ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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Maurice TownsendWelcome to the ASSAP paranormal blog! Though this blog is aimed at anyone interested in the paranormal, it will be of particular interest to the paranormal research community. Updated frequently, but not regularly (don't expect something new every day!), it covers any paranormal topic, as well as highlighting recent changes to the ASSAP website.

Whenever new information becomes available on a subject ASSAP covers, it is added to the relevant pages of the website straight away. So, just because you've read a page, don't assume it will still be exactly the same when you next look. That way the ASSAP website remains an up to date research resource.

The photo (above right, pic by Val Hope) is the ASSAP blogger himself, out looking for anomalies wherever they are to be found, so that you can read about them here. To contact the ASSAP blog, email here.

Important note: If anything in this blog does not make sense, try following the links in text! If it still doesn't make sense, that's probably my fault ...

Previous blog pages ... (including ghosts, UFOs, poltergeists, flying rods, miracles, orbs, hypnotic regression, big cats, vampires, near sleep experiences, premonitions, shadow ghosts, paranormal photos, auras, river monsters and dozens of other subjects)

NB: WDTHDWP = 'what does this have to do with the paranormal'

26 October: Ghostly sounds 'behind' music

Sun behind treeHearing noises downstairs I stopped my music and called out 'hello'. There was no reply. I was uncomfortably reminded of those scenes in horror movies where someone enters a supposedly empty house, hears something and shouts 'hello'. The sounds had stopped and I confirmed that I was alone. So, a ghost then! Such sounds might certainly be considered signs of a haunting!

I first noticed this phenomenon when I was a teenager. I would play music at full volume, as you do at that age, but hear someone from another room shouting. I took this as meaning 'turn it down' and did so. However, I subsequently discovered that no one had shouted at all. I next noticed the phenomenon much later in life. I would be playing music, loudly, and hear either voices or the sounds of someone moving around. This happened when I was completely alone in a building. What's more, as soon as I switched the music off, the voices or noises would stop, only to return (sometimes) if I put the music back on. This phenomenon does not happen that often, maybe a few times a year, whereas I play music much more frequently than that. So clearly there is more to it than simply being alone with loud music on.

I had been meaning to blog about this phenomenon for years but never got round to it. Then, the other day, someone else reported the same thing happened to them. So, it's not just me! What's more, just a few days later I heard the phenomenon again, for the first time in months. Even weirder, today, just as I was preparing to write this it happened once again.

So what factors are involved in producing these ghostly sounds? From my observations, it doesn't seem to be associated with a particular fragment of music. If the same tune is played repeatedly, the sounds occur at different times with each play. So it is not something in the music itself. Nor it is associated with a particular type of music. The music being on loud definitely does seem to be a factor though. Even then, it does not always happen when music is on loud by any means. I have found that if I deliberately listen for the sounds they don't come. It seems that I must be distracted for the sounds to appear.

So the factors seem to be loud music, played when alone and something distracting the witness who is not deliberately listening for the sounds. My best guess is that if a witness is distracted and there is loud music they would be unable to hear someone, or something, sneaking up on them. In other words, it may be an instinctive protection mechanism, to keep the witness aware of any possible threats there may be around. That would make ghostly sounds hallucinatory. This explanation is purely speculation on my part, of course.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has had any similar strange experiences. Maybe it's a well-known phenomenon. I call it 'sounds behind music' but perhaps there is already an official, more catchy, name already.

23 October: This is, of course, impossible!

Paving slabsFollowing on from the last post (16 Oct) I decided to find out, definitively, if I dream in focus. I am myopic and so could, in theory, dream either in focus or out of it. Following some experiments I can now say for certain that I dream in crystal clear focus! This is unsurprising. I wear my glasses virtually all the time when I'm up so my visual memories should be in focus. This would explain how, when I misperceive a ghost while not wearing glasses, it is in focus even though the surrounding scene is not. I've heard there are reports from other witnesses who have seen ghosts in focus despite requiring glasses and not having them on at the time.

I've also noticed another strange thing. When I'm looking at an object with a fine, random pattern on it, like dots in a paving slab, I can see the pattern in focus even though I'm not wearing my glasses. An example is the photo (right). If I looked at these paving slabs without wearing glasses I would see all the little dots perfectly sharply. This is, of course, impossible! Indeed, it could well be reported as an anomalous phenomenon in its own right.

