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'

26 October: Can really wanting to see a ghost allow you to see one?

VigilI've really wanted to see a ghost ever since I was a kid. I utterly failed in that ambition for many years, despite many long nights spent in haunted buildings. Then, a few years ago I saw my first. Since then I've seen a number and can't even remember much about the first one any more. The thing about these ghost sightings is that they were a lot less dramatic than the portrayal of such events in the movies. In most cases, I was unaware I was even seeing a ghost until it vanished! This experience tallies with many other ghost sightings I've looked into that have happened to other witnesses. My own sightings were, in most cases, caused by misperception.

As well as ghosts I also started to notice other misperceptions a few years ago. We all misperceive all the time but almost everybody fails to notice it almost all of the time. Our brains 'fill in' details of the parts of our visual field that are poorly seen with a best guess from visual memory (visual substitution). Most of my misperceptions could not be interpreted as paranormal which is why I don't mention them here.

These 'normal' misperceptions fall into two broad types. Firstly, there are visual substitutions that look 'right'. In other words, they are objects that might well be found in a particular situation but just don't happen to be physically present. Secondly, there are objects that look out of place, things that are unlikely to be present and, of course, are not. The one I see most of is the second type - 'wrong' out of place stuff. I guess this makes sense as I have a marked tendency to notice things that appear 'wrong' in some way.

But here's an odd thing - why should my brain's 'best guess' be something unlikely to be seen in a particular situation? Firstly, I suspect these 'wrong' guesses are vastly outnumbered by the 'right' ones. It's just I don't notice all the 'right' ones because they don't stand out. Secondly, misperceptions are not pure guesses - they are based on the actual visual shapes and colours visible. If these strongly suggest a 'wrong' object then that becomes the 'best guess'.

I am still not sure why I suddenly started to notice misperceptions. I have speculated that it might be that, after reading about research into perception, I gave myself unconscious 'permission' to see them. Or, more recently, I wondered if my birding made me more sensitive to anomalies in my visual environment that others might miss. I am still not convinced either way.

Given that noticing misperception shows no sign of going away, I can only assume that my brain is permanently working differently to the way it used to. Such neuroplasticity is, of course, a well known phenomenon. But why did it happen in my case? My latest idea is this. Having always yearned to see a ghost, perhaps, having seen my first I unconsciously 'remembered' my brain state at the time and managed to reproduce it. Yes, it could be that I see ghosts now because I've always really wanted to in the past! But I'm still not totally convinced.

19 October: A strange voice recognized!

WavesRegular readers will be aware of my acquaintance (MA) who has microsleep with REM (MWR) experiences. These are short part-dream, part-reality experiences that frequently feel paranormal, despite having natural causes. A small proportion of the population has such experiences, often those with certain sleep disorders.

One regular type of MWR that MA gets is voices. It is like a snatch of an overheard conversation, though only one voice is ever heard at any one time (except for a single occasion when there were two). The snatches are often bizarre: ('I have a glorious question going forward tonight', 'Newcastle politics 19', Screeches are off the agenda'). As recently discussed (here), MA has never been able to identify the speaker as a particular known person or even to a region or foreign country. Until now!

MA does not remember what this recent voice said. That's probably because MA was so surprised by the voice itself. It was unmistakably a person MA had heard before. It was a well-known male public figure with a distinctive voice. MA has never met the person but had heard him on TV just the previous evening. This seems unlikely to be a coincidence. It appears likely that MA's brain had used the distinctive voice having heard it recently.

If this is true then why are all the other voices MA had heard before been unrecognizable? The short answer is, I don't know. But if I were to speculate I'd say most were 'archetypal' voices, just as misperceived ghosts are often no one in particular, just an archetypal human figure. It would explain the lack of any regional or foreign accents. So why was this latest voice recognisable? Again, I don't know. The voice was particularly distinctive which may be a clue. Perhaps, for that reason, it was more memorable. We'll have to wait and see if a recognisable voice happens again. If it does, it may provide a further clue to what is going on.

If these voices can include recognizable people it may further encourage the idea of a paranormal origin in those who experience MWRs without realizing their real cause. If the voice heard during the MWR said anything other than words MA has heard that person say before, which is highly likely, it would be interesting. It would show MA's brain was effectively mimicking the famous person. Since people sometimes report meeting famous people in their dreams, I guess this would not be that surprising.

14 October: The disintegrating ghost!

ShadowI looked round to view the large man next to me only for the figure to disappear! So, a ghost then. I was at a rock gig, standing in near darkness at the back of the crowd. There was someone to my right, lots of people in front and this large man to my left. Or so I thought.

I had originally seen the man in peripheral vision. He was quite tall and well-built. He appeared to be wearing dark clothing but it was difficult to distinguish colour in the low lighting conditions. Though I was mainly watching the stage, I did occasionally look around at the audience. That's when I noticed the man. It was as I turned to look at him directly that he vanished. But he didn't fade away, instead he seemed to disintegrate bit by bit. All that was left after a couple of seconds was an empty space surrounded by people on three sides. I realised it had been a misperception all along. What I was misperceiving was not a solid object but a pattern of shadows.

