Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Could we see ghosts on demand?

ShadowOne of the things that has struck me down the years is the sheer elusiveness of anomalous phenomena. They seldom, if ever, turn up when expected. Instead, witnesses are usually caught completely by surprise. It is a quality that makes these phenomena incredibly difficult to study. If only we could see anomalous phenomena in demand.

Take ghosts. Unlike UFOs, at least ghosts have a tendency to crop up repeatedly in the same location. The trouble is, you never exactly when they are going to appear. When I used to go on ghost vigils I didn't see a single apparition, despite many long nights spent at haunted locations. Statistically, that's not surprising. If a ghost has been seen a handful of times over a decade, for instance, the chances of seeing it on any particular night are slim. At least that's the usual explanation.

But I now think the elusiveness of ghosts has a different cause. Investigation has revealed that many ghost sightings are caused by such things as misperception, hallucination and coincidence. All of these will produce unpredictable sightings. For instance, misperception is highly sensitive to viewing conditions. And coincidences, like seeing someone in historical costume on their way to a re-enactment, are both rare and unpredictable.

So, if we know what causes many ghost sightings, can't we mess around with the variables involved to make ghosts appear on demand? I thought I'd accidentally managed that with the door ghost (see here). However, though this misperception ghost appeared quite frequently, I could never predict when. That's because I first had to FORGET about it for it to reappear! It is one of the few times when having a terrible memory actually proved useful. When the ghost DID appear I had just seconds to remember my pre-planned experiment before the apparition disappeared. And now the door ghost only puts in sporadic appearances like that reported recently (here).

What about hallucinations? My acquaintance (MA) who experiences MWR saw a ghost on as train once (see here) but reports that such apparitions are rare despite having had innumerable MWRs. MA could not recall anything different about that particular experience that might suggest a way to make it happen again. As for coincidences, they are uncontrollable by definition!

So the most promising way forward has to be with misperception, given that the door ghost showed it is possible to have repeatable experiences. I have also had some quite prolonged misperception experiences showing they can be quite robust in the right circumstances. The main problem is that the witness must not be expecting to see a ghost!

So my new ambition, alongside the permanent photographic misperception (see here) is a reproducible ghost! Will it be difficult? Yes!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Amplified noise - could it be real?

Crows in a treeMA (my acquaintance who experiences microsleep with REM - MWR) was at a lecture recently. Though it was an interesting talk, MA still had a few MWRs. During two of these, separated by seconds, MA experienced the curious 'amplified noise' phenomenon again (see here for background). As in previous incidents, MA heard sound apparently amplified during brief MWR episodes lasting a couple of seconds at a time.

MA was struggling to hear the speaker whose voice was not loud. However, during the MWRs the voice became louder and perfectly understandable. This much has happened before (here). However, on this occasion MA realized that the amplified words heard fitted perfectly into the content of the talk.

Unfortunately, because MA couldn't hear the speaker well outside MWRs it was not possible to say if the 'amplified' bits fitted EXACTLY into what was being said. This leaves open the possibility that the 'amplified' words were not what the speaker actually said but just MA's brain imagining likely ones to insert. However, it does nudge the evidence a little towards the possibility that noise really IS being amplified somehow in the MWR state!

Could sounds actually get 'amplified' in all dreams, both MWRs and normal night dreams? There is a big difference between normal dreams and MWRs. Normal dreams usually start well after the experiencer has gone to sleep. With MWRs the dream state starts straight away and tends to continue with a version of reality (sometimes with minor changes like the addition of a ghost - see here). So any differences, like 'amplified noise' will be apparent to the MWR experiencer straight away. By contrast, in conventional dreams there is no continuation of reality, so amplified noise would not be noticed. My point is that 'amplified noise' may be a normal, if rare, phenomenon in all dreaming but it hasn't been noticed much before.

Anyone experiencing MWRs who is not aware of their natural origin might be tempted to see 'amplified noise' as some kind of paranormal phenomenon. As to how the brain might achieve such a trick, it's open to speculation. And if it ISA a real trick, what other odd phenomena may occur within MWRs?

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Anniversary ghosts and an unexpected return!

ShadowIt's back! I was at 'that door' recently (see here for background) and suddenly realised there was a dark, somewhat menacing, figure standing just behind me. Sure enough, it was the door ghost, a misperception with the same cause as in the past. It was a big surprise as I haven't thought about the ghost in months.

I reported the long term disappearance of the door ghost back in May (here). This is the first sighting since February, some 7 months ago. I suggested then that the ghost had vanished because I approach 'the door' from a different angle these days. So, have I changed back to my old approach direction? No, I haven't? So why has the ghost reappeared?

If the ghost has reappeared despite the new route, something else must have changed. One crucial element with misperception is lighting. I've noted that similar misperceptions often recur at the same time each day for a few days each year (provided the weather is also similar). This is because the sun follows a slightly different track across the sky every day through the year. So, at any given location, the sun will be at the same position in the sky at the same time on the same day each year. Thus, the lighting will be the same for that time and date each year, subject to weather conditions. Given how sensitive misperception is to lighting conditions, the same (misperception) ghost may be seen at the same location at the same date and time every year. It is possible that the door ghost now requires such specific lighting to appear on my my new route to the door. In the past, using a different route, the lighting was not so crucial.

This got me thinking. There are said to be some ghosts that appear regularly on a particular date each year - anniversary ghosts. Could misperception explain at least some of these reports? It seems possible, if the ghost is seen outside in daylight. The same factors would not apply at night for a couple of reasons. Firstly, much outdoor lighting at night is provided by fixed street lights. Secondly, the moon does not appear in the same position in the sky at the same time on the same date each year.

