ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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ASSAP bloggerWelcome 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. You may not notice it but this site changes on an almost daily basis.

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)

ASSAP @ 30: A series of posts summarising what we have learned through thirty years of ASSAP, whose anniversary was 10 June 2011. See here!

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

14 April: Another real life dolly zoom!

InsectsI've recently had a couple of experiences that felt even weirder than my usual stuff! And I'm not sure if they are likely to be widely experienced or, perhaps, confined to people like me!

Anyway, I was trying to photograph insects in flight, as you do. I found a cloud of midges but they kept moving about. Then, to my surprise, they appeared to stop still, as if all hovering, which is extremely unusual. I was about to photograph them when something really strange happened. The 'insects' suddenly all moved away from me until they were small white patches on the dark part in front of me! I was not looking at insects at all but those white patches on the ground. Somewhere along the line my brain had decided the patches were actually insects, flying around just in front of me! The real insects had departed unnoticed.

So what's going on here? The midges appeared, like the photo above, small and white and were difficult to focus on with the naked eye. I think they mixed up with the white patches on the dark path behind so that I saw them all as insects. I hadn't noticed the patches before that. My brain finally worked out what was going and put things right. The only way to do that, while making sense, was to 'move' the 'insects' away. It was like a dolly zoom! As far as I'm aware, such dolly zoom experiences don't happen in real life! Despite that, I've had such an experience before (see here).

The other experience was bizarrely different, yet similar. I was looking at a street scene at night. I thought I saw some discarded clear plastic boxes on the pavement. Suddenly, they became 'flat'! They were, in fact, poorly-seen water meter covers in the pavement! The 'clear plastic' was entirely in my perception. I can only blame the poor lighting for this particular strange misperception.

In both cases there was a misperception of the position of an object in space, probably due to a lack of useful visual cues. And when the misperception 'broke', it produced the odd dolly zoom effect. I'm not sure whether such spatial misperceptions are common (I'd be interested to hear from anyone with a similar experience to report). It is possible that only people who have mini-OBEs, like me, have such experiences. Anyone experiencing such a dolly zoom effect might certainly consider it as paranormal. It is strongly reminiscent of a puzzling experience that a paranormal researcher, that I once knew, had while conducting research. It had always baffled me until now.

10 April: Witness or instrument?

Blurry photoThat witness testimony has limited reliability is well known among paranormal researchers (see here). But what about instruments? Science uses instruments whenever possible, rather than eye witnesses, because of their much greater reliability (see here). However, because of the particular ways in which they are used, we cannot assume instruments are always much more reliable in paranormal research.

There are two main ways in which instruments are used in paranormal research. Firstly, they may happen to be in use when a spontaneous anomalous incident occurs. For instance, a witness may just happen to have a camera when they see a ghost or UFO. Also, witnesses may discover anomalous photos or recordings despite not experiencing anything odd at the time (taken by many as an indicator of something anomalous). Secondly, investigators may deliberately use instruments in situations such as ghost vigils. In both cases, the reliability of any recordings from such instruments will depend crucially on how they are made.

There are many examples of witness testimony contradicting what is seen in a photo. The witness may not recall using a flash even though EXIF data shows that they did. Or a witness may report deliberately not breathing out on a cold night despite a mist being clearly visible in a flash photo. A camera flash is a powerful, if brief, light source and can catch faint signs of breath on a cold night for some time after someone has exhaled. Or there may be a very obvious human figure in a photo even though the photographer is adamant that they were not there at the time. However, when you are busy paying attention to taking a photo, it is easy to miss something quite obvious right in front of you.

In the examples above, the camera is a more reliable recorder of what was happening than the the witness. However, with photographic artefacts, the camera itself becomes a less reliable recorder of what was physically present when a photo was taken. For instance, in the photo above there is considerable motion blur because the shutter speed was 1/3s, too slow for the camera to be held steady. The bizarre brown shapes are actually tree stumps, though you might not know that from the photo! They might be bizarre figures in undergrowth.

Paranormal investigators are used to assessing the reliability of witness testimony and treating it with due caution. However, they cannot assume instrumental recordings are completely reliable, as the examples above show. It is vitally important to understand how the instruments have been used. Without that information, instruments may be no more reliable than witness testimony.

8 April: The man with no face - the sequel!

Crows in a treeA few days ago I saw a man with no face (see here for the story). Then, just days later, I saw a girl with no face. Synchronicity or bizarre coincidence?

The girl with no face was on TV, in an episode (named Nocturne) of ITV's detective drama Endeavour. The girl is in a painting and appears around 37 mins into the episode. As I mentioned when I described the man with no face, I've only ever seen, as far as I can remember, one such an image once before, in an episode of Dr Who. Naturally, I've never seen such a thing in real life. So, for the second ever time I've seen such an image to occur just days after my 'no face man' incident is amazing. It was made even stranger by the fact that, unusually, ghosts feature heavily in this particular episode of Endeavour.

If this had been a premonition, it would have been difficult to dispute. I blogged about the 'no face man' incident BEFORE the TV programme was even broadcast and, since I don't work in the media, I could not have reasonably known about its contents in advance.

So, is this an example of a meaningful coincidence? Such coincidences have no obvious causal relationship but appear connected through their meaning to the witness involved. By that definition, this probably IS a meaningful coincidence. Some people view meaningful coincidences as paranormal. It is, however, difficult to differentiate between a rare, but entirely natural, coincidence and something paranormal. The usual test used in parapsychology is to see if the same effect happens repeatedly. If I continue to have strange coincidences, particularly if they appear to be conveying some kind of overall message, then they could be seen as paranormal. If it's just an apparently meaningless once-off incident then there is no obvious reason to label it as paranormal. Still weird though!