I have seen many misperceptions. Usually they seem to blink out of existence in an instant. But this one was very different. Bits of the figure seemed to vanish one by one as I looked directly at them. I think reason it disintegrated, instead of simply vanishing, was that it was a particular strong misperception.

I had no inkling that it was a misperception at all until I turned to look. I was merely aware of the presence of a large man next to me. There are many references in the ghost literature to partial ghostly figures being seen by witnesses. Perhaps at least some of these sightings could actually have been misperceptions!

11 October: Light anomaly

Light anomalyI took this photo (right) recently. It shows a patch of moss with fallen leaves, as one might expect in autumn. However, in the middle there is something odd. It appears to be a slightly fuzzy orange elliptical translucent object. As it doesn't look very solid I would describe it loosely as a light anomaly. It is clearly in front of the moss so must either be lying on it or floating in the air above it. Incidentally, as the EXIF data confirms, no flash was used.

The answer to this puzzle is in the second photo (right) taken precisely 2 seconds earlier of the same scene. The 'light anomaly' is now in Hoverflyfocus and revealed to be a hoverfly. Notice how the moss is now well out of focus. The hoverfly was around 2m in front of the moss. I was trying to photograph the hoverfly but took the upper photo just after losing focus on the insect.

Had someone taken the picture above and not noticed the presence of the hoverfly, they would only have got the 'light anomaly' photo with no obvious explanation. They might well have concluded that it was some kind of anomalous phenomenon. As it happens, I wasn't deliberately trying to get a photographic anomaly, though I often do. In this case I just got lucky!

6 October: Ghostly leaf in focus to myopic witness!

Bird with out of focus background and foregroundI recently noticed something rather odd and completely unexpected. It was a white leaf which was not attached to a plant. Surprised, I looked more closely at the object and it quickly vanished. So, a ghost leaf then!

It became obvious that the sighting was a misperception. The object being misperceived was a patterned curtain illuminated from behind by the sun. The pattern did include some flowers in its design but they were stylized. The ghostly leaf, however, looked entirely natural.

Now here's the really strange bit. I am myopic (short-sighted) and did not have my glasses on at the time. Though the patterns in the curtain were fuzzy to me (I could not even recognise the stylized flowers), the 'leaf' was not - it was sharply in focus. In the past (here) I'd noted that I do not notice misperceptions when I'm not wearing glasses. Now it seems that is incorrect. I strongly suspect that seeing something in perfect focus (when it's at a distance where everything is out of focus), while not wearing glasses, is probably a sure sign that it is a misperception!

So how come I've never noticed this extraordinary effect before? Perhaps it is a rare effect. Or it could be because, when I'm not wearing my glasses, I don't look at things too closely - I'm usually only concerned with not bumping into anything. I think my visual memory holds images that are IN focus and does visual substitutions accordingly. This makes sense because I wear my glasses most of the time so I probably store all, or most, images in focus in my visual memory.

So, if a ghost witness is myopic and sees an apparition while not wearing glasses (while in bed, for instance), it would be interesting to know if the figure looked sharp or not. A sharp figure might well indicate a misperception. This might be a unique example of a myopic person seeing something in focus unaided, albeit an unreal object. Misperception just keeps springing surprises!

PS: The picture (above right) is just an illustration of a how a sharp object stands out against fuzzy background and foreground. The ghostly leaf stood out for that reason.

4 October: Long live orbs!

Dust into orbsOrbs, it seems, never quite go away. Despite many paranormal researchers deciding that they are photographic artefacts, there are always a few who demur. I view this situation as good!

In science all knowledge is provisional. Newtons's laws of gravitation were eventually superceded by general relativity. Newton's laws were excellent, as far as they went, but there were things they could not explain, like the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury (see here). And relativity itself is constantly subjected to new tests. So far it has passed all the tests, but one day it will fail one have to be replaced by a better theory. That is the way science progresses.

At present the Orb Zone Theory (OZT) explains how orbs are out of focus highlights in the 'orb zone'. From time to time people come up with examples of orbs that do not appear to be readily explained by the OZT. So far, I have not come across any that could not be explained by the OZT. Of course, I haven't seen all the orb photos out there so maybe one already exists. I list the current reported objections to OZT, and why they don't disprove it, here. So before anyone sends me an orb photo that 'disproves' the OZT, they should read that page first in case I've already covered it.

And when, one day, OZT IS shown to be inadequate, it will have to be replaced by another, better theory. There are two very important points that need to be considered by anyone proposing such a new theory. Firstly, the new theory will need to explain not only the anomaly that 'broke' OZT but everything that OZT currently explains AS WELL! Secondly, the theory must be testable so that it too, in turn, could be 'broken' by new evidence. An untestable (or unfalsifiable) theory is not scientific.

So I welcome evidence that appears to 'break' the OZT. Every time such evidence is produced that, it turns out, does not contradict OZT after all, it actually strengthens the theory.

In the meantime I still continue to examine the OZT. You can see the results, which include a video of dust particles turning into orbs as they enter the orb zone (see photo above right), here. For now, at least, the OZT seems to work well at explaining orbs. I actually rather like orbs. That's because, though I love a mystery, I prefer a solution.

Last month's (September) website figures are an average of 15408 hits per day. This is up on the previous month's 15261 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2016


Previous blog pages ...

  • 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
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