Welcome 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'
7 March: Narrative illusion
Witness X was sitting in a stuffy hotel room with the window, which looked out over a busy street, open. Suddenly, he heard the sound of screeching car brakes from outside. This was followed a second later by a loud bang. Startled, he went to the window but could see nothing amiss. He concluded that the vehicle collision, that must have occurred, had happened out of sight in a nearby side street.
This incident is fictitious but it could easily happen and probably has. The loud bang was actually caused by a large waste bin being accidentally knocked over by a pedestrian. No car was involved. The screeching brakes and the bang were not in any way connected. However, it easy to see why Witness X came to the conclusion that he did. We have all heard screeching brakes and anticipated a bang.
What this example demonstrates is how unconnected coincidental events can become connected in a witness's mind. I'm sure there is a proper scientific name for this kind if thing but, so far, I've been unable to find it. So, for my own convenience, I'm calling the phenomenon 'narrative illusion'. It means that the witness has a narrative in their head to explain what they've experienced when, in reality, things happened rather differently. I think this sort of effect crops up in paranormal reports.
Here's a real example (from 3 Sep 2009): Walking along a street today, I noticed a woman in a red coat ahead of me on the pavement. A few moments later, I noticed she'd vanished. I was surprised because there aren't many places to hide in that street! I looked along various side streets but there was no sign of her. Had I really seen a ghost? Then I noticed a similar woman walking away along one of the side streets. But she wasn't wearing a red coat. That's because she was carrying it! It was clearly the same woman who had, while I wasn't watching, taken her coat off.
The 'narrative' in my head in this example is that someone walking along a road does just that. They don't generally stop to take their coat off. Except, of course, that just occasionally they do. I could easily have concluded that the woman had simply vanished because she was a ghost. And that is another narrative - that ghosts are in the habit of disappearing.
The point is this. Never assume that a series of events in a witness's experience all point to one obvious conclusion. Investigators should check any obvious 'narrative' in a witness's testimony, especially if it appears rather unlikely or is contradicted by other evidence.
5 March: Are reports of anomalous events often inaccurate?
Could some witness testimony about anomalous incidents be intrinsically less accurate than it is for mundane events? To investigate this disturbing possibility, here is a brief dip into the world of birding.
Birders, like me, look forward to long distance trips because they bring the possibility of seeing species we don't see at home. We might even see some we've never seen before (a 'lifer'). This birding nirvana is not without its dark side, however.
Birders prepare for such trips by studying the appearance, habits and habitats of the species they are likely, and unlikely, to see so they know what to look out for. Seeing a lifer is a great experience for any birder but not without its concerns. Consider the following scenario, for instance.
A birder arrives at their distant destination, where they stay for a week of intensive birding, and almost immediately sees a coveted lifer! The lifer is never seen again for the rest of the week, despite intensive searching. This is a problem! Though it is entirely possible that one might see a particular lifer just once on a trip there is another, rather worrying, alternative possibility!
Though it is easy to tell a wren from a blackbird, there are many bird species which look very similar to others. An example of such 'confusion species' are Marsh Warblers and Reed Warblers (photo above - probably). In our hypothetical (!) example, if the lifer was seen just once, early in the trip, and then a similar species seen commonly thereafter, there is a high likelihood that the lifer was never seen in the first place.
To see why, consider this. Suppose I've seen a Reed Warbler before but never its rarer confusion species, the Marsh Warbler.
On the first day of my trip I get a fleeting view of the rare Marsh Warbler but see only Reed Warblers, in some numbers, afterwards. Statistically, there is a high chance that the first bird I saw was actually a Reed Warbler too, given that they are commoner. There ARE ways to distinguish Reed and Marsh Warblers by appearance (though song is a much better guide) but they are subtle. Seeing all those Reed Warblers would make me wonder if the first one real was a Marsh, though. The fact that the Marsh was the first bird I saw is particularly troubling. How can I be sure, given that I've seen no more examples?
