Wednesday, 9 May 2018

This version of the ASSAP blog is now closed ... but the blog lives on!

I've decided to close this copy area of the ASSAP blog to simplify things. The blog will continue but only in its original location at http://www.assap.ac.uk/blog (link). Updates  AFTER 4 May can only be seen there.

To be informed of updates when they happen you can join the ASSAP Facebook community page (if you're a member of FB) at this link.


M Townsend

Friday, 4 May 2018

The 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon revisited

Weird sunSome years ago I wrote about whether rail commuters might be psychic. I used to commute myself and had come across the 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon. Briefly, it is not uncommon to fall asleep on long commutes. And yet I, and others I've spoken to, always seem to wake up just in time to get off at the right station. This happened even if the train was running late, so it is not a time thing. For the original discussion, see here.

The most popular non-psychic explanation appears to be that commuters hear the sounds that the train makes as it approaches their station. But are such sounds distinctive enough to identify the train's location? An even more obvious explanation might be that the commuter simply hears the name of their station being announced. However, the phenomenon predates on-board train announcements as I can confirm from my own experience.

Now MA (my acquaintance) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR - see here) has experienced a novel variation on this 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon. MA was on a train suffering from a series of microsleeps. MA suddenly woke and found the train was stationary. MA then quickly got off at the correct station just before the doors closed. It turned out that MA had heard the name of the station in a MWR just before waking up. It's entirely possible that it was a real announcement of the station that MA incorporated into the MWR. If there was no actual on-board announcement, as sometimes happens, then MA had somehow worked out the location and put the name into the MWR!

It is well known that real noises, like an alarm clock, are sometimes incorporated into our dreams. Interestingly, when real sounds are incorporated into dreams they are often changed to something else, unlike in the present example. Interestingly, nothing else in the content of this particular MWR related to travel, trains or where MA might be!

This experience tends to lend weight to the idea that sound might be the key to this 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon. MA probably heard the station name while in a MWR because it was relevant. Other station names would have been missed because they were not relevant to MA. It's possible that other commuters hear the name of their station while asleep but do not remember doing so. Experience suggests that the content of MWRs is much easier to remember than normal dreams. When such other commuters wake up they are surprised that they 'just knew' where to get off.
But what about those days before on-board train announcements? How did the 'sleeping commuter' phenomenon work then? Are the sounds a moving train makes really distinctive enough to tell its location? I think it's possible but it would have to be tested before I was convinced.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The end of fame month forever?


Weird sunIt's another 'fame month' but I haven't seen any celebs yet and time is rapidly running out. Regular readers will know what this is all about. For everyone else, here's a catch up. I had noticed my tendency to see more famous people than I thought was 'normal' - an average of 0.23 per month. I do not seek out celebrities, I just see them during my normal everyday activities. What is really weird is that, since April 2015, I appear to have been seeing them at regular intervals, every four months. Random events should not occur at regular intervals! See here for more background.

However, recently things have gone wrong! There was no sighting in August 2016 but the pattern resumed in December of that year. There was another gap in April 2017. And recently there was no celeb spotted for two 'fame months' in succession, December 2017 and this month. Not only has the four month pattern gone but I haven't seem any celebrities at all for around nine months. So why have I lost my apparent uncanny ability to spot celebs?

The whole point of this phenomenon is that I've never actively sought famous people. I've just seen them going about my normal life. So has my 'normal life' changed in the past nine months or so? Looking back I would say no. Thinking about the places where I've seen famous people before, I still visit them with a similar frequency. It's beginning to look as though I was just on a lucky streak and now it has ended. It looks as though the statistics are correcting themselves back to 'normal'. Interestingly, I once lived very near to a celebrity for a while though I hardly ever saw them.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Should ghosts be more commonly seen at night?


Weird sunShould lots more ghosts be seen at night compared to daytime? More specifically, shouldn't misperception, which is a cause of many ghost reports, be more more commonly noticed in low light? Given that misperception is caused by poor viewing conditions you would think so.

We all misperceive all the time but it is only noticed very rarely. When misperception IS noticed it can easily lead to reports of ghosts and other anomalous phenomena. For the past few years I've noticed my own misperceptions much more frequently than I used to. This has given me useful insights into how misperception works. And one thing I've noticed is that misperceptions don't seem to occur more frequently in low light compared to full daylight. So why is that?

My best theory, until now, is that our brains somehow adjust to low light by trying less hard to make sense of what they see. In other words, they expect not to be able to see stuff well so they don't misperceive to compensate. But it now turns out the real explanation could be quite different. New research, reported recently in New Scientist, showed that people actually see better in twilight conditions. It seems that at dusk and dawn the background activity in the visual centres of our brains is reduced. This improves the signal to noise ratio making us better at seeing stuff! So the low lighting conditions are compensated for by improving our brain's ability to make out what it is seeing!

