ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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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. You may not notice it but this site changes on an almost daily basis.

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)

ASSAP @ 30: A series of posts summarising what we have learned through thirty years of ASSAP, whose anniversary was 10 June 2011. See here!

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

29 August: Figure on a stone pillar!

Crows in a treeI knew straight away that what I was seeing was deeply weird. It appeared to be a small human figure crouched on the top of a stone pillar. I guessed straight away that it was probably a misperception. And, of course, it was.

I looked carefully at the scene, without moving, to try to understand how I had misperceived it. The object on the top of the stone pillar was actually a large stone cone covered in green moss. However, it was partially obscured by a tree branch. In addition, nearby trees were throwing a pattern of alternating well-lit and shaded areas onto the cone. With the combination of these objects I could just about see how I might have seen it, if only momentarily, as a crouched figure.

Most misperceptions I see look fairly normal. Typically, I might see a figure standing on a path or at a window, for instance. These are places where you would easily expect to see a real human figure. But this latest experience shows that, in the right circumstances, it is possible to misperceive things in very unlikely positions. Of course, it's not impossible that someone would crouch on top of a stone pillar. So maybe it is still down to expectation, just stretched to include the bizarrely unlikely.

Overall, the point is that, misperception is not simply limited to seeing mundane objects that don't happen to be physically present. It may also show witnesses bizarre and unlikely things. It means that it could explain some of the more deeply strange anomalous sightings reported.

28 August: Followed by a ghost?

Crows in a treeWalking along a quiet street the other day, I became aware of a sound behind me, like someone dragging a trolley. I hadn't seen anyone in the street before that moment, so I was mildly surprised that there was suddenly someone directly behind me. I walked on for a while, resisting the temptation to turn round. Then the sound stopped so I turned round to see what was happening. There was no one there! I looked all around but there was no one, with or without a trolley. It was slightly unsettling.

One possibility is a ghost, of course, but there are others. It would be entirely possible for someone to have come out of one of the houses, followed me with a trolley and then gone into another house before I saw them. Unlikely, but possible.

Another possibility is the the sound I heard did not come from behind me at all but from a different direction. It was raining gently and I had a hood on. It is more difficult to tell where a sound is coming from when you wear a hood. I think this possibility is less likely than the last one because I looked in all directions and saw nothing likely to cause the noise.

I've read reports of alleged ghostly sounds based on similar events to ones I've described here. They, too, suffer from the problem that it is difficult to eliminate natural causes, even if they are highly unlikely. You could say that any natural explanations relies on an unlikely coincidence. But then, unlikely coincidences are often the causes of apparent anomalous reports. And if you can't conclusively eliminate natural causes, you can't realistically claim that something paranormal is the only likely explanation.

27 August: The lone orange orb

Orb flyOrbs are seen as not paranormal by many investigators these days. So why am I still bothering with them? They continue to interest me because some people continue, despite all the evidence, to think that some, at least, are paranormal. And people continue to come up with special cases that they consider may be truly paranormal. When these cases arise, and I become aware of them, I add them to the orb FAQ, which I try to keep comprehensive. I also find orbs interesting as a paranormal case history.

So I cannot resist taking orb photos. I am particularly interested in those orbs that have unusual properties. This explains why I took the photo (right) of an impressive solitary orange daylight orb. Coloured orbs are unusual with the vast majority a dull grey colour. Daylight orbs are also unusual, probably because most are caused by flash.

Orb flySo what caused the orb pictured above and why is it orange? Well, here's the culprit (right), a hoverfly. Taken as a whole, it has an overall orange hue which explains the orb colour. The reason most orbs are grey is because they are caused by dust, which is usually grey in colour.

Another interesting point to note is that the hoverfly's wings are motion-blurred. It is this blur that can turn insects into flying rods when they moving around (as opposed to hovering). Flying rods are also seen as not anomalous by many investigators but I still like to photograph them for the reasons I mentioned above. As a result, I just can't resist a chance to photograph an unusual orb or rod.

I think it is important to understand as much as possible about such phenomena, even if most people consider them 'explained'. There are people who take the position that 99% of orbs are explainable but the others are not. So it is useful to examine those remaining special cases which, so far, have proved explainable too.

