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'

If you want to know when there is a new post here without having to keep checking, and are a member of Facebook, like or follow the ASSAP Facebook community page at this link.

28 November: Startled by seal in car!

Weird sunSuddenly seeing a large live seal in the back of an estate car was a bit startling. It was also unhelpful to one of my ideas concerning anomalous phenomena.

It was MA (my acquaintance), the one who experiences MWRs (microsleep with REM - see here), who actually saw the pinniped in the car. MA was reading at the time, indoors! The scene, which was clearly located outdoors, was a MWR. MA frequently gets MWRs while reading but they are almost always the voice type where someone is heard uttering a brief phrase. The words uttered are usually rather cryptic, like overheard snatches from a conversation between strangers.

Up until recently MA's voice MWRs were almost always associated with reading while the visual MWRs (like the seal in a car) happened while doing other things (often riding on trains). But, as I reported here, MA recently had a voice MWR without reading. And now, it seems, we have an example of a visual MWR occurring while reading! Indeed, MA had several visual MWRs during the same reading session. None of the scenes had anything remotely to do with what MA was reading about.

I once thought that MA's voice MWRs might be prompted by language processing in the brain while reading. But these recent incidents suggest this is unlikely. The visual MWRs consist of random scenes, lacking any context, just like the voice MWRs. Of course, ordinary dreams are often bizarre and if you viewed one for just a few seconds it, too, would appear random lacking context and explanation. But even dreams generally have a narrative, albeit often a strange one.

What intrigues me is how can the brain just come up with what appears to be a short extract from a dream narrative apparently in an instant. One possibility is that it might be a random real memory in the witness's brain. If so, MA certainly can't remember hearing any of the voice MWRs, or seeing the scenes of the visual ones, in real life. MA would hardly forget a seal in a car!

Maybe the unconscious part of MA's brain (and anyone else who gets MWRs) is constantly dreaming while awake. MA would then catch a few seconds of a dream as a MWR, like catching a glimpse of a TV programme. While it fits the experiences, this idea seems unlikely. Having said that, theta brain waves are associated with dreaming and have been found to be more intense in people who have had a bad night's sleep. So maybe people with disturbed sleep patterns, or certain sleep disorders, might actually be dreaming while awake, albeit unconsciously. Such people can be susceptible to experiencing MWRs. And those people may well report frequent anomalous phenomena as a result, if they are not aware of the true nature of MWRs. As to what prompts a MWR to come out as a voice type or a visual type, I'm afraid I'm back to square one.

21 November: Why aren't ghost sightings more common?

Apparent figure by fenceEveryone misperceives all the time. Misperception is a key cause of ghost sightings. In my experience, human figures are one of the commonest forms of misperception (see here). So, given these points, why are ghost sightings so rare? The reason, I think, is that the vast majority of people have a high threshold for noticing misperceptions. By that I mean that only the very 'strongest' of misperceptions are noticed by most people. By contrast, I have a low threshold and see ghosts relatively frequently, as documented in this blog.

So why do so many people have a high threshold? I think it's because misperceptions are the brain's best guess at what a poorly seen object might be. And in most cases that guess is pretty good. In the case of familiar scenes the 'guess' might simply be a visual memory of what was actually there last time. And if we are seeing what we expect to see it does not gain our attention.

The real question then is, why do people ever notice misperceptions, and in some cases report them as ghosts? In my case, I started to notice misperceptions after I first read about the science behind them. I think it sensitized me. I soon realised that there are 'strong' misperceptions and 'weak' ones. I think a really strong misperception would be noticed by almost anyone while a few people, like me, notice weaker ones too. I would characterise a strong misperception as one that survives improved viewing conditions. For instance, a misperception that survives being viewed for more than a second or two would be 'strong'. And a misperception that survives a closer view would also be 'strong'. These are rare.

So what makes a misperception 'strong'? I haven't seen many examples so I can't generalize. However I've noticed that 'strong' misperceptions usually look odd or out of place. An example might be the tricorn hat photo (see above and here for a full account). I always see it as a figure in a frock coat with a ponytail and wearing a tricorn hat. This is clearly out of place in a contemporary setting. Don't worry if you can't see any such figure. It depends on your device display and, given that this is a misperception, some people will simply never see it on any display.

