Friday, 30 August 2013

Not seeing something in plain view

FoxFoxes are not that hard to see round here especially if, like me, you know when and where to look. However, seeing more than one at a time IS unusual. So when I briefly saw a fox the other morning, in a place I have seen them many times before, I wasn't exactly surprised. Feeling unusually optimistic, I checked the area again to see if there were any more. There weren't. Except there WAS one! It appeared seconds later, following an identical route to the first. What is more, I then realised that it must have been in plain view (albeit slightly blending in with a tree behind) when I 'checked' before. How on earth had I missed it? In plain daylight!

It is a phenomenon called 'looked but failed to see' (LFBS), well known to accident investigators. The effect appears to be largely about expectation. Because I WASN'T expecting to see a second fox, despite my optimism, I didn't see it until it became profoundly obvious. LBFS typically strikes in situations that are not stimulating to the senses. The witness might be doing something repetitive in a largely predictable environment, like driving a car on a motorway perhaps. Fatigue is also a contributory factor. Misperception can even play a part, in that the witness may misinterpret what they are seeing so failing to see it for what it really is.

This is interesting from the point of view of paranormal cases because they sometimes revolve around witnesses FAILING to notice something in plain view. Here's an example. You're standing on a street waiting for someone. Bored, you are idly watching the traffic go by. Suddenly there is a man in historical costume right in front of you. Since you KNOW you would have noticed him approaching along the street, having been looking at it, you conclude the man must have just appeared from nowhere. In other words, he is a ghost! Except, in reality, your boredom meant you only saw what you expected to see and failed to notice the man approaching in plain view.

Once again, it is important to know exactly what the witness was doing, and their state of mind, when they saw what they saw.

Finally, that photo from two days ago. I expect there are people who are anxious to know just what the anomaly is. The anomaly consists of a light circle with a 'blunt' edge facing the top left corner. Between the circle and the corner is a darker area. Such circles are typical of orbs, created by a flash reflecting an out of focus object very close to the camera. The blunt edge is a clue (see truncated orbs). Orbs are the highlights of objects rather than the entire thing, though in the case of bits of dust that amounts to the same thing. However, here the shadow extending leftwards from the orb suggesting that it is a highlight on a larger object. The brightness of the orb also suggests high reflectivity, possibly a metal. It is, in fact, a metal paper clip. Trivia fact: this paper clip was used in the 'trigger object' experiment mentioned here.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mystery anomalous photo

Dummy letterHere's an experiment for you to try. I want you to analyze this anomalous photo (right) and tell me what you think the obvious anomaly actually is and why it appears the way it does in this picture. Please email here with your replies.

It's just a bit of fun so there are no prizes, I'm afraid. There is a serious point to it, however. With the vast majority of anomalous photos, the exact method by which the photo was produced is usually unknown. However, it is usually possible to deduce how the photo came about by a careful examination of the photo and a little knowledge of photography. It will be interesting to see what people can deduce purely by examining the photo with no other information. Don't worry if you know nothing about photography, I am happy to receive inspired guesses!

Incidentally, I am referring to the obvious anomaly in the top left corner of the photo. There is a slightly light triangular area going down the centre of the letter. However, this is just where the paper letter was folded prior to being photographed so it isn't a mystery.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ghostly faces - a new clue!

Face in leaf litterI have mentioned before how puzzled I am by reports of apparent paranormal faces reported in photos. In summary, the mystery is this: in most cases, the faces are clearly not 'real' but an accidental shape that resembles one - a simulacrum, in other words. Someone seeing a rock that resembles a camel is highly unlikely to report it as the ghost of a camel! So why, when a 'face' shape appears in what is clearly a bush, would anyone report it as a ghost?

I've noted before (here) that the faces in photos are almost always blurred. You can see this effect once again in this brand new example (right - pic by Val Hope) where the 'face' is blurred compared to the sharp foreground. The 'face' was created in leaf litter.

When we view a blurry photo, our brains are less able to quickly and accurately identify all the objects visible. So the brain must consider (unconsciously) a wider range of possible identities for each discernible object than would be needed with a sharp photo, where objects are obvious. So, to the brain, it becomes at least a possibility, albeit a remote one, that an apparent face in an unsharp photo might actually BE a face. This might be enough for the fusiform gyrus area of the brain to react as if it was a face. And, given that the 'face' is not attached to a human figure, it becomes logical for the viewer's brain to conclude that they are looking at a ghost!

