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'

29 May: Can strange phenomena evolve over time?

Weird sunIt's a strange thing but the experiences that my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) seem to keep getting more complex. Here are two recent examples.

MA often hears conversations between unknown people, even though there is no one else physically present. MA knows these are MWRs because there is a characteristic ending to such experiences. As always, the conversations never appear directed at MA but at a third party. Nowadays MA has recently started to hear a third party replying, which is new. Another novelty is hearing emotional reactions, like laughing. Until now the conversations have consisted solely of talking, no other sounds.

And now there is an even more dramatic kind of new experience. MA had two MWRs with a gap of several minutes in between. However, the second conversation appeared to be a direct continuation of the first! It was the same two people discussing the same subject. It was not a repeat of the earlier conversation. Unfortunately, MA did not note if the conversation appeared to have a gap of a few minutes in it! I have heard of people who get dreams that appear to continue the same 'plot' night after night but it is rare. This may be a related phenomenon.

Having MWRs which follow on from each other could explain some lengthy apparently paranormal experiences. Someone experiencing MWRs, who is not aware of their xenonormal explanation, could easily view them as paranormal. Anyone hearing voices, apparently from nowhere, talking about the same thing on separate occasions might well view it as a deliberate psychic communication from a specific entity.

But gong back to the original question, is the phenomenon actually evolving over time? One theory is that the phenomenon does not change over time, rather MA is simply discovering new aspects as they appear. Another theory is that the phenomenon is indeed becoming more complex over time. I think there is support for this idea in that once the more complex forms appear they seem to persist while simpler ones become rarer. If the phenomenon IS evolving, how and why? My best speculation so far is that MA's own interest in the MWRs is actually setting up some kind of feedback loop in the brain.

Meanwhile, I've an update on my last post (here). In it, I speculated that cryptomnesia might combine with confabulation sometimes to form an apparently highly accurate psychic communication which actually had a xenonormal explanation. I said then that I had no evidence of this happening in real life. Subsequently I realised that I HAD come across one or two cases where cryptomnesia was strongly indicated and confabulation too. The result was indeed spectacularly accurate. Despite that, the most likely explanation was non-paranormal.

23 May: A problem with psychic messages?

Weird sunI've sometimes wondered, how would I know if I had received a psychic message? My acquittance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR) often hears someone talking when there is no one there. In MA's case the 'voice' is produced in MA's own brain as a near sleep experience and is recognizable as such. But what if I heard such an unattributable voice, how would I know if it came from my own unconscious or some discarnate entity, perhaps?

I've decided that the only way to be sure is if I received information which (a) I didn't previously know and (b) turned out to be true. But is that enough of a test? The central problem is, how do I know I really didn't previously have that information?

Unlike many people, I'm not interested in quizzes. I don't watch them on TV but occasionally, maybe when waiting for another programme, I might catch a few minutes of one. So I passively listen to the questions and sometimes I know the answer, especially if it's a subject that interests me. But what I find odd is that I find myself answering questions correctly when I had no idea I knew the answer. What is more the answer just 'appears', as if from nowhere, in my mind. There is no conscious process I go through to work out the answer, it's just there. I think the way it works is that words in the question trigger an association in my brain that retrieves the answer. In other words, I DID know the answer, I just didn't realize I did. But when I consciously try to recall such facts, they don't come, as if I don't know them.

This is, of course, an example of cryptomnesia. We all know more than we think we do and, in the right circumstances, these 'concealed' memories can appear as if they were an original thought. Clearly cryptomnesia can explain some apparently psychic messages.

But there is another common mental process that can produce reasonably accurate information that is genuinely unknown to the recipient. I'm referring to confabulation. This is where we fill in gaps in our knowledge with generally plausible but entirely fictitious bits of information. What is more, we are not aware, at least at the time, that we are making stuff up. Obviously confabulation does not come from a true memory BUT, as I said earlier, it can be highly plausible. It is not so much wild speculation as a good informed guess at reality. So, when checked against reality it can be surprisingly accurate.

Now, if you have cryptomnesia providing the bare facts of a supposedly completely unknown situation and combine that with confabulation to provide plausible details, the results could be highly accurate. What might appear like a highly impressive psychic communication could, in fact, be cryptomnesia combined with confabulation, and all done quite unconsciously. Anyone who did this sort of thing regularly might easily convince themselves, and others, that they were psychic. Do I have any evidence that cryptomnesia and confabulation might sometimes combine? No I don't but I think it's worth looking for.

Unfortunately, none of this really helps with determining if a message has truly psychic origins.

15 May: Rod-type objects close up!

So, I was by a stream on a sunny day recently when I saw a huge stream of insects flying above it. So naturally I took some photos, as you do, and here are just some of the results.

Insect over streamThese are some of the best flying rod-type photos I've taken. The first photo (right) resembles the thorned stem of a plant. This photo had an exposure time of 1/60s. This is the same as the field ('frame') rate of many video cameras in low light situations. See the discussion on the flying rods page (here) for more about this. Unfortunately, I've no idea what kind of insects these were but they were flying very fast.

