Thursday, 22 February 2018

I was wrong!

Weird sunI have, in the past, talked about a 'ghost hunting boom' going on at present. This implies that I'm expecting the current high popularity of ghost hunting to stop at some point. Well, it's been going on for well over a decade now and is showing no signs of stopping any time soon. So I'm prepared to drop the word 'boom' and admit I was wrong!

It does raise the question, though, why is ghost hunting so popular? You might think that as someone who has been fascinated by ghosts since I was a kid it would not need any explanation. But I can remember a time, in the early days of ASSAP and before, when ghost hunting was an obscure pastime enjoyed by just a tiny number of people. So what changed?

The obvious answer is that the popularity of ghost hunting is a result of the paranormal TV shows. But does that explains the longevity of the phenomenon? To find out why ghost hunting remains so popular there is an important question to answer. Are the people who were originally inspired by the paranormal TV programmes still ghost hunting? Or have they lost interest to be replaced by others? It matters because if there is continual turnover of people interested in ghost hunting then it will one day it will lose popularity. Though interest in ghosts is high in the general population, there is still a finite limit to the numbers. I've no idea if there is a big turnover of people interested in the subject, only research could determine that.

From what I've seen most contemporary ghost hunting seems to use assumption-led methods where there is a clear central assumption that ghosts are spirits. This is despite a lack of any compelling evidence from ghost research that ghosts are indeed spirits. And all that ghost hunting still hasn't produced any compelling evidence.

So, if there is a big turnover of people interested in ghost hunting then, given its ongoing popularity, there must be a huge pool of people in the population enthusiastic about ghosts. But maybe it is more likely that the the turnover of people interested in ghost hunting is actually quite low. But if that's so, why aren't people becoming disillusioned when they find little or no definitive evidence of ghosts as spirits? Scientific research shows that people's basic beliefs tend to change little over time, even when there is little evidence supporting those beliefs. If this is the case then the current high popularity of ghost hunting is likely to continue indefinitely and its nature is likely to change little. So, no boom after all. Probably.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Mysterious ghostly figure

Ghost treeI've seen enough misperceived ghosts to be suspicious of static human figures these days. However, when I saw this figure I remained convinced that it was a real person, or a ghost, for a whole minute or so. Indeed, even as a photograph, which I can study at leisure, it still books like a mysterious ghostly figure to me.

It looks, to me at least, like someone wearing a monk's habit with very baggy sleeves which hang a long way down. The figure appears to be facing (my) left and possibly walking that way. Though it is difficult to judge the scale from the photo, the object is the right height for a real human figure, or indeed a ghost.

It is, of course, a tree stump which has had all its branches removed. I misperceived it as a human figure (or ghost) at the time. It was one of the more convincing examples I've seen. I would imagine that a different witness who was unable, for whatever reason, to get a closer look, might have concluded that it was a human figure, or maybe a statue given its lack of movement. Or perhaps a ghost!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

White transparent figure

Sun behind treeI have seen the ghostly white transparent figure several times, always in the same place. It is curiously static, like a misperception, except it isn't one. The figure only ever appears at night. There is another factor always present when the figure appears - it is wet! When I first saw it I was genuinely mystified, at least for a while.

The ghostly 'figure' is actually a reflection from a window of a street light onto a wet pavement. It looks white because the street lighting nearby is one of the new white ones. It gives the figure a look resembling those transparent white ghosts you see in movies. It is not a hugely convincing human figure, more of a tall straight-sided rectangle. However, it could pass for a human figure at first glance, especially if the witness thinks it might be a ghost!

I have often wondered whether the introduction of white street lights, replacing the traditional yellow ones, might affect reports of anomalous phenomena. In white lighting you can see object colours reasonably accurately. It gives night street scenes a different look. I wondered if this might affect how some objects are misperceived. This ghostly figure turned out to be the first example of something that looked spooky that I hadn't seen in traditional yellow lighting. And it turned out to be nothing to do with accurate colour rendition.

The white transparent 'movie ghost' is not typical of real ghost reports, of course. Most ghost reports refer to perfectly ordinary looking human figures. Indeed they are often taken for real humans until they do something unlikely, like vanish. But I can see how someone might report a white transparent figure as a ghost, even if it turned out to be reflection.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The checkout incident

Sun behind treeI went out today intent on seeing a ghost. It worked! Well, sort of. I noticed an oddly static figure in a shop doorway. Could it be a ghost? A closer look soon revealed it to be a mannequin. It is unusual to put a mannequin in a position like that, they're usually in the shop window. So I think I can forgiven for thinking it was a real person, or a ghost.

Apart from that I failed to see any ghosts. As I, and others, have often observed, if you go looking for ghosts you will almost certainly not see them. This is no doubt why ghosts are seldom seen on ghost vigils. Since many ghost sightings are caused by misperception, it is easy to see why this is the case. It is rarely possible to see a misperception if you deliberately look for it. The reason I wanted to see a ghost was so that I would have something to write about other than the checkout incident.

Anyway, I was at one of those automated checkouts in a shop recently. Having scanned all my items and paid, the screen asked me if I wanted a receipt. I did, so I pressed the on-screen button. As the receipt came out I heard the wire shopping basket, supplied by the store, moving. I was confused! The receipt came out on the side by the wire basket but how could a flimsy bit of paper possibly push a metal basket?

