ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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ASSAP blogWelcome 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.

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One of the big problems with paranormal research is having to fight memes! There are so many widespread preconceived ideas about our subject that it is difficult to persuade people to look at the evidence in a completely neutral way. When someone says they've seen a ghost it could mean anything from seeing a figure in old fashioned clothes to feeling a sense of presence. The important thing is to strip away the witness's interpretation and find out what they actually experienced. From there, you can start to investigate what really happened.

Many ideas, like 'ghosts are spirits', self-replicate within our culture. Such ideas are called memes. Memes are, like genes, subject to a form of natural selection. However, memes only compete with other memes, irrespective of any benefit or otherwise, to their 'hosts', human beings.

The meme of 'ghosts as spirits' survives despite the lack of any obvious supporting evidence. For many people this is because their only experience of ghosts is second-hand. Even those who do see ghosts themselves are influenced unconsciously in the way they interpret their experiences. Clearly, as a meme, the idea has defeated alternative versions like, 'ghosts are mainly misperceptions' or 'ghosts are recordings' or similar ideas. Memes are not subject to evidence in a scientific way. They are only subject to competition from other memes and the 'ghosts are spirit' version is currently the easy winner.

PS: Latest website hits average 6800 per day so far this month. It's down a bit on last month, as you'd expect given that Halloween is gone.


If you were at the Fortean Times Unconvention at the weekend, you may have seen ASSAP's stand with Nicky, Dave and Wendy in attendance. If you took part, we hope you enjoyed the Psychic Challenge. We will be publishing scores, here on the website, in the next few days.

With October out of the way and the website now bedded in at its new host, I had another look at the site 'hit' figures. They are currently averaging about 6000 a day which is probably more realistic as a long term figure than the high numbers we saw last month.

3 Nov 2008: Why people and animals?

FoxThrough my misperception research, something has struck me. In most cases, when I misperceived something, I turned it into a human figure or animal. Which is interesting!

Part of the reason may be that many of the misperceptions were of moving objects in my peripheral vision. The peripheral vision is particularly sensitive to movement. So, it makes sense that my brain would decide it was a human or animal, both of which move. However, other things move as well, like cars, trees blowing in the wind, dead leaves (a lot of those around this time of year) and so on. But there are plenty of stationary objects, like tree stumps, which I also turned into human figures.

So the question remains - why so many people and animals? This may be related to the question of why we tend to see faces in random patterns. It probably all stems from our evolution. In the past, and even today, it has always been important to our survival as individuals to be able to identify and recognise animals and humans. We need to know friend from foe, predator from prey and recognise threatening situations (like entering a dark alley with a menacing shadowy figure in it). Animals aren't the threat they were thousands of years ago and yet we still have an ancestral instinctive fear of snakes.

Here's a weird coincidence. While I was writing this blog entry, I had to go outside in the dark with a torch. As I played my torch over the ground I was shocked to see what appeared to be a small animal, the size of a mouse, apparently dash through the leaf litter towards me. I trained my torch on the whole area steadily for several seconds but saw no further signs of any animal or movement. It is unlikely it could have escaped detection and so was probably a misperception. I don't think it was moving leaves. Instead, I believe it was the motion of the torch, as I swept it around the scene, producing moving shadows giving a momentary impression of a small moving object.

PS: The lower photo? See October's blog ...


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© Maurice Townsend 2008