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.

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'

27 March: When something strange is no surprise

Weird sunIs there any way to tell if an anomalous report was really caused by a near sleep experience? In particular, could a lack of surprise at seeing something really strange be a valid test? I have often wondered this but an article in this week's New Scientist brought the question back into focus again.

Apparently, during ordinary dreams the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex area of the brain is shut off. This part of the brain controls logical reasoning. The unavailability of this brain region explains why ordinary dreams are so odd and we don't question these strange things while we are dreaming.

In near sleep experiences, more of the brain is operating than during normal dreaming. For instance, someone having a near sleep experience may see their real surroundings, with dream elements (like a human figure) added, so the visual perception system is clearly functioning. So is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex also working during near sleep experiences? From reports I've seen I think it is not. When strange things occur in near sleep experiences the witness does not appear to be surprised. This is the same kind of unquestioning response seen to to bizarre things in normal dreams. Take my acquaintances's (MA's) - the one who gets MWRs - ghost on a train experience, for instance (see here). To quote: "MA noticed someone suddenly sitting directly opposite. Oddly, MA didn't think this strange ...". A figure suddenly appeared from nowhere but MA did not show any surprise.

So, could a lack of surprise at an unusual sight be a test to indicate that an anomalous report was caused by a near sleep experience? I think I'd need more evidence to make a definitive statement on this. However, until such evidence emerges, I think that a surprising lack of surprise in a reported anomalous experience could certainly be an indicator that an explanation of near sleep experience might be worth examining.

21 March: Are rare events paranormal?

Paper standing on edgeWhat makes an event so unlikely that a paranormal explanation becomes a reasonable one? It is a difficult question to answer. And I think it's made even more difficult by the fact that people tend to be bad at estimating the statistical likelihood of an event occurring by pure chance.

It is very difficult to work out how frequently most unusual event might occur by pure chance. That's because such events involve many different factors interacting. So the easiest way to work out the frequency of an event is by looking at actual reports of it happening. But that relies on people noticing all such occurrences.

And I wonder how many truly extraordinary events are missed. I suspect it is a lot! Even though I believe I notice more strange things than most people I said in my last post "I absentmindedly picked it up and threw it in a bin". I was referring to a piece of paper that had somehow landed on its edge and stayed there! I only realised afterwards how extraordinary the event was. And I might easily have missed it completely.

I think most people miss extraordinary events most of the time. And, as a result, when they DO occasionally notice something unusual they think it's more unlikely than it really is because of all the other instances they failed to notice. Taking the example of the paper landing on its edge, it is clearly a rare event. But how rare? I've seen it twice in three and a half years so it's clearly not just a once in a lifetime event. But I wonder, given that I almost missed it on the second occasion, whether it might actually be much more common than I think.

So my point is this: rare events may not be as unusual as we think. And, therefore, we should resist labelling something as paranormal simply because it appears incredibly unlikely to have happened by chance. I think there is a good chance that it really is just a coincidence.

PS: While typing this I heard the sounds of someone moving around in the empty building where I am. I am playing loud music. Yes it's sounds behind music again. I can hear it right now as I write this! Spooky ...

15 March: Twice in three years!

Paper standing on edgeI am SO annoyed with myself! It happened again and I failed to take a photo! A piece of paper landed on its edge and this time it stayed there, so I would have had plenty of time to take its photo. Instead, I absentmindedly picked it up and threw it in a bin. It was only afterwards I realised what I'd done.

As you may gather, this unlikely phenomenon has happened before to me (see here). The fact that I've only noticed it twice shows just how rare it is. The fact that the current bit of paper stayed upright is even more extraordinary. In the original incident, illustrated by this staged photo (right), an A4 sheet landed on its side and stayed upright for about a second. The latest bit of paper was a quite different shape. It was long and thin, about 4 cm by 20 cm. Crucially, it had a couple of bends in it which I think is why it was able to stay upright. I tried bending a bit of paper and placing it on a level surface and it easily stayed upright. However, it wouldn't stay upright if I dropped it which tried many times. In fact, putting a bend in the paper caused it to drop in a way that reduced the chances of it landing on its side.

