ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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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)

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'

31 October: Crowdsourcing the paranormal

CobwebThe internet has had a profound effect on paranormal research. For instance, it is now relatively easy to contact other researchers instantly. And then there is crowdsourcing. Take one example - analyzing anomalous photos. A strange photo can be taken, get uploaded to the web and have lots of people analyzing it within minutes. Potentially, it's a fantastic resource. But there are problems with the way this process works in practice.

If you get many alternative explantations for an anomalous photo posted online, that's great. However, I've noticed that paranormal photos often get analyzed as being either genuine or fake. Using this method of analyzing means that if you can't show the photo is a fake your only alternative is to accept it must represent some genuine paranormal event.

I have personally examined over 3000 anomalous photos in detail and discovered that over 90% of them were neither genuinely paranormal NOR fake. They were actually photographic artefacts. The number of fakes I've come across is tiny. The photos I looked at were sent privately. I suspect the percentage of fakes is higher with photos shared generally around the web. That's because anyone faking paranormal photos is, presumably, trying to get a reaction. So spreading it around the web and seeing who gets fooled is obviously going to be more satisfying than sending it privately to just one person for comment. Having said that, I think the number of fake paranormal photos on the web is still small. Most of the publicly displayed photos I've seen appear to be photographic artefacts, as expected.

Of course, some people do offer photographic artefacts as an explanation for paranormal photos posted online. The problem is, a surprisingly large number of the artefact explanations offered online for particular photos are wrong, in my opinion at least. But if a supposed paranormal photo actually has a natural explanation, does it matter which one it is? Well, obviously yes it does. Those of us who are serious paranormal researchers are looking for a scientific understanding of reported extraordinary phenomena. We are not campaigners trying to prove, or disprove, the existence of the paranormal.

Crowdsourcing is potentially valuable tool that the internet has made much simpler to do. But you still need to sort the accurate information from the rest. Happy Samhain!

30 October: Do ghost cases have a use-by date?

VigilGhost sightings and hauntings have been investigated systematically for a long time. By systematic I mean in-depth interviews with witnesses, an exhaustive site examination and, if considered relevant, maybe a vigil. Then, once all the available information has been gathered, various possible explanations, paranormal and xenonormal are considered. It is almost impossible to come to any meaningful conclusion about the causes of a ghost sighting or haunting without such an in-depth investigation. Such cases form the primary bedrock of data concerning the nature of ghosts.

But is that bedrock eroding away over time? In other words, can we rely on old cases to provide undisputable information about the nature of ghosts? I'm not sure we can. It can be frustrating reading about an old case. On the face of it, the evidence can appear water-tight that something paranormal occurred.

But what if you come up with a new xenonormal theory that could also plausibly account for the reported facts of the case? It is usually impossible to go back and re-investigate. The witnesses may no longer be available and, even if they are, their memories are not likely reliable after such a long period of time. And a site visit may not help as the area may well have changed. And if the original investigator never considered your new xenonormal theory then they will not have collected relevant evidence to test the idea. What had seemed an excellent case now has a question mark hanging over it that can never be resolved. As such it can no longer add to the body of data about ghosts.

With sciences like physics or chemistry, you can always redo an old experiment because it should still work now just as it did a century ago. You cannot do that with a subject like ghost research which is based so heavily on old case reports. You cannot redo an old ghost case.

So, we have a problem! We cannot rely on all old ghost cases, however well they were investigated at the time. Current cases are different. It may be possible to re-interview witnesses and visit the site to test possible xenonormal explanations. But inevitably, current cases become old over time and the same problem arises once again.

Is this a serious problem? Surprisingly, I'm not sure it is, provided we always have a number of current well-investigated cases around all the time. The real problem is that not many people are investigating in-depth any more so the 'stock' is dwindling.

30 October: Free publicity!

There is, as far as I can tell, no awareness day for the paranormal, unlike with so many other subjects and causes. There is no need for one because we already have 31 October. So I've read quite a few new media articles about the paranormal in recent days. As a result, I think we may still need an awareness day after all.

29 October: Why so few animal ghosts?

Misp birdThere are many more human ghosts reported than animal ones. A recent experience got me wondering about why this should be.

Regular readers will know that I am a birder, so I'm always on the look out for birds. However, I'll be honest, at the time, I didn't know what species this was (pic right). Looking at the photo, I would guess it might be a dove, perhaps, given the light colour and overall shape. The 'dove' is just above, and to the left of, the centre of the photo, with its head facing the big tree.

