ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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ASSAP bloggerWelcome 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.

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. See here!

30 September 2011: Ghosts of an Indian Summer

SquirrelLong dark shadows invite ghosts! That's my experience anyway. Here in the UK, summer has finally arrived, some three months late. We are finally getting gloriously sunny hot days, unlike in July or August. The only problem is that, at this time of year, the sun does not climb very high in the sky. So it produces intensely dark long shadows in the daytime. I've been noticing far more misperceptions than usual as a result (shadows are important trigger for visual substitutions). No ghostly figures so far but I did see a 'squirrel' on someone's lawn. It was so convincing that I waited a minute or two for the 'animal' to move.

It didn't, of course. The 'squirrel' was actually a pronounced shadow cast by a long tuft of grass on someone's lawn, seen from a distance. The overall effect was of a squirrel standing motionless on the lawn, it's tail arched behind. The strange lack of movement, highly unusual in squirrels, was a giveaway in the end.

I would not be at all surprised if there was a higher than usual number of daytime sightings of ghosts in the UK at the moment. Sadly, with so many ghost researchers around, few of whom talk to each other, there is no way of collecting national statistics on such incidents.

One interesting spike in recent UFO sightings that HAS emerged recently involves flying pigs! See David Clarke's blog for more on this intriguing subject.

28 September 2011: The tidy ghost

When I looked around, there was no sign of the paper! It was impossible! Had a tidy ghost improbably intervened in my life?

I was doing household chores that involved dumping used bits of paper in a tiny improvised bin. However, I got fed up of walking to the bin to dump bits of paper. So, on the last occasion, I simply threw the paper behind me, without looking, mentally making a note to tidy up later.

Later, when I turned around, there was no sign of the paper anywhere. I searched all around but it was nowhere to be seen. Then I looked in the tiny bin to find the paper there! Somehow, I'd managed to throw, without aiming, looking or even any deliberate intention, the bit of paper straight into the tiny bin. It was difficult to drop the bits of paper into the bin even when dropped directly from above!

I wondered what the odds of doing that throw by chance were. I'm sure if I tried to replicate it intentionally I would soon be surrounded by a carpet of bits of paper and an empty bin. It wasn't quite as unlikely as a hole in one in golf but still a bizarrely unlikely coincidence.

It reminded me of incidents in haunting cases where objects apparently disappear from where they are left, only to turn up somewhere else later. I'm sure some of these incidents are about forgetfulness. But others might be coincidences. We've all searched for lost objects high and low, only to find them somewhere in plain sight. Sometimes we don't search certain places because, unconsciously, we 'just know' they can't be there. I didn't look in the bin initially because that was the least likely place for the paper to be!

Of course, all of us lose items from time to time. But when the place where it happens is said to be haunted, inevitably it gets blamed on the ghost!

27 September 2011: Did MADS alter ghost theory?

Do ghosts emit electromagnetic (EM) fields or do they disturb existing ones? Both reasons are given as a justification for using EMF meters but which, if either, is true? And where did such ideas come from in the first place? Teasing out the clues to this mystery offer an insight into the way paranormal theories appear to work.

Scientific theories stand or fall utterly on evidence. If evidence contradicts a scientific theory, it means the theory is wrong and needs changing or replacing. With paranormal theories things are apparently a little different. Paranormal theories tend to remain much the same, even when the evidence changes. What appears to happen is that contradictory evidence is 'absorbed' into the theory, even 'inverted', so that it becomes a support instead.

If this sounds unlikely, consider this example. There is a general paranormal theory that ghosts are spirits. There is little from the literature of spontaneous ghost reports to actually support the idea but that it persists nevertheless. And by using assumption-led methods on ghost vigils, it is unlikely any contradictory evidence will appear!

So what happens when contradictory evidence arises elsewhere? Michael Persinger did lab research showing that certain magnetic fields (EIFs - experience inducing fields) can induce some people to have hallucinations resembling ghostly experiences. So it implied that at least some ghost sightings may arise from the existence of local EIFs. When this was revealed to the paranormal community in the 1980s I predicted that this idea would, in time, get inverted to be 'ghosts emit EM fields'. And so it proved!

My prediction was that paranormal theories would 'invert' the idea of EIFs so that, instead of contradicting the idea that ghosts are spirits, they would end up supporting it. So if people found EIFs at a haunted location, it would not be seen as evidence of a natural explanation for the phenomena reported but, instead, a sign that an invisible ghost was present causing the EM fields! In that way, the central idea that ghosts are spirits carries remains unchallenged. So people would then use EMF meters is to detect ghosts emitting EM fields! I've been looking for years to find any field studies that empirically support the idea that ghosts emit EM fields but have yet to find any (see here).

