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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, 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'

28 March: Cricketer casts shadow

Misperception faceI see a big difference between the two photos accompanying this post. You may not. It will depend on your visual display, among other factors. Anyway, in the top photo (right), I see the main large shadow, on the right of the photo, as resembling the profile of a human face. I see it as a head, wearing a peaked cap low, not far above a pointy nose. Below that I see a hint of lips and a protruding chin. It looks to me like the shadow of a cricketer's face! You may well see only a random shadow on crumpled brown paper! Which is, of course, what it is!

I have mentioned before that I am always seeing anomalous photos that are supposed to contain faces which, almost invariably, I cannot see. But sometimes, as with this shot, I can actually see something unexpected. I can a facial shadow here, though no actual face to cast it!

Misperception indistinct shadowIn the second photo (right), of exactly the same scene, I see only an ill-defined shadow with no obvious recognizable shape. It is too vague to resemble a cricketer, for me at least. The reason is obvious - the lighting is more diffuse, leaving the shadow lighter and less crisply defined.

So what's the point of all this? Well, careful investigations show that many sightings of anomalous phenomena are caused by misperception. The problem for investigators is that misperception can be difficult to see as it is sensitive to lighting conditions. An investigator visiting the site of an anomalous report under different lighting conditions to the original sighting may see nothing odd at all. And, unfortunately, witnesses rarely remember the exact lighting conditions accurately.

So I wondered if there might be an easy way to test if a scene might contain a misperception that could explain a sighting? One could make a long duration video of the scene in the hope of capturing the right lighting conditions. However, lighting often changes slowly, as the sun or moon moves across the sky and clouds come and go. Reviewing a video may produce nothing noticeable. So, instead I tried taking still photos of a scene at regular intervals. The big advantage is that differences between individual photos are larger, and so more obvious, compared to watching a video.

You may be wondering - why photograph at regular intervals? Why not wait until you see the light obviously change? The problem is that the human eye adapts to lighting changes making them less obvious.

Of course, I haven't photographed a misperception - that's not possible. Misperception is something that happens in a human brain. Some photos and videos may induce misperception in certain people viewing them (see shadow ghost in the snow for instance) but the camera itself can't misperceive! Nevertheless, a photo can make it obvious how some witnesses might see a figure or a face in some locations in certain lighting conditions.

25 March: UFO with an unusual shape

UFO lapwing I spend a lot of time deleting the photos I've taken that went wrong! I was about to delete this photo (right) when I noticed it appeared to contain a striking UFO. Better than saucers or triangles, this one is a truly weird! It could be planetary landing shuttle descending from an orbiting mother ship.

I don't think this particular object would appear much like a space craft to anyone who actually saw it with the naked eye. However, if it was discovered on a photo, without being noticed at the time of exposure, it might. Just. In fact, practically every anomalous photo I come across these days involves something unnoticed at the time of exposure. And the very few exceptions mostly involve objects that look quite different in the photo to how they appeared with the naked eye.

LapwingWhen there is something that is first noticed only when photos are reviewed, photographic artefacts are always a strong possible explanation. As it happens, this particular UFO is not an artefact at all. The object looked the same both in the photo and to the naked eye at the time of exposure. It gets its unusual shape from the angle it was taken. The UFO is a bird, a Lapwing in fact. Here is another shot (right), taken 90 seconds earlier, showing the same species in flight from the side.

Though the Lapwing's wing really is quite an unusual shape, it is not quite as odd-looking as it appears in the upper photo. It is the angle of view that gives it an unusual appearance. You get a better idea of what the wings are really like from the lower photo.

So, would anyone really report a bird as a UFO? Well, I've seen some photos of UFOs that suggest that, yes, they would! If the bird is not easily recognisable as such it could certainly appear as a mysterious unidentified flying object in a photo.

24 March: Prime witness

UFO and treeThere's an interesting article in this week's New Scientist about priming. This is, of course, a subject of vital interest to anomaly researchers. Studies show that people can be primed to notice things they might normally ignore. And, when asked, the people do not remember seeing the object (usually a picture or word) used to prime them! It can even overcome inattentional blindness (IB). I often mention here how people notice very little of what is going on around them. This is IB in action. Few people, for instance, notice the wildlife all around them as they walk along a suburban street. I notice it only because I have a deep interest in natural history. You could say that my interest has primed me to overcome IB, at least for wildlife. I've no doubt there are plenty of other things going on I also fail to notice.