It couldn't! It turned out that someone had come, unseen, behind me and removed the wire basket just as the receipt was being printed. I was concentrating on the screen and didn't notice this person until I looked round. So, mystery solved! But, just for a couple of seconds, I was completely mystified by what was going on.

I have experienced countless similar examples of an action being accompanied by an unexpected, even alarming, noise. I gently put down a plate once only to hear a loud bang. The noise was something else falling over but the noise was disconcerting at the time. These coincidences are noticeable because they are unexpected. I expect there are many more examples of an unlikely noise NOT coinciding with something I did that I never noticed.

So what has this to do with anomalous phenomena? Well, I've experienced this sort of thing often enough to know that it might be responsible for certain reports of odd phenomena. This phenomenon is, of course, an example of a coincidence causing an apparently anomalous event. The role of coincidence in reports of anomalous phenomena is, in my opinion, seriously underestimated in our field.

Friday, 2 February 2018

A huge invisible 'presence'?

Sun behind treeI was walking along a street recently when I heard a strange sound, a sort of roaring, behind me. What made it disconcerting was that I heard it moving, from left to right. It came from one side of the road and then the other. I turned and saw nothing there! It sounded spooky, like some huge invisible 'presence' was moving around behind me.

There are two trees on opposite sides of the road and I worked out that the sound must be the wind blowing between them. But why should the sound of the wind move between the trees? It was a gusty day but shouldn't the wind blow with equal force on both of the trees at the same time?

While the wind may blow in just one direction when there are no obstructions around, it is different near the ground where there are trees, houses and other large structures. At ground level, in an urban street for instance, the wind can blow in directions different to the atmosphere above. That's because it is diverted and funneled by large structures. This process can also make the wind flow in a disturbed way, forming eddies.

I think the wind was eddying between the two trees affecting one and then the other. The resulting sound effect was dramatic and eerie. i can imagine some witnesses thinking it was something paranormal, particularly if the incident had happened in darkness. It wasn't immediately obvious that it was the wind.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Ghostly conversation

ShadowReports of ghosts talking are rare never mind conversations between them. So the latest report from MA (my acquaintance who gets microsleep with REM - MWR) is fascinating. MA often hears voices talking during MWRs. The speech usually consists of short, random phrases not obviously aimed at MA. But there was something new in the latest example. There were TWO voices involved and they appeared to be interacting. The incident took place in an empty room with no one but MA present.

A female voice says "we were going to get married anyway". A male says "shut up". The female voice then says something else which MA could not recall. The male voice again says "shut up". The female voice then says something else, also not remembered by MA and the male voice says "shut up" once again. The male voice sounded annoyed! This voice MWR is also notable for being much longer than usual. Previously such MWRs have consisted of just half a dozen words or so at most.

The fact that the MWR was longer than usual is highly significant, I think. It is possible that some, or all, of the previous voice MWRs that MA reported were, in fact, part of a 'conversation'. But because they were so short, MA only ever heard one voice. And it would explain why the voice MWRs never appear to address MA. It's because they were talking to a third party! It is as if MA was somehow eavesdropping on someone's conversation without them noticing. This parallels the common observation that ghosts do not appear to notice their witness.

If someone who gets MWRs, and is not aware of their natural cause, were to hear such a 'conversation' in an empty room, they might well conclude it is ghosts talking to each other. Reports of ghosts that talk are rare. It is one of the reason why the idea that ghosts are spirits is not well supported by witness evidence. At least some of those reports where ghosts DO apparently talk may well be hallucinations. A MWR, which is a type of near sleep experience, is basically a hallucination. The range of ghostly experiences that could be explained by MWRs appears to grow all the time with each novelty reported by MA!

Friday, 19 January 2018

Ghost selfie?

Sun behind treeI mentioned recently that I seem to have an aptitude for noticing odd things. Maybe that's why I appeared to be the only person who noticed a photo booth apparently talking to itself recently. The booth was going through instructions to the user but there was a snag - no user!

I could see the seat below the drawn curtain and there was no one in it. Anyone in there would have had to be floating and there as very little room even to do that! As it happens, I used that very machine just a few months before so I was familiar with its dimensions and how it worked. The verbal instructions had reached the point where the photo was about to be taken. But, as I knew from experience, to reach that point requires money to be inserted as well as answering several questions with a touch screen. So clearly the process requires someone to be present for it to wotk.

Unfortunately, I was in a hurry at the time and it only occurred to me later that I could have stood by the unattended booth - there was no one anywhere near - to look at the photos it produced! I'm guessing they would have shown an empty booth but who knows?

So, what explanations may account for this strange occurrence? One might be a ghost taking a selfie! Among the possible natural explanations are a machine malfunction. However, had the machine been taking pictures of an empty booth for any time, lots of photos would have spilled out of the dispenser by then but there were none there. Unless it was a one off malfunction and my timing was impeccable. Another obvious explanation, and the one I favour, is that someone had started the process of having their photo taken and then, for whatever reason, left before it was complete. I doubt I'll ever know.