More recently a new idea has arisen that gives an alternative reason for the use of EMF meters in ghost hunting. It is now said that ghosts disrupt existing EM fields. Such a disruption would, to an EMF meter, appear more or less indistinguishable from ghosts emitting EM fields. So why the change in theory? As it makes little or no practical difference to meter readings, and once again there is no obvious empirical evidence for it, how did this new theory appear? I have a theory!

A few years ago researchers used MADS equipment at haunted Muncaster Castle in Cumbria. There was a good deal evidence from independent witnesses reporting the same haunting phenomena in the Tapestry Room. The researchers looked at the magnetic characteristics of the room with equipment capable of detecting EIFs (which EMF meters cannot!). They discovered that the most likely source of EIFs was the bed itself, which contained a flexible iron mattress support. The bed itself distorted the local geomagnetic field and, if someone was lying in it, their own movement could induce EIFs! So, if the Muncaster haunting was indeed produced by EIFs, they did not come from a ghost (or anything else) emitting an EM field. Instead, they originated from disruptions to the local geomagnetic field!

The results of this research are quite widely known among the paranormal community. My theory is that this idea of a 'disrupted local EM field' may have been adapted from the MADS research. It could be responsible for the idea that 'ghosts disrupt existing EM fields' rather than emitting them.

I will admit, straight away, that the evidence for all of this is circumstantial. I do not know precisely when the 'ghosts emit EM fields' and 'ghosts disrupt existing EM fields' theories first arose. So it is all speculative! Maybe, in reality, the theories first came about because someone saw an EMF meter 'spike' as they saw a ghost. If that's so, you have to ask, why was someone using an EMF meter while seeing a ghost in the first place? What gave them the idea to try it?

My own idea is that EMF meters may first have been used as ghost hunting equipment because they were cheap, easily available and anything was worth trying. They are, of course, designed to look for EM fields from mains powered equipment and no one, so far as I know, has ever seriously suggested that ghosts get power from such a source!

Anyway, there you have it, my idea for why the 'ghosts disrupt EM fields' theory is gaining traction currently. At the very least, the timing of the appearence of these ideas is interesting. If anyone has any evidence on this question, either way, I'd love to hear it!

23 September 2011: The Paranormal Olympics results!

I know you've all been waiting for the results of the Paranormal Olympics event that took place at the Seriously Strange conference in Bath earlier this month. So here they are!

Meanwhile New Scientist has this week published a video showing how brain scans can reproduce what a person is actually seeing! Jack Gallant, with colleagues at the University of California, recorded brain activity while subjects were watching lots of visual images from movies. Then they looked at brain activity while subjects were watching specific images and ran software using previous scan recordings to recreate what the person was seeing.

It is only a matter of time, it seems, before we can actually watch what people are seeing from looking at their brain activity. As we know, what people see does not always correspond with physical reality. So we might actually be able to see misperception and hallucinations in action! It might be possible to finally sort out which ghosts are misperception, hallucination and which possibly paranormal!

22 September 2011: How one house became haunted

Why was that particular house widely considered to be haunted? It's something I wondered about years later. The house was adjacent to the primary school I once attended. As a pupil there I believed, in common with most other kids, that it was haunted. And yet there was no obvious indication of ghostly activity. I never saw a ghost there nor met anyone who claimed they had. It was just an ordinary house, probably a few decades old, that didn't look particularly spooky. I remember studying it as a kid, at a distance naturally, but never seeing anything weird going on. That didn't stop me believing it was haunted, though.

When I got older I lost my awe of the house and saw it for what it was - an unremarkable building. So why were pupils in the school next door convinced it was haunted? I think it was just because it was there, in plain sight of the playground. It was the only house that could be seen so easily from the school grounds. Add in the fact that kids are often interested in ghosts, but tend to draw their knowledge of them from TV shows, and you have a recipe for baseless speculation passing for fact. A little peer pressure probably helped too!

As it happened, I later came to know someone who actually lived in the 'haunted house'. They never mentioned anything weird going on there and I never asked! Since I had absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any haunting, apart from children's rumours, you'll understand why I never raised the topic.

I'm sure there are other buildings that have acquired a reputation for being haunted on just such flimsy speculation, and not just among kids. At least if they look spooky such claims of a haunting are more understandable. But if we really want to say that a building is haunted there should be evidence from a few independent witnesses, ideally providing similar corroborating testimony. It makes you wonder how many allegedly haunted buildings really are!