After a few seconds of close examination it became clear that the object was not a bird at all. It was two large leaves, propped upwards in the grass and strongly illuminated in a patch of sunlight. It was, of course, a misperception. I was genuinely surprised, at the time, because it definitely looked like a bird for several seconds. Its movement in the wind just added to the impression of an animal rather than something inanimate.

Among birders, it's not that unusual to see an inanimate object as a bird. When you are really keen to see a bird, particularly a rare one, you tend to look for anything vaguely bird-shaped and then get your binoculars on it for a better view. Obviously, the binocular view usually resolves misperceived 'birds' into what they really are. In contrast, I strongly suspect that non-birders hardly ever misperceive inanimate objects as birds.

This may offer a clue to why the number of reported human ghosts outnumbers those of animals. To most people, other humans are both far more important and more regularly seen than animals. Misperception, which is a major cause of ghost sightings, appears to be based on visual experience. If humans are much commoner in your visual experience than animals then you are more likely to misperceive a ghostly human figure. Another factor I've noted is that what you misperceive is also affected by what you want most, or least, to see. Birders want to see birds so they see them, sometimes when they're not there. Someone seeing an unknown human figure while walking alone at night might not find it a comforting sight at all. They may well misperceive a tree as a ghost in such circumstances.

Well, it's an idea, anyway. I wonder if pet lovers see more animal ghosts than the general population?

27 October: Daylight orbs

Leaf orbIt's getting difficult to find any ghost enthusiasts who think orbs are paranormal any more. The general public, on the other hand, seems as enthusiastic as ever about them. I think it's mainly people who are seeing them for the first time in their photos and don't know what to make of them.

My interest in orbs, nowadays, is mainly about trying to photograph unusual examples. This photo (right), for instance, shows an orange daylight orb. The photograph was taken without flash. Though you can certainly create orbs with flash in daylight, it is not usually required as a light source. Ordinary sunlight will do, as here. Note how the orb here is not a classic circular shape.

Below there is a second photo taken of exactly the same scene less than a second before (below right). It shows a more conventional circular orb. I cropped both photos the show the orbs more clearly. They cover exactly the same scene. You can see where they overlap in the top right of the upper picture the bottom left of the lower one.

Leaf orbI think both orbs are probably created by the same object. I think that because there is exactly one orb in each photo and the objects I was photographing were drifting in a strong breeze diagonally from right to left across the frame. In any case, both orbs were caused by the same type of objects, namely falling autumn leaves.

I think the orbs are a different shape and colour because the leaves were rotating as they fell. So the upper orb is not circular because it actually consists of multiple overlapping orbs. This happens when an object is large enough to have multiple highlights, each creating their own orb. In the second photo there is just one orb and it is much brighter. I think this leaf had a single strongly reflective highlight when in this stage of its rotation. I would guess the leaf has its edge towards the camera for this shot. In the other shot I think the leaf was more flat to the camera, hence showing multiple highlights.

So we have another possible cause of multiple overlapping orbs in addition to insects, large water droplets and some large dust fibres (see the video here).

I am also interested in illustrating aspects of the orb zone theory. For instance, there is a video here showing orbs 'popping' out of existence. In reality, they are leaving the orb zone. And there's a video here showing dust actually turning into orbs. It is easy to discuss the orb zone with diagrams but videos are better at actually demonstrating how it works in practice. This leaf orb example shows there are still new things to learn about orbs.

24 October: Door ghost turns nasty

ShadowRegular readers will be aware of my 'door ghost'. If not, see here for background. I have not been 'experimenting' with this surprisingly obliging ghost recently and it is exacting its revenge.

I have noted before that the door ghost usually only appears when I've temporarily forgotten about it. Recently the ghost has taken to appearing when it is very inconvenient. It seems to delight in appearing when I'm in a big hurry or distracted by a major problem. Unsurprisingly, the ghost's appearance in these circumstances just adds to my stress level.

I wonder if this annoying habit might contribute to the generally held view that ghosts are scary. If they tend to appear mostly at highly inconvenient times it is likely to increase the discomfort of their witnesses. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to test the hypothesis. Ghost sighting accounts seldom, if ever, include the state of mind of the witness just before the event. Personally, I think that state of mind could be important to generating the sighting itself, at least where it is one caused by misperception. I think questions about prior state of mind could be usefully included when interviewing ghost witnesses.