What does this have to do with the paranormal? Well, a piece of paper landing on its side might be seen as a paranormal event by some. In fact, it is perfectly possible, given the right circumstances, by natural causes. However, if it started happening frequently then it might indeed indicate some sort of paranormal influence. It is three and a half years since the original incident which gives an indication of how rarely it happens in natural circumstances. This is why I am so SO annoyed with myself.

14 March: The strange leaning man

Weird sunI noticed a short man, leaning over, in someone's garden as I walked past recently. I didn't really think anything of it for a second or two. That's when I realised it wasn't a real person at all but a misperception. I notice such misperceptions fairly frequently but something struck me as particularly odd about this incident. The 'man' actually consisted of two stacked recycling boxes and a jutting out part of a hedge behind.

Frankly, I was amazed that such a combination of shapes could be misperceived as a human figure, even for the few seconds I saw them like that. It was remarkable both for being made up of three separate objects and because one was not even touching the others but merely in the same line of sight. I was also intrigued by why I was so I convinced it was a short man rather than, say, a boy or even a girl. I don't know what factors control these things beyond shape, patterns of light and shade and expectation. The 'man' was 'standing' on a path which may have contributed to my unconscious interpretation. Another witness might have seen the figure as a ghost once it 'vanished'.

Meanwhile I repeated my 'without glasses' experiment (see here). Once again, I went outside for a walk wearing no glasses, something I never do normally. As before, I noticed no misperceptions. It is a surprising result, at first sight, because misperception relies on not seeing something well. So I would have thought that when everything looks indistinct, as happens when I'm not wearing my glasses or in low light, I should notice lots of misperceptions. Instead, I noticed none. I think it's because when you deliberately look for misperceptions you don't see them, an effect I've noticed on many occasions. I HAVE occasionally noticed misperceptions when not wearing glasses (see here). Interestingly, the misperceived objects always look in focus when clearly they cannot be. But during my latest 'without glasses' test I saw nothing in focus at all.

9 March: Like a time slip!

Weird sunI was looking out from a bus as it went along an urban street recently when I saw something utterly bizarre. There was one small shop, among a line of them, that was different. It had no shop sign or anything in the window to suggest what it was selling. In fact, the shop contained just a few chairs and a computer on a desk. There were only bare walls and a single closed door at the back. Despite being so threadbare there were several people in the shop. I saw all this in just a few seconds and spent the rest of my journey speculating about the shop's function. I even imagined it as the opening scene to a thriller!

Two days later, around the same time of day, I travelled on the same bus along the same road. I had another surprise! I saw the same shop, except it wasn't. The shop looked just like any other in the same row. In fact, I didn't recognise it as the same shop at all though I knew from its position that it had to be!

So, had I just imagined the earlier version of the shop from two days before? Or was it a time slip type experience? I've come across a number of accounts of apparent time slips where witnesses see a place as it was at a completely different time. Or it might simply look so substantially different that the witness assumes it must be from a different time. Either way, this could be put down to some kind of hallucination except that some of these experiences involve multiple witnesses.

My strange shop experience suggest a possible contributory factor that might be considered when investigating time slip reports. Significantly, I only had a limited time to view the shop because I was in a moving bus. I spent the limited time I had looking at the scene concentrating on its weirdness. In other words, I did not look for any other details that might have helped explain what I was looking at. I'm sure I missed much that might well have explained the scene.

I have noticed this effect in several of my experiences written up in this blog over the years. Luckily, in many of those experiences I had more time available and so was also able to look at things other than the strange bit. These details did, indeed, help explain the apparent odd phenomenon. So when someone reports something like a time slip it would be worth knowing whether they were able to examine what they were seeing in any detail and for how long. And it is always worth asking if they noticed anything else, even apparently irrelevant, at the time. It can be difficult to take your eyes off something really unusual!

So what is my theory about what I saw? I think my first sighting may have been a recruiting session for a new shop, with interviews being conducted in a room behind the door. Then the shop was fitted out in two days. Well, it's just an idea ...