But there is still a mystery here because there is no tradition of ghosts appearing just as faces. I cannot think of any real life cases of people reporting isolated ghostly faces with the naked eye (ie. NOT in photos), unless you count the controversial Belmez Faces. There does not even seem to be an obvious tradition of fictional ghost stories involving isolated faces. So it is still a bit of mystery why people report what appear to be straightforward simulacra as paranormal.

Then I noticed something recently. Looking back at the examples from the thousands of anomalous photos I've examined, there was a common factor in many of the examples of 'ghostly face' photos. A lot of the photos were taken in places which were thought to be haunted or had an association with someone recently lost. It looks as though the psychological expectation generated by the circumstances surrounding a particular location may be biassing people to more readily report seeing faces in photos.

There was no haunting, or any other similar association, with the photo here. It just looked like a rather good simulacrum!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Now there are TWO ghosts!

ShadowIt seems that my door ghost (door what?) now has a friend! Not that it felt friendly when I saw it! I was the usual position where I see the door ghost and, as is often the case, I wasn't thinking about ghosts. I noticed a shadowy figure behind me but quickly realised, to my surprise, it was a different figure!

The new shadowy figure was a different shape and was in a different position - further back than usual. Given the nature of the door ghost, a misperception, this was somewhere on the road between incredibly unlikely and impossible.

Turning round sharply, I saw that the new ghost was actually an exceptionally dark shadow on the ground, cast by a nearby bush. So why had I never noticed it before? Looking at the shadow, it was clear that the sun needed to be in a particular place in the sky to cast the shadow somewhere I could see it from my 'usual position'. If the sun was a few degrees away in any direction, the shadow would not be visible. The sunshine also needed to be strong to cast such a dark shadow.

I would guess these factors can only occur together for a short period (tens of minutes?) on a small number of days around this time of year. So why didn't I notice it last year or the one before? Well, here in the UK we've had a series of summers with little sun. And I would still need to be in the right position during a relatively short period of time during the day. So the odds have been against noticing this second shadow ghost until this summer.

But here's an oddity! I could not see the usual door ghost at the same time as the 'new' ghost, even though I deliberately looked for it at the time. I think it is possible that these two misperceptions may be mutually exclusive. The reason is that they are caused by objects at significantly different distances from the observer, so requiring a change of focus. In general, though, I don't see why someone shouldn't see more than one significant misperception in their field of view at one time. But I do wonder what the odds are against having TWO shadow ghosts in such close proximity.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

EVP - does ear pointing help?

Bsample8 spectrogramHow do you listen to EVP recordings? Traditionally, EVP enthusiasts have often used headphones to listen to their recordings. However, I've always found loudspeakers easier to use. I recently noticed that, without thinking about it, I always turn away from the loudspeakers, so pointing my right ear at them. It seems to make deciphering EVPs easier. So, is it just me or do others do this too?

Does pointing one ear at the speakers really make EVP easier to interpret? If so, why? My first guess was brain lateralization. In right-handed people 95% have left hemisphere dominance for language processing (see here). I tend to point my right ear at the speakers when listening to EVPs which would feed first into the left hemisphere of my brain. I found this article which mentions research that demonstrates that 'ear pointing' is actually helpful in noisy situations. So since EVPs tend to be difficult to make out, ear pointing might actually help. Incidentally, though the EVPs on this website were all recorded in stereo, I've only used one channel to produce all the clips so they are effectively in mono. So that should have no bearing the ear pointing thing.

The fact that ear pointing helps us decipher words from a noisy recording does not mean they must necessarily be actual human speech. Formant noise, which is non-speech sound that happens to contain frequency peaks in simple harmonic ratios, could also trigger the language part of the brain to hear apparent words, even though there were none present.

Here are three new EVPs to try the using the ear pointing thing. Here is the first: EVP1. If you trouble with that one, try this: EVP2. And, I think the best one, EVP3, which to me, at least, appears quite clear and obvious. Even so, you may need to listen repeatedly before any words become apparent. Once they do, I find that the words become stable - you hear the same ones on each repeat. Of course, some people may hear nothing but noise.

Anyway, I'd be interested in your feedback on these recordings. Please tell what you think each EVP says, if anything. Also, mention if pointing an ear towards the loudspeakers helps or not. And finally, please mention which ear, if either, helps the most. Please email here with your feedback. Thanks!