In reality, it is a case of misperception. I'm not seeing the actual dots but a version my brain has constructed from my visual memory. I'm amazed at just how convincing it looks. It is as if I was wearing my glasses. However, if I turn to look at another object nearby it will be blurry. I've only noticed the effect with objects that have a fine pattern on them so far, though it may occur elsewhere.

Clearly, I must have always seen things like this so why have I only just noticed it? That's the thing about misperception, it is only very seldom noticed. That's because the brain constructs a misperception of what is most likely to really be there when an object looks indistinct. So, if you're seeing what you expect to see, it won't draw your attention. I think it is my interest in misperception that has allowed me to notice it now. I'm now intersted in finding reports of strange phenomena from myopic people when not wearing glasses. I'll bet such people have seen some odd things but dismissed them because they don't trust what they see without glasses.

16 October: If a ghost is blurry is it paranormal?

Sharp object blurry backgroundIf a ghost looks blurry is it paranormal? I should add that the witness in this hypothetical case is myopic (short-sighted) and not wearing glasses or contact lenses. ¬†Normally, of course, everything would look blurry to such a person. However, being myopic myself, I’eve seen ghosts IN focus in such situations. Also, I’ve come across reports that other people have had the same experience.

You might think that seeing a ghost in focus, when it should be blurry, might be a sign it is paranormal. After all, it shouldn't be possible in any normal situation. However, in my case it was because the ghost was a misperception.¬† I’ve also seen other misperceived objects IN focus when I am not wearing my glasses. It would appear to be a feature of misperception.

So why would I misperceive things IN focus when they ought to be blurry? Misperceptions happen when we cannot see something well and our brains substitute another object into the scene we are seeing. It appears to be our brain’s best guess as to what the object really is and the substituted image comes from our own visual memory. So this would imply that my visual memories are IN focus, despite my being myopic. This makes sense as I, like many other myopic people, wear my glasses pretty much all the time. So my visual memories should be in focus. Another common source of ghost sightings are hallucinations. In near sleep experiences, for instance, visual elements from dreams are superimposed on real scenery. As far as I'm aware I dream IN focus so I'd expect ghosts to be sharp if I saw one in a near sleep experience when I was not wearing glasses.

So if I saw a blurry ghost when I was not wearing glasses, would that be an indication that it was paranormal? It would certainly imply that the ghost was a real object 'out there', as opposed to something subjective (like a misperception or hallucination). However, it might still not be a paranormal ghost. If I saw someone in historical costume, for instance, I might think it was a ghost when it was someone very real (see here for recent example).

So it seems that whether a ghost is blurry, or not, to someone with myopia while not wearing glasses, is not a reliable test to see if it is paranormal. It has made me wonder if there are any tests that WOULD reliably distinguish a paranormal from a xenonormal ghost. I haven't thought of one yet but I'll continue to think about it.

Incidentally, there is apparently technology currently being developed that could allow people with myopia to see visual displays in focus when not wearing glasses.

11 October: Small human ghost?

Orangey thingRecently I saw 'something' odd in my peripheral vision. As I turned to look straight at it I still wasn't sure what it was but it appeared to be a small human figure in a hood! It was moving a lot which is what attracted my attention. The figure appeared to be leaning over, as if examining something on the ground. However, the idea of a 'small human figure' in a hood appeared unlikely.

Luckily, I took a photo of it and here it is (right). The 'figure' is roughly in the centre of the picture with the 'hood' looking right and downwards. Close examination at the time soon revealed the object to be a tall plant, resembling a reed. It was moving in the breeze while the surrounding vegetation was not because it fully exposed to the wind and clearly had a very flexible stem.

Orangey thing darkThe 'figure' sighting was clearly a misperception. After the misperception 'broke' I did not see she figure again. When I look at the photo here I see something that resembles a figure but I do not see it as one. It is therefore not a photographic misperception (see here).

This sort if thing would not fool many people into thinking it was really a small human figure. But what if the observation had been made in low light? As an experiment I decided to simulate much lower illumination to see what it might look like. So here's the picture (right) darkened using photo editing software. Note how the 'figure' is much more prominent while the background vegetation has mostly vanished. Now imagine it moving strongly in the breeze. It could give a much stronger impression of a small human figure or possibly some kind of animal. Of course a photographic reconstruction won't be quite the same as the seeing something with the naked eye. Human vision is significantly different to what cameras record (see here for a comparison). Nevertheless, I can't help thinking that if I noted something odd in broad daylight then more people would probably see something strange at night. Maybe it would even be seen as a ghost!