But if a misperception is our brain's best guess at what a poorly viewed object really is, why is it occasionally something so out of place? The appearance of the misperception is constrained by the shape of the real object, in this case a tall, dark reed. I think sometimes the brain's best guess is something unlikely simply because nothing else from visual memory will fit. And this kind of thing might be noticed even by someone with a high threshold. But, in my experience, such out of place misperceptions are really rare. I think in the vast majority of cases, the brain manages to find a visual image that does not stand out. And this is why, I think. when it comes to misperceptions as a cause, ghosts are not being reported all the time.

15 November: Another bolt from the blue!

Weird sunLightning can strike the same place twice. But what about bolts from the blue? Regular readers will recall I experienced a rare bolt from the blue back in June (see here). So, I was standing in a room one day recently, by a window, doing nothing in particular, when there was a white flash! In fact, it was the same window as in June's incident! And once again there was a blue sky outside and sunshine. However, this time there was no loud bang. So what caused this flash from a blue sky?

A brief investigation revealed that this flash was caused by the sun being reflected by a window in a nearby building. Someone was opening the window which is why the sun only reflected briefly, as a flash. The window was above mine and, thanks to arrangement of buildings, the sun can only reflect off it towards me at a particular time of year. The sun takes a slightly different course across the sky every day of the year. The geometry needed to cause this particular reflection can only happen for a few days each year. And to get a flash the distant window needs to be opened sharply. So the odds of this event happening are quite low!

Although not an anomalous phenomenon, such a mysterious flash could be reported as such by someone who did not work out what caused it. This was yet another example of something strange being caused by coincidence. I've witnessed enough of these coincidences to become convinced that they explain many reports of apparently anomalous phenomena.

6 November: Nobody there and no alcove either!

Apparent figure by fenceI was walking through a shopping mall recently when I noticed someone standing in an alcove between two shop windows. Nothing odd about that except that as I got closer the whole scene changed completely! It turned out there was no human figure there at all. Even more bizarre, there was no alcove, just a continuous line of shop window! The 'figure' was actually a display of clothes but not on a mannequin just hanging. Examined closely, it didn't look much like a person!

This strange experience was a misperception. Such misperceptions are a fairly common cause of anomalous phenomena reports. Everyone gets misperceptions but mostly they go unnoticed. I never used to notice them until a few years ago. Now I see a few a day, on average, though it varies a lot. It all depends on not seeing something well (see here for a list of specific circumstances).

Thinking about it, recently, I realised there was something striking about the nature of the misperceptions I've noticed over the years. The sheer variety of things I see as misperceptions is extraordinary. There are, however, just two things that I see far more than any others as misperceptions - writing and human figures. By 'writing' I mean that I see some real writing but misperceive what it says. So I quite often misread distant signs, for instance. I see the words quite plainly, it's just that the sign actually says something else.

What I find really interesting is that so many of the misperceptions I see appear as human figures. Some of the objects misperceived don't even resemble figures, like the example here with hanging clothes in a shop window. I get the impression that the human brain, or mine at least, is biassed towards turning misperceived objects into human figures. If this is a general thing across the population, it might go some way towards explaining why so many ghost sightings turn out to be misperceptions.

PS: For the story behind the photo see here.

1 November: The hand in the 'wrong place'!

Weird sunMy acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleeps with REM (MWR - see here) has had another strange experience that might offer more clues about the nature of such phenomena! MA was on a train (I write that a lot) with some heavy shopping in a bag. At some point in the journey MA was staring at the bag and saw MA's hand on the shopping bag. Nothing odd about that except that MA's hand was actually UNDER the shopping bag at the time. MA left what was clearly a MWR straight away and the hand 'vanished' instantly. The hand was then 'found' where it had been all the time, under the bag. The experience felt so real that if left MA slightly shocked.

This MWR was the first that has featured a part of MA's own body. It was clearly based on the real scene in front of MA, as have many such MWRs before. However, unlike other 'real life scene' MWRs MA's brain should surely have known where the hand really was through the sense of touch. But clearly it didn't!