This 'improved seeing' phenomenon has been reported for dusk and dawn but what about in the middle of the night? In most urban settings there will, of course, be street lighting all night which approximates to twilight conditions. So I guess the effect still happens then. I'm not sure what happens in situations away from street lighting. I don't have enough personal experiences at those very low lighting levels to say what happens to misperception. It's certainly something I'll be looking out for in future.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

When the sounds behind music are real!


Weird sunI was listening to loud music when I heard something else. It was night time and I was alone in a building at the time. The noises sounded like someone moving about! Regular readers will be aware of the phenomenon I've noticed that I've called 'sounds behind music', for want of a better description (see the last post for more on this). I realised this was an interesting test of my observation that the phenomenon usually only happens when I'm expecting someone to turn up shortly. On this occasion I was definitely NOT expecting anyone so it appeared to contradict previous observations.

So I turned off the music and, as expected, the movement sounds stopped. But only for a couple of seconds! I have to admit I became slightly anxious at this point. The sounds appeared to be coming from an external door. I inspected it from inside and could see nothing. So I went to a window overlooking the door outside to see what might be causing the noise, which had now stopped. I was in time to see a fox trotting away from the door! It appeared to be another instance of our local 'garden poltergeist' (see here) up to its tricks!

I wasn't expecting anything else to come of the incident but the next day I examined the door concerned. Outside I found not only disturbed earth from nearby but identifiable fox paw prints on the door step. It was clear evidence that a fox had certainly been doing something quite intense, and certainly noisy, at the door, though I've no idea what.

This latest observation actually supports the idea that 'sounds behind music' are indeed less frequent when I'm not expecting anyone. I had had the loud music on for some time when I heard the fox and heard nothing up to that point. Unlike when I've tried to experiment with this phenomenon I was not thinking about 'sounds behind music' at the time. This factor also appears to suppress the phenomenon.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

When not to call out!


Weird sunI heard the 'sounds behind loud music' (see here) again recently. Alone in a building I called out, against all the obvious warnings from horror movies. This time there really was someone there. They had just arrived but I didn't know that before I called out. I had another 'sound behind music' experience next day when no one was present. Able to compare the two experiences I was struck by the fact that the sound of a real person was much the same as my 'sounds behind music' phenomenon. I think this is because my brain is recreating 'real' sounds, just like a misperception, with this phenomenon.

I've also noticed something else having experienced a number of these phenomena now. The 'sound behind music' phenomenon is much more frequent when I am expecting someone to arrive. When I expect to be alone for a long period I hardly ever hear the phenomenon. This suggests that expectation is a strong factor here. Also, the fact that the sounds stop precisely when music does suggest that this phenomenon is an aural misperception rather than a hallucination.

I then tried an experiment with loud music when someone was definitely known to be present. I didn't hear the 'sounds behind music' this time. However, this failure could be because I was deliberately listening out for the phenomenon. This suggests, again, that it is form of misperception where the same thing happens.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The book that turned over - instantly!


Weird sunThe book was just as it should be, in a perfect position to be read. But less than a second before it had been upside down! How could it flip over instantly? If I tell you the book was being read by my acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR - see here), regular readers might be able to guess. The majority of MA's MWR experiences occur while reading. I'm not sure of the significance of this but I suspect it's important.

Anyway, MA was reading and decided to turn the book upside down - as you do! Except MA can't actually remember deciding any such thing. Suddenly MA was slowly turning the book round for no obvious reason. Then it suddenly flipped back to it's normal position instantaneously. MA realised that it was the end of a MWR, which produces a peculiar feeling. MA gets lots of odd experiences during MWRs, many of which I've documented here. However, all the other experiences involved sight or sound. This was the first experience where MA appeared to physically manipulate an object. Except that it was obvious no such manipulation had taken place in the real world.

This new (to me at least) aspect of the MWR phenomenon is significant. In all the other experiences MA was merely a witness. In this latest episode MA appeared to actually manually affect the outside world, though with no actual physical result. Someone experiencing such a MWR, who was not aware of its cause, might appear to move an object only to see it instantly and mysteriously return to its original position. This might be interpreted as psychokinesis. It is said (though I've not come across it in cases I''ve examined myself) that objects, when moved, often return to their original position in some haunting cases. This movement is not usually witnessed in such cases, nor does it happen instantaneously, but it is still basically the same phenomenon. Either way, it is easy to see how any such incident could be interpreted as paranormal.