Even if it turns out that the reappearance of the door ghost has nothing to do with lighting on a specific day, the idea that misperception could explain at least some anniversary ghosts remains valid. Having missed the door ghost I'm glad it's back, even if it's only a fleeting visit.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Ghost bird

Yellow branchI came around a corner and immediately something caught my eye. It was a yellow bird in a tree. But it quickly vanished! So, a ghost bird then. I photographed the scene and you can see it here (right). The 'bird' is the yellow object in the centre of the frame. Interestingly, I saw the 'bird' again when I examined its photo for the first time. So it was that rarity, a photographable misperception. Such misperceptions, when they take on the appearance of human figures, can easily generate ghost reports.

I suspect that most people, when viewing this photo, will see no bird and be mystified as to how I ever saw one. And I think that is significant. I started noticing misperceptions a few years ago. At the time I thought it was because I had recently found out how people misperceive all the time. I speculated that this gave my unconscious 'permission' to notice misperceptions. But now I have a new theory. I think it may be because I'm a birder.

When you go birding a vital skill is being able to spot birds. While most people would find a goose or gull hard to miss, spotting tiny warblers in dense foliage is much more difficult. I believe that looking for birds has made me particularly sensitive to tiny movements in foliage or objects that stand out from their background, like the yellow 'bird' here. The bird is actually a lichen covered branch. Being the only yellow bit in the scene it stands out strongly to me and my brain straight away thinks 'bird'! I suspect most non-birders would walk past the same scene and not even notice the lichen, far less see a bird.

I'll have to work out if there is any way of testing my theory. However, I think it makes sense.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Figure vanishes!

Crows in a treeI paid little attention to the scene before me until something odd happened. I saw someone standing motionless beside a car. I looked away for literally a couple of seconds and the figure had vanished. There was a house door nearby but not enough time had elapsed while I looked briefly away for the person to reach it. Apart from that there was no nearby cover where the person might have been hidden from view. A ghost then!

Now I have to admit something - I was not wearing my glasses (I have myopia) at the time of the observation. Suddenly, mystified by what I saw, I put my glasses on. At first I could see nobody. Then I saw the person had got into the car and was sitting motionless in the driving seat. It was not easy to make them out from my distance so I'm not surprised I didn't see them without my glasses.

Now, obviously, someone with better eyesight than me would have seen the person in the car, after a while anyway. However, if it had been dark or foggy they too might have thought the figure had simply vanished. And they might have concluded that it was a ghost. A figure vanishing while someone looks away is typical of ghost reports.

This was another case of a coincidence causing a anomaly. The person must have got into the car at exactly the time I looked briefly away and shut the door by the time I looked back. And without my glasses I couldn't seen them in the car. Only when all these events coincided was there any apparent mystery to solve.

I only report this apparently trivial incident because, at the time, I really thought I'd seen a ghost. For someone to vanish so quickly was decidedly strange.

Finally, it's the end of August and, sad to say, I've seen no celebrities this month (see here). Indeed, I haven't even caught myself studying passers-by intently in the last week or so. Maybe my unconscious mind had already given up!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The wasteful way of sleep

Crows in a treeThe wasteful way of sleep! This musing was heard by MA (my acquaintance who experiences microsleep with REM - MWR) recently. It is interesting because it might be a direct reference to MA's situation at the time. An odd characteristic of all the voice 'communications' until now was that they never appeared to refer to MA. They were more like overheard snatches of one side of a conversation (see here).

Of course, if you listen to enough random messages some are bound to appear relevant to you, even if they are not. So MA then started listening out to see if there are any other examples that appeared personally relevant. And a few days later one appeared. It was a very specific reference to a place that is special to MA. It could just be another coincidence of course.

Considering that the source of the 'messages' is MA's own brain it is actually extraordinary that they seem so random and irrelevant to their own creator. This could, of course, be seem as evidence that they are real communications from outside MA's brain to anyone who does not know how MWRs work.

MA also recently reported that that there were TWO voices in one communication apparently talking to each other! However, it only happened once and MA was not certain that the two voices were actually conversing. Though MWRs are easier than normal dreams to remember, it is still not always easy to recall exact words used. If it happens again then, like the 'relevant' message, I will report it here. Once again the whole phenomenon appears to be 'evolving' in some way (see here for previous discussion).

Monday, 22 August 2016

Shadow ghost

ShadowLooking out of a window very late at night, something strange intruded on a very familiar scene. It was the shadow of a person moving across a wall. That would have been unexceptional had I been able to see the person causing the shadow. But there was no one to be seen, just the shadow. The area concerned has no trees, bushes or other places where a person could easily hide and the area is well lit by street lamps. So anyone present should have been obvious.

Many shadow ghosts are seen in peripheral vision (see here for a discussion). However, this shadow was very clear and in central vision. I was just wondering if it might be a paranormal shadow ghost when I finally saw the person throwing the shadow. They were in a completely different place to the one I expected for a shadow on that particular wall. That's why I'd completely missed them until I widened my area of search. The shadow was coming from a street lamp round the corner out of my line of sight. Had the person left the scene before I found them I would still be left with the mystery of a shadow ghost sighting!

So, no ghost then! I think what happened was that my familiarity with the scene made me only look in places where I expected to see a person throw a shadow on that particular wall. Had I been looking at an unfamiliar scene I might have searched in more places for the person creating the shadow and found them more quickly.

Meanwhile I've been dreaming of seeing a celebrity! Yes, as 'fame month' continues with no celebrity yet seen, I actually dreamt I saw one. In fact, for a few seconds after waking up I was so convinced I really HAD seen a celeb that I was mentally preparing a blog post. This, I think, supports the idea that, unconsciously, I am on high alert this month concerning celebrities, despite not consciously looking for one. Of course, there still has to be a celebrity physically nearby for me to spot and so far I've drawn a blank! Time is running out.