences)
  • Nov 2017 (including man moving instantly, unexpected fall of night, ghosts rarely turning up on vigils)
  • Oct 2017 (including sounds 'behind' music, non-blurry ghost, ghost with a paunch, small human ghost)
  • Sep 2017 (including seeing ghosts to order, paper defies gravity, precognition, moving aerial mystery)
  • Aug 2017 (including identifiable ghosts, psychic message, like time standing still, on not seeing foxes)
  • Jul 2017 (including invisible ghosts, sense of presence in rain, precognition, haunting sounds)
  • Jun 2017 (including more real that reality, white flying object, pale figure at a window)
  • May 2017 (including ghosts: in a crowd, in a hi vis vest, object movement and sounds)
  • Apr 2017 (including no glasses no ghost, odd ghost, embarrassing ghost, fame month works again)
  • Mar 2017 (including white glowing shape or ghost, another source of 'presence', a ghost returns)
  • Feb 2017 (including fish in sky, best ghost in months, strange transparent object, recounting experiences often)
  • Jan 2017 (including ghostly face, phantom snow boarder, unexpected return of fame month)
  • Dec 2016 (including vanishing mouse. grey fuzzy thing, yellow dots, doppelganger)
  • Nov 2016 (including ghost fox, strange small figure in photo, haunting noises)
  • Oct 2016 (including strange voice, disintegrating ghost, ghostly leaf in focus to short-sighted witness)
  • Sep 2016 (including ghost on demand, shadow ghost, amplified hearing, anniversary ghosts)
  • Aug 2016 (including figure vanishes, strange music, phantom squirrel, fame month again)
  • Jul 2016 (including robot on wall, ghostly hooded figure, new house effect, transparent figures in photos)
  • Jun 2016 (including odd UFO, amplified hearing, alternate realities, strange stick figure on roof)
  • May 2016 (including farewell to the door ghost, restaurant ghost, invisible book, shrinking object)
  • Apr 2016 (including double UFO photo, strange animal, amplified hearing, fame month)
  • Mar 2016 (including time slip, strange brown blob, pig becomes horse, ghosts out or in focus)
  • Feb 2016 (including identifiable ghost, ghost in odd pose, leaning ghost, door ghost returns, ideal witness)
  • Jan 2016 (including too strange to be noticed, vanishing man, giant glowing pig, UFO reports)
  • Dec 2015 (including strange object with a tail, crouching ghost, scurrying ghost, sea serpents, false stepping)
  • Nov 2015 (including paranormal object movement, premonitions., distance of sighted ghosts, soundproof barrier)
  • Oct. 2015 (including monk and nun ghosts, white ghosts, red ghosts, touching ghosts, life going fast forward)
  • Sep 2015 (including glowing transparent ghost, unsettling ghost, insect ghost, UFO in clouds, linear photo anomalies)
  • Aug 2015 (including alien robot, white UFO, unlikely prediction comes true, animal ghosts. streaks in photos)
  • July 2015 (including coincidence versus precognition, paranormal smells, music and ghosts)
  • June 2015 (including interactive ghost, presence on train, orbs, spade wings)
  • May 2015 (including ghosts seen during vigils, mystery flash, sense of presence, transparent ghost, daytime UFO)
  • Apr 2015 (including UFO behind trees, orbs behind anything, possible cause of road ghost sightings, white-hatted ghost)
  • Mar 2015 (including moving object looking motionless, retreating ghost, IFO turning into a UFO)
  • Feb 2015 (including best ghost yet, how things vanish, purple thing, ghost in inappropriate attire)
  • Jan 2015 (including winter insect orbs, ghost from a train, strangeness threshold, flashes in the sky)
  • Dec 2014 (including lumpy horizon, green blob, strange lights, orbs, white floating thing)
  • Nov 2014 (including doors opening by themselves, haunting flashes, sense of presence, formant noise)