Ghosts have a marked tendency to appear when least expected, even on vigils where they often appear during the tea breaks. I now wonder if a raised stress level in the witness may further improve their chances of seeing a ghost. As to why stress should act in this way, I can only speculate. I suppose stress may deepen the level of non-expectation that appears to be a prerequisite to actually seeing a ghost.

22 October: But it never happens to me!

Apparent figure by fence'There was definitely no one there when I took the photo but when I got home and examined it closely, this is what I saw'. I hear this sort of thing all the time when someone is giving an account of how they took their ghost photo. But it never happens to me. Until the other day!

There was certainly nobody visible when I took the photo (right). I know because I carefully checked at the time. So, you can imagine my consternation when I examined the photo later to discover a figure in tricorn hat with pony tail plainly visible.

In case you can't see it, here's what I see. There is what appears to be a human figure, just right of centre, sideways on facing right, as if walking in that direction. The figure, which appears to have a ponytail, seems to be wearing a tricorn hat and what could be a frock coat (only the top part is visible). Of course, readers may not see the ghostly figure at all. It depends on the equipment used to display the image and probably whether readers are prone to noticing misperception.

Here are are some other odd points about the photo. Firstly, the ghostly figure only became apparent when the image was resized downwards ('zoomed out'). Secondly, the tricorn hat and ponytail are, of course, a fashionable look that occurred together in the same period in history. So the figure makes sense as a real historical person. Thirdly, the figure appears to be in scale with its surroundings. So, again, it looks reasonable as either a real person or ghost. Fourthly, the figure looks oddly insubstantial, with the faded colours, suggesting a ghost rather than a real person. Fifthly, I took this photo deliberately because I thought the object pictured might suggest a human figure, even though I never saw one at the time, even as a misperception.

Apparent figure zoomedI took a second, zoomed, photo of the same object at the same time. I did that so that, if I looked at the photo years later, I'd be sure what it really was. If everyone did this I suspect there would be fewer ghost photos reported. The picture here (right) is NOT the second photo but a tightly cropped version of the one above. I did that just in case there was a real ghost in the first photo which had disappeared before the second shot was taken. The second shot looks just like this one but with more detail visible. In other words, there was no change in the scene between the two shots. In this closely cropped version of the original photo, as well as in the second zoomed photo, the 'tricorn-hatted figure' is revealed to be a dark reed.

Oddly, I still see the 'tricorn-hatted figure' in the upper version, even after comparing it with the second one. I think that the tricorn-hatted figure is a misperception (which is why some people won't see it at all). The fact that the 'figure' doesn't appear in the zoomed version suggests that the two versions are materially different. The change happened when I resized the photo to a lower number of pixels. So, the tricorn-hatted figure is an artefact of the resizing process in the photo editing software. That is why it is important to obtain the original when examining anomalous photos. People often 'tidy up' their photos, to eliminate extraneous background, for instance. Or they may compress photos to send them with an email. But even such simple edits, like cropping, resizing or compressing, can change the look of an object dramatically, as in this case.

I think this particular 'ghost photo' works because of the points I mentioned earlier, such as its scale and historical accuracy, which contribute to a credible ghost figure. Scale is a crucial factor in misperception.

20 October: Is seeing the famous normal?

Crows in a treeRegular readers will be aware that I appear to spot more famous people than might seem normal. I spotted another, an actor, just the other day. Indeed, I've seen 5 since I first mentioned it in January last year. That gives an average of 0.23 celebrities a month which I suspect is rather higher than most people! As I've said before, I don't actively seek out celebrities, nor do I go to places where you might reasonably expect to see them, like expensive restaurants.

The vast majority of famous people I've seen were actors. There were also a few politicians and the odd captain of industry. I think this probably reflects which famous people I would actually recognise. I know what a lot of actors look like but relatively few politicians. A key factor I've noted in these sightings is that the majority are on public transport, particularly trains. That applies to the latest example. I don't actually travel that much on trains so I still might be unusually lucky. I used to commute by train for years and never saw even one celebrities. This is probably because the famous tend not to work office hours. It appears that off peak trains are the best place to look for them.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who regularly sees lots of famous people to compare rates with my 0.23 per month. Is that really as high as it appears?

