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. 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)

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

21 December: Strange object with a tail

Weird lkems flareI took this photo (right) of a strange apparently luminous object recently. It appears to have a tail bending off to the right. It turns out that the explanation for this particular photo could apply to a whole range of similar strange objects photographed in low light.

At first sight, it isn't obvious what the explanation is. There was no actual aerial object seen at the time of exposure. However, the strange object could be seen clearly in the viewfinder of the camera. That's because it's lens flare.

Lens flare isn't the most obvious explanation because the shape is asymmetric. Most lens flare produces symmetric shapes. The reason this lens flare is asymmetric is that it has been elongated by camera shake. The exposure time was 1/4s. The camera shake isn't obvious because the bush in the bottom right corner does not show noticeable motion blur. Now does the post supporting the street light on the left.

Less strange lems flareCompare the photo (right) of the same scene taken at the same time (or 16s later to be exact). The same lens flare is present but it is now a more familiar symmetric elliptical shape with no tail. This is how the lens flare looked at all times through the camera viewfinder. The exposure time is also 1/4s but I clearly held the cameras more steady for this shot. The bush does not look motion blurred in this photo either. So what's going on here?

I realised the answer as I looked through the viewfinder while taking these photos. As I panned across the scene, every object in the static view 'moved' at the same rate with one exception. The lens flare moved noticeably more quickly than all the real objects in the photo. The degree of blurring in a photo is proportional to the angular speed an object is moving at in the scene. Obviously, there are no physical objects moving in this photo but the camera shake made them appear to move, like a sort of unwanted panning action. And the one object 'moving' much faster than the others in this static scene was the lens flare.

So, we have here a likely xenonormal explanation for many such similar anomalous photos. Lens flare can no longer be ruled out for not looking asymmetric.

18 December: Ghost scurries away!

ShadowThe door ghost (background here) is appearing very frequently at the moment. When the ghost has appeared recently I've deliberately moved my hand to make it go away - there are times to do ghost research and times when it is inconvenient! Even though I KNOW what the ghost is (my own hand), the misperception is so strong at present that I continue to see the figure even after I've remembered what it really is. Instead of turning into a hand, the ghost appears to scurry away! This is unusual, though not unknown, with misperception. So why is the door ghost misperception so powerful at present?

As I've previously discovered (here), the ghost appears when the lighting reduces visible detail in the background behind the figure. The best conditions to remove such details are an overcast sky. We've had a lot of overcast days recently here in the UK, no doubt linked to our unusually mild winter.

Oddly enough, I've NEVER seen the door ghost at night! I'm not sure why that is but I'm sure it is linked to lighting, which is crucial in all visual misperception. It may simply be that I cannot see my hand well enough in such low lighting conditions. However, I've also speculated in the past (here) that low light may actually raise the threshold for noticing misperception! In other words, we expect odd visual stuff at night so we don't pay it so much attention. This would mean that ghosts produced by misperception may actually be rarer at night, contrary to popular ideas about apparitions.

Perhaps, instead of seeing the ghost as a nuisance, at the moment, I should do some more experiments on it. It is, after all. unusual to get a persistent misperception. The problem is that if I think about the ghost just before I expect it to appear, it doesn't show up. Or maybe it will now.

16 December: Where are all the sea serpents?

Breaking waveIs it just me or do sea serpents not get reported much these days? I thought about sea serpents straight away when I saws this photo (right). If you look at the object in the middle of this sea view, it appears to be a large, sinuous 'thing' snaking through the surf, water streaming off it. The 'serpent' appears thicker towards the left, slimming towards the top right corner of the frame.

So what is the 'serpent'? If this photo was doing the rounds of the internet, with no background details, who knows what people might make of it. And that's a central problem with anomalous photos. They are an instant snapshot of a scene. Without context it can be difficult to interpret what is really being shown. And the context is often lost because the 'anomaly' is only noted when the photo is examined some time after it was taken. That means the photographer must rely on their memory to recall the background details and that is not always a reliable process.

Luckily, with this particular photo the background IS known. The 'serpent' is actually a breaking wave near to a beach on a very windy day. Without this information it might be assumed that the photo was taken away from a beach making the wave more suggestive of a large sinuous object surfacing from the deep. Incidentally, this is not a cropped photo, so there is no beach to be seen even in the original larger version. Interpreting anomalous photos often relies not just on a technical knowledge of photography but on some experience of the subject in view.

