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'

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.

ASSAP

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