16 October: Dancing ghost!

Crows in a treeIt's the weirdest ghost I've ever seen! It was an obviously human figure dancing. But the bottom part of the figure was completely invisible! I can't recall ever hearing of a ghost dancing, partial or otherwise. The bizarre sight gave me an odd feeling that I can't describe.

I was in a theatre watching a concert. There were lots of people dancing but they all appeared to be fully present! I wouldn't have even noticed the partial figure had my view of the stage not been temporarily obstructed. I decided to look around the audience instead, which was when I noticed the ghost. I stared at it for quite a while but could think of no other obvious explanation other than that the figure was a ghost.

Gradually my eyes became accustomed to the dark and I realised that the bottom half of the figure was actually behind a sort of screen. I hadn't noticed the screen before. The person was, I think, dancing in as walkway that gave access to seating. From my viewpoint, the screen obscured the bottom half of anyone walking in that area. The peculiar effect could probably only be seen from a few seats.

Given that I had no idea of the presence of the screen and that, in the dark, I couldn't see it at first, seeing the person as a partial ghost was understandable. While the human figure reflected light from the stage well, the dull screen did not. The visual effect was so realistic as a ghost that, had it been in a movie, I would just have thought it was CGI.

I think two things come out of this incident. Firstly, when people report seeing partial ghostly figures, it is important to consider the lighting conditions and examine exactly where the figure was located and where it was seen from! Secondly, this is the third time (see here) I've seen something bizarre in a darkened theatre. Maybe these lighting conditions, which are conducive to misperception, may partly explain the long reported association between theatres and ghosts.

14 October: A group of ghosts

'Group of ghosts'My first thought was 'oh look there's a bunch of people in historical costumer over there'. My second thought was. 'I wonder if they could be ghosts'? Don't ask me what historic era they were from as I'm not good at that kind of stuff. I'd guess at well before the twentieth century! I asked someone nearby if they could see the group. They could.

This incident took place at a railway station and the figures were standing on a crowded platform. That's important because people nearby were clearly leaving room for the figures, which leads me to conclude that they could see the figures too. Overall, then, the evidence points firmly to these figures being ordinary people in historical costume. I suppose they may have been on their way to a fancy dress party, historical reenactment or some similar event.

It got me thinking. In almost every ghost case I could think of, there is only ever one apparition seen at any one time by witnesses. In my experience, sightings of groups of ghosts are extremely rare. A single figure appears to be very much the norm. But why?

When looking for explanations for any aspect of ghosts attributes it is important to remember that ghost sightings have many different causes. Among the main ones are misperception, hallucination and real people. So, any general attribute of ghosts needs to apply to misperceptions and at least some of the other common causes. So why would people misperceiving tend only to see one figure rather than a group? In my experience, the most often misperceived objects are visually simple. It isn't hard to see a tree stump as a human figure when glanced in your peripheral vision. But what object, or objects, would visually resemble a group of people?

Tree stump as ghostBy coincidence, I took the photo here (above right) recently. It resembled scenes that have caused me to misperceive figures in the past. Though the scene didn't cause a misperception when I first noticed it, I thought it might if I tried hard enough. I tried glancing at it in peripheral vision but it didn't work. The problem is, once you've seen what an object really is, it's difficult to misperceive it. It demonstrated how the visual complexity of such a subject doesn't work well work as a misperception. In contrast, the photo of a tree stump (right) is visually simple and WAS seen as a human figure, both at the time of exposure, and later as a picture on the ASSAP website.

With hallucinations there are no obvious reasons why groups of figures should not be seen. My best guess, in this case, is that people expect to see single ghosts. A lot of ghost stories involve sightings of just one ghost at any one time.

Whatever the reason, the fact that a very large proportion of ghost sightings involve single figures is clearly an significant clue to the nature of ghosts.

10 October: New technology to photograph ghosts?

VigilI believe it is possible to photograph ghosts (see here). The thing is, despite having examined several thousand ghost photos personally, I've yet to see one I find convincing. But I still live in hope. One of the problems is that the vast majority of ghost photos occur when the photographer sees nothing odd at the time of exposure. The anomaly is only noticed later when the photo is examined. This, inevitably, means that most apparent ghost photos are, in fact, photographic artefacts.

Ghost sightings are very rare, so it's not surprising that there are few ghost photos around. But when CCTV became widespread, there was a buzz among ghost researchers. Given all those millions of hours of video recordings, someone was bound to catch the odd ghost or two. Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out that way. We discovered that spiders and insects seem to take a delight in wandering over CCTV camera lenses and appearing like shadowy transparent 'figures'. There were also the usual photographic artefacts familiar from conventional cameras. What we really wanted was someone to see a ghost and photograph it at same the time. Then we could get some idea of what the witness actually saw.

