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'

26 February: The ideal witness?

Crows in a treeI sometimes see reports about anomalous incidents where the profession of the witness is prominently displayed. The implication is, presumably, that the training and expertise involved in certain professions make their practitioners more credible witnesses to strange phenomena. But I think we need to be careful here. The problem is that even people well qualified in their particular field may not match the range of attributes of an 'ideal' witness to a paranormal incident. To demonstrate this I'll describe my 'ideal' witness!

What would the ideal witness for an anomalous incident be like? There are some obvious general factors to start with. For instance, the ability to notice things. People are easily distracted, by phones for instance,so that they notice little of what is going on around them. Another factor would be an eye for detail, even when it is not immediately obviously important. An open mind would be important too. If you have preconceived ideas about what you are observing it is easy to see what you're expecting rather than what is actually there.

Next there is the matter of relevant expertise which would be useful in eliminating xenonormal explanations. So, for instance, a naturalist might make a good witness for an apparent alien animal. But with anomalous phenomena, a wide range of expertise is required because of the many different possible xenonormal explanations for a particular observation. Take UFOs, for instance. The 'perfect' UFO observer would need a range of reasonably detailed knowledge covering many likely natural explanations, from sky lanterns and aircraft to planets, balloons and drones.

Another useful area of expertise iwould be a working understanding of the limitations of observers. So a good knowledge of misperception and hallucinations, and how to detect when you are having them, would be highly useful. A reasonable knowledge of actual xenonormal explanations for previous similar sightings would obviously be incredibly useful too. And a familiarity with anomalous phenomenal in general would be also be helpful.

It is obvious from the above that there are few, if any, 'ideal' witnesses for anomalous phenomena out there. And even any 'ideal' witnesses that exist would still still be subject to misperception, hallucination, psychological suggestion, faulty memory and so on. So I think we need to be wary of giving undue weight to the reports of witnesses simply because of their professions.

23 February: Unlikely to be a ghost fox!

FoxI often see odd stuff from trains windows (see here for a recent example). I'm surprised more people don't report seeing anomalous phenomena from trains. Maybe people DO see such things but, because they only get a brief view, they're not sure enough about what they saw to report it. Or perhaps they just accept that, having not had a proper view, they must have been mistaken about what they thought they saw.

Anyway, the other day I was looking out of the window of a train when I saw what looked like a white fox. It was on a patch of derelict land where there were the remains of a demolished building. I say a 'white fox' but I was not sure what species of animal it might be, only that it was white and about the size and shape of a fox. Of course, ghosts are sometimes shown white in the movies though in real ghost reports that is seldom, if ever, the case. So it was unlikely to be a ghost fox.

The most obvious possibility is that the animal was an albino of some kind. I've never seen an albino fox but looking at photos of them, they look quite extraordinary. But the animal I saw didn't look like them. In fact, there was something rather odd about it. The animal was obviously moving but did not appear to be making any progress along the ground. Instead it appeared to be shivering violently. All very odd!

Luckily the train was going slowly and I had the animal in view for long enough to see what it was. In fact, it wasn't an animal at all. The 'fox' was a large sheet of clear plastic wrapped around some bits of metal sticking out of the ground. It was fluttering in the stiff breeze giving the object an animated look. Its size and shape certainly suggested something like a fox at first glance.

It's not the first time I've been deceived by plastic resembling animals (see here for instance). The way small bits of plastic flutter around in the wind that can sometimes suggest animals in appearance.

What this demonstrates is that not every report of an unusual animal is necessarily a living creature. Of course, most will indeed be animals of some kind. In many cases the animal will turn out to be a common species in its normal habitat that is simply not recognized by the witness. Many people pay little attention to the animals that live around them so it is little wonder that they may have trouble recognizing them.

19 February: It's back and more disturbing

ShadowThe door ghost (the door what?) is back and looking more slightly disturbing than before. In the latest sighting, the ghost looked bigger, darker and closer than ever, all of which was unsettling considering there was no one there. The incident also drew my attention to something curious I'd failed to notice before. I hadn't seen the door ghost for weeks, since last year, in fact. It is the longest gap in appearances since I first saw the ghost. Coincidence or clue?

Looking carefully at the ghost, at the time of the sighting, I realised it was being caused by my arm, rather than my hand as in previous appearances. This would explain its larger, darker, more shadowy presence. I could not even see my hand. The reason was that I was at a slightly different angle to the usual one in which I approach this particular door. Thinking back, I realised I'd been taking this slightly different route for a while, probably for as long as the time the ghost was not being seen.

So the new angle of approach to the door, which means I don't see my hand, would explain the ghost's disappearance. And its reappearance only happened when my whole arm became visible which requires an unusual, rather extreme version of my new angle of approach. Once again this case illustrates how misperception is incredibly sensitive to the exact conditions of a sighting. In this case, a few tens of degrees in direction made the difference which one of two different versions of a ghost I saw or whether I even saw it all.