7 April: The ghost that walked!

ShadowThere was someone moving just behind me but I could hear nothing. The figure was very dark, like a shadow. I saw a leg moving, just behind me! Though I was 'in the position' where I sometimes see the 'door ghost' (see here), I've never seen that ghost move. So it was all distinctly disconcerting!

As regular readers will be aware, my door ghost is a misperception of my own hand, reflected dimly in peripheral vision. I've tried deliberately moving my hand to make the ghost 'walk' in the past but it didn't work. Instead I got another very odd effect, described here.

On this occasion I moved my hand deliberately and, to my astonishment, the shadow ghost walked! It really was the usual door ghost, now apparently able to move around without breaking the misperception. How had this remarkable change happened?

I believe the key here is the fact hat I only noticed the shadowy figure when it moved. Clearly this was caused by my hand moving. However, I wasn't aware I was moving my hand.

I don't know if this is common but, when I am concentrating on doing things with one hand, I tend not to notice what the other is doing. For instance, if I'm moving my computer mouse, I can't say for certain exactly if my other hand is moving or not until I pay attention to it. It might, for instance, be moving to adopt a more comfortable position. I suspect I'm not alone in this sort of behaviour. I'd be interested in hearing other people's experiences with this sort of situation.

With this latest door ghost sighting, I had once again forgotten completely about existence of the ghost. I have a poor memory and do this a lot! Misperception appears to be tied up closely with not paying attention. If I'd been expecting the ghost, I'm sure I wouldn't have seen it. And if I'd noticed it first when my hand wasn't moving, I don't think the ghost would have moved. Given this, I wonder if my poor memory is part of the reason why I tend to notice misperceptions when most people don't!

So is this the key to seeing moving misperceptions - namely that they must be moving when you first see them? I don't know, but it sounds plausible. It is very difficult to investigate this because in order to get a sighting, I first need to be not expecting it! I can only wait for the next time these circumstances come together by accident.

2 April: The man with no face!

Crows in a treeIt was the weirdest thing! Walking along a street, I glanced at a couple sitting on a bench. The man, who was facing me, had no face! Where there should have been facial features there was only skin. If you've ever seen the Dr Who episode The Idiot's Lantern, it was just like that. Within a second or two, I was relieved to see that the man really did have a normal face after all, unsurprisingly. The lighting was very flat which obviously contributed to the disturbing effect.

it was obviously a glance misperception. But what struck me forcibly was that I should misperceive someone without a face at all. I have never seen someone look like that and I doubt anyone else has either. At least, I've never seen someone look like that in real life. But I have seen some in the episode of the TV programme Dr Who just mentioned. I'm sure that I'd have never seen a 'no face' person if I'd not seen that episode. My perception would have swapped in some other visual memory instead.

What I found interesting was that I had experienced a visual substitution from a specific known fictional source. I don't think I've seen that 'no face' effect in any other movie or TV programme and obviously not in real life. It is important because I've always assumed that misperception used fictional, as well as real, images from memory. Now I KNOW it does!

In many cases, misperceptions appear to draw on general archetypes, whether fictional or real, like a 'classic' flying saucer for instance. But I think that in certain circumstances a much more specific visual memory may be used, as in the current example. I would guess it is determined by the specific visual properties of the object being misperceived.

1 April: Coot cylinder

CootThis magnificent bird (right) is a Coot! As people (nearly) always say with anomalous photos, I noticed something really odd when I looked at the photo after taking it. There was nothing obviously strange visible at the time of exposure.

If you look closely, you'll see two curious light brown tall thin objects in the photo. One is behind the bird about half way across the shot. The other is more central, in front of the Coot. So what are they? Some kind of flying rod, perhaps? Let's call them rods, for the sake of simplicity. Most flying rods have some sort of 'appendage' which these objects lack. But it might still be some sort of variation on the theme. So let's look at the clues in the photo.

Firstly, when viewed close up (pic below right), the objects strongly resemble cylinders. There is an obvious white vertical streak just left of centre. This suggests a highlight, as if from a reflective cylindrical object, like the capsules used to contain drugs. The sharp streak suggests that the objects are in focus.

The ends of the rod are rounded, like a gas cylinder. The rods are, apart from the streak, uniformly shaded and, crucially, somewhat blurred. Note, particularly, the transparent top and bottom of the cylinder, The rod shown below is the foreground object. It looks brighter, but the same colour as, the background object. Other than that, the objects look identical.

Coot rodCould the 'rods' be some sort of vegetation? The photo is one a series and none show any vegetation in front of the bird. Furthermore, there is no plant visibly attached to the 'rods'.

The key clue is that the objects are slightly blurred. This is not because they are out of focus. Therefore it must be motion blur. The obvious conclusion is that the rods are small falling objects. This is confirmed by the fact that the top and bottom of the cylinder are transparent. That's because all of the rod consists of overlapping images of the falling object (hence the uniform colour) except the top and bottom where there is no overlap (hence the transparency).

The rods are, in fact, falling seeds! The seeds came from a bird feeder directly above the Coot. Smaller birds were using the feeder and spilling some seeds onto the ground. And the Coot was eating the fallen seeds. There are two such seeds actually on the back of the Coot in a later photo in the series, as well as many others visible on the ground.

Falling objects could explain some UFO photos. It is always difficult to judge the size of an object that is not in physical contact with anything else in a photo. Using clues like those described here, it should be possible to detect such falling objects in photos.

PS: No April fool jokes here! In our field, it's difficult enough already to decide what is real and what isn't!

For a review of paranormal research in the noughties, see here.

Last month's (March) website figures are an average of 11426 hits per day. This is up on the previous month's 11299 daily average.

ASSAP

Previous blog pages ...

  • 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
  • Even older

© Maurice Townsend 2014