I have often thought that priming might explain why I nowadays tend to notice misperception, when I never did before I realised what it was. However, you don't need to take a deep interest in a subject to be primed to notice things related to it. As mentioned above, a single word or picture can be enough, at least for a short-term priming effect. It is, therefore, important for investigators to note that a witness having no previous interest in anomalous phenomena does NOT, of itself, make them any more reliable as witnesses!

It's easy to see how priming could apply in a UFO case. Suppose, for instance, a witness noticed a headline in a newspaper about a UFO sighting. They might then notice something oddly silent and unfamiliar in the sky (like the photo above right), and report it as a UFO, despite having never had any previous interest in ufology. And they probably wouldn't even remember seeing the headline! This could explain how UFO flaps occur. You could see the same effect occurring if someone casually heard about the kind of things that happen during a haunting. They might start to notice odd noises in a building, that they would previously have ignored, and wonder if a ghost might be responsible.

UFO helicopterThe object in the recent photo above was, indeed, silent and motionless and looked distinctly odd for a short time. However a telephoto view (photo right) quickly revealed that it was, as suspected, a helicopter a kilometre or two away.

Another topic covered in New Scientist this week was camouflage. It is not all about having a similar coloring and pattern to your background. Some objects can, counter intuitively, 'disappear' by virtue of being boldly patterned. Such patterns break up the outline of the object, making it difficult to spot. One example would by one of my favourite birds, the Magpie. I mention this because recently, on two separate occasions, I was completely confident that I had seen a Magpie when, on closer examination, it turned out to be something else entirely that had a similar bold black and white pattern. In my defence, both objects were Magpie sized, in the distance and in exactly the sort of location I'd expect to see such a bird! I've already added boldly patterned objects to the list of things that can trigger misperception!

21 March: Ghost on a train!

Crows in a treeI recently mentioned a bizarre train journey taken by my acquaintance (MA) who has MWR (microsleep with REM). Well, MA had another train journey recently and saw a ghost on a train!

MA was seated in a group of four seats with none of the others occupied. That is, until MA noticed someone suddenly sitting directly opposite. Oddly, MA didn't think this strange, at first. The stranger was a portly middle-aged man with a ruddy round face and dark hair. He wore a black leather jacket and was staring intently at MA with a peculiar, unsettling grin.

Then, suddenly, the stranger was no longer there. All that was visible was an empty seat! So, a ghost, then! MA had the odd feeling that usually accompanied the end of a MWR experience. It thus became obvious that it had been a MWR episode. However, it was the most striking example MA has ever experienced. The perfect mixing of real scenery with an apparition was clearly hynagogic.

Usually, MA's experiences don't feel so profoundly real. MA was able to remember many more specific details of the figure than is usual for MWR, though not the lower part of the figure. It was definitely present, MA simply didn't look down because of the stranger's captivating grin. It felt as though the stranger wished to communicate in some way but said nothing. The fact that MA found the stranger's abrupt disappearance so shocking shows just how real the experience felt at the time.

Of course, there is the possibility that the stranger was not a hypnagogic hallucination but a real person whose arrival and departure coincided with MA having two microsleep episodes. However MA, who is used to MWR, thinks the whole episode, which took just seconds, was just one episode. There is an odd feeling that accompanies exiting an MWR episode and MA only noted one of these, when the stranger vanished. So the dramatic apparition was almost certainly caused by one MWR episode.

It was interesting that the ghost was staring at MA. As noted recently, ghosts are often reported to stare at witnesses. A lot of these reports concern witnesses in bed, suggesting that many are hypnagogic. MWR experiences seem to vary between obvious dreams, set in an entirely different situation to where the witness is, to obvious hypnagogia, like this incident. I'm not sure why hypnagogic imagery might feature staring so much. One might speculate that staring ghosts might, for whatever reason, be fairly common in cases caused by hypnagogia or misperception.

19 March: Weird blurry 'blob' in a tree!

Branch out of focusHere's a blurry 'blob' I photographed recently (pic right). What I found interesting about it, anomalous even, was that it was behind some bare branches or twigs. Therefore, it could not be out of focus - it really WAS a strange, blurry thing! These sort of blurry things are seen in horror movies from time to time but are seldom, if ever, reported in real life paranormal cases. So what could this one possibly be?

