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. 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)

NB: WDTHDWP = 'what does this have to do with the paranormal'

25 November: White fuzzy orb!

Daylight orbOrbs have been considered a natural phenomenon by many paranormal researchers for years now. So few people are interested in studying them any more. I am an exception - I am always interested to get a new interesting example. In this recent photo here (right), for instance, a daylight orb was illuminated by the sun, not a flash. The object producing the orb was a fluffy wind-blown seed 'parachute' rather than dust.

Note how this orb has an indistinct edge compared to typical orbs. I believe this is partly because it is overexposed, which is why its interior is featureless. The other factor responsible is, I think, that the 'orb' is actually dozens of smaller orbs overlapping.

Compelling evidence suggests that orbs are actually out of focus highlights (see 'what are orbs'). Such highlights may be a results of bits of dust but they can also be produced by other objects like insects, pollen, seeds or raindrops. With a large object like a seed 'parachute' there will be many highlights, each producing its own tiny orb. All the orbs overlap to produce a big white fuzzy orb.

And this is why I continue to study orbs. There are always new things to find out about them. See here for lots more on this endlessly fascinating subject. But what do orbs have to do with the paranormal, you may ask? It is only by understanding what is NOT paranormal but resembles it (the xenonormal) that we can eliminate it when investigating strange incidents. If someone sent me a photo like this I'd have a good idea what it was!

23 November: Strange object photographed

Strange lightI took this odd photo (right) recently. It is a crop of a larger photo but otherwise is entirely unedited. So it's not any kind of manipulation. It looks like a transparent cylinder with bright spiral lines attached but it's definitely not a camera strap. Note how big the object looks compared to the bricks behind. So what is it?

The effect is all down to the rather unusual way I took the photo. The camera was inside a clear plastic bag. I did that to protect it from water and dirt found in the location being photographed. Surprisingly, in many of the photos taken with this arrangement everything looked reasonably sharp with just a few slightly hazy areas. These bits could easily have been mistaken for condensation on the lens.

The 'object' is actually a reflection from the light source, a torch, on the plastic bag. The transparent plastic was a centimeter or two in front of the lens. I think that the strange shape derives from the curved surface of the plastic bag.

OK, people don't normally take photos like this, though they might on occasion. What this photo shows is the kind of strange images that can be produced by curved transparent surfaces in front of a liens. It is worth thinking about when examining similar anomalous photos.

19 November: Paranormal object movement

Moving letterParanormal object movement is sometimes reported in haunting cases. It sounds highly dramatic and, if real, obviously paranormal. However, in many such incidents the objects are found somewhere other than where they were left. Importantly this means that no one actually saw them moving. It is, therefore, quite possible that there are non-paranormal reasons for the object turning up in an unusual place. Seeing objects actually flying through the air is very unusual indeed.

All of this explains my reaction when I recently saw something move for no obvious normal reason. I was completely stunned! I was approaching a pile of recently delivered letters when I saw the top one move, in plain view, several centimetres towards me. Given that the letter was lying flat, and there was no draught, I could see no obvious normal reason why this letter should move. It was like something out of a movie about poltergeists.

Cautiously, I approached the letters. There were three, including the one that moved. They were on a flat floor directly below the letter box. I picked up the letter that had moved and examined it but I could see nothing strange about it. I then looked at the letter below. It was strongly folded so that it had a pronounced triangular cross section (blue object in picture above). Suddenly it was possible to imagine what had happened. The 'moving' letter (red object in picture above) would have started in an unstable position perched on top of the 'triangular' one below when the two fell from the letter box. At some stage, inevitably, the 'moving' letter would have slipped down the slope to a more stable position. That's what I caught it doing.

The real puzzle is why the letter appeared to move horizontally, towards me, across a flat floor. Trying to reproduce the effect, I found that viewed directly from above (as I did in my initial observation) the slope was not obvious. Furthermore, I think that when something unusual happens completely unexpectedly we may often fail to observe vital details that could help explain it. If I had not been able to physically examine the pile of letters at the time I might still wonder if I'd seen genuine paranormal object movement. It certainly felt like it at the time!

16 November: Transported to the future?

Crows in a treeRegular readers may wonder why I devote so much space to my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) experiences. It's because these accounts provide a rare source of accurately recorded reports of a near sleep experience that could explain some apparent paranormal reports. It is only by understanding the detail of such experiences that we can hope to accurately identify them when faced with a paranormal case.