22 August: Haunted door would have been easier with app!

WaterfallI could see no obvious source for the metallic pinging sound. I only noticed it because it happened twice. Then it stopped. A brief search for a source of the sound revealed nothing. I noticed the sound again a day later. It was coming from exactly the same place, apparently behind a door. Then I realised something. On each occasion when I heard the weird noise, I was leaning on the door.

Investigation revealed that the sound was coming from the door latch. It was stiff so that the door resisted being closed strongly if you did not turn door handle at the same time. By pushing on the door to close it, without touching the handle, the latch pressed on the locking mechanism giving a metallic sound - the pinging I'd heard. I could reproduce the sound consistently in this way. Other doors in the same building, with exactly the same mechanism, did not do the same thing. That's because they were not as stiff and closed silently and smoothly when pressed.

If this incident had only happened to me once, I would have been at a loss to explain it. Noticing that the sound corresponded with leaning on the door was crucial to understanding how the sound originated. So it was all down to serendipity and persistence, two of the most underestimated factors in paranormal investigation.

When looking for xenonormal causes of apparently paranormal incidents, it is vital to know all the conditions of the original observation. Tiny details, like me leaning on that door, can be vital in explaining what is really going on. Unfortunately, in all the excitement of seeing something weird, many witnesses will fail to remember, or even notice, such apparently trivial details.

This makes life difficult for investigators examining the scene of a reported paranormal incident. It is why xenonormal studies are so important. Maybe one day there will be an app into which you type the circumstances of an observation and the observed effect. The app would then come up with suggestions about what to look out for, based on previous similar cases. Well, I can dream!

PS: And the photo? Well, waterfalls are more interesting visually than doors.

20 August: Ghost objects

Green thingI noticed the mysterious reddish-brown object in my peripheral vision but I could not make out what it was. At the time I could not move my head. I was intrigued because I wasn't aware of any such reddish-brown object in that place. And yet it was there, in an area I knew well! I wondered if it might be a visiting animal of some kind. But when I was finally able to turn round, the object vanished!

As I got a better view I realised that the brown 'object' was not an object at all. It was a patch of sunlight falling on some vegetation, like the one in the photo (right). So it wasn't a single object at all but various bits of vegetation brightly lit by the sun. The overall shape of the 'object' was determined by the shaded areas surrounding it. Though the vegetation included some brown bits it was mostly green (like the photo). The brown bits appeared to be accentuated by the bright light.

I have noticed this phenomenon of 'ghost objects' before, while viewing things in peripheral vision. The visual boundaries of real objects are often determined more by how light and shadow falls than by the physical edges of things. Colour schemes are often also 'simplified' from a patchwork of different colours to just one dominant hue. I assume this phenomenon is a result of the lower resolution, and the tendency towards monochrome colour schemes, in peripheral vision when compared to central vision. If you turn to see these 'ghost objects' they will usually 'vanish'. That's because they visually revert to the collection of different objects they really are.

I have little doubt that such 'ghost objects' are regularly reported as anomalous phenomena, despite their xenonormal cause. Anything that apparently vanishes for no obvious reason is quite likely to be interpreted as paranormal.

PS: The photo (above right) has been altered, unlike almost all the others on this website, to enhance the sunlit patch effect. The contrast has been increased. It isn't the patch mentioned above but another one that caught my eye. I think it resembles a crocodile head, covered in green plants, with an eye visible just left of centre, but that's probably just me.

18 August: The sound of ghostly wings

Crows in a treeThe sound made me instantly stop what I was doing. It sounded like the flutter of extremely light wings. It lasted for a second or two and then there was only silence. It was quite loud so clearly came from somewhere close nearby. And yet a thorough search of the room I was in revealed no possible cause. I decided it was probably either a huge insect, an extremely small bird or something paranormal. Perhaps it was the sound of a ghost walking through a wall!