21 September 2011: A rare transparent ghost!

I was transfixed by the transparent figure walking through the gate! There were many reasons for my shock. Firstly, as I've mentioned many times, while most people would assume a transparent figure was a ghost, they are hardly ever reported. Though common in fiction, the transparent ghost is a rare beast indeed in the wild. What made things even weirder (!) was I had just been idly turning over in my mind what I should blog about next. And here it was!

But let's rewind a little. I first noticed the figure in my peripheral vision. I was on a bus, which was stationary at the time. The figure was on the pavement outside, walking past a gate into someone's front garden. At that point I could not see that the figure was transparent but I still felt there was something 'wrong' with it. So I turned to look directly at it. I saw it was transparent figure but quickly realised it was a reflection, in the bus window, of someone getting out of the other side of the bus. So, not a ghost, but it certainly looked really exciting for a whole second or so!

I think what made the figure a convincing ghost, if only briefly, was that it behaved just like a normal person (!), walking through a garden gate. And that was my original interpretation when I saw it in peripheral vision. But there was also something weird about the figure which drew my attention to it. So why did I think it was 'wrong'? Even though the figure was in unreliable peripheral vision, I think my unconscious brain could see enough to deduce it was transparent and so definitely 'not right'. Otherwise I might have simply assumed it was a real person and never bothered to look.

So here we have two factors interplaying: (a) my unconscious assumption that it was a human figure, because it behaved like one and (b) the sense of something being wrong, also unconscious. This is typical of many ghost report. Witnesses may report seeing an obvious solid, normal human figure but are nevertheless aware that there is something 'odd' about it. The figure might be strangely motionless, for instance, or in a location you would not expect to see someone. This kind of 'normal but weird' aspect is typical of misperception. It is caused by your brain making an unconscious guess about what something not seen well might be and getting it wrong. As a result, the guessed object does not behave as it should. See here for another recent example. The effect is, in summary, an interplay between the expected and the unexpected that leads to a feeling of something being eerie.

So what is the cause of other rare real-life sightings of transparent ghosts? While some might be reflections, particularly in dark conditions where the presence of a reflective surface has not been noticed by the witness. Others may be hallucination, like those caused by near sleep experiences. Could any be actually paranormal? Well, who knows, but the fact that the vast majority of ghost reports are of solid figures tends argue against this.

As to the fact that I was thinking about something to blog about at the time, well that's a coincidence!

PS: More coverage of ASSAP's 'big announcement' here and here.

19 September 2011: Unexplained or unexpected?

I could hear someone coming up behind me quickly. As it was daylight and a public space, I wasn't particularly alarmed. But what happened next was definitely unsettling! The person, instead of passing me, vanished into a bush! The young man carried on walking quickly into what I then realised was a large hole in the bush that I'd never noticed before, despite walking past that spot most days! It was clear, from the lack of the sound of breaking twigs, that the hole continued as a sizeable tunnel through the thick, tall undergrowth for some distance. It was clearly a well worn but almost completely concealed path that I'd never noticed before. It is, I think, a shortcut, that avoids a lengthy walk along several streets. It is probably used by several enterprising locals.

Now suppose there was someone watching this scene from a short distance away. They would have seen me dawdling along a public path while a man in a hurry came up behind me. Now if the observer looked away, only for a second or so, they would have looked back to see me motionless, staring into a thick bush and no sign of the other man. They might have concluded that the man following me was a ghost as there was no obvious place for them to have gone in one second flat! The effect might have been even more pronounced if I wasn't there staring into a bush and so offering a clue to the mystery of the vanishing man.

Regular readers will know that I note such experiences regularly and record some of them here. The reason is that they remind me of a number of ghost reports I've come across down the years. They always follow the same pattern. A witness notices a human figure, looks away briefly (usually just seconds), looks back and the figure has vanished utterly. In every case it is apparently impossible for someone to have vanished from view so quickly. The witness then concludes, not unreasonably, that they've seen a ghost. Another common factor is that, in many cases, the witness does not closely investigate the area to see where the figure might have gone. This is, no doubt, due to the common perception a ghost is not something you want to actively pursue!

What my experiences have shown is that there are often places where a human figure can go, even where it seems incredibly unlikely. In this case, I'd walked past these bushes hundreds of times before and never once noticed the large 'tunnel' through them. But it was obvious from the speed with which the man entered the 'tunnel' that it provided ample space to walk through easily.