So what is going on here? It is possible that, in the MWR state, there is no 'live' sensory input, including touch. It is possible that 'real life scene' MWRs are based on visual memory from just before entering the state. But if that is true, why did the MWR 'put' the hand on the bag? Of course, a MWR is essentiality a dream so it is not limited by reality. However, I have an idea about this. The part of the bag where MA's hand appeared in the MWR, consisted of a series of rounded ridges. Superficially, these resembled fingers being around the same size and orientation as the 'hand' seen in the MWR. So my idea is that there IS visual sensory input during at least some MWRs. However, that sensory input is not particularly accurate so it might get changed to something else. This could even explain some ghostly figures seen in MWRs - they might be interpretations of something similar that is really there.

But didn't MA's brain know, or at least remember, where the hand really was? No, because touch is subject to habituation. You don't keep on feeling the seat you are sitting in, after a while you simply are no longer aware it is there. I think that's what happened to MA's hand. There was no longer any sensory input from the hand so MA's brain 'forgot' where it was and had no problem 'placing' it on the bag in the MWR.

If this idea is true it answers one of the questions I've always had about MWRs (and their near relative hypnogogic experiences) - do they allow new sensory input of real scenes or are they based solely on a memory of a scene? I think this latest experience offers tentative evidence that MWRs may include at least some live sensory input. It wouldn't be surprising as real sensory inputs are known to enter normal dreams. It would mean that someone experiencing a MWR might see actual events happening in the real world at the time, albeit subject to reinterpretation. This might make the witness unwilling to accept that what they were experiencing was not entirely real!

© Maurice Townsend 2018


Previous blog pages ...

  • Oct 2018 (including unseen in plain sight, street light interference, ghostly sounds - a purpose?)
  • Sep 2018 (including ghost crow, ghostliy sounds and attention overload, ghostly noises and day dreaming)
  • Aug 2018 (including how do you know when you're looking at a ghost, have ghostly voices stopped)
  • July 2018 (including new mini-OBE, 'sounds behind music' factors, followed by a ghost)
  • June 2018 (including hearing someone who isn't there, a bolt from the blue, when nothing happened)
  • May 2018 (including whether strange phenomena can evolve over time and the sleeping commuter phenomenon)
  • Apr 2018 (including should ghosts be commoner at night, book turns over instantly, 'garden poltergeist' returns)
  • Mar 2018 (including are rare events paranormal, like a time slip, strange leaning man, mystery flashing light)
  • Feb 2018 (including explanation for apparent precognition, ghostly figures, a huge invisible presence)
  • Jan 2018 (including ghostly conversation, ghost selfie, person vanishes, more stuff 'behind' music)
  • Dec 2017 (including a connection between reading and phantom sounds and investigating coincidences)
  • Nov 2017 (including man moving instantly, unexpected fall of night, ghosts rarely turning up on vigils)
  • Oct 2017 (including sounds 'behind' music, non-blurry ghost, ghost with a paunch, small human ghost)
  • Sep 2017 (including seeing ghosts to order, paper defies gravity, precognition, moving aerial mystery)
  • Aug 2017 (including identifiable ghosts, psychic message, like time standing still, on not seeing foxes)
  • Jul 2017 (including invisible ghosts, sense of presence in rain, precognition, haunting sounds)
  • Jun 2017 (including more real that reality, white flying object, pale figure at a window)
  • May 2017 (including ghosts: in a crowd, in a hi vis vest, object movement and sounds)
  • Apr 2017 (including no glasses no ghost, odd ghost, embarrassing ghost, fame month works again)
  • Mar 2017 (including white glowing shape or ghost, another source of 'presence', a ghost returns)
  • Feb 2017 (including fish in sky, best ghost in months, strange transparent object, recounting experiences often)
  • Jan 2017 (including ghostly face, phantom snow boarder, unexpected return of fame month)
  • Dec 2016 (including vanishing mouse. grey fuzzy thing, yellow dots, doppelganger)
  • Nov 2016 (including ghost fox, strange small figure in photo, haunting noises)
  • Oct 2016 (including strange voice, disintegrating ghost, ghostly leaf in focus to short-sighted witness)
  • 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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