14 December: Now it's getting spooky

Crows in a treeOK, this is getting truly spooky now! Regular readers will be aware that I have noted my apparent tendency to see more celebrities, while going about my everyday business, than might seem 'normal'. I calculated that I see about 0.23 per month. I have not been able to discover an average rate for the general population (can anyone help with this?) but that seems high to me,. The latest celebrity was a well-known radio and TV presenter spotted at a concert recently. No, not on stage, in the audience!

But here's where it gets spooky. Back in April I wrote, that (23 April 2015): " I'm expecting my next celebrity in around 4 months! ". Now, of course., 0.23 is just an average, it doesn't mean that celebrities will turn up every four months on cue. Except that, in this case that's exactly what appears to be happening. So, I saw my next celebrity in August (see here). And here we are four months on with the next one, right on time. So is this more than a coincidence?

Could I be deliberately trying to see celebrities every 4 months and not in between? Well, I certainly recalled the celebrity thing at the beginning of the month, wondering if it was going to happen again. However, I subsequently forgot all about it. I haven't made any special efforts to find celebrities .Even if I did, these wouldn't count as the whole point is that I DON'T seek seek them out. Nor have I tried to avoid celebrities. Indeed, most of the time I don't remember the 'celebrity effect' at all. So, it all comes down to me going about my everyday life as normal and simply seeing celebrities when they happen to appear. Which is, currently, every four months!

So, if this bizarre pattern is to continue, I should see my next celebrity in April 2016. If that really happens then it will be truly amazing!

8 December: On being a witness

Golden seaI enjoy people watching. When standing around waiting for a bus, for instance, I like to imagine the people around me are about to be witnesses to an anomalous event. How accurate would their accounts of the incident be? Those watching their phone and listening to music probably wouldn't notice much but what about the others?

Recently I was standing at just such a bus stop when I heard a strange noise. It was quite loud and obtrusive. I knew what it was because I'd heard it before, but only twice. I looked for what I knew would be the source but could not find it. The odd thing was that no one else at the bus stop seemed remotely interested in the sound at all, even though it was rather unusual and clearly originated nearby.

Casual observations like this lead me to think that there could be a lot of unreported strange incidents going on all the time. Most people seem to notice little of what is going on around them, even when it unusual. I also wonder how much detail witnesses might recall if they actually DID notice something strange. And how much of what they recall would be accurate (see here).

There is an effect I've noticed about witnesses that I've mentioned here before. It is this; if you ask them questions about factors that might show a natural cause for their observation, witnesses will often recall events, that they have not previously mentioned, that support a paranormal interpretation. When this happens I recall watching potential witnesses apparently oblivious to their surroundings, odd or otherwise.

It would be great to study witnesses actually in the act of observing strange phenomena 'in the wild', as opposed to a staged incident. The chances of this happening by chance, with a convenient nearby CCTV for instance, are slim. We will probably have to wait for wearable lifelogging equipment to become commonly worn (if it ever does) to record such things. In my own case, I quite often come across odd things and always try to actively investigate their possible origins at the time. I've recorded many such examples in this blog. However, I am always on the lookout for strange phenomena and have some good ideas of their causes beforehand. These factors make me, I suspect, an atypical witness of strange phenomena.

And the photo? It shows a strange golden sheen on some waves in the sea. It might not be obvious, just from this cropped photo, what the cause of this phenomenon is. A clue is at the top of the shot where you can just see the support pillars of a seaside pier. The golden effect is a reflection of bright lights on the pier in the highly agitated seawater below. And the strange noise at the bus stop? It was the alarm call of a Grey Squirrel. Despite belong a long time amateur naturalist I've only heard the sound a couple of times before so I think it unlikely that many, if any, of the other people at the bus stop knew what it was.

4 December: Do 'false steppers' see more ghosts?

False stepI nearly ended up sprawled on the stone floor. Luckily I managed to recover from my stumble and stay upright. I was merely embarrassed rather than injured. I was walking down some stairs in a busy public place. I knew what had caused me to stumble at the bottom of the stairs. I have done it a few times now and have decided to call it 'false stepping' (with apologies to anyone who has already named the phenomenon).

