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)

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

26 February: Anomaly site investigation team?

Crows in a treeSuppose you were unfortunate enough to be present at a crime scene, what would you do? You'd phone the police, obviously. And you'd be careful not to touch anything. Why? Because we've all seen the TV detective shows and know it is important to preserve the crime scene intact. Oddly enough, on those same shows the first person to arrive on the scene often does move things about!

Now, suppose you saw something anomalous, like a ghost, what would you do? It could be anything - go home, phone a mate, sit down, whatever. That's because there is no anomaly site investigation team ready and waiting to take your call. Which is a pity because many currently unresolved anomaly cases could probably be explained if there had been such as team.

A major problem with anomaly cases is that they are not reported to anyone who could investigate them for quite a while. During that time gap two important things are likely to happen that make investigation much more difficult.

Firstly, witnesses will recall their extraordinary experiences and share them. Every time a memory is recalled it can be changed and any alterations then become part of the 'true' memory. One likely source of such memory alteration may be the attitude of others who the witness may discuss their experiences with.

Secondly, the site of an anomaly experience will change over time. This is particularly important when misperception is the cause of an anomalous experience, as it is with a lot of cases. With misperception there is an object, or sometimes a pattern of shadows, to be misperceived. Such objects may be moved before investigators get to the scene. Also, lighting conditions change throughout the year and with the weather. Lighting conditions are crucial to misperception. So turning up to examine the scene weeks later, at a different time of day and in different weather, means that the source of a misperception is highly likely to be missed. Ideally, investigators need to arrive on the scene within minutes (!) of the original incident being witnessed when conditions will have altered little. Regular readers of this blog will know that I investigate my own odd sightings at the time of the incident, usually with good results.

Unfortunately, the idea of a network of anomaly site investigation teams, ready to get to any report location and witness within minutes is completely impractical. It may not always be so. Maybe one day we could maintain a team of robots ready to go and investigate at a moments notice. Or maybe not! In the meantime, it is worth bearing in mind that currently impressive-sounding anomaly reports might actually be easy to explain, if only they'd been investigated promptly.

24 February: Best ghost yet!

FoxI was intrigued to see a fox staring out at me from under someone's car the other day. For some reason, I've been seeing foxes most days recently and, being interested in natural history, am always pleased to see any wildlife. I was intrigued at this sighting because I've never seen a fox under a car before, though there seems no good reason why it shouldn't occur. But what happened next definitely should never occur - the fox completely vanished to be replaced by what I was really looking at - a car exhaust!

Clearly it was a misperception. There were two things noteworthy about it. Firstly, though the exhaust shape was reminiscent of a fox face, the colours were all wrong. Secondly, it was the best misperception I've had so far. It wasn't simply the shape of a fox. Instead, it was as clear, detailed and unambiguous as the picture here (right). I could see the the eyes, nose, ears, everything. It was even the correct reddish-brown colour.

While I've known for a while that such visual substitutions can be incredibly detailed and lifelike, I've never seen one as good as this myself. The 'ghost fox' was so clear and unambiguous that I was already starting to wonder why the animal was where it was. It didn't occur to me that it was anything other than a fox. The door ghost, by comparison, is a vague shadowy presence.

I was particularly struck, afterwards, by the lack of fox colours in the scene. While this didn't stop the misperception happening, it is probably why it vanished so quickly as I saw the scene better.

18 February: How things vanish!

KingfisherCasually looking out of a train window recently I noticed two Magpies in a field. The furthest away turned so that it was no longer side on and promptly vanished from view. All I could see was green grass. The other bird was still plainly visible. Was the vanishing bird a ghost? Well, ordinary birds don't vanish in broad daylight. Or do they?

Regular readers will know that I go birding. Unfortunately, it can often take a while to locate a bird that others are already observing, even when given excellent directions. But here's the weird thing. I've often looked directly at a bush where everyone else could see the bird but I couldn't. All I could see was a bush! Then, suddenly, on yet another sweep of the bush, I see the bird. So where was it before? It was obviously there all the time because everyone else could see it.

I think this is a form of misperception that I've previously called an imperception. I think what happens is that when our brains do not see something well enough to distinguish what it is they simply visually substitute it with the surrounding background! So, we literally do not see an object even though it is in plain view. While I've noted imperceptions before, it hadn't occurred to me until the Magpie incident that our brains might be substituting 'background' in to make a poorly-seen object vanish altogether. The fact that the Magpie was apparently replaced by green grass was what led me to that conclusion.

And the photo? This is a real example of a bird I couldn't see at first, though others could, despite scanning the bush where it was perched many times. In this photo it looks rather obvious but it certainly wasn't at the time. The bird is, of course, the orange blob in the centre of the frame. It is a Kingfisher, hardly something you'd think anyone would miss.