I haven't visited the door since this last sighting so it will be interesting to see if the ghost reappears. And if so, which version.

16 February: A leaning figure vanishes!

Crows in a treeTo most people it wouldn't have appeared that interesting but I seem to have an insatiable curiosity. What I had noticed was someone, in light clothing, leaning over a car bonnet in the street below. Having only seen the figure in peripheral vision, I decided to get a better look. But as I approached the window, the leaning person vanished. So, a ghost then!

As I looked at the car, I noticed it had a headlight assembly that swept back well onto the bonnet. I realized that this was in the same the position as my 'leaning figure'. Returning to the position where I first saw the figure, I also realized that the window was steamed-up (it was a cold morning) to produce a random shape such that, when coupled with the headlight assembly, it strongly suggested a human figure. It was not the definite human I'd seen before but that is in the nature of misperception. It almost never works twice for the original witness, even in the exact same circumstances. I tried viewing the scene in peripheral vision but the original definite human figure did not show up again, only a light-coloured human shape.

What made this incident more than a 'run of the mill' ghost misperception was that two completely separate visual elements combined to form the figure - the headlight assembly and the random shape in the steamed-up window. The two objects were perhaps 20m apart physically and yet they combined, in my peripheral vision at least, into a single object. The incident is also a further example of a coincidence (the chance alignment of the headlight and a random shape in a steamed-up window) causing an apparently anomalous phenomenon. I could not exactly reproduce the phenomenon event though I investigated it at the time. Imagine trying to investigate the incident days or weeks later. The crucial factor of the steamed-up window would almost certainly not have been recalled by the witness and it is unlikely the car would still be present.

All of this shows just how difficult it is to investigate misperception. I strongly suspect that many more apparent paranormal reports are caused by misperception than is generally supposed.

12 February: Ghost in odd pose?

CrowSitting on a moving train recently, I noticed an odd figure in an otherwise deserted urban allotment. It looked female but I was too far away to be sure. Two things struck me as strange. Firstly, the figure was wearing garish clothes. Secondly, it was leaning over a fence in a way that looked distinctly uncomfortable. I wondered if the person might be tending some plants over the fence. While this was possible, it seemed an odd, and quite possibly painful, way to work. I wondered if it might be an example of an unlikely figure that was actually a ghost in plain sight. I wrote about this possibility recently (here). So, a ghost then!

Seeing something weird from a train is frustrating. There is no possibility of getting out to have a closer, more prolonged, look. Luckily, in this particular case, the train got closer to the figure before leaving it behind. So I was able to examine the ghost closely and it was indeed a human figure! It just wasn't a human!

The figure was actually a rather lifelike scarecrow. I've never seen one in an allotment before which is why it never occurred to me as a possible explanation. Had the journey been at twilight, instead of in the afternoon, I'm sure I would still think it was either a person or a ghost.

Thinking about it, scarecrows must be an occasional source of ghost reports in country areas, particularly at night. It's obviously something to consider with reports of distant, static ghostly figures. And not just in the countryside! I'm not sure how effective scarecrows are these days at repelling crows. As I've noted before (here), I've come across one population who seem as tolerant of human presence as street pigeons.

10 February: Identifiable ghosts with a xenonormal cause!

Crows in a treeMA (my acquaintance who experiences MWRs - microsleeps with REM) heard the voice quite distinctly. The problem was, no one present had said anything. MA quite often hears voices that are not audible to others present when experiencing a MWR. The big difference on this occasion was that the voice was recognisable. It belonged to another person who was present in the room at the same time. But that person never said anything! What is more, they was our of sight round a corner at the time MA 'heard' their voice.

At first sight this may not seem remarkable., given that MWRs contain dream elements. MA had already identified the experience as a typical MWR, generally recognized by the 'waking up' phase at the end. But MA had never heard a recognisable voice before, only the speech of strangers.

MWRs are basically short hypnogogic experiences. They feel more real than most hypnogogic experiences because they are so short that they often 'blend in' with real experiences going on at the same time. What usually happens, according to MA, is that the scene will be, essentially, the real one in front of MA at the time when the MWR started. But additional non-real elements may be overlaid on this real scene, such as a human figure or voices. But these figures or voices are always those of strangers - until now.

What this shows is that MWRs can use real objects (or people), even when they are not in the original scene, as part of the experience. Naturally, this makes the experience seem all the more real, even though it is not.

I think there are parallels here between MWRs and misperception. In misperception, ghostly figures seen are also always (in my experience) strangers. I think they are archetypical human figures rather than real remembered people. Their features are also heavily influenced by the object being misperceived. In MWRs there are clearly no such restrictions so I guess real remembered people, or in this case their voices, can be used. Perhaps here we have a mechanism whereby real identifiable people may be experienced as ghosts in a xenonormal experience.

Last month's (January) website figures are an average of 16879 hits per day. This was significantly up on the previous month's 14012 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2016


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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