Anyway, MA has been having some decidedly odd stuff going on recently. While watching TV, MA was twice suddenly been 'transported' somewhere completely different. It was not a picture on the TV screen, MA was actually THERE in the 'other place'! In both cases, the 'other place' was a deserted urban scene in daylight. However, the two places were completely different and unknown to MA. In each experience, MA was apparently exploring the landscape.

MA has reported these experiences of suddenly being 'transported' elsewhere for a few seconds before. In the past I wondered how they might be interpreted by someone who experiences MWRs without realizing their real non-paranormal explanation. I had thought, perhaps the witness might think they had been teleported somewhere. But thinking about these latest examples, other possibilities occurred to me. One is a spontaneous out of the body experience. However, these usually start with a feeling of leaving the body and seeing it from afar. Then there is the rarely reported phenomenon of spontaneous remote viewing. That certainly looks a likely possibility, but then I had another idea.

It's possible that someone might interpret being apparently 'transported' somewhere briefly as a premonition - a vision of a future event. Premonitions are often reported to occur to people in dreams. But a MWR is such a bizarre experience that a witness may well attach much higher significance to it. In addition, it is, in MA's experience, much easier to recall details from MWRs compared with ordinary dreams. So, overall, MWRs are much more memorable than ordinary dreams.

MA will report back if the 'deserted urban scene' experiences actually occur. The experiences sound a little bizarre given how densely populated cities are. However, the suburbs of cities can be surprisingly deserted during working hours and the buildings MA saw could easily fit that sort of area.

I have thought for a while that MWRs can explain some paranormal reports well, particularly certain ghost sightings. But I was puzzled why people weren't reporting being 'transported' as happens to MA. The answer may be that they are but I just didn't recognise them.

12 November: Just how far away IS that ghost?

Red ghostI was in an auditorium recently, watching a music concert, when I caught sight of someone standing a little to my left. Everyone else was seated so this person stood out visually. I assumed they were taking a photo. After a few seconds the person was still standing. I was surprised because I thought the standing person would have be annoying to those sitting behind. I looked around to see the person directly for the first time. But there was no one there! So, another ghost!

Instead of a human figure, what I was seeing was a pillar being temporarily lit, presumably for effect. It was, then, a peripheral vision misperception. The pillar was further away than the figure I'd seen. My brain had, presumably, having decided it was a human figure, 'moved' it into the audience where its presence made sense.

That was when I realised I'd come across this phenomenon before. Regular readers will be familiar with the door ghost (see here for background) that I see from time to time. It looks to be standing maybe a metre or two behind me. However, I know for a fact it is actually my own misperceived hand. Even though I know that, I still invariably see the figure further away than my hand could ever physically be.

Some interesting points arise out of this phenomenon. Firstly, we cannot any longer be sure what distance a ghost is when it is caused by misperception. So when a paranormal investigator finds no object to misperceive where the witness says the ghost was, it does not automatically rule out misperception. Instead, investigators will need to look along the line of sight from where the witness stood to look for other possible candidate objects. Secondly, for the figure to appear at the right scale, the object being misperceived must be a different size, due to perspective, I would guess. So, a nearby small object may be misperceived as something larger and further away. This makes sense with the door ghost. And a distant large object could be misperceived as something smaller nearby. This makes sense with my auditorium ghost as the illuminated pillar was rather larger than a human figure.

Scale and distance can be tricky to sort out in anomalous photos (particularly with UFOs). In the 'red ghost' photo (above right - full story here) the 'figure' is almost certainly a red sign. There were several identical signs at the site and they were noticeably taller than most human figures and a lot wider. So the red sign in the photo is probably a bit further away than it appears if we see it as a human figure. It doesn't make much practical difference in this example but I can imagine cases where it would.

Unless a ghost is seen physically interacting with some object in the scene being viewed, we cannot say for certain how far away it is. We think we know its distance because we are assuming it is a human/ghost figure. But if it is something else being misperceived, this may not be the case. The question of how far a ghost is away turns out to be more important than you might imagine.

9 November: The invisible soundproof barrier

VigilI will freely admit, I've occasionally doubted if interactive ghosts even exist. This may be because I've never been involved in such a case personally. However, there are enough credible reports around to suggest they do.