There is much more about EVP here, with a gallery here.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Followed by a van riding ghost?

 Haunted pathWalking down a quiet street recently, I noticed a van stop behind me to let a man out. He started walking in the same direction as me, just a few paces behind. Hearing him so close, my unusually intense sense of curiosity caused me to casually half turn round a couple of times to get a better look. But having twice turned round, I walked on and turned no more my head.

Then a thought struck - my unseen companion and I had walked a long way along the road by now. If the man wanted to go so far down the road, why hadn't the van dropped him further along it in the first place? Puzzled, I stopped and turned around for another look. The street was empty! Even though I had heard the man walking behind me for the entire time! So was the man actually a ghost? If so, it would be the first case I'd come across of a van riding ghost!

The only reason for thinking the man might be a ghost was that I could hear him walking even though he was clearly no longer visible. So could there be any alternative explanations for this incident?

One clue was that the sound of the man/ghost stopped at exactly the same time that I stopped! I have noticed this phenomenon before, a few times. I described a similar incident here. It happens like this. I hear someone walking behind me, even though there is no one visible. But they always 'stop' at precisely the same moment that I do. A plausible explanation is that what I am hearing is actually an echo of myself walking. These incidents usually occur in areas with walls or fences which can reflect sound well. But why would I not realise that the sound was actually me?

These incidents usually happen when I am carrying noisy bags. In such situations I may not be entirely familiar with all the possible sounds the noisy bags make. So, if the sounds are reflected back to me by a nearby wall, I may occasionally mistake their source as something else. And since they following the rhythm of someone walking, the obvious source is another person nearby.

The difference on this occasion was that there was a real person present to initiate the incident. I strongly suspect that without that person I would never have heard the sound of someone apparently following me. It would appear to be a case of a real sound of a human walking being 'taken over' by something else (the bags I was carrying). I have come across similar examples before of real sounds being 'carried on' as a misperception by another sound source nearby. Recently, for instance, the sound of foxes outside a building was apparently continued in the white noise of a fan inside. It is clearly a phenomenon that would be well worth researching. I suspect it could be reproduced fairly easily. I think it may well occur in reported experiences of anomalous phenomena sometimes.

PS: Referring to 14 August post, it would be interesting to see if people who feel a sense of presence have also had OBEs to see if there is any connection.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A shadow ghost acquires presence!

ShadowAs usual, my memory let me down. I was at the usual position where I often see the door ghost (door what?) but had completely forgotten about it. Then I had a strong feeling that there was someone standing behind me, in the position where the ghost appears. Except that I couldn't see the usual shadowy figure, or anyone else for that matter. There was just the pronounced uneasy feeling of an unseen 'presence' behind me. I quickly remembered about the door ghost and the 'presence' was gone.

Immediately I tried to recall everything I could about the incident. I remembered thinking that the pattern of light behind me was 'unusual'. There was a strong sun but I was in an area of deep shadow. The highly contrasting combination COULD, at a stretch, have given the impression of 'something' being just behind me, in peripheral vision. But what really struck me was that I felt slightly 'detached' from my body. I have had this feeling before, usually during during mini-OBEs (see here for instance) or other visual spatial illusions. I suspect that this feeling is key to this particular experience. The fact that it took place at the same spot where the door ghost appears is also, I think, highly significant.

Last time I felt a ghostly 'presence' was different (see here). My idea then was a feeling of discomfort, coupled with an unexplained sensory stimulus (a noise), probably triggered the experience. So does the latest experience fit with that model? There was certainly an unexplained sensory stimulus - a visual one this time (the unusual pattern of light and shadow). It's possible that the 'detached' feeling indicated that I was seeing a visual spatial illusion, which may be why I thought the pattern of light and shadow 'unusual'.

I did feel uncomfortable during the latest experience. At first sight, I thought this was caused BY the apparent presence of an unseen 'presence'. However, it is possible that it was the visual spatial illusion that triggered a feeling of discomfort. So it is entirely possible that this feeling of an unseen presence was once again generated by a combination of a feeling of discomfort coupled with an unexplained sensory stimulus. Or maybe the 'detached' feeling is key to this particular experience. Another possible source of the feeling of discomfort was that I was at the usual location of the door ghost. I could have been thinking about it unconsciously and the feeling of discomfort was how this was communicated to my conscious mind.