A clue is that the twigs in front of the blurry 'thing' are also slightly obscured by it. Could the 'thing' be wrapped around the twigs in some way, perhaps? As a blurry thing probably isn't very solid, it could perhaps behave like smoke and surround the branches, so being both in front of, and behind, them. If this all sounds like wild speculation that's because it is. But I've come across much weirder speculation in our field down the years!

Branch in focusHere's a second photo of the same location (pic right), taken 2s later, but with the blurry 'thing' now in focus. The 'thing' is revealed to be a twig with lots of small moribund leaves clinging to it. The twigs that appeared to be at least partially in front of the 'thing' are now out of focus and clearly all behind it. So why did they appear to be in front? It's because when objects get blurred they become partially transparent. So you can see the twigs THROUGH the blurry thing. And because the twigs are sharply in focus, they give the appearance of being in front of the 'thing'. You get a similar affect when orbs, which are also out of focus, appear to be behind things when they are really in front (see here and here).

It is impossible to get a photo where there is a foreground object in focus, one behind it that is out of focus and the background in focus again. So if the 'thing' really WAS physically behind the twigs in the upper photo, it would have to be genuinely blurry in appearance, both to the camera and the naked eye. That is why I thought the photo looked intriguing when I first saw it. Note, also, the white blob floating off the bottom end of the 'thing' in the lower photo. It is a backlit insect! This could easily get reported as an anomaly too!

17 March: Not seeing a ghost but still feeling it!

ShadowIt was just another experiment with my pet ghost - the 'door ghost' (see here for background). I saw the shadowy figure behind me, as usual, and wanted to see if I could 'move' it. The figure is a misperception of my own hand reflected in peripheral vision. I've previously moved my hand and the figure has always vanished instantly. This time I moved my hand very slowly, hoping this would maintain the misperception and animate the normally static shadow figure. What happened next was deeply weird and astonished me!

The shadow figure vanished from sight, which was disappointing. BUT I had the strong impression of its continuing presence unmoved, in exactly the same position! In other words, I had a sense of a presence, far stronger than any I've ever experienced before. I then moved my hand again, this time quickly. The sense of presence vanished instantly!

So, what is happening here? The weirdest part is that I could not see my hand, or the ghost, when I felt the strong sense of presence. But, given its position, I should have been able to see my hand, albeit very poorly. Clearly my brain was playing games with me. It appears my brain substituted an object it could not see properly with background! At the same time I was being strongly alerted to the fact that 'something' was there (by a sense of presence) even though I couldn't see it! I wonder if this could be another important cause of the sense of presence often reported in haunting cases.

I have already had evidence that a sense of presence can be related to a misperception (see here). In previous cases the sense of presence was generated by unexplained sounds. This audio link was, perhaps, not unexpected. You hear an unexplained sound reminiscent of a human moving around, but can see no one, so you feel the 'presence' of an invisible ghost. The current incident is much more of a surprise. It had never occurred to me before that a really poorly seen object might simply be substituted with 'background' - in other words, filtered out of the visual field completely. Nor that the consequences of that might be a strong feeling of something being there that you can't see!

I will, obviously, have to do some more experiments with this but it could be a bizarre new variation on misperception that might explain some cases of sense of presence. Interestingly, if a sense of presence is produced in this way, it ought to re-occur in the same place.

14 March: Ghost at a window

Crows in a treeThere appears to be a whole genre of ghost reports concerning windows. Many of them are photos which appear to show a ghostlier face or figure where none was seen at the time of exposure. These are usually caused by a reflection or partially illuminated object seen through the window or a combination of the two. In all the cases I've seen, there did not, however, seem to be any actual ghost involved.

Recently, I've started seeing my own window ghost. Sightings are quite frequent, usually towards dusk. I am inside a particular building and approaching one specific window, sideways on, when I get a peripheral vision glimpse of a figure at the window. If I get closer and/or turn to look straight at the window, there is invariably no one there.

The ghost is an extremely vague figure, just a shadowy shape really. It gives the impression of a human figure due its overall size and shape. It is roughly how an average height person would look if they stood just outside. I never see any detailed features in the shape.

