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.

24 September: The skittering black thing in the alley

dark skyI don’t associate sunny hot days with encounters with strange unknown entities. Such events  seem more appropriate to dark stormy nights. So a recent encounter took me completely by surprise.

I was walking along  a path approaching a narrow alley. It was a bright, sunny hot  day. However, the alley is surrounded by thick vegetation and shrouded in deep shadows.  I could barely see a thing as I entered the alley. There was another factor affecting my sight. I wear glasses and they go dark in bright conditions. They had been duly darkened by the bright sunshine so when I entered the dark alley I could barely see anything.

What I did see was disturbing. There was a black shape skittering directly towards me along the ground. It was basically elliptical in shape maybe 15 cm across. It was only a couple of centimetres high. And it was completely black! The overall impression was of a jet-black crab running towards me, though I could see no appendages. I should explain that while I like and am fascinated by most animals, I’ve never been keen on crabs. I know it’s silly but crabs just unsettle me. So that probably explains why I froze and stared at the bizarre approaching black thing with trepidation.

To my relief the skittering black thing stopped just before it reached me allowing me to look at it more closely. It turned out to be a fragment of black bin liner propelled by a lively breeze. It’s not the first time I’ve been surprised by how strange a windblown bit of plastic can look, especially in poor viewing conditions. I’ve no doubt such objects have generated reports of anomalous phenomena.

One point of particular interest here is how my glasses affected what I saw. When interviewing a witness it is easy to assume that if it was a bright sunny day they would have had a good view of an anomaly. But if they were wearing glasses that get dark in bright conditions, or sunglasses, and entering a shady area …

10 September: Why so many apparent anomalous phenomena about?

ball of lightWhy are there so many xenonormal phenomena about? It has puzzled me for some time. The xenonormal is stuff that appears to be paranormal but has natural explanations. In my experience a lot of cases are resolved as xenonormal. But why is there apparently so much stuff out there that appears paranormal but isn't? It's odd!

I think misperception, a cause of many apparently paranormal reports, could be a key component here. Usually misperception happens when an object is difficult to see due to poor viewing conditions. In such cases our brains visually substitute the object in our field of view with a best guess from visual memory. If we can subsequently get a better view then the misperception ‘breaks’ and the real object is seen instead.  What happens is that the additional visual information gained allows for a better more accurate guess (see recent blog post).  

But there is another cause of misperceptions – seeing an unfamiliar object.  In this case the object may be seen perfectly well.  It means that even if you get a better view the misperception may persist. You continue to see you brain’s best guess at what the object is.

Suppose you see an unfamiliar object in the sky at night. Beyond the moon and stars most people are not very familiar with other objects in the night sky, like planets, satellites, meteors not to mention terrestrial things like flares, aircraft, laser displays and so on.  So someone might see a persistent misperception of such an object.  And what form might that misperception take? Well, it could be something like a flying saucer. Why? Because it is a familiar night sky visual memory from science fiction movies.  So the witness might describe having seen an alien spacecraft even though the sighting had a mundane explanation. And the witness’s sighting would ve perfectly reall – to the witness.

I think this is where a lot of xenonormal phenomena may originate – people seeing things they are unfamiliar with and misperceiving them. But why misperceive the unfamiliar as anomalous phenomena? My guess is most people probably have mundane misperceptions that they don't report. It's the relatively small proportion who misperceive aircraft as alien space ships or trees as ghosts that we hear about.

When a witness to something anomalous says they know what they saw, I believe them. The real question is whether what they saw corresponded with what was actually physically present.

1 September: Does the 'ghosts in the breaks effect' stili occur?

apparent white figureIn the old days (last century) ghost vigils were a little different to modern ghost hunting. The usual format was for people to sit around quietly in one location within a haunted property for a fixed session. Then there would be a break before moving off to another location for another session and so on. Instrumentation was minimal, maybe just a notebook, camera and sound recorder and possibly a thermometer (for cold spots). Some of the locations would be known hot spots (see here) while others were not. The idea was to experience whatever had been reported previously by casual witnesses. If anything did occur, which was extremely rare, it would be investigated to see if there might be a natural explanation.

But here’s the interesting bit. Many of the phenomena recorded on these ‘classic’ (retro?) vigils actually occurred during the breaks between official sessions. Of course, during breaks participants were not watching and listening attentively for anything unusual. Nor were there any controls in place, like knowing exactly where everyone was.

So what are we to make of this ‘ghosts in the breaks’ effect? Well, the lack of controls suggests an increased probability of natural causes. There is also the intriguing possibility that looking intently for ghostly phenomena might actually make them harder to see! I often deliberately look for misperceptions that could be taken for ghosts. I am rarely successful but then notice such misperceptions when I’m not looking for them.  I wonder if the unconscious part of the brain is better at spotting such things (and then alerting the conscious bit) than the conscious bit. This makes perfect sense as misperception is an unconscious activity.

I thought the ‘ghosts in the break’ effect would have disappeared in the very differently organised ghost hunts of today. But then recently I heard a report of someone experiencing a ghost during a break in a modern vigil. I’d be interested to know if others have noticed this effect in modern vigils.

The photo is the result of my ‘looking for ghosts’. It apparently shows a ghostly white figure in the trees (though ghosts normally look like ordinary people). It isn’t terribly convincing. The ones I come across when I’m not really looking are much better.

© Maurice Townsend 2021

ASSAP

Previous blog pages ...

  • Aug 2021 (including when ghosts break, ghost crossing, pigeons that aren't pigeons)
  • Jul 2021 (including strange rules, spatial distortion and mini-OBEs, did a wish come true)
  • Jun 2021 (including 40th anniversary of ASSAP, ghosts in circles)
  • May 2021 (including glimpsing a parallel universe, white blob ghost)
  • Apr 2021 (including capturing a fragment in time, a ghost crow, the ghost in the avenue)
  • Mar 2021 (including remote viewing, ghostly hand photo, voice from no one)
  • Feb 2021 (including paranormal object movement, being psychic or having a poor memory)
  • Jan 2021 (including ghostly footsteps approaching, seeing and photographing a ghost)
  • Dec 2020 (including shadow ghost, haunting noises, disappearing figure)
  • Nov 2020 (including doppelganger, distorted voice from nowhere, a psychic hit)
  • Oct 2020 (including a psychic near miss, what connects most paranormal photos, UFO sizes)
  • Sep 2020 (including experiencing time loss and coincidences in paranormal reports)
  • Aug 2020 (including the 'thing', moaning ghost, not seeing what is right in front of you)
  • Jul 2020 (including unidentified aerial phenomenon, paranormal apparition, false memories)
  • Jun 2020 (including glitch in time, black bag animal phenomenon, stationary ghosts)
  • May 2020 (including a different kind of OBE, haunting smells, voice over the water, shadow ghost)
  • Apr 2020 (including likely increase in paranormal reports during virus crisis)
  • Mar 2020 (including empty streets with voices, crisis apparition, talking ghost)
  • Feb 2020 (including bloody footprint, ghostly voices, child that wasn't there)
  • Jan 2020 (including are distracted people more likely to see see ghosts, on seeing disembodied legs)
  • Dec 2019 (including a couple disappear, talking fox, ghost without presence)
  • Nov 2019 (including multiple witness sightings, recording ghosts, reproducing a mini-OBE)
  • Oct 2019 (including how you know you've seen a ghost, ghost in an alley and a hi-vis jacket)
  • 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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