6 October: Ghost with a paunch!

Car ghostI think I've seen more ghosts than anyone I know! And here's another one from just the other day. I was leaning down picking something up when I noticed someone standing nearby. Ever curious, I looked round slowly to see who it was. They were wearing dark trousers and a red top but I couldn't see any face because it was concealed by a tree branch. Then suddenly the figure was gone. So, a ghost then!

It realized quickly that it was a classic case of misperception. It was, however, by no means run of the mill. For a start, the ghostly 'figure' was actually made up of two different objects that happened to be in the same line of sight (see here for another recent example of this). Also the 'face' was not so much concealed as not there at all. I had 'seen' a human figure so I had just assumed the face must be behind the tree branch. This is an example of a partial concealment type of misperception (see triggers). Finally, the 'figure' was first viewed in peripheral vision (a typical trigger). And I was not wearing my glasses, so the whole scene appeared somewhat fuzzy even when I looked directly at it. This meant the 'figure' effect lasted a bit longer than a peripheral vision misperception normally might.

So what was I really looking at? The picture (right) is an extremely rough representation of what I saw. While it shows the relative positions of the objects involved correctly, the actual shapes are only approximate. The 'dark trousers' turned out to a black wheelie bin! Above that, the 'red top' was the front bonnet of a car behind the bin. There was a tree (the green object in the picture) just above the car and down the left side of the bin. A branch covered what would have been the upper torso and head, had it been a real human figure.

It is another example of how a partial view of an object can actually make a more powerful nociperception than a complete view. Had the tree not been there, I would not have seen a figure at all because there was nothing to represent a torso or head. But it made a convincing ghost with a paunch for a few seconds at least. And, yes, the figure was in focus (see here for background to this observation).

3 October: What I couldn't say about ghosts!

Floor planI was chatting with a new acquaintance recently, swapping brief biographical details, as you do. When asked about my interests it was with some embarrassment that I failed to mention my ruling passion - ghost research! How could I miss out this most vital interest?

Well, as I considered my answer I saw how the conversation might go. I knew that to the general public, the image of 'ghost research' is largely informed by the TV ghost hunting shows. I knew that it would take a long time to explain how different my ghost research is to what goes on in the TV programmes.

I expect I'll have to explain it one day so I thought I'd try it out here to see if it makes sense. The easiest way to look at how I got to where I am is to see where I came from. I started with an interest in ghosts informed largely by fiction and 'what everyone knows'. For instance, 'everyone knows' that ghosts are spirits, right?

So, when I started in real ghost research I was surprised by what I found. It wasn't a bit like the movies! For instance, ghosts were not instantly recognizable by being transparent or glowing. Instead they looked indistinguishable from normal people until they did something weird, like vanishing. And far from engaging with witnesses, they seemed unaware of their existence! None of this suggested sentient spirits to me.

And then there were hauntings, that 'everyone knows' are the activities of ghosts. But I have never come across any sightings of a ghost actually DOING any of the stuff they were supposedly doing, like moving stuff around. And what about haunting hot spots? These are quite specific small areas within a haunted location where the same phenomena are recorded again and again. So, in the diagram, an apparition might be seen repeatedly in room A, the sound of footsteps may be regularly heard in hall B while faint music is sometimes heard at C in the corner of the largest room. Again, none of this suggests the activity of a sentient spirit. It sounds more like a recording but that is a whole different discussion though ( see here for much more on this).

So after all this I decided to go back to basics. Instead of assuming anything about the nature of ghosts, I now examine the experience of witnessing them. This means looking at the witnesses themselves, the place where the experiences take place and what external event (if any) may be causing them. It turns out that there is no single cause of ghost sightings but many. And, to the witness, all the causes bring about an identical ghost experience. It is obvious that hallucinations (a key cause) can produce ghosts, even ones that might appear to interact with the witness. But misperceptions are every bit as lifelike. That's because what the witness sees comes from their own visual memory! Witnesses don't see a tree that vaguely resembles a human figure, they see a real solid person! And then there are coincidences, another important and often neglected cause of ghost sightings. An example would be someone seeing a figure in historic costume walking along a street apparently not interacting with anyone. It might be a very real human being who just happens to be going to a fancy dress party! As regular readers will be aware, my informal research has shown that these causes explain far more cases than you might, at first, expect.

As you can see, it is rather too long and complicated for a casual chat with a new acquaintance. On the whole I'd say I was right to skip it. Maybe next time ...

Last month's (September) website figures are an average of 9,955 hits per day. This is similar to the previous month's 10743 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2017

ASSAP

Previous blog pages ...

  • 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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