Interestingly, if I deliberately TRY to see the ghost, I never succeed. It only notice it, like the door ghost, when I've forgotten it is there. I've noticed that the ghost appears more readily when I'm feeling preoccupied or distracted. This, too, corresponds with my experiences with the door ghost. I've looked at the window from various angles but not seen any object outside that might account for the ghostly figure.

I think a key factor, however, is that the ghost always appears just when the window first comes into view around a corner. I think it may be the fact that the window is partially obscured that gives an impression, in peripheral vision only, of a shadowy shape. Shapes seen in peripheral vision are typically monochrome and their shape poorly defined. So the ghost appears to be caused by something partially covering the view of the window.

So, mystery solved - a peripheral vision misperception (also known as corner of the eye phenomena) - probably. I think there is a further factor involved here. There is something quite disturbing about the idea of someone standing just outside a window looking in at you. I suspect that notion plays a part, just as the door ghost's unsettling habit of standing just behind me does. As I've often said, misperception often takes the form of what you really want to see, or really don't want to see!

PS: I recently had a bizarre misperception where some ordinary domestic objects on someone's balcony appeared to as a wooden statue!

12 March: Ghost train

Seriously Strange LondonMany years ago ASSAP held regular meetings in a pub in London. Now, producing a bit of deja vu, ASSAP is starting a new set of monthly talks in a pub in London. The original London meetings, started in 1993, were informal social gatherings with no agenda or speaker. The new meetings have a speaker, providing a focal point that the earlier version lacked. See here for details.

Meanwhile my acquaintance (MA) with MWR (microsleep with REM) experiences had a most bizarre train journey recently. MA had repeated MWRs over a short period of time. What was unusual was that each such episode consisted of a completely different 'narrative' (events depicted in the dream state) despite some of the episodes being just seconds apart. Although some narratives concerned events entirely unrelated to MA's position on the train, others involved things seen while on the journey. It is possible that someone who experiences MWRs, which are rare and generally associated with sleep disorders, who is unaware of what they are, might interpret such incidents as paranormal.

The MWR episodes relating to scenes on MA's journey bordered on hypnagogia, in that visual elements of real scenes were mixed with objects obviously generated by a dream state. Though no figures resembling ghosts or aliens were observed, MA has seen ghostly figures on previous train journeys. There appears to be something about the motion of trains, and perhaps enforced sitting still, that seems to encourage these episodes. They may well happen on long car or bus journeys too but MA hasn't reported this.

Though the experiences involving scenery from the journey might be seen by some as paranormal, wouldn't the other, more obvious dream ones, give the game away? Well, I've noticed that witnesses often remember the bits of their experiences that appear to support a paranormal interpretation, while forgetting the other stuff. I have often thought that if only witnesses remembered EVERYTHING that happened during a weird experience, including the seemingly trivial and/or irrelevant, many such incidents would readily appear xenonormal.

10 March: Seriously Staked: How vampires out-evolve ghosts

Seriously StakedVampires out-evolve ghosts! That's the main conclusion I drew from the fascinating day that was ASSAP's Seriously Staked vampire symposium. It was clear from the various lectures that vampires have changed radically down the centuries and particularly in recent years. The aspects that most people think of as defining features of vampire behaviour and physiology have only appeared relatively recently in their long history. They have come a long way from simple revenants to the stylish vampires seen in modern TV and movie series. What is more, their characteristics, like whether they cast a reflection or are susceptible to daylight or are immortal or have psychic abilities, vary hugely depending on what source you consult (see here, for instance).

Contrast this with apparently unaltered attributes of ghosts. They basically appear as a human figure which can vanish and has the ability to walk through walls. And it has been that way for a very long time. So why have vampires evolved so spectacularly while the humble ghost remains stuck in an evolutionary cul de sac?

I think, in essence, it is because many people regard vampires as purely mythical while ghosts are widely held to be real. Also, there are many more cases of ghost sightings compared to vampires. The very small number of vampire cases tend to old and poorly documented. And whether these case actually concern vampires depends on what definition you choose! Further, as John Fraser observed in his talk at the symposium, the incidents in many such cases sound more like poltergeist activity than the work of vampires. In contrast, ghost cases are appearing all the time and some are very well documented. And their characteristics remain remarkably consistent over time.