Insect over streamThe second photo (right) looks different. It more closely resembles a stick with sharp horizontal spikes protruding from it. As far as I know this is the same insect species. So why does it look so different?

The shutter speed this time is 1/15s, four times longer than the previous photo. That would explain why the object looks much longer and has more 'appendages'. I think the difference in appendage shape is due to the angle of the insect relative to the camera.

The first photo shows the insect from the side so we see quite a lot of the wings, throughout the wing-beat, giving the overall 'thorn' shape, In the second photo I think we're seeing the insect from above. From above the wings look more transparent and I think the appendages are just one part of wing beat where the angle is correct to reflect most sunlight. It would take a high speed camera to demonstrate this but I definitely think it's all down to the angle at which we're seeing the wing.

So these two apparently different kinds of rod object are actually probably caused by the same species of insect. It is all down to the angle of the wing to the camera that gives them their radically different appearance.

These rod-type objects look bigger than in most videos or photos. That's because I was using a telephoto lens. It is nice to see these objects in more detail than you see in most photos. Incidentally, I had to try several exposure values before these rod objects showed up. That is. no doubt, why they don't show up on every video or photo featuring insects. The exposure values, and focus, need to be just right.

9 May: The dent that vanished!

Weird sunI mentioned recently doing an experiment with misperception (see here). I am myopic and removed my glasses while walking around outside to see if I noticed many misperceptions. Since misperception occurs in poor viewing conditions I thought I should notice more of them than usual. However, to my surprise, that is not what happened.

Then, more recently, I was was looking at a car at a time when, purely by chance, I was not wearing glasses. The bonnet of the car appeared to have a large dent in it. As this is unusual, I looked at it for several seconds and the dent looked absolutely clear and real. Then I put my glasses on and the 'dent' disappeared instantly. I then realised that what I was seeing was a reflection, in the bonnet, of the sky and the silhouette of a nearby house. This, coupled with the curvature of the bonnet, gave an appearance of a dent, but only when I was NOT wearing glasses. It was clearly a case of misperception.

I think the reason I noticed this misperception was that I was not expecting it. I have noted many times in the past that if you are expecting misperceptions, even in the same circumstances where you've seen them before, they do not appear. In my experiment I was knowingly looking for misperceptions but saw none.

So why don't people who wear glasses report lots of ghost sightings when they are not wearing them? I think they, like me, tend to discount much of what they see when they are not wearing glasses. They may well actually notice many misperceptions but simply dismiss them given the circumstances. So why didn't I dismiss the 'dented' car? I think it was because it was a plausible sight - cars do sometimes get dents. If, instead, I'd seen something more outlandish I probably would simply have discounted it without thought, even though I might have been wrong to do so!

4 May: The 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon revisited

Weird sunSome years ago I wrote about whether rail commuters might be psychic. I used to commute myself and had come across the 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon. Briefly, it is not uncommon to fall asleep on long commutes. And yet I, and others I've spoken to, always seem to wake up just in time to get off at the right station. This happened even if the train was running late, so it is not a time thing. For the original discussion, see here.

The most popular non-psychic explanation appears to be that commuters hear the sounds that the train makes as it approaches their station. But are such sounds distinctive enough to identify the train's location? An even more obvious explanation might be that the commuter simply hears the name of their station being announced. However, the phenomenon predates on-board train announcements as I can confirm from my own experience.

Now MA (my acquaintance) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR - see here) has experienced a novel variation on this 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon. MA was on a train suffering from a series of microsleeps. MA suddenly woke and found the train was stationary. MA then quickly got off at the correct station just before the doors closed. It turned out that MA had heard the name of the station in a MWR just before waking up. It's entirely possible that it was a real announcement of the station that MA incorporated into the MWR. If there was no actual on-board announcement, as sometimes happens, then MA had somehow worked out the location and put the name into the MWR!

It is well known that real noises, like an alarm clock, are sometimes incorporated into our dreams. Interestingly, when real sounds are incorporated into dreams they are often changed to something else, unlike in the present example. Interestingly, nothing else in the content of this particular MWR related to travel, trains or where MA might be!

This experience tends to lend weight to the idea that sound might be the key to this 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon. MA probably heard the station name while in a MWR because it was relevant. Other station names would have been missed because they were not relevant to MA. It's possible that other commuters hear the name of their station while asleep but do not remember doing so. Experience suggests that the content of MWRs is much easier to remember than normal dreams. When such other commuters wake up they are surprised that they 'just knew' where to get off.

But what about those days before on-board train announcements? How did the 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon work then? Are the sounds a moving train makes really distinctive enough to tell its location? I think it's possible but it would have to be tested before I was convinced.

© Maurice Townsend 2018


Previous blog pages ...

  • Apr 2018 (including should ghosts be commoner at night, book turns over instantly, 'garden poltergeist' returns)
  • Mar 2018 (including are rare events paranormal, like a time slip, strange leaning man, mystery flashing light)
  • 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