All of these experiences tend to suggest that multiple factors - some subjective (like the detached feeling or uneasiness), some objective (like an unusual sensory stimulus) - in combination are responsible for such experiences as feeling an unseen presence. The same can, of course, be said about misperception. What is clear is that simply getting detailed descriptions of ghosts from witnesses is never, on its own, going to explain how such experiences occur. What is needed is a full record of the exact state of the physical location at the time and the mental state of the witness. This is difficult information to obtain but, in many cases, investigators have barely even attempted to collect it, perhaps not thinking it terribly relevant.

So what's the solution? Controlled studies are obviously a way to go. Perhaps, by combining the right factors we could artificially induce suitable subjects to see ghosts at will. In my own informal research, I try to record as much detail as I can when I see ghosts spontaneously but, inevitably, I'm never properly prepared and no doubt miss a lot of important detail.

If there is anyone else out there, reading this, who sees ghost frequently, perhaps they could try to do the same and record as much detail as possible about the location of their sighting at the time, how they felt and whether they noticed anything else unusual (apart from the ghost itself). I'd love it if they could email me reports when events occur. In the meantime, I will record as much as I can here of my own observations.

It's ironic that, because ghost research focusses so strongly on the apparitions themselves, it may be missing some of the most important clues as to how they appear in the first place.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Where are ghosts depicted accurately?

Shadow ghostSo there I was, minding my own beeswax, walking through a shop, when I realised that the woman in front of me was talking to me! We were walking in the same direction so she had her back to me but I was sure, nevertheless, that I didn't know her. As I tuned in to what she was saying it became obvious that she thought I was her companion, another woman, who was walking directly behind me. The companion was too far behind to hear what was being said. As I peeled away from the pair, I wondered about the confused conversation between the two that was likely to follow this incident. It was like a scene from a situation comedy.

This got me thinking about the unusual portrayal of ghosts in situation comedies. Comedy often points out truths we would prefer not to discuss in polite company. And so it is with the ghosts. In most serious dramas, ghosts are depicted as spirits, even sometimes as full characters, with their own motivations, personalities and eccentric habits. But in situation comedies, ghost sightings are often portrayed as coincidences, dreams and even misperceptions, factors known to cause many real life sightings. It is obviously done for comic effect but, ironically, turns out to be a far more accurate portrayal of real ghost sightings.

Does this matter? Absolutely! Because the public perception of ghosts, and anomalous subjects in general, appears to be largely informed by fictional representations rather than real cases where there is no compelling evidence that spirits are responsible. And so, the public continues to believe the stereotypes about the paranormal rather than the reality. This means that we get endless sterile debates in the media such as 'do ghosts exist?' Such debates are pointless and uninformative since they miss the single most important question about ghosts. A debate about 'what are ghosts?' would be far more enlightening and bring up matters that most people have never heard about before.

Does it matter whether the general public has an accurate idea of what ghosts are? Absolutely! I doubt we would see the widespread use of assumption-led techniques, typical of the current ghost hunting boom, for one thing. Instead, we might have a ghost hunting boom based around evidence-led techniques. This could bring about rapid advances in our understanding of ghosts and hauntings. As long as people enter our subject with preconceived ideas based largely on fiction and cultural sterotypes it will be difficult to progress at a pace beyond a snail's.

So, in summary, what we need is for people to take comedies more seriously ...

PS: Have you ever seen a drama where a psychic makes a prediction in the opening scenes that isn't fulfilled by the closing credits or curtain fall? And how often does this situation happen in real life?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Time distortion and the 'backstory effect'

Distorted clockCertain aspects of any experience mark it out as anomalous. Typically, if an event appears to defy the laws of physics, for instance, it will generally be seen as paranormal. Or if it is associated with a UFO sighting, as extraterrestrial technology being used. One such anomalous 'signature' is time distortion. If an event appears to take a particular time but there are witnesses present who can vouch for it having taken a radically different period, such a distortion is often suspected. So what can cause such effects?

Regular readers will be aware of my acquaintance who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR). Microsleep episodes, where someone briefly falls asleep, usually for seconds, often without being aware of it, are not that rare. Going instantly into a dream state during such a microsleep, IS. Such MWRs are usually associated with a sleep disorder. So they only happen to a tiny percentage of the population. But for those who get them, some experiences can appear distinctly weird, possibly paranormal or extraterrestrial! And they can feature apparent time distortion effects.