I think the important factor here is that the man did something unexpected! I know that public path very well and knew there was a fork just beyond my position. I 'knew' the man must pass me and go one of two ways. Instead, he went by a previously unknown (to me) third alternative path!

Human brains unconsciously predict how things will happen, based on experience and current observed circumstances. It is how we can cross a busy road safely. We know that cars will follow their lanes predictably and how long it will take them to reach our position. Getting such unconscious predictions wrong could lead to nasty consequences!

When we see someone walking along a public path, we unconsciously assume they will continue along it and not suddenly veer off into a big bush! So if we look away at the crucial moment, the person appears to vanish! There is no obvious place where the figure could have gone in the second or two while we were looking elsewhere. It is not that unreasonable to think we've seen a ghost!

An important clue that the 'unexpected', rather than the 'unexplained', might account for many such ghost sightings is that the witness always looks away at the crucial time. They never actually SEE the figure vanish, as a ghost might do. They also assume that ordinary real human beings behave predictably, unlike ghosts. Well, sometimes ordinary people don't behave predictably! People sometimes do odd things. Or, at least, odd if you don't know what they're thinking! The take-away message is that you should expect the unexpected and not assume it is diagnostic of the paranormal. Unless you actually SEE a figure melt away before your eyes, you cannot assume they simply vanished.

15 September 2011: You never forget your first paranormal experience

Where were you when you had your first paranormal experience? Well, that's assuming you've had a paranormal experience at all which, I suspect, is true for most readers here. Many people remember where they were when they heard about a dramatic world event, like 9/11. They recall their surroundings as if they were 'flashed' into their memory. It seems likely that many people will form such 'flashbulb memories' when they have a dramatic personal experience, like witnessing something paranormal. I say 'many', as opposed to all or most, because a large proportion of such experiences are not seen as paranormal at the time. Someone may see a human figure, for instance, and only realise AFTERWARDS that they were alone at the time! Nevertheless, it seems likely that some paranormal experiences will produce flashbulb memories (FMs). That's potentially useful because FMs are thought to be particularly detailed and resistent to forgetting.

However, recent research (in last week's New Scientist) suggests that FMs may not be as accurate as we once thought. It was found that details of flashbulb memories generated by 9/11 were only 60% accurate a year later and 50% after 3 years. It turned out that FMs, though indeed vivid, detailed and resistent to forgetting, are not particularly accurate. The unique aspect about FMs may be that they have high emotional content.

This reminds me of conversations I've had with witnesses to paranormal events many years previously. They can often remember the place and event in great detail, despite the time that has elapsed. If these are FMs, it might explain these features. BUT, and it's a big but, just how accurate are these memories? Like all memories, details change over time by a process of confabulation. Our brains unconsciously fill in, or alter, details of memories with what is 'probable' rather than strictly accurate. However, our brains also tell us that these new memories are true! So a FM will seem as vivid and detailed after many years as it was at the time. The problem is, it may be largely wrong!

It is, therefore, vitally important to investigate paranormal reports as soon as possible after they occur. As time passes, confabulation will inevitably take its toll on our memories, even FMs. Indeed, the main difference between FMs and normal memory may not be accuracy but vividness. Simply because you remember something vividly, and in great detail, it doesn't mean it really happened like that.

14 September 2011: Not quite alone!

I was not alone! This came as quite a shock as I knew for a fact I was in a locked empty building! I felt the shot of adrenaline before I even realised there was anything eerie in view. It was a child, totally motionless, in a foetal position lying in a chair. Realistically, it could only be a ghost! In reality I had just misperceived a dark rucksack adjacent to a white bag. In my defence, it was very low light and the 'child' was in my peripheral vision - typical conditions for a visual substitution. And seeing a human figure when you are all alone is always a discomforting experience.

It was a strikingly realistic image. So much so that the same combination of objects caught me out again, twice! Usually you don't see a misperception twice because your brain recognises what it really is and remembers it. Not this time! I tried re-arranging the objects a little and I did not misperceive them again. This is one of the problems with investigating possible misperception. If objects have moved significantly since the original sighting, the misperception might not work any more. It is vital to get on site as quickly as possible.

It is interesting that a misperception can be so powerful that it works repeatedly with the same witness. I think the key points contributing to that power were (a) that the 'figure' was in a position where you'd expect to see someone - in a chair - and (b) of a similar size and shape to a real child. The white bag was also crucial - it gave the impression of a face. Once it was moved slightly away from the 'body' (rucksack), the misperception stopped working. Another factor here was how disturbing the image was. Seeing anyone when you are sure you're alone is very disconcerting. And a vulnerable-looking unknown child is a distressing sight.

