Wednesday, 22 November 2017

More ghostly irony

ArchMore ghostly irony, this time at my expense! As I entered a walled garden recently I noticed someone on the opposite side. I was immediately struck by how still the figure was. Then I realized what it was - a misperception ghost! Intrigued, I continued to watch the figure, expecting it to turn into a tree or bush at any moment. Except it didn't.

After a little while the figure moved! It did not turn into something else but remained stubbornly human. So, a real person after all, I decided. I looked away for a few seconds and them back again., The figure had gone. This puzzled me because the figure was surrounded by high walls. They did not have enough time to vanish from my sight while I looked away. So, another kind of ghost then!

Sadly not! It turned out that there was an open gate in the wall near the figure that I could not see from my initial angle of view. So the person could easily have left the scene in the few seconds when I looked away. Final conclusion - a real person. I think the figure was very still at first because they were taking photographs.

So here's the irony. Another witness, who knew less about ghosts than me, would most likely have reacted quite differently. They would have seen the person, thought nothing of it and never considered the possibility of a ghost! So it is only because I know a bit about ghosts that I thought I saw one. I wonder if some things reported on ghost vigils may come from this sort of expectation of what ghosts look like and how they behave.

Monday, 20 November 2017

We're talking one Alexander right now!

Sun behind tree"We're talking one Alexander right now". This was heard by my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) in an empty room recently. MA often hears these 'voice MWRs' which sound like something overheard from a slightly bizarre conversation. They always make sense grammatically and hang together as a coherent thought. But, as this example illustrates, it is difficult to see how they might fit into anything other than a bizarre conversation. See here for more examples.

However, there was something new with this latest example - it was said in a distinct American accent. MA has never heard any voice MWRs in any noticeable accent before. In what is surely not a coincidence, MA was reading an article about American elections just before the MWR occurred. MA has not noticed voice MWRs specifically linked to real life events just prior to the experience before but it would be unsurprising if it happened.

So how might this play out to someone who gets MWRs but does not know their true cause? Well an obvious possibility is seeing a ghost in a place the witness knew to be haunted! It is even possible that if such a witness knew what the ghost was supposed to look like, having seen a picture, that might be who they see! For more on this idea of how MWRs could produce sightings of identifiable ghosts, see here.

Friday, 17 November 2017

The unexpected fall of night

Dark kingfisherFrom my ongoing study of anomalous photographs I would say there are basically two main types. Type 1 is where a witness sees something anomalous and photographs it. Type 2 is where the witness notices nothing unusual at the time of exposure but sees an anomaly in the resulting photograph.

Type 2 photos are far more numerous than type 1. Since the anomaly was not visible at the time of exposure in type 2 photos, it is likely that most are photographic artefacts. See here for a description of some of these such artefacts.

I've always wondered why there are so few type 1 anomalous photos. Years ago this could be put down to the fact that few people carry cameras around. However, nowadays most people carry a mobile phone and these contain cameras. And yet the number of type 1 photos remains low. There was an incident recently which made me realize why this might be.

I was out taking photos of wildlife, something I do regularly. I was watching a kingfisher which remained stubbornly distant. Then, unexpectedly, it perched nearby for a few seconds and I took several photos of it. My joy at this bit of luck was short-lived. The resulting photos were highly underexposed. This was because I'd changed the standard settings for an earlier photo and forgotten to change them back. You can see the result here (top right) which looks as though night suddenly fell unexpectedly!

It made me appreciate how difficult it is to get a photo of a short-lived, unexpected event. I am an experienced nature photographer who had his camera out and ready. And yet I still made a mistake which messed up the photo. The situation for a witness facing an unexpected anomalous event is much worse. They are highly unlikely to have a camera, or phone, out ready for just such an event. And they may, in any case, fail to react quickly enough because of the shock of seeing something truly extraordinary and unexpected. And even if they do get a photo taken what are the chances it will be well exposed?

It is not easy taking photos of short-lived events even when you are ready for them, as I was with the kingfisher. So I am no longer surprised that there are so few type 1 photos. I think we're lucky that there are any at all.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Ironic ghosts!

ShadowI love irony! There is a fine example in the current ghost hunting boom. The assumption-led methods used in the ghost vigils that are the a central feature of the boom revolve around a fundamental belief - that ghosts are spirits. This is despite the fact that the evidence for this is less than compelling (for a discussion of this evidence see here). So here's the irony - the ghost hunting boom itself is making the case for ghosts as spirits less and less likely.

The reason for this is simple. We now have what must be thousands of people spending millions of hours ghost hunting. With all that effort you would expect at least some some kind of consistent thread of evidence to emerge supporting the idea of ghosts as spirits, assuming that the idea is correct. And yet, no such body of evidence has so far emerged from the boom.

Careful research based on spontaneous cases of people seeing ghosts has revealed that many such sightings are caused by misperception or hallucination. There are other causes too (like coincidence) and there have always been other cases that might possibly be explained by such things as recording ghosts or spirits. So the evidence collected before the ghost hunting boom did not rule out spirits as one possible cause but did make it unlikely. But now the lack of any consistent evidence implicating spirits from the boom has reduced the odds of them being involved.

I believed ghosts were spirits when I started my interest in this subject because that was, and is, the overwhelming popular idea about ghosts. But I gradually realized from examining real cases that things didn't support that idea in any compelling way (see here for a brief account of how I came to this conclusion). I have always continued to believe, however, that some ghosts may have a paranormal cause. But I'm not convinced that any ghosts are spirits and the ghost hunting boom 'results' are only tending to reinorce that view.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Directional ghostly voices and an unexpected return!