So when mobile phones with cameras became widespread, there was, once again, optimism among ghost researchers. With all those people wandering around with a camera (including video) in their pocket, someone was bound to see and photograph a ghost sooner or later. Sadly, we are still waiting for a reasonable example. The problem is that when people see a ghost, they tend not to think about taking a photo. Or they don't even realise they are seeing a ghost until it has gone because most apparitions look like perfectly normal human figures (see ghosts).

Have we now, finally, got the technology all ghost researchers been waiting for? I'm talking about lifelogging. Though still a rarity, it is possible that it will become a popular thing in the near future. Lifeloggers wear a camera that works automatically. Some models take photos at regular frequent intervals, for instance. Others record video continuously allowing you to keep and review the last few minutes when something significant has happened - like seeing a ghost! Some models use sensors to decide when there is something worth taking photos of - like a ghost, hopefully!

Whatever method these devices use, they offer the opportunity to take photos when the wearer is otherwise engaged or maybe not aware they are seeing a ghost. Will it prove another false dawn in the long trail towards the goal of a good photo of a ghost? I do hope not.

8 October: Premonition or ghost?

What's making noises in your house?I was on the first floor of an otherwise empty building recently, waiting for someone to arrive. I didn't know exactly when they'd appear but it was certainly 'soon'. So when I suddenly heard someone moving around downstairs, it came as no surprise. But when, a few minutes later, I heard an external door open and the person came in (for the first time), it came as a shock! Just who or what had I heard before? Could it be a ghost?

The building concerned has no history of any haunting, before or since, so I doubt it was a ghost. However, the incident is the latest in a series of similar events I've experienced over the years. It is always the same scenario. I am expecting someone and I start hearing sounds that indicate they are present. Except they are not. In no case is there any evidence that any ghost is involved. So I'm left to conclude that it is my expectation that is probably responsible.

All buildings produce sounds pretty much all the time. There are creaks in joists and floor boards as the temperature changes (see haunting sounds). Automated machinery, like fridges, heating, plumbing or air conditioning, produces sounds as it operates. The wind or heat of the sun may cause forces that produce slight movements in the structure of a building that also produce noises . There are also noises from outside that leak inside and can sometimes sound like they originate within the building.

When we spend a lot of time in a building we start to unconsciously filter these noises out so that we don't notice them after a while. But we might start to consciously notice the noises again if we are expecting some sounds to indicate an event we are waiting for. I think expectation can 'turn up the volume' so we start to notice noises previously filtered out by our brains (see also new house effect).

In this incident the expectation was simply someone arriving. But it could be a witness who thinks their house is haunted. Or an investigator on a ghost vigil! Interestingly, another interpretation of my experience is as a premonition. However, since I knew the person was about to arrive, it is not exactly evidence of anything paranormal.

6 October: A UFO appears precisely on cue!

UFOWatching the sky recently I noticed something very odd indeed. There were some low clouds moving quickly in the stiff breeze. But the higher clouds above them were moving, more sedately, in the opposite direction! I've never seen this before and hadn't realised it happened. It is relevant to anomalous phenomena for at least two good reasons. Firstly, it is counter-intuitive and so a bit of anomaly in itself. Secondly, I've heard people arguing that the UFO they saw could not have been a balloon because it was moving in a different direction to the clouds above it.

I was thinking about these points, while still watching the clouds, when something quite extraordinary happened - I saw a UFO! It was a small silver object moving quite rapidly across the sky. Careful examination revealed it to be a small balloon, like the one in the photo (right). It was moving in the same direction as the low level clouds. If there had been no low level clouds present, I would have observed the UFO moving in the opposite direction to all the clouds in the sky!

It was, in other words, a perfect illustration of the point I had been considering just before it appeared! For a rare theoretical phenomenon to be observed just when you first think of it must be incredibly rare. It is tempting to consider this incident anomalous in itself. There is, however, no reason to think it is anything other than an amazingly rare coincidence.

The phenomenon of winds moving in different directions depending on altitude is well-known. It is called wind shear. This particular example coincided with a cold front passing during my observation. So, it would appear that the argument that a particular UFO could not have been a balloon or sky lantern, because it is floating in a different direction to the clouds, is not valid. As to whether seeing something you have just been thinking about, playing out in front of you, is anomalous, I reserve judgement! Maybe if it happened again I'd start to think there was something truly strange going on.