It is clear that misperception can, in its imperception guise, explain some mysterious object disappearances. In the case of the Magpie, it vanished because the bird turned so that it covered a much smaller angle of view. The fact that I was on a moving train, getting further away from the bird all the time, no doubt helped. I'm still awaiting my first sighting of a human figure vanishing in this way. Most people seeing such a phenomenon would, very reasonably, report it as a ghost.

12 February: Ghost in inappropriate attire

Crows in a treeRecently, while staring out of a window, I noticed a man in a white shirt outside. What was odd was that it was night time and, being midwinter, it was distinctly chilly (only one or two degrees above zero, in fact). Of course, that doesn't stop anyone wearing just a white shirt but it does make it unusual. I only saw the man briefly as 'he' quickly turned into a pile of bags (some white) on more prolonged inspection. So, another ghost produced by glance misperception.

What was interesting about this otherwise typical glance misperception was the unlikelihood of the figure seen. People rarely go around in shirt sleeves in such cold conditions. It's interesting because it shows that misperception does not, when you can't see an object properly, simply select the most likely thing that could be there. It is more heavily influenced, it seems, by the visual form - the white bags in this case.

That means that misperception may be capable of producing visual substitutions that could be extraordinary, depending on the object being viewed. This could explain some of the really strange things that people sometimes misperceive. The visual memory used by the misperception might, in such cases, be taken from purely fictional sources, like horror or science fiction movies. I realise that's going a long way beyond someone wearing inappropriate attire on a cold night but the principle is the same.

10 February: Purple thing!

Purple thingHere's another odd photo (right). In this (recently taken) winter scene you can see a bush over water with no leaves, just a tangle of branches. But in front of it is a wispy patch of purple. And just above it is a glowing orangey circle (some might call it an orb).

The combination of branches and the purple area might vaguely suggest a human figure, if you can see the orb as a head and branches as limbs! Thus, it could be seen as a ghost by some people. It is, however, more a ghost of the movies, vaporous and insubstantial, than real life. When ghosts are reported by witnesses they usually look like perfectly normal human figures. It is often only when the ghost does something impossible, like vanish, that witnesses realize that what they're seeing isn't a normal person. I always think it odd that popular opinion on ghosts is so heavily based on fiction rather than fact. There can be few other subjects where this is the case.

The purple area in this photo is actually lens flare while the orangey orb is caused by an insect. The photo is one of several taken at the same time. This is is the only one where the orb happens to be directly above the purple area, suggesting a 'head'. Given that the orb and purple area have separate causes, this photo is an interesting example of a coincidence giving rise to an anomalous photo. The odds are not as big against getting this combination as you might think because both photographic artefacts owe their existence to the camera facing the sun, which is just above the frame.

2 February: Door ghost refuses to vanish!

ShadowSometimes I don't have time for ghosts! Given my level of enthusiasm for the subject that may be hard to believe, but it's true. The other day was one such occasion. I saw the door ghost for the first time this year. I was in a hurry and the apparition was distracting me, so I moved my hand out of the way to make it disappear. Except it didn't!

As regular readers will be aware the door ghost (see here for background) is a shadowy figure that is a misperception caused by my own hand reflected in frosted glass. So it should have vanished when I moved my hand away. That there was still a shadowy figure behind me gave me a frisson of disquiet. Rather than turn round, I stared more closely at the reflection and realised that it was a tussock of grass in the path behind me. Once I saw that, the ghost vanished never to reappear, as usual with misperceptions.

I wondered afterwards whether I would have seen that tussock as a ghost if I'd never seen the door ghost before. Had my regular encounters with the door apparition sensitized me to see ghosts in that particular spot? Or was it that the particular arrangement of a reflection in frosted glass would inevitably have made me misperceive a figure there eventually?

Either way, it leads to an interesting possibility regarding ghosts produced my misperception. A witness may see a ghost repeatedly in the same location. However, the object being misperceived might be different on each occasion. However, and not unnaturally, the witness is likely to regard each of the sightings as the same ghost.

So what does this mean for the practical investigation of ghost sightings? Well, the object that caused a misperception may no longer be present when an investigator examines the site. This has, of course, always been the case. But now we have to consider the possibility that different objects, when present in the same location, could be misperceived as the same ghost. It is no longer a question of one misperceived object equals one ghost!

So, it becomes important to understand what objects have, or might have, been present in a particular location during sightings. It may also be worth checking with the witness if a ghost seen in the same place one more than one occasion actually looked just the same or not. It is also vital to stand in exactly the position where the witness stood and look in the same direction they did. There just might be something unexpected, like frosted glass, there!

PS: The ASSAP website has been getting lots of hits in recent months. Indeed, last month was the third highest total ever. And it was busy even before the Seriously Possessed event pages went live.

Last month's (January) website figures are an average of 17764 hits per day. This is significantly up on the previous month's 15265 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2015


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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