Recently, my acquaintance has been getting a specific type of MWR frequently. It goes like this. Sitting quietly, maybe on public transport. Then suddenly, with no warning, whisked away to somewhere completely different. Seconds later, though it can feel much longer, back sitting quietly once again. The bit 'being away' is, obviously, a dream experience. But here's the interesting bit. The dream can feel oddly 'normal', like it is really happening. This is because the experiencer 'just knows' important facts about the situation straight away, without having to look around, ask, read or use any other conventional way of obtaining information. Many people will be familiar with this phenomenon from normal 'long sleep' dreams. It is a bit like viewing one scene from a movie where you've seen the preceding scenes so you know the backstory. Except that you haven't actually seen those preceding scenes at all, you just know what's in them. Let's call it the 'backstory effect', for convenience.

My acquaintance does not recall having noticed this 'backstory effect' before in MWR episodes before. The experiences are reported to feel so real that, to someone experiencing them, who is not familiar with MWR, they might appear disturbingly real. If someone DID believe the experience was real, the presence of an instantly known backstory might appear inexplicable. This might be 'resolved' in some cases by the witness confabulating new false memories. Specifically, they might 'remember' actually having experiences that explain how they 'knew' things that were not obvious from the actual MWR episode itself, even though they never actually happened. To accommodate these additional false memories into their account of the experience would require extra time to have elapsed. So, all of a sudden, the MWR, typically taking seconds, might feel like it was many minutes long! And this time distortion effect would simply add to the impression that the whole things was an anomalous experience.

Of course, we regularly see this sort of 'backstory effect' in normal 'long sleep' dreams but usually pay little attention to it. It is usually obvious when you are dreaming in a 'long' sleep. Furthermore, even when there is an apparent time distortion in a dream, it would not be particularly noticeable over the period of a 'long' sleep. BUT, experienced in a brief few seconds, when supposedly wide awake, the backstory effect can be dramatically unsettling!

It would be worth checking if a witness reporting a time distortion experience has ever had sleep disorders. And if a witness appears to 'just know' stuff that isn't part of their initially reported experience, it could be a strong indication of the backstory effect, pointing to the episode being a dream.

Monday, 5 August 2013

(Extra)sensing the weather

SunsetThough it had been overcast all morning, there had been no rain. Following a trip outside, I had been indoors for around half an hour when I 'sensed' it was raining. It had not been raining just a couple of minutes before, when I had last looked out of the window. With all the windows closed, I certainly couldn't hear any rain or smell the newly wet ground. Nevertheless, when I looked out, it was raining lightly, just as I 'expected'. So how had I accurately 'sensed' it?

I had not heard a weather forecast for our area that day. Though the overcast sky made rain a distinct possibility, we've had many such days in recent months here with not a drop of rain. Looking at the local weather forecast AFTER the incident, it said the chances of precipitation were 20%. So there was a 1 in 5 chance of rain BUT the odds of of my predicting that correctly were longer, given that I had no useful relevant information to go on. So with quite impressive odds against guessing the precise few minutes when it would rain, how did I do it - ESP perhaps? Or was it just blind chance?

There is another possibility. I think many apparent ESP events in everyday life do not involve paranormal senses. Instead they use normal senses, often combined, together with unconscious inferences based on as lifetime of experience. As an example, consider the current incident. Just after it I tried to recall anything 'different' I had noticed when I 'sensed' the rain. Indeed I had - the sound of a a passing car! Even though the rain had merely wet the ground, creating no puddles, it was apparently enough to subtly change the sound of passing car tyres. That had been what made me think it was raining. It wasn't a conscious process. I just 'knew' it must be raining but had no idea why.

Some people claim to be able to smell oncoming rain. And research has shown that this is entirely plausible (see here). I think we all make unconscious inferences, based on experience and sensory input, that allow us to 'know' things that are not immediately obvious. This would appear like ESP in many circumstances. I had previously thought that such unconscious insight was probably restricted to a small percentage of the population with unusual abilities, like super-recognisers (see here). But after this experience of my own, I can see how those of us without such abilities may also have psychic-like experiences from time to time.