Paving slabsAlone in a room, MA heard a voice say something. Then a different voice said something else. The voices did not appear, judging from what they said, to be talking to each other or to MA. Unfortunately, MA cannot remember exactly was said at the time. Both voices spoke just a few words each. But here's where it gets interesting. One voice came unmistakably from MA's left side while the other was unambiguously from the right. In other words, the voices appeared to come from two specific places in space. This is the first time MA has noted voices coming form any particular direction.

MA is my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) which is what this experience was. It was a 'voice MWR' a type where MA hears a voice when alone, while still seeing the actual physical scene ahead normally. In all previous 'voice MWRs' MA was not aware of the voice coming from any particular direction in space. It is quite possible that previous voices did actually came from a particular direction but, if so, it was not obvious at the time.

So what's the significance of this observation? MWRs are essentially a combination of real current sensory data and dream material. From this latest observation it seems that the dream element is so realistic that it even includes directionality. It is more like an immersive vuirtual reality experience than watching TV. It also implies that we dream in stereo!

MWRs can, of course, be mistaken for genuine paranormal experiences by a witness unaware of their true cause. They may be indicative of a sleep disorder or severe sleep deprivation. The fact that they are so realistic will simply add to the impression that these are completely genuine paranormal experiences. In other words, just because ghostly voices come from a specific direction it doesn't mean they are definitely real!

Meanwhile, I was utterly shocked to see the door ghost again recently (background here). I mentioned the ghost recently (here) having not seen it for 14 months! I think this return is the result of an unconscious psychological priming process. It is similar to the way I've started to hear 'voices behind music' (see here) a lot recently after discussing it in this blog. I also mentioned the door ghost recently, of course. Despite that I was not expecting the door ghost again so when it appeared I thought it was a real person. Turning round there was, of course, no one there.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

When ghosts rarely turned up on vigils!

Sun behind treeWhen I used to go on ghost vigils, we seldom experienced anything. In those days, before the current ghost-hunting boom, vigils consisted of people sitting around quietly waiting to experience something paranormal at a haunted location. We had little or no equipment. The idea was simply to try to experience whatever had been reported by prior witnesses who would not have had equipment either. We all wanted to see a ghost and reckoned a haunted place had to be the best place to go. I never did see a ghost on those vigils though I've seen several since (many reported in this blog).

So why didn't we see much on those ghost vigils? The favoured explanation at the time was that, if ghosts were reported, say, a couple of times a year at a particular venue then it was unlikely they would be seen simply by turning up on one random night of the year. It was a reasonable explanation but it would mean that if you went many, many times you must eventually see a ghost. But even after a lot of vigils the reported ghost count remained stubbornly low. So was there more to it than ghosts simply being very rarely seen? All these years later I've got some other possible explanations.

Firstly, if the original ghost sightings at a haunted location were caused by misperception then deliberately looking for ghosts was the not a good strategy. Misperception usually only works if you are NOT expecting it. It might help explain a curious thing we noted on those vigils. We found that many of the phenomena that WERE recorded on vigils happened during break periods when people were moving around between sessions and not expecting to experience anything. This idea of not seeing ghosts when you look hard for them was noted at the time, though not with misperception in mind. Some people even tried doing things other than looking for ghosts at haunted locations and it produced some promising results.

Secondly, I believe on some occasions we DID actually experience what previous witnesses had seen or heard without realizing it at the time. That's because we had formed our own mental picture, based on witness reports, of what to expect. But that mental picture probably owed more to ghost movies than reality. For instance, I remember one place (a haunting hot spot - see recent post) where ghostly whispering was frequently reported. It was only after I'd heard a particular sound there several times that I realized it could be interpreted as whispering. I'd already worked out that it was really the sound of water flowing intermittently in pipes behind walls in that room. It did not agree with the dramatic, obvious whispering sound I was expecting but it certainly fitted the witness description.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Ghostly 'sounds behind music' - again!

Sun behind treeRecently (here), I mentioned how I sometimes hear the sounds of someone moving around,. or voices, when quite alone and playing music loudly. I said it was a very rare occurrence. However, as noted in both posts since then, I've heard it several times since. In fact, I've heard it more times in the last few days than in the previous year. I think that writing about the phenomenon may have raised my psychological expectancy, causing me to hear it much more. This has allowed me to make some more detailed observations. I haven't heard the 'voice' version of the sounds recently, though I did as few months back, just those resembling someone moving around nearby in a different room, Here is what I found.

Firstly, the sounds are surprisingly distinct despite the loud music. In fact, they are more obvious than sounds caused by a real person moving around nearby! It is almost as though the phantom sounds are amplified compared to their real counterpart. They are, however, much less varied than the sounds of a real person moving around. They consist largely of clicks and knocks. And the strangest thing is that I never hear these quite distinctive phantom sounds when there is a real person present moving about.

What do I conclude from all this? Firstly, psychological expectation appears to makes the sounds appear more frequently. However, if I deliberately listen for them they don't occur. I have to be distracted by doing some other activity, like writing this post. Secondly, the noises are significantly different from the sounds of a real person moving around. This is important because it makes the phantom sounds recognizable. That's how I know they are NOT heard when there really IS someone else around. Thus, I conclude, that being alone is a prerequisite to hearing the sounds. This, and the fact that the music needs to be loud, fits in with the idea of the witness unconsciously feeling vulnerable since they could not hear anyone's approach. Hearing the sounds always prompts me automatically to turn the music off to see if there is anything real going on. So as a way of keeping me alert to my surroundings, it works!

It is entirely possible that this phenomenon could make someone think they are in a haunted location. The sound of someone moving around, when the witness is alone, certainly sounds like a haunting. I've not come across any cases like this, involving music, but they may well be out there.