Interactive ghosts are those that appear aware of the witness and might even interact with them. While many ghosts in the movies seem to be interactive, real life examples appear to be distinctly thin on the ground. Typically, ghosts appear as normal human figures that, though they may interact with the scenery they inhabit, usually don't seem aware of the witness watching them. So I was intrigued by a recent experience of my acquaintance (MA) who experiences MWRs (microsleep with REM).

The incident occurred on a train which MA was travelling on. A woman sitting adjacent, a stranger, started talking to MA. Unable to hear what she was saying, MA leaned towards her. She also leaned towards him. But, though her mouth was clearly moving, no words could be heard. It was as if there was an invisible soundproof barrier between them. It was at this point that MA started to find the experience unnerving! Then, suddenly, the woman was no longer there. There was no one at all sitting in the adjacent seat. MA realised it had been just another MWR experience. MA noted the typical feelings associated with coming out of a MWR when the woman vanished.

The experience is particularly interesting because the ghost / human figure appeared to interact with MA. Not only did the ghost appear to be addressing MA personally but even leaned over to assist communication! The fact that MA could not hear the woman, even when leaning in, is distinctly odd. But when you realise that MWRs are basically dreams, albeit sometimes projected onto real scenery, odd behavior can be expected. To anyone experiencing MWRs who did not understand their origin, the 'silent speech' aspect will probably have just added to the impression that the experience was paranormal.

This incident suggests that MWRs can generate reports of interactive ghosts. Some interactive ghosts reports could also be generated by hallucinations, such as hypnogogic phenomena. It is even possible that misperception could conceivably generate a report of an interactive ghost. For instance, suppose a tree is being misperceived as a human figure in poor viewing conditions. If the wind is moving the branches of the tree, it might appear as if the 'figure' is waving at the witness! Clearly, though, such circumstances are likely to be rare. Certainly, the fact that a ghost interacts with a witness does not rule out a xenonormal explanation.

2 November: Why do witnesses so rarely take photos of ghosts?

Misperceived 'woman'Encounters with ghosts are rare. And, until recently, few people routinely carried a camera around with them. So, it's little wonder that there are few examples of witnesses actually photographing ghosts that they were watching. However, in recent years a large proportion of the population has started to take mobile phones pretty much everywhere. And a lot of these phones contain built-in cameras. So shouldn't we be seeing an upsurge in the number of ghosts photographed by witnesses while seeing them? In my experience, I'd say we are not. But why not?

It is a puzzle. In my experience, there are certainly many more ghost photos around today than there used to be. However, a high proportion of them show objects or figures NOT seen by the photographer at the time of exposure. Some people regard this as an indicator of their paranormality. But it is also a key characteristic of photographic artefacts, which is what many of them, on investigation, turn out to be.

The numbers of photos taken by witnesses actually seeing a ghost at the time remains oddly small. Talking to hundreds of ghost witnesses to ask why they didn't take a photo, when they could have, would be impractical. Perhaps it should become a standard question in future investigations! With that option out I decided to examine my own experiences for an answer.

I've seen a number of ghosts but rarely got any photos of them. Thinking back I realised there are several reasons for that. Firstly, in most cases, I thought I was seeing an ordinary human at the time, so I had no reason to take a photo. This is a common experience with ghost sightings. Secondly, most sightings didn't last long, often just seconds, giving little time to react. Thirdly, on the occasions when I realised at the time that there was something odd going on, I was reluctant to stop watching the ghost, in case I missed something vital. I suspect these reasons apply to many other ghost witnesses.

The answer to such problems is probably wearable life-logging technology. Only once photos can be taken with little or no effort, without needing to take your eye off the ghost, are such pictures likely to become more common.

So what can we expect to see when we get more of these photos? From the few existing examples I've seen, what is photographed is often radically different to what the witness reported seeing. This is unsurprising given that many ghost sightings are caused by misperception or hallucination. The photo accompanying this post (above right) is an example. The background is described here. I do hope the number of such witnessed ghost photos does increase. I can't wait to analyze them.

Last month's (October) website figures are an average of 18252 hits per day. This is significantly up on the previous month's 14728 daily average. The figure this month was estimated due to technical problems during October.

© Maurice Townsend 2015


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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
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