This is the most powerful and disturbing misperception I've had to date. It is easy to see how someone who did not investigate the real cause of such a sight would note only report seeing a ghost but be distinctly anxious about their experience. As paranormal investigators we should always be sensitive to such anxiety, even if it has a natural cause.

PS: The 'big announcement' page has been replaced by a special 'Professional Body Consultation' set of pages. If you've already looked at the old page, you will want to see this much expanded new version here.

12 September 2011: The big announcement!

For information on the big announcement at the ASSAP conference, see here and here.

It was easily the scariest thing I've ever done for ASSAP. Sleeping in the haunted Tapestry Room at Muncaster Castle was much less stressful. I had to attend a gala dinner and dress smartly! The Seriously Strange conference, held to celebrate thirty years of ASSAP, was the biggest event we've ever organized. And we'd certainly never had a formal dinner before. I was more used to a sandwich buffet at a training course, usually in a haunted mansion. The turnout for the dinner was amazing, comprising over half of all those attending the conference. As I looked around at the packed room, it all seemed a long way from ASSAP's inaugural meeting in a small office in central London. I can't remember but I suspect we didn't even have biscuits on that occasion! And we certainly didn't have Stephen Volk speaking.

Helping out with Paranormal Olympics, I barely got to see any of the lectures, which was a shame as they were really good, judging from the reports I received. Easily the most popular topic among the wide range of subjects on offer was ghosts! This tended to confirm my opinion, expressed below, that it is the subject that interests most members. Nevertheless, even the most single-minded ghost enthusiast usually has time for a wide range of other weird subjects. It seems we got that bit right thirty years ago.

PS: I'm not going to comment on the announcement of ASSAP becoming a professional body because I wouldn't want anyone to think what I was saying was the official ASSAP line! My days on the Exec are over!
PPS: Some people have noticed that though our web address is assap.ac.uk our email currently goes to assap.org addresses. This will change in future but it does not imply we have a second website. We have just one site and you can get to it either via .ac.uk or .org addresses.
PPPS: (I know, this is getting silly!) There is lots of positive reaction to the conference on facebook!

8 September 2011: Why so many ghosts?

It's wall to wall ghosts here! Or at least that is the impression some people may take from this blog. Is it true?

Firstly, the blog is not ALL ghosts but they are the most frequently discussed topic. Secondly, though ASSAP clearly covers a wide range of subjects, it is the most popular one among members. It is also probably the best known anomalous subject with the general public. Just about everyone knows someone who's had a ghostly experience. That's not something you could say about UFOs, for instance.

I do, however, have specific reasons for returning to ghosts a lot here. It is the most accessible of the non-laboratory subjects that we cover. That's because of the sheer number of reports, compared to other phenomena. Even better, you can go to specific haunted locations with at least a slight expectation of experiencing something yourself. Though many cryptozoological animals are tied to a general geographical area, like the Loch Ness Monster, it is not usually as specific as one room in a building! Last, but hardly least, hauntings is the subject studied most by ASSAP down the years.

Even more importantly, I see ghosts as a test case for anomalous phenomena in general. There are clear parallels between reports of ghosts, UFOs, monsters and so on. All involve witness testimony, very few are recorded on video, for instance, and almost all leave no physical trace to examine. All the investigator has to go on is witness testimony, often from just one individual, and the scene of the sighting. Given these strong parallels, if we can work out why people report seeing ghosts, similar explanations will probably apply to other anomalous phenomena

We know, from investigation, that most ghost reports are caused by misperception. The same is true of UFOs and may well be the case for alien animals too. Near sleep experiences are also an important cause of ghost sightings. While these are unlikely to cause UFO sightings, they have been implicated in some alien vistation and abduction cases. Coincidences can explain some witness reports of various phenomena, including some cases of apparent telepathy and precognition.

So rather than explain how these things apply across the board to many reports of anomalous phenomena, it is easier to talk mainly about ghosts that most people will be familiar with. Ghosts are also 'big' with the media, due to many the paranormal ghost hunting shows, not to mention magazines. So discussion of ghosts attracts widespread attention.

Are ghosts (and haunting phenomena) the most common anomalous experience? I don't know of any formal statistics on this but I would guess the answer is definitely yes. As to why, I would guess it is largely due to the heavy coverage in the media. Whenever there is well-reported UFO sighting, it prompts a flurry of further reports. The more or less continuous media coverage of ghosts and hauntings must produce a similar, but larger and on-going, effect.

