Monday, 3 March 2014

A ghost calling?

shadow ghostI was woken by someone whistling, apparently trying to attract my attention. As I dragged myself reluctantly from slumber the whistling changed noticeably. It became the unmistakable song of a blackbird. I listened for quite a while but the the distinctive 'attention call' phrase I'd heard earlier was never repeated. As a birder, I am very familiar with blackbird songs. They vary geographically but I know what they sound like round here and I've never like the 'attention call' before. Like most birds, blackbirds repeat the same phrases over and over in their song so if this one HAD done the 'attention call', it should have been repeated. The 'attention call' sounded like a deliberate attempt by a human to attract someone's attention but with the tone of blackbird song. Overall, it sounded like someone playing electronically with a blackbird song.

I concluded, from the clues above, that this was a case of hypnagogia. Interestingly, auditory hypnagogia often contain apparent attempts to