My idea, then, is that vampires can 'evolve', in popular culture at least, because there are is no large body of evidence from real cases to restrict the imagination of those who depict them in books and films. Of course, ghosts in books and films DO differ from those in real life cases. For instance, fictional ghosts frequently talk to witnesses whereas this seldom, if ever, happens in real life. Also, fictional ghosts are almost always seen as spirits whereas in real cares there is no compelling evidence to support that idea. Nevertheless, the ghosts of popular culture never stray too far in their characteristics from those of real cases. Most people appear to like their fiction to be based largely on fact.

If you missed Seriously Staked there are reviews here and here. And there are more symposiums coming up. They are: Seriously Spooked. On 27 September 2014 at Aston University, Birmingham. A day about ghosts, poltergeists and paranormal investigation. Seriously Possessed. On 7 March 2015, Goldsmiths College, London. Exorcisms, stigmata, possession, demons and more. There is also a new series of monthly talks in London: see here.

7 March: Narrative illusion

Crows in a treeWitness X was sitting in a stuffy hotel room with the window, which looked out over a busy street, open. Suddenly, he heard the sound of screeching car brakes from outside. This was followed a second later by a loud bang. Startled, he went to the window but could see nothing amiss. He concluded that the vehicle collision, that must have occurred, had happened out of sight in a nearby side street.

This incident is fictitious but it could easily happen and probably has. The loud bang was actually caused by a large waste bin being accidentally knocked over by a pedestrian. No car was involved. The screeching brakes and the bang were not in any way connected. However, it easy to see why Witness X came to the conclusion that he did. We have all heard screeching brakes and anticipated a bang.

What this example demonstrates is how unconnected coincidental events can become connected in a witness's mind. I'm sure there is a proper scientific name for this kind if thing but, so far, I've been unable to find it. So, for my own convenience, I'm calling the phenomenon 'narrative illusion'. It means that the witness has a narrative in their head to explain what they've experienced when, in reality, things happened rather differently. I think this sort of effect crops up in paranormal reports.

Here's a real example (from 3 Sep 2009): Walking along a street today, I noticed a woman in a red coat ahead of me on the pavement. A few moments later, I noticed she'd vanished. I was surprised because there aren't many places to hide in that street! I looked along various side streets but there was no sign of her. Had I really seen a ghost? Then I noticed a similar woman walking away along one of the side streets. But she wasn't wearing a red coat. That's because she was carrying it! It was clearly the same woman who had, while I wasn't watching, taken her coat off.

The 'narrative' in my head in this example is that someone walking along a road does just that. They don't generally stop to take their coat off. Except, of course, that just occasionally they do. I could easily have concluded that the woman had simply vanished because she was a ghost. And that is another narrative - that ghosts are in the habit of disappearing.

The point is this. Never assume that a series of events in a witness's experience all point to one obvious conclusion. Investigators should check any obvious 'narrative' in a witness's testimony, especially if it appears rather unlikely or is contradicted by other evidence.

5 March: Are reports of anomalous events often inaccurate?

Reed WarblerCould some witness testimony about anomalous incidents be intrinsically less accurate than it is for mundane events? To investigate this disturbing possibility, here is a brief dip into the world of birding.

Birders, like me, look forward to long distance trips because they bring the possibility of seeing species we don't see at home. We might even see some we've never seen before (a 'lifer'). This birding nirvana is not without its dark side, however.

Birders prepare for such trips by studying the appearance, habits and habitats of the species they are likely, and unlikely, to see so they know what to look out for. Seeing a lifer is a great experience for any birder but not without its concerns. Consider the following scenario, for instance.

A birder arrives at their distant destination, where they stay for a week of intensive birding, and almost immediately sees a coveted lifer! The lifer is never seen again for the rest of the week, despite intensive searching. This is a problem! Though it is entirely possible that one might see a particular lifer just once on a trip there is another, rather worrying, alternative possibility!

Though it is easy to tell a wren from a blackbird, there are many bird species which look very similar to others. An example of such 'confusion species' are Marsh Warblers and Reed Warblers (photo above - probably). In our hypothetical (!) example, if the lifer was seen just once, early in the trip, and then a similar species seen commonly thereafter, there is a high likelihood that the lifer was never seen in the first place.

