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'

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29 Oct: How do you know if you've seen a ghost?

Tricorn figureMost ghost reports describe apparitions as looking just like normal people. I've often wondered, when walking through a crowd, if one of the people I am seeing might actually be a ghost. How would I know?

The most obvious way to recognise a ghost is if it does something impossible, like vanish or walk through a solid object such as a wall. Another way of detecting a ghost is an 'out of place' person. Witnesses report seeing unknown people in buildings when they know no such person should be present. Many ghost sightings fall into this category. Seeing someone in historical costume is a possible indicator of a ghost but there are many mundane reasons why ordinary people might do this. There are other impossible things ghosts could do, like going into a dead end alley and never coming out again, for instance. But what else?

So I was casually watching someone out of a window the other day and I found myself thinking, could that be a ghost? There was a person in the distance apparently staring intently at a wall. This went on for a several minutes. The person then walked off into an area I could not see from my vantage point. I know the area well and I knew the person HAD to emerge from that small space they'd walked into, unless they fancied scaling some high fences or walls. I waited. And waited. No one emerged. That's when I started to think, could it be a ghost? I tried to remember details of the figure as I knew it could be important. Then, finally, after many minutes, the figure emerged looking very normal. They came quite close and I could see it was a completely normal person, as far as I could tell.

This incident made me consider another possible way to identify a ghost - odd behaviour. Ghosts are frequently reported to show no apparent awareness that they are being observed (see here about the unnoticed witness). And when people do not believe themselves observed they sometimes feel free to do odd things. Like staring at a wall for a long period, maybe. Of course, people can act oddly at other times and what may appear odd to one person is perfectly normal to someone else. There may have been something interesting on that wall that I couldn't see from my distance. Or maybe the person were just thinking, not looking at anything in particular.

So is odd behaviour a way to tell if you're seeing a ghost? Well for reasons already mentioned, the obvious answer is no. But, like historical costume, though it's hardly definitive it might indicate a possible apparition. In both cases there would need to be other evidence that it was a ghost.

PS: The photo shows a ghostly figure in historical costume (see here for details).

22 October: Another hi-vis ghost!

UFOSo I was walking past a construction site recently and happened to notice a worker in a hi-vis jacket near a fence. This was, of course, utterly unsurprising. But as I got closer I saw it was just an empty jacket hanging from the fence. I was shocked by this because I was certain I had seen a face. I couldn't describe the face but I was sure it was there. I was even sure the 'person' was moving around. It's possible the jacket was blowing in the wind but as I looked at it close up there was no movement at all. It was not windy. I had the jacket in view the whole time so I know no one took it off while I was getting closer.

This was clearly a case of misperception, a common cause of ghost sightings. What was interesting was that the 'face' and 'movement' were clearly absent but I still 'saw' them. I put this down to expectation. You obviously expect someone to have a face and to move around. I think my brain 'added' these features to the jacket in my initial distant sighting. In contrast, it is not that common to see hi-vis jackets hanging outdoors which is presumably why I misperceived this one as a person. I think it shows how expectation plays an important role in misperception, adding things that look right when they are not really there. Had I never seen the jacket up close I would still be convinced now I'd seen a person in a hi-vis jacket.

Another important point from this sighting is that I 'animated' an inanimate object apparently purely because of expectation. I have not come across this feature of misperception before. I will keep an eye out to see if I can find any more examples. I've never noticed it before so it is probably quite rare.

PS: This is quite different to my previous hi-vis jacket ghost sighting- see here.

15 Oct: The ghost in the alley

glowing figureSo I was walking along an alleyway the other day when I heard someone approaching behind me. I would't normally have paid much attention but I was walking rather slowly so I went to one side of the alley to let the person get by. When no one came I turned round. There was no one there! So, a ghost then.

Thinking about it at the time I realised that what I actually heard was a shuffling sound. It was a windy day and, being autumn, there were leaves on the ground. It was clearly the sound of the leaves, and other vegetation, blowing in the wind that gave me the impression someone was following me along the alleyway. I think another contributory factor is that I knew anyone following me would want to pass in the narrow alley so this no doubt put my brain on higher alert than usual.

Then, a few days later something even weirder happened. I was walling along the same alleyway, again rather slowly. Suddenly there was someone bustling past me. It was a shock because I had not heard them approach at all. I guess this person had a very light step. But I also failed to hear them humming until they drew level too.

So the question is, how could I be so sensitive to a ghostly non-person but miss a real walking human completely? I should have been alert to the possibility of having to move out of the way on both occasions. The obvious difference is the weather. It may be that the increased ambient sound level caused by the wind actually made me more sensitive - indeed oversensitive - to unusual sounds. It makes sense, I suppose, in that it is more important to be alert in a noisy environment when it is difficult to pick up sounds that you are listening for. So, if I wanted to simulate ghostly sounds, I might try doing so with a background of ambient sounds. It sounds worth a try.

PS: Story behind photo here.