Of course, none of this would explain someone significantly beating chance scores in a well-controlled ESP experiment. However, even if we assume some sort of ESP exists, that doesn't mean it is needed to explain all 'psychic' incidents in everyday life. Unconscious insight may explain many such experiences. Our brains know a lot more about what is going on around us than we are ever aware of consciously. Sometimes snippets of this information come into our consciousness, as if from nowhere. It can certainly feel like ESP but it is always worth checking if you can remember noticing anything 'different' before getting your insight. It might just tell you how you got that information.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

How scary are ghosts really?

Shadow ghostI stared around the room nervously. It was still dark outside and quiet. Alone, I recalled what some colleagues of mine had seen in that same room just a few years before - a ghost! I had wanted to see a ghost since I was a kid but suddenly, all alone in the haunted room, I felt unaccountably uncomfortable. It was the end of a ghost vigil and I was helping to pack up. From experience I knew that 'stuff' rarely happened during official vigil sessions. More often it occurred to people, usually on their own, between sessions or before or after the vigil. I had the intense feeling that ghostly 'stuff' was about to happen. I started intently into the silent room. Then nothing happened!

OK, as ghost stories go, that one's pretty lame. However, I was reminded of it while recently considering the factors that make people misperceive ghosts (and other anomalies). There are the triggers, of course, mainly concerned with not seeing an object well enough to recognise it. But there's more to it than that when it comes to seeing ghosts. We all misperceive all the time but most people might only see a ghost once in a lifetime, if that. So, clearly there are other factors involved. And my main suspect is currently emotions, particularly negative ones.

I have said often here that I started seeing ghosts only after I read about how misperception works, which is true. However, I can remember misperceiving other things before that. In particular, I have often 'seen' rare birds that, on closer inspection, were common species (example). As I've also said before, you tend to notice misperceptions that you either would like to see or would not like to see. The rare bird is clearly something I want to see. With ghosts it's more about trepidation. It's not that I'm scared of ghosts. The experience described above is the only time I've ever felt apprehensive about actually seeing one - it's the exception that proves the rule.

No, the fear is not of ghosts but of real ordinary people! Looking at my various ghost experiences, they were nearly all accompanied by a feeling of discomfort to some degree. In several instances I saw a figure apparently watching me from a window. In another incident, I saw a figure standing unnaturally still in vegetation*. Then there was the 'presence' behind me in an alleyway (see here). In all these cases I was alone. It wasn't seeing a ghost that made me uncomfortable. It was seeing an apparently real human behaving in an odd, faintly menacing way, that did that.

Now here's a bit of irony. In all the years that I've visited haunted places, whether on ghost vigils or just visiting, I've never once seen a ghost. While research has shown that places considered 'spooky' attract more reports of weird phenomena, apparently I'm immune to the effect. I see ghosts in entirely mundane, everyday situations. Perhaps it's because I don't feel uncomfortable in spooky places. But other people DO feel uncomfortable in spooky places which may be why they see ghosts there.

I notice many more misperceptions than just human figures. I often see an unfamiliar object as something quite different, at least for a second or so. But, because it is just one mundane object being substituted for another, I don't tend to remember it for long or consider it remarkable**. Just another misperception! It's only when a misperception makes me feel uncomfortable that I wonder if it could be paranormal.

In many ghost sightings people don't know they're watching a ghost at the time. That means that, while they can see the apparition, they actually think they're watching a live person. The figure is often recognized as a ghost only when it does something impossible, like vanishing. Or it may only be later discovered that no one could possibly have been present at that location at the time. But while the 'figure' is in view, it may well still produce a feeling of discomfort by its odd 'behaviour'. If it's a misperception of a tree, for instance, the figure is likely to be strangely still for a human. Or, as in my case, it may simply be the unexpected presence of an unknown figure in a lonely spot that could induce anxiety in a solitary witness.

Ghosts are traditionally thought of as scary. But maybe it works the other way round. Perhaps it's because witness actually thinks they are in the presence of an apparently menacing real human being that they are anxious. I know which would scare me more!

* Have you ever noticed how lots of ghosts in movies and TV dramas are shown standing silent, motionless and menacing? A case of art imitating life!

** I had an example of this the other day. I saw a plank lying beside a road. It seemed an odd place for it to be so I had a closer look. In fact it was an intense shadow cast by the particularly bright summer sun! I was mildly intrigued but hardly uncomfortable!

PS: For those who haven't come across it yet, a link to the song Xenonormal.