ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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ASSAP bloggerWelcome 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) is the ASSAP blogger himself, out looking for anomalies wherever they are to be found, so that you can read about them 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 ...

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29 June 2009: When a thought comes from nowhere

In this week's New Scientist (29 June), there is an article about how our brains work by being on the edge of chaos - in 'self-organized criticality'. If they weren't in this state, we be much slower to adapt to new situations and might have trouble remembering things.

What has this to do with the paranormal? Well, it explains how you sometimes have a thought that pops randomly into your head, as if from nowhere. These thoughts are the product of the unconscious part of our brain, the result of a bit of normal chaotic behaviour. However, some people may take such thoughts as coming from elsewhere - maybe from a 'spirit'. Indeed, it might prompt such people to think they are psychic. So it is important to realise that, in most people most of the time, it is a completely natural thing. Just another 'brain-thingy' that can sometimes look paranormal.

26 June 2009: A shadow ghost?

Shadow ghostLook at the photo (right) carefully. Notice anything odd? The shot shows the eaves of a tall building from below through a telephoto lens.

If you haven't got it yet - look at the detached shadow below the eaves. It looks like the shadow of a bird in mid-flight. And yet, looking at the rest of the photo, there is no bird to cast the shadow. Could it be a shadow ghost?

Regular readers will suspect not! Compare the crisp dark shadow of the eaves with the more diffuse, slightly lighter shadow of the bird. This indicates that the bird casting the shadow is further away from the wall than the eaves.

If you look at any two shadows, one cast by a nearby object, the other by a more distant object, you will see how this comes about. The shadow of a distant objects is larger, lighter and more diffuse than that cast by a nearby one. The bird casting the shadow here, a swift, is just out of the top edge of the frame.

People sometimes report shadows without any object to cast them in photos. They are usually from objects just out of frame, like this example. Comparing shadow densities can help confirm this. Not a shadow ghost after all

23 June 2009: A strange bird!

Hummingbird Hawk-mothThe animal in this photo (right) is rare in Britain but often gets reported because of its unusual habits. It hovers near flowers and inserts a long tongue into the flower to extract nectar. While hovering, its wings are often heard to hum! The wingspan of this animal is around 4 cm.

The animal is often reported as a hummingbird. However, it is, in fact, an insect - the Hummingbird Hawk-moth. The smallest hummingbird (the Bee Hummingbird - the smallest bird in the world) has a wingspan of around 3.5 cm, so it is not so different in size (though most hummingbirds are rather larger)! However, hummingbirds only occur in the Americas. Though they do migrate long distances over water (Ruby throated Hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico), there are no records of them reaching Europe (unless anyone knows better!). Reports of hummingbirds in Europe are almost invariably the Hummingbird Hawk-moth. The moths are unusual in that they fly mostly during the day.

This is an illustration of how reports of strange phenomena can be misinterpreted through lack of information about natural alternative explanations. If someone sees a 'bird' behaving like a hummingbird they are likely to believe it IS one. Though some people will see, when they look closely, that it is an insect, many will conclude it is a bird. The same thing is often true of reports of ghosts, UFOs and, indeed, alien animals. If you see something you don't recognise, there will always be a tendency to jump to conclusions and these can often be wrong.

14 June 2009: What makes premonitions special?

I had a premonition that came true recently. I did not tell anyone about it. On reflection, it was not a terribly unpredictable event given the prior circumstances. But it still felt special to me. I had managed to predict a real event in the national news that no one else had mentioned as likely!

That is the usually way with many premonitions. They tend to be reported AFTER the event. And the odds against them are not usually that amazing. But to the person reporting them, they are a special event.

So next time someone tells me their premonition, I will remember that to them, whatever I may think, it is a big deal. It is something we should all bear in mind when dealing with witnesses to any paranormal event.

8 June 2009: It could ONLY be paranormal ...

People often say, if they've experienced something dramatic, that it could only have been paranormal or pure imagination! We now know that this is not true. Indeed, some less dramatic events may be far better evidence for the paranormal. The 'dramatic' nature of an apparently paranormal incident is neither here nor there when it comes to its value as evidence.

Through misperception, different people can literally experience unusual events things differently, according to what is in their memory. That 'memory' is not limited to personal experience and can include information from books, films, stories etc. If someone strongly believes in ghosts, they may misperceive a poorly-seen tree or bush as a ghostly figure. Someone who doesn't believe may see something quite different, though still not the reality - a tree or bush.

It is entirely possible for one person to have a dramatic paranormal experience while a witness to the same event sees nothing special! Indeed, this is what happens with different paranormal researchers on vigils. Some see ghosts almost everywhere while others never see one for their entire lives, even when they go to the same events.

New article: Dramatic reality

5 June 2009: Remembering faces - psychic or not?

Recent research has revealed 'super-recognizers' - people who can recognize faces they may have seen just once, briefly, years before. Whereas most of us can go shopping in the same large store every week and never recognise another customer, super-recognizers will! What is more, super-recognizers can also remember other personal details about people they've met briefly. Of course, there are others who are very poor at recognising faces, including me, and the majority, who remember a bit more!

Being a super-recognizer could appear like a psychic ability. Imagine you see someone in the street and realise you know stuff about them, even though you're not sure you've ever met them before. This is how some psychics describe the way their 'gift' works - they just know things about people they see. If they talk to the person, the facts will be confirmed, to general astonishment. But what if they had, in fact, met that same person years before and both people had subsequently forgotten about it? It would be difficult, in these circumstances, to tell the difference between being psychic and being a super-recognizer.

Flying demoiselle damselflies

Meanwhile, the Banded Demoiselle Damselflies (above) are back at a stream or river near you (in the UK)! I got a bit more ambitious this year and tried to photograph them in flight. They have a strange fluttering look when flying. caused by those vibrant black and blue wings which are eye catching (as are the bright blue shiny bodies). They can look decidedly weird and it is easy to see how such odd-looking creatures gave rise to folklore.

1 June 2009: Metallic UFO photo

Metallic UFOThe recent sunny weather, such a luxury in the UK, tempted me out to take some photos. This is how I came to take this shot (right) of a metallic looking UFO against a deep blue sky. It is the blob in the middle among the branches of the tree. It has a classic 'saucer' shape.

It reminded of many UFO photos I'd seen down the years - fuzzy and metallic.

Naturally, I took some more photos of the same object, just seconds later. However, this time I turned up the zoom to see what it was.

HelicopterAnd here it is (right)! OK, it's obviously a helicopter. Looking back to the photo above you can now see where the 'saucer' shape comes from. Depending on your computer monitor, you might be able to make out the tail section of the helicopter and maybe even the rotor blades in the top photo.

So, why does the earlier photo look like a classic 'flying saucer'? Firstly, it is very small so that it is difficult to make out the shape properly and the tail and rotors are difficult, or impossible, to see. Secondly, and crucially, it is out of focus! This gives the object an amorphous, grey metallic look. Thirdly, the tail section is behind a branch, by chance. However, even if there was no branch there, the tail might not have been easy to see because the helicopter is out of focus. Unlike when looking with the naked eyes, objects can be too far away to be in focus (see paranormal photos). This gives the helicopter a fuzzy, other-worldly look while disguising its true identity.

This month's (May) website figures are an average of 8760 hits per day - down on last month's 9456. The figures were down mainly due to public holidays during the month which affects hits.


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© Maurice Townsend 2009