I remained mystified for a hour or so. Then I happened to open a cupboard in the room and found a plastic bag on its floor. I had placed the very same bag on a shelf earlier, before the 'ghostly wings' sound, and forgotten all about it. Experiments quickly revealed that the sound of the bag falling, and hitting the sides of the cupboard as it did so, were identical with the 'ghostly wings' I'd heard. But how had the bag fallen, in a closed cupboard with no draught? If you squeeze a bag into a ball, as I often do, and leave it alone, it will usually unfolds by itself. In doing so, it shifts its centre of gravity so that, if near the edge of a shelf, it can then topple down.

So, mystery solved! I have to admit I was really puzzled when I heard the sound. I thought I must have misjudged how close it was, given no obvious source nearby. I decided to search other places further afield as soon as convenient. But it turns out I was right about it being close, I just didn't think of searching the cupboard! I suppose my unconscious thought process at the time was "the cupboard is closed, so there can't be anything moving around in there". It is important to avoid such thinking and consider EVERY possibility before considering a paranormal explanation.

PS: I saw yet another famous person just the other day - it continues to happen. And, yes, it was at a railway station! For the relevance of this, see here and here.

14 August: OBE-lite with MWR

Crows in a treeMy acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) reports a new experience. On waking from a MWR episode recently, MA felt both feet and hands were in a different place to their actual physical location. It was easy to verify where the appendages actually were since MA was in a train seat which allowed little movement. If MA's hands and feet had been in the positions where MA felt they were, they would have been inside solid objects! The hands and feet quickly resumed their normal positions or, at least, that's what it felt like. MA has not experienced this before during a MWR episode. MA felt it bordered on an out of the body (OBE) experience.

Many spontaneous OBEs are associated with entering or leaving a sleep state. So an association with MWRs should, perhaps, come as no surprise. There probably isn't enough time in a brief MWR for a full OBE experience. However, feelings of floating or being yanked out of one's body might occur. It could certainly give the impression of being teleported by aliens or being in a strange paranormal experience. The breadth of possible weird experiences that could be explained by MWR happening to a someone unaware of its cause grows and grows.

12 August: Not as simple as ABC!

Night foxLooking out of the window one recent dawn, I saw a large black animal on the other side of the road. It was sitting motionless in the twilight, barely lit by street lights. I instantly thought of a big cat! Specifically, I recalled photos I'd seen of them. Unsurprisingly, I had doubts almost straight away. It must be a fox, I decided. I had seen them in a similar position and pose many times before (like the one in the photo, right). And yet the large animal in front of me remained stubbornly feline in appearance.

Though I was unwilling to stop looking at the animal, in case it walked away, I knew I had to fetch my glasses, which I had yet to put on, for a better view. Luckily, the animal was still there when I returned. Straight away it stood up and walked away. It was a normal size domestic black cat! So how had I overestimated its size?

Well, obviously there was the low light and significant distance of the animal to consider. And, in particular, my not wearing my glasses clearly had a big effect because I could see what the animal really was straight away, once I had them on. I also think that my reading reports about alien big cats, and seeing photos of them, was a significant influence. I think many others in my situation would not, perhaps, so readily have wondered if it might be a big cat. The experience did make me acutely aware of how easy it can be to get size wrong in poor viewing confidants, even in familiar scenes!

PS: You can now book for ASSAP's Seriously Spooked ghost convention on 27 September in Birmingham. Just go here for information and to book tickets.

7 August: Normal object, normal sound, strange anomaly

ParakeetI heard a parakeet calling in the distance. It was getting steadily louder as the bird was clearly approaching. I looked out of the window in time to see a dark shape streak by, just outside. I then heard the parakeet continuing to call as it flew away into the distance. Though I only saw the bird for a second or less, when it was directly in front of the window, I knew it must be the parakeet.

Afterwards, I started to have doubts. The bird I saw did not look big enough. Also, it was dark whereas parakeets are bright green. Even in low light their intense colour is striking and obvious. The photo (right) shows a parakeet at sunset. Even bathed in a red glow, it still looks obviously green. The conditions for my 'dark shape' sighting were overcast but broad daylight. I concluded that the bird I saw was NOT the parakeet I'd heard after all. The parakeet probably flew nearby but invisible from the window.