2 October: Unfamiliar recall

Crows in a treeWhile at Seriously Spooked, I saw someone (let's call them A) that I recognized instantly. I was also sure I'd never met A before. I decided I must have seen their picture on the web. Except, I couldn't think where. A's identity was later confirmed to be who I thought it was. So, how could I recognise someone I'd never seen before, even in a picture? Maybe it was a psychic insight.

I was discussing this puzzle with someone else when they pointed out that A had actually been at Seriously Strange, about a year before. That's when I started to remember that I HAD indeed seen A at Seriously Strange. In fact, I'm now pretty sure I'd actually spoken to A there. So, mystery solved. But then something struck me.

I have mentioned before how people who recall facts, without being consciously aware that they knew them before, may well consider themselves psychic. I have always excluded myself from that group of people because I have a terrible memory! I'd assumed that cryptomnesia is a phenomenon associated with people can remember a great deal of information, some of which perhaps gets 'misfiled'. But now I'm wondering if it's the other way round completely.

I was able to recognise A but could not recall why. I might still think it a possible psychic insight had I not, by chance, mentioned the event to someone else who was able to fill in some gaps. If I'd had a good memory, on the other hand, I would probably have known instantly why I recognized A.

Later at Seriously Spooked, someone asked me a technical question concerning a subject which I don't know well. Instead of saying 'I don't know', I confidently supplied an answer. It felt right at the time but later I wondered if I'd made a fool of myself. So I looked up my 'answer' and discovered I was completely correct! Even though I can't recall how I came by the information. I think it is probably another example of cryptomnesia. I think that some word or phrase in the question acted as a key to a memory I didn't realise I had. That might be why I felt oddly confident in my answer.

It would be interesting to test the memory capabilities of people who get apparent psychic insights versus the general population. I think you can guess what result I would predict.

Regular readers may recall a song called xenonormal (see here). Now there's another musical piece sharing the name.

1 October: Seriously Spooked

Seriously SpookedASSAP's Seriously Spooked conference, held last Saturday at Aston University, could have been entitled 'an alternative view on ghosts'. But why?

When ASSAP was formed, and for a while after that, the number of people actively investigating ghosts was relatively small. Within that community one of the most popular ideas was that ghosts were some kind of recording somehow imprinted onto the local environment (see here). Another view, fairly widely held, was that there were many different causes for ghost sightings that varied from case to case. Surprisingly few members of the ghost community thought that any ghosts were spirits for the simple reason that there was no compelling evidence from investigations.

Today, of course, the ghost investigation scene has changed out of all recognition. Far more people are involved and the majority take the view, popular among the public, that ghosts are spirits as a given. This is, no doubt, why assumption-led techniques are widely used. Witness interviewing is now much rarer with the emphasis on ghost vigils.

But there are still a small number of people who persist with the 'old' ideas and techniques of investigation. There is a good reason for this. In spite of all the vigils going on, there remains no compelling evidence that ghosts are actually spirits (see here). This group of people effectively form an 'alternative' ghost investigation scene. Many of them are highly experienced, having investigated for decades.

Members of this 'alternative scene' continue researching in their own way. Despite their small numbers, progress is still being made in ghost research. For instance, we have always known, through investigations, that a high proportion of ghost cases are caused by misperception. However, a central mystery remained - how could a witness see details, such as hair colour and clothing when they were, in fact, looking at a poorly-seen tree stump? We now that the visual substitution does this trick. Witnesses really do SEE 'details' about figures because their own brains add them to their visual field. Once this was realised it became obvious that an even greater proportion of ghost cases could be explained in this way. Many others are explained by hallucination and coincidences. There still remain, however, a small proportion of intriguing well-documented cases that are not explainable by these causes.

So Seriously Spooked was mainly for those people who have taken the 'alternative' path to ghost research, or maybe would like to. It was reassuring to see that the 'alternative scene' is thriving.

PS: For more on what actually happened on the day read one person's view here.

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

Last month's (September) website figures are an average of 18285 hits per day. This is significantly up on the previous month's 16693 daily average.


Previous blog pages ...

  • Sep 2014 (including paper defying gravity, low flying UFOs, photographing ghosts, movonmg 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

© Maurice Townsend 2014