  • Oct 2014 (including animal ghosts, tricorn-hatted figure, seeing 0.23 celebrities monthly, dancing ghost)
  • Sep 2014 (including paper defying gravity, low flying UFOs, photographing ghosts, moving still photos)
  • Aug 2014 (including figure on a pillar, orbs still worth studying, ghost objects, shadow ghost)
  • July 2014 (including yellow orb, teleportation, ghostly whispers, owl, strange announcement)
  • June 2014 (including hand in a tree, blurry flying object, white alien, strange pattern on a dragonfly)
  • May 2014 (including single witness UFOs, ghosts vanishing, anomalies seen through gaps, rock face, creeping doppelgangers)
  • Apr 2014 (including unrecognized ghosts, odd UFO photo, do short-sighted people see ghosts, man with no face)
  • Mar 2014 (including unusual shaped UFO, ghost on a train, ghost presence, vampires, ghost calling)
  • Feb 2014 (including confusion, daylight orbs, haunted milk bottle, ghost on a bridge, too obvious explantations)
  • Jan 2014 (including colliding orbs, ball lightning, de-orbing, ghost mouse, mysterious flashes, ghost misidentification)
  • Dec 2013 (including popping orbs, new shadow ghost, ignoring a ghostly hand, dust turning into orbs videoed)
  • Nov 2013 (including hearing voices, blurry ghosts, mirrors and ghosts, coincidences, UFOs near airports)
  • Oct 2013 (including fairy photo, mist ghost, yeti, premonitions, orbs are NOT dust, how hauntings start)
  • Sep 2013 (including moving sticks, targets affecting odds in psi tests, shape shifting, not photographing ghosts)
  • Aug 2013 (including ghosts in plain view, mystery photo, seeing faces, ear pointing, shadow presence, time distortion)
  • July 2013 (including floating ghosts, on being a ghost, ghost ducks, follow that ghost - yes, ghosts galore)
  • June 2013 (including transparent ghosts, distance of UFOs, other stuff going on while witnessing anomalous phenomena)
  • May 2013 (including ghost seen AND photographed, time distortion, reproducing anomalous phenomena)
  • Apr 2013 (including door ghost moving, UFOs from a train, missing time, reality glitches, EVP without E, weird photos)
  • Mar 2013 (including witness credibility, distraction to see ghosts, movie in real life, photo or witness)
  • Feb 2013 (including possible orb comeback, OBEs go mainstream, walking ghost, feelings without touch, object movement)
  • Jan 2013 (including a big problem with ghost vigils, time distortions, cryptids, snow ghosts and rods, causes of hauntings)
  • Dec 2012 (including mysterious injuries, ghosts versus people, voice from nowhere, experimenting with a ghost)
  • Nov 2012 (including reflected ghost, isolated EVPs, ghosts talking to each other, invisible presences)
  • Oct 2012 (including ghostly presence, shadow ghost, strange pigeons, window ghosts, hallucinations)
  • Sep 2012 (including yellow grass, weird waterfalls, vanishing buzzard, ghost vigils, slowing down time)
  • Aug 2012 (including seeing unknown animals, glowing lampposts, EMF meters as an accident of history)
  • July 2012 (including turning rods into orbs, psychic insight, making insects spell, glowing eyes, haunting hot spots)
  • June 2012 (including doppelganger mystery, not expecting ghosts, anecdotal evidence, credible witnesses)
  • May 2012 (including lenticular cloud, ghost encounter, ghost train, weird stuff in a tree, van Gogh, resolution)
  • Apr 2012 (including naturalists and ghosts, odd feelings during OBE, wrong kind of sound, voice from nowhere)
  • Mar 2012 (including jogging and ghosts, misty ghosts, image noise, full spectrum photography, EVP of machines)
  • Feb 2012 (including ghost car, analyzing anomalous photos, ghost at rock concert, OBEs and motion sickness)
  • Jan 2012 (including stopping flying rods, photographing fairies, time warp, a ghost tie, ghostly fingers, New Year UFOs)