To see why, consider this. Suppose I've seen a Reed Warbler before but never its rarer confusion species, the Marsh Warbler.
On the first day of my trip I get a fleeting view of the rare Marsh Warbler but see only Reed Warblers, in some numbers, afterwards. Statistically, there is a high chance that the first bird I saw was actually a Reed Warbler too, given that they are commoner. There ARE ways to distinguish Reed and Marsh Warblers by appearance (though song is a much better guide) but they are subtle. Seeing all those Reed Warblers would make me wonder if the first one real was a Marsh, though. The fact that the Marsh was the first bird I saw is particularly troubling. How can I be sure, given that I've seen no more examples?

UFO light in the skySo what has this to do with anomalous phenomena? Well, a high proportion of reports of the anomalous are of things that the witness has never seen before. Suppose someone sees a UFO, for instance. Careful investigation shows that it is highly likely to be a poorly seen low flying aircraft. Though the witness has seen many aircraft before, never one that looked like this one. It might be like the one in the photo (right), a real example discussed here.

If an unfamiliar object is poorly seen it is likely to be misperceived. That means the witness's brain will substitute it with an object from their own visual memory. But, because the witness has never seen such an object before, the visual substitution cannot be accurate. In this situation, any details the witness remembers are likely to be inaccurate, based on something from their own memory rather than the actual object.

Furthermore, the visual substitute could be something from a book, movie or photo. So, for instance, I might see a Reed Warbler in poor viewing conditions and visually substitute it with a Marsh Warbler that I remember from a book. And the hypothetical UFO witness might see a flying saucer from a movie or video game rather than the plane they are actually looking at. So, I remain convinced I've seen a Marsh Warbler while the UFO witness firmly believes they've seen an alien spacecraft. In both cases, it might be a once in a lifetime experience, not to be surrendered lightly. But in both cases, we would be quite wrong!

Though Reed and Marsh Warblers are very similar in appearance, misperception can produce visual substitutions that are far more radical. This might explain how Venus sometimes gets reported as a classic flying saucer! It is the combination of poor viewing conditions and the unfamiliarity with the object being viewed that leads to such inaccurate misperception. Both conditions are likely with reports of anomalous phenomena.

And there's one particularly interesting consequence of all this. Investigators will often say that a particular report could not possibly be a misperception of a particular object because the witness description differs markedly from it in shape. But if the object was poorly seen and the object unfamiliar to the witness, this is not necessarily so! Misperception cannot be ruled out so easily in such cares.

So, yes!

3 March: A ghost calling?

shadow ghostI was woken by someone whistling, apparently trying to attract my attention. As I dragged myself reluctantly from slumber the whistling changed noticeably. It became the unmistakable song of a blackbird. I listened for quite a while but the the distinctive 'attention call' phrase I'd heard earlier was never repeated. As a birder, I am very familiar with blackbird songs. They vary geographically but I know what they sound like round here and I've never like the 'attention call' before. Like most birds, blackbirds repeat the same phrases over and over in their song so if this one HAD done the 'attention call', it should have been repeated. The 'attention call' sounded like a deliberate attempt by a human to attract someone's attention but with the tone of blackbird song. Overall, it sounded like someone playing electronically with a blackbird song.

I concluded, from the clues above, that this was a case of hypnagogia. Interestingly, auditory hypnagogia often contain apparent attempts to attract the witness's attention. They may hear their name apparently being called or someone knocking at their door, for instance. So 'someone whistling' to gain a witness's attention fits well. It is also common for external sounds, like an alarm clock going off, to be incorporated and modified in dreams while someone remains asleep. So, all in all, I think hypnagogia fits well with the circumstances.

I wondered what someone else, unaware of hypnagogia, might have made of this incident had they experienced it? I suspect they would probably have dismissed it as 'imagination' and quickly forgotten about it. Not everyone has my limitless curiosity!

Now suppose that same hypothetical witness had heard their name being called (with no one else present), instead of the whistling? A cursory search of the web suggests that such an experience might well be interpreted as a ghost calling! I doubt that such an incident would be dismissed or forgotten.

In short, I think that hypnagogic experiences which correspond with our cultural expectations of the paranormal are more likely to be remembered, and considered real, than others. I further suspect that a witness told that their whistling experience was likely to be hypnagogia would probably accept it. I think the opposite would true for name calling.

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

Last month's (February) website figures are an average of 11299 hits per day. This is significantly up on the previous month's 10426 daily average.


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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