In misperception, our brains use all the visual information available to decide what a poorly-seen object, like the dark shape here, might be. I don't see any reason why they should not use auditory cues as well, particularly when they appear to coincide with the visual object, as in this case. I didn't actually misperceive the dark shape as a green parakeet but I think, in other similar cases in the past, I have. Unfortunately, I don't have any detailed examples of this to hand but if it happens again I will share it here.

What does this have to do with the paranormal? Well, I'm sure that some anomaly reports could be produced in just this way. If a witness saw something while hearing an unconnected sound coming from roughly the same area, it could lead to a misperception. To spot such an example, you'd need to consider the sound and reported visual anomaly separately. The sound, for instance, might be something quite normal but from an object simply not visible to the witness at the time. If the object that WAS visible was poorly seen, this also might point to the possibility of an audio-visual misperception.

4 August: Letting a ghost walk by!

Spooky riverAs I turned, I became aware of someone approaching me. I stood out of the way without thinking about it. Then, as I looked all around, I realised, to my amazement, that there was no one there! All I could see was a pool of light, from a window, on the floor near my feet. I had stood back to allow a ghost to walk by, apparently!

To understand this strange experience some background is needed. Despite being a tall person, or possibly because of it, I often find people walking towards me apparently unaware I am there. I often have to get out of the way smartly to avoid them bumping into me. The problem has got worse since so many people have taken to walking along the street staring fixedly at their phone. I generally now avoid these collisions automatically, without conscious thought. So when, as in this case, I catch sight of someone approaching in my peripheral vision, I am already taking evasive action before I've even turned to see the person. This is the first such occasion where it turned out that there was no one actually there!

The public building where this incident took place is very modern. That is probably why it was rather gloomy when I was there. I think natural light is used preferentially to save energy. However, it means that on overcast days, like on this occasion, it can get quite dark inside.

I think that what I saw in my peripheral vision was the pool of light on the floor and an object in the background that combined briefly to give the impression of a shadowy figure nearby. I've seen shadowy figures in peripheral vision before - it's not that unusual. I think that the nearby bright pool of light changed the scene somehow to give the impression that the 'figure' was nearby. I should say that there was no actual human figure present, even in the background. I'm not sure how this particular misperception works but I suspect the overall low light and bright pool of light on the floor are key.

It's important to emphasize that I never actually SAW any obvious human figure at any time during this brief incident. I reacted unconsciously to get out of someone's way before I consciously saw anything. I think this unconscious reaction, mistaken on this occasion, was also key to the experience. I think it combined with a vague visual impression of a shadowy figure to momentarily give the strong impression of someone being present near me. I felt a rather odd sensation when, seconds later, I realised I was actually alone.

1 August: Possibly a shadow ghost

ShadowI was idly watching a street from the first floor of a building, like you do, when a shadow briefly appeared walking along the quiet road. It was brief because the shadow appeared only in a small brightly illuminated patch of the road. The light patch was created by the low morning sun shining through a gap in the buildings nearby. I wasn't surprised not to see the person causing the shadow because, due to the angles, they would have been concealed behind a tall fence from my angle of view. However, the person did not emerge at the end of the fence, as I expected. Nor did I see a shadow going back the way it had come. So, either the person simply stopped for no obvious reason for a very long time OR it was a ghost. Possibly a shadow ghost.

I kept watching, puzzled and intrigued. I then noticed someone, returning to a van after making a delivery, on the other side of the road. As they walked along, their shadow appeared in the same bright area, though going in the opposite direction to the first one. The new shadow looked pretty much identical to the first one.

That was when I realised my mistake. This person was almost certainly the one who had caused the first shadow, on their way to make the delivery. The bright area of road was not being illuminated by the sun through a gap in buildings but by a reflection from windows on the opposite side of the road.

As I studied the scene after this revelation my mistake suddenly appeared obvious. The angles were wrong for the light to have come directly from the sun. I've little doubt that this sort of situation could easily cause reports of ghosts, or shadow ghosts, if the witness only saw the scene briefly. In fact, it probably already has.

For a review of paranormal research in the noughties, see here.

Last month's (July) website figures are an average of 14506 hits per day. This is similar to the previous month's 14245 daily average.


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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

© Maurice Townsend 2014