5 March: Mystery orange flashing light

Weird sunRecent days have seen snow all over the UK. As I was watching a familiar, if snowy, scene the other day I was startled by a sudden really bright orange flash in the middle distance. A few seconds later it happened again. Indeed, it repeated several times at odd intervals. The light appeared to be coming from a bush or tree but I had no way of getting any closer to check it out. I had absolutely no idea what might be causing this mysterious light.

Luckily, being a birder, I just happened to have a pair of binoculars handy. So I looked at the flash and found it was a piece of glass suspended from a cord. It was blowing around in the strong wind and sometimes refracting the bright sunlight towards me. When I returned to the exactly the same viewing spot 10 minutes later there was no orange flashing light to be seen, even though I waited for a long time.

Putting together the clues it looked as though several factors had to come together to see the orange flash. Firstly, it had to be sunny. Secondly, I had to be standing in just the right place. Thirdly, the sun had to be at the right position in the sky. Fourthly, there needed to be a stiff breeze to move the glass enough to get a refraction pointing at me. Having all those factors together only happens rarely. That is, no doubt, why I have looked at that exact same scene many times and never seen the orange flash before.

It is unlikely anyone would report this phenomenon as anomalous (though I recall mysterious flashing lights reported on ghost vigils). However, another unlikely set of circumstances could easily produce a sight that might well be reported as anomalous. I have come across several such rare coincidental phenomenon before. There's an example here. Indeed this class of anomaly explanation is probably common enough to deserve its own name. As time and place are usually involved maybe PTEPAs - Precise Time Exact Place Anomalies. Or something pronounceable.

Last month's (February) website figures are an average of 8060 hits per day. This is slightly down on the previous month's 8359 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2018


Previous blog pages ...

  • Feb 2018 (including explanation for apparent precognition, ghostly figures, a huge invisible presence)
  • Jan 2018 (including ghostly conversation, ghost selfie, person vanishes, more stuff 'behind' music)
  • Dec 2017 (including a connection between reading and phantom sounds and investigating coincidences)
  • Nov 2017 (including man moving instantly, unexpected fall of night, ghosts rarely turning up on vigils)
  • Oct 2017 (including sounds 'behind' music, non-blurry ghost, ghost with a paunch, small human ghost)
  • Sep 2017 (including seeing ghosts to order, paper defies gravity, precognition, moving aerial mystery)
  • Aug 2017 (including identifiable ghosts, psychic message, like time standing still, on not seeing foxes)
  • Jul 2017 (including invisible ghosts, sense of presence in rain, precognition, haunting sounds)
  • Jun 2017 (including more real that reality, white flying object, pale figure at a window)
  • May 2017 (including ghosts: in a crowd, in a hi vis vest, object movement and sounds)
  • Apr 2017 (including no glasses no ghost, odd ghost, embarrassing ghost, fame month works again)
  • Mar 2017 (including white glowing shape or ghost, another source of 'presence', a ghost returns)
  • Feb 2017 (including fish in sky, best ghost in months, strange transparent object, recounting experiences often)
  • Jan 2017 (including ghostly face, phantom snow boarder, unexpected return of fame month)
  • Dec 2016 (including vanishing mouse. grey fuzzy thing, yellow dots, doppelganger)
  • Nov 2016 (including ghost fox, strange small figure in photo, haunting noises)
  • Oct 2016 (including strange voice, disintegrating ghost, ghostly leaf in focus to short-sighted witness)
  • Sep 2016 (including ghost on demand, shadow ghost, amplified hearing, anniversary ghosts)
  • Aug 2016 (including figure vanishes, strange music, phantom squirrel, fame month again)
  • Jul 2016 (including robot on wall, ghostly hooded figure, new house effect, transparent figures in photos)
  • Jun 2016 (including odd UFO, amplified hearing, alternate realities, strange stick figure on roof)
  • May 2016 (including farewell to the door ghost, restaurant ghost, invisible book, shrinking object)
  • Apr 2016 (including double UFO photo, strange animal, amplified hearing, fame month)
  • Mar 2016 (including time slip, strange brown blob, pig becomes horse, ghosts out or in focus)
  • Feb 2016 (including identifiable ghost, ghost in odd pose, leaning ghost, door ghost returns, ideal witness)
  • 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