Forty years on!

Forty years on!

Forty years ago this month ASSAP was formed.  I know because I was there. Sadly, I have a terrible memory so I don’t remember anything about it. So instead, I’ll look at some of the stuff that has happened, or should have, in the last 4 decades. Inevitably, it will be largely from my own viewpoint not an official ASSAP view.

In those long off days, we investigated hauntings largely through talking to the witnesses of paranormal events. We would also carefully examine the site of the haunting, which can you tell you a lot about possible explanations for sightings. If it was considered useful, we might do a ghost vigil in the hope of seeing something ghostly ourselves. Of course, because a ghost might only be reported a few times a year at a particular location it was always very unlikely we’d see anything, which is usually what happened - nothing! Contrast that with what people consider a ghost investigation nowadays.

I sometimes hear people questioning witness reports. We all know that memory of events changes over time and this can lead to inaccuracies. But do people also misreport what they have seen even when it is a fresh memory? Are there really ‘tricks of the light’?  Back then I might have thought so but nowadays I know better. I now understand that misperception can cause you to see things that aren’t physically present, simply due to poor viewing conditions. Our brains replace a poorly seen object with something else from visual memory. So a tree in mist might be replaced by a human figure. But, importantly, we can see the figure perfectly well and produce a detailed description.

So I actually see a figure in a tricorn hat in the photo above (see here for background). But I know there isn't really a figure there. So when someone tells me they saw a cavalier in the woods at night I believe them utterly. It doesn't mean there really was a cavalier there but I'm sure the witness saw exactly what they said they did. Our brains are utterly remarkable and do all sorts of tricks like this. This is something I now appreciate that I didn't 40 years ago. In the cases I've looked at it is clear that misperception and hallucination explain a high proportion. That is also something I didn't realize then.

Author :© Maurice Townsend 2021

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