So what has this to do with anomalous phenomena? Well, a high proportion of reports of the anomalous are of things that the witness has never seen before. Suppose someone sees a UFO, for instance. Careful investigation shows that it is highly likely to be a poorly seen low flying aircraft. Though the witness has seen many aircraft before, never one that looked like this one. It might be like the one in the photo (right), a real example discussed here.
If an unfamiliar object is poorly seen it is likely to be misperceived. That means the witness's brain will substitute it with an object from their own visual memory. But, because the witness has never seen such an object before, the visual substitution cannot be accurate. In this situation, any details the witness remembers are likely to be inaccurate, based on something from their own memory rather than the actual object.
Furthermore, the visual substitute could be something from a book, movie or photo. So, for instance, I might see a Reed Warbler in poor viewing conditions and visually substitute it with a Marsh Warbler that I remember from a book. And the hypothetical UFO witness might see a flying saucer from a movie or video game rather than the plane they are actually looking at. So, I remain convinced I've seen a Marsh Warbler while the UFO witness firmly believes they've seen an alien spacecraft. In both cases, it might be a once in a lifetime experience, not to be surrendered lightly. But in both cases, we would be quite wrong!
Though Reed and Marsh Warblers are very similar in appearance, misperception can produce visual substitutions that are far more radical. This might explain how Venus sometimes gets reported as a classic flying saucer! It is the combination of poor viewing conditions and the unfamiliarity with the object being viewed that leads to such inaccurate misperception. Both conditions are likely with reports of anomalous phenomena.
And there's one particularly interesting consequence of all this. Investigators will often say that a particular report could not possibly be a misperception of a particular object because the witness description differs markedly from it in shape. But if the object was poorly seen and the object unfamiliar to the witness, this is not necessarily so! Misperception cannot be ruled out so easily in such cares.
3 March: A ghost calling?
I was woken by someone whistling, apparently trying to attract my attention. As I dragged myself reluctantly from slumber the whistling changed noticeably. It became the unmistakable song of a blackbird. I listened for quite a while but the the distinctive 'attention call' phrase I'd heard earlier was never repeated. As a birder, I am very familiar with blackbird songs. They vary geographically but I know what they sound like round here and I've never like the 'attention call' before. Like most birds, blackbirds repeat the same phrases over and over in their song so if this one HAD done the 'attention call', it should have been repeated. The 'attention call' sounded like a deliberate attempt by a human to attract someone's attention but with the tone of blackbird song. Overall, it sounded like someone playing electronically with a blackbird song.
I concluded, from the clues above, that this was a case of hypnagogia. Interestingly, auditory hypnagogia often contain apparent attempts to attract the witness's attention. They may hear their name apparently being called or someone knocking at their door, for instance. So 'someone whistling' to gain a witness's attention fits well. It is also common for external sounds, like an alarm clock going off, to be incorporated and modified in dreams while someone remains asleep. So, all in all, I think hypnagogia fits well with the circumstances.
I wondered what someone else, unaware of hypnagogia, might have made of this incident had they experienced it? I suspect they would probably have dismissed it as 'imagination' and quickly forgotten about it. Not everyone has my limitless curiosity!
Now suppose that same hypothetical witness had heard their name being called (with no one else present), instead of the whistling? A cursory search of the web suggests that such an experience might well be interpreted as a ghost calling! I doubt that such an incident would be dismissed or forgotten.
In short, I think that hypnagogic experiences which correspond with our cultural expectations of the paranormal are more likely to be remembered, and considered real, than others. I further suspect that a witness told that their whistling experience was likely to be hypnagogia would probably accept it. I think the opposite would true for name calling.
|For a review of paranormal research in the noughties, see here.
Last month's (February) website figures are an average of 11299 hits per day. This is significantly up on the previous month's 10426 daily average.
Previous blog pages ...
- 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