8 Oct: Why ghosts and not seahorses?

Dark skyWhy do we see human figures so often in hypnagogic-type experiences (which includes at least some MWRs - see here)? Such experiences often give rise to reports of ghosts. But why do we see apparent ghosts so often and not seahorses, say?

Hypnagogic experiences are basically real sensory input with dream elements added. They happen when people are in a near sleep state between dreaming sleep and full consciousness. In a normal dream the brain would produce both the scene and anything in it, like a person for instance. But with hypnagogia the real scene is already there supplied by our active visual sense. It is like a theatre with scenery but no actors. So what does the brain do? Dreams always involve some sort of action, however absurd, we don't just see unchanging scenes. So in hypnagogia I think the brain adds fictitious 'action' to the real scene. And as a social animal, the most important things in our lives are other humans. You can observe this in other social animals. They are always much more interested in what other members of their own species are up to rather than other animals. So it appears logical that the most frequent element the brain would add to a hypnagogic scene would be a human figure.

It's quite possible that the brain adds other elements to the real scene too. Maybe a witness is in bed, having partly woken up, and sees their bedroom but with an unfamiliar item of furniture in the corner of the room. But if the witness also sees a human figure at the end of their bed, the unfamiliar item of furniture would probably not even be noticed. So our brains might actually be adding more things than just human figures to hypnagogic scenes but we're just not noticing them. It would fascinating to see what happened if a real person walked into the view of someone having a hypnagogic experience. Would they be noticed by the witness?

This is just my speculation about why human figures are common in hypnagogic experiences. Of course, people see all sorts of stuff in such experiences but human figures do seem the most common. Or is that we only remember the experiences where a human figure, or something similarly interesting, is present? Do people even NOTICE they're having a hypnagogic experience when all they see is what they're expecting to see, maybe with the odd detail altered?

1 Oct: How do we recognise ghosts?

Shadow ghostSo, I was standing outside a shop window talking to someone in front of me. We could both see a person inside the shop and I said something like 'don't worry you'll never end up like that'. I've no idea what I meant by this but, given that it was a dream, that's not altogether surprising.

I don't generally remember my dreams. Thinking about it, my hypothesis is that my dreams are so bizarrely different from my real life that they just don't resonate with me. But this particular dream was particularly vivid and there was something from my real life in it. It was striking that the person I was talking to was someone I knew, slightly, in real life. I've only ever met this person once, briefly, over a decade ago. Since then I've also contacted them a small number of times electronically. Since I met this person their appearance has changed a lot. And yet, the person I saw in the dream was very much their current appearance. I know what they look like now because I've seen photos on the internet.

This answered a question I've had for a while about dreams. I know their content never shows something you've not seen when awake (see here). I've always assumed that dream content could include anything seen by the dreamer. So, not just real life experiences but also photos, pictures, videos and fictional content. With this dream I had definite confirmation of this. I had only seen this person's current appearance on a photo on the internet but that was the image my dreaming brain used. This shows dream content is not restricted to actual personal experiences but can include images seen.

What does this have to do with the paranormal? Well, dream content appears to be the source of hypnagogic visions, MWRs (microsleep with REM - see here) and probably other hallucinations, And many of these experiences are reported as paranormal by witnesses.

So, for example, suppose I saw the portrait of someone who supposedly haunted a particular location. I could easily 'see' that person in a near sleep state as a ghost at the location. Naturally, I would recognise the ghost, so apparently validating my experience as paranormal. This may explain how at least some ghosts are recognised by witnesses.

I was struck by how the person in my dream was completely lifelike. It appears the brain is perfectly capable of animating a still picture into a totally convincing 'real' person. So the next question is, where do the unknown ghosts that often occur in near sleep states come from, like those seen by MA (my acquaintance who gets MWRs - see train ghost for example)? I think they may be people the witness has seen when awake, maybe in the street or on TV, but not remembered consciously. That theory would be trickier to test!

© Maurice Townsend 2019


Previous blog pages ...

  • Sep 2019 (including instrumenting ghost vigils, are OBEs paranormal, day to night instantly)
  • Aug 2019 (including how do you recognise an OBE, ghost people, the unnoticed witness - a type of ghost experience)
  • Jul 2019 (including old style ghost vigils, fairy-like photos, tiny shadowt on roof)
  • Jun 2019 (including same ghost seen twice, am I a ghost, why so many ghosts)
  • May 2019 (including hidden ghosts, phantom building work, what should a ghost look like)
  • Apr 2019 (including witness testimony versus photos, can ghosts be photographed, the Vardoger connection)
  • Mar 2019 (including ghostly music, touched by a ghost, ghosts in hi-vis clothing)
  • Feb 2019 (including ghost appearing out of nowhere, hearing music when ghosts appear)
  • Jan 2019 (including staring ghost, are ghosts common, sense of presence, recognizing ghosts)
  • Dec. 2018 (including strange sound from sky, mocked by fate, comparing eye witness report and photo)
  • Nov 2018 (including another bolt from the blue, why aren't ghosts more common, seal in car)
  • 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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