  • Dec 2011 (including missing time, improving ghost vigils, anomalous photos, ghostly faces, seeing fiction)
  • Nov 2011 (including OBE video games, EVP and VLF, whatshisname, paranormal misconceptions, invisible ghosts)
  • Oct 2011 (including smartphone ghosts, similacrum, smell of ghosts, morphing UFOs, slowing time)
  • Sep 2011 (including tidy ghost, MADS, transparent ghost, big announcement, ghost fox, not alone)
  • Aug 2011 (including cold spots, spectral hound, triangular UFO, ghost photos, rushing air and being dragged)
  • July 2011 (including Hilary Evans, Harry Potter, witness investment, bias in paranormal research, TV detectives)
  • June 2011 (including ASSAP @ 30, detecting lies, hyper-vigilence, strange thunder)
  • May 2011 (including ASSAP @ 30, lone shoes, flying rods, bias, early memories, strange floating object)
  • Apr 2011 (including royal wedding, mirror touch synaesthesia, sleep disorders, new ghost sighting)
  • Mar 2011 (including roof heron, Atlantis, first time witnesses, comparing film to digital paranormal photos)
  • Feb 2011 (including predicting the future, ghost bird, time slip, weird floor, what do we really know about paranormal)
  • Jan 2011 (including the ghost hunting boom, orange UFO, EVP experiment, extreme normality)
  • Dec 2010 (including microsleeps and road ghosts, shadow ghost in snow, lack of ghosts in photos, anthropomorphism)
  • Nov 2010 (including EMF meters, auras, evidence for precognition, sensitisation, the ghost hunting boom)
  • Oct 2010 (including black orbs, UnConvention, mirror visions, levitation, flying rods and orbs)
  • Sep 2010 (including a ring tone from the roof, shadow ghost video, time slip explanation, daylight orb video)
  • Aug 2010 (including Parisian UFO, sense of presence, SLI, consulting experts, misperception)
  • Jul 2010 (including Sherlock Holmes as a paranormal investigator, haunting sounds, what ARE hallucinations)
  • Jun 2010 (including the Loch Ness Monster, gorilla video, getting ghost stories the wrong way round)
  • May 2010 (including ball lightning, Wem ghost photo, waking up twice, eyewitnesses, Robin Hood)
  • Apr 2010 (including causes of road ghosts, new orb evidence, bird UFOs, UFO photo, not quite seeing is believing)
  • Mar 2010 (including experiencing hypnagogia, consciousness, belief, prolonged misperception, doppelganger)
  • Feb 2010 (including visual continuity errors - AKA ghosts, near sleep experiences on trains, spontaneous OOBEs)
  • Jan 2010 (including intelligent oil, SLI, inducing OOBEs, orange UFOs, the bleak midwinter)
  • Dec 2009 (including review of research in the noughties, pretty orbs, imperceptions, river monster)
  • Nov 2009 (including EVP without a recorder, demons and entities, why only some people see ghosts)
  • Oct 2009 (including grey ghost, near sleep experiences, a triangular UFO and seeing David Beckham)
  • Sep 2009 (including latent memory, Tufted Puffin, Bermuda Triangle and garden poltergeist)
  • Aug 2009 (including official UFO files, partial ghosts, flying rods and miracles)
  • Jul 2009 (including garden poltergeist, big cat video, orbs and hypnotic regression)
  • Jun 2009 (including thoughts from nowhere, shadow ghosts, premonitions and metallic UFO)
  • May 2009 (including analysing paranormal photos, making ghosts and ghost lore)
  • Apr 2009 (including phantom bird, choice blindness and grass that gets up and walks away)
  • Mar 2009 (including deja vu, ghostly mists, weird UFO photo, white ghosts)
  • Feb 2009 (including hidden memories, coincidences, auras and window UFOs)
  • Jan 2009 (including animals sensing ghosts, vampires, flying rod season and a haunted path)
  • Dec 2008
  • Nov 2008
  • Oct 2008
  • Sep 2008
  • Aug 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • Even older