So, I make no apology for talking about ghosts a lot!

6 September 2011: There's something not quite right about that ghost fox!

Watching the ghost fox recently I was struck that there was something odd about it. It was too big! This is the same sighting as the one mentioned yesterday, an experience I had recently. The fox had all the expected proportions (not surprising as it was a misperception and therefore the product of my own visual memory!) but it was just too large. As it melted into the bush it really was, the reason became obvious. The bare branches suggesting the fox's face were too big for a real animal. So what I saw was also too big. It is difficult to say how big now but maybe twice 'normal' size. That's not so big as to suggest an entirely different species but large enough to bring on a bit of cognitive dissonance.

Since misperceptions depend not simply on our own memory but also on the structure of the object being misperceived, it suggests a possible indicator of visual substitution. For instance, suppose someone sees a human figure that subsequently vanishes. This will, in many cases, be considered a ghost. But suppose, on visiting the site, we try to estimate the height of the figure by comparing it with nearby objects. If the height were to turn out to be 3m then clearly it is too tall for a real human being (or their ghost). Such a 'scale problem' might not be obvious to the witness at the time. Unless they try to work out the size by an object comparison, they will probably just see a 'normal' human figure. After all, 3m is not that much bigger than the tallest people so it might not look too odd from a distance.

This 'not quite right' factor may be a good indicator that a paranormal report was generated by misperception. Another common example might be if the 'figure' is unnaturally still. Obviously, a tree stump isn't going to move so any misperceived human figure it produces will also be completely stationary.

As always when misperception is suspected, you need to examine the site of the sighting very carefully. You may well discover oddities, like the figure being impossibly tall. It is also worth asking the witness if there was anything 'odd' about the figure. This may seem a strange question when we are talking about a ghost! However, for that very reason, the question is probably never asked and so vital information is currently being missed!

5 September 2011: Slightly foxed

FoxI saw the fox for perhaps a second or two, maybe less. Staring idly out of the train window I had half expected to see a fox as I'd seen them in that precise location before. This time, however, the 'fox' quickly turned into a bush, with a strong V shape formed by bare branches at the front. I guess it counts as a ghost under the definition of "a ghost (or apparition) is a human (sometimes animal) figure, witnessed by someone, which cannot be physically present" (see here). Note the reference to animals!

It is interesting how few visual objects it takes for someone to recognise it as a face. Think of how you might draw a face if you were producing a cartoon. A line and two dots, suitably arranged, readily suggest a human face. It not only works in a cartoon but also in an otherwise random selection of shapes, such as foliage or shadows. In my own 'ghost fox' case, it was the strong V shape that suggested the shape of a vulpine face, complete with long pointy ears. If you look at a fox face-on (see photo, right), you'll see what I mean. You certainly wouldn't see it as a human ghost!

This is my first animal ghost misperception (I'm not counting the blackbird as it was just a black shape). I've seen several ghostly human figures through misperception, most having been documented in this blog. So it is nice to add an animal to the list. Given the variety of animal face shapes it's probably only a matter of time before I see other species.

I am constantly amazed at how powerful these misperceptions are. I literally saw a fox, not a bush, at least for a second or so. It should be said, however, that I was actually expecting to see a fox! So this would certainly have biassed my perception. I doubt very much I'd ever seen an elephant in this way. Of course, in haunted locations, witnesses are often expecting to see ghosts so the same factor probably plays an important part there too.

I've never come across a report of a ghost fox. Most ghost animals reported seem to be those closely associated with man, like pets or working animals. This may stem from the idea that ghosts are spirits (despite the lack of any compelling evidence). Perhaps the idea that pets might have spirits is acceptable to most people but ghostly wildlife is going too far. Some people have suggested that reports of cryptozoological animals, like the Loch Ness Monster, may be ghosts. However, there seems no obvious evidence for this, like the monster vanishing for instance. However, it is certainly likely that many monster reports are caused by misperception, just like many ghost reports. So there may well be a close connection between monsters and ghosts, just not the one most people might imagine!

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

Last month's (August) website figures are an average of 9180 hits per day. This is down a lot on the previous month's 12196 daily average but that was unusually high because we were linked from a popular website. The number of hits is still up on June's more typical figure of 8369.

ASSAP

Previous blog pages ...

  • 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 and naked eye orbs)
  • 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 2011