What I saw as I went down the white stone steps was much like the diagram (right). The floor below the steps consisted of the same, or a very similar, stone to the steps. As you can see the first joint between floor slabs was parallel with the steps and at a similar distance from the steps as the tread width of the stairs. The next joint was much further away. So, the bit labelled 'floor' in the diagram resembled another step and that is certainly how I saw it and why I treated it as such.

I think these 'false steps' I do from time to time, in similar circumstances, are a result of the fact that I tend to notice misperceptions that most people never do. I first started noticing misperceptions a few years ago when i realized that they are part of normal human perception. Ever since then I have seen ghosts and other visual objects that were not actually what they appeared.

So, what did my embarrassing stumble teach me? Firstly, since not one of the many other people around at the time stumbled, I'm guessing that noticing misperceptions is rare in the population, as are people who see ghosts. Secondly, I've realised that noticing misperceptions can cause accidents! So, there are down sides to noticing misperceptions, including false stepping.

3 December: Shadow ghost in 3D?

VigilI was wandering beside a development of new flats when something caught my attention. A poster I was walking past appeared to be in 3D! As I moved, my point of view appeared to change just as it would for a real 3D scene. However, I could see it was plainly a flat 2D picture and, on close inspection, nothing actually moved relative to other objects in the background. Incredulous, I went back and tried it again and saw the same bizarre effect! It worked even though I knew it wasn't real. I've never seen a picture do this before. The effect occurred in full daylight (overcast). I think it was a misperception phenomenon where my unconscious perception system was overruling my conscious knowledge of what I was seeing.

There were other posters nearby but the 3D effect only occurred on this one. So what was special about it? The picture was of an interior of a flat. Importantly, it was life size and at street level. In other words, had it been a real room, I could have simply walked into it and everything would have looked normal. The other posters were smaller than life size and elevated above the street level by a metre or so. I think the fact that it looked as though I could walk over into it was crucial. Misperception relies on expectation. I don't recall seeing similar life size street height posters before which is probably why I've never noticed the effect before.

What does this have to do with the paranormal? I think it shows that misperception is not just about visual object substitution I now think it can make scenes appear to have depth when they have none. Examples might include shadows on a wall or a mural in low light. If shadows on a wall involved a shape resembling a human figure it might be interpreted as a shadow ghost. And if someone suggests it was in fact just a shadow, the witness might reply that the ghost moved relative to its background as they moved so it must have been three dimensional! Until now that might have been a pretty good argument but not any more!

1 December: The crouching ghost

Crows in a treeMA looked down to see a man crouching. Disturbingly, the man was staring up at MA. Even stranger, the man then vanished. So, a ghost then! The incident happened on a train.

MA is my acquittance who has microsleep with REM (MWR) experiences. I have recounted some of MA's bizarre experiences before. This one falls into a group of such experiences where a dream element, the crouching man in this case, is added to a real life scene. It is likely that such scenarios would be reported as ghosts by people who had MWRs but were unaware of their true nature. As in some similar experiences, MA reports that there was an undefinable feeling that something unusual was going on. Aside from that the experience felt completely real.

What was interesting about this latest incident is the apparently strange behaviour of the ghost. MA saw a staring figure on a train before over a year ago (see here). There are clear parallels between the two accounts - both involved silent, still staring ghosts. The big difference is the apparently strange behaviour of the ghost this time - crouching down low for no obvious reason. Unlike the previous experience, MA was not able to describe the man. This may have been because the unusual behavior was distracting. I can see no obvious reason why a ghost should crouch but if anyone knows of other examples, please let me know.

The proportion of strange incidents MA experiences on trains is high. It's more likely because train journeys encourage MWRs than that trains are particularly spooky. Sitting around for long periods, the gentle motion and sound of the train may well be conducive to MWRs in those susceptible to them. Amazingly, MA never misses the train stopping at stations due to MWRs, which is just as well. Maybe it is feeling and/or sound of deceleration.

Last month's November) website figures are an average of 15998 hits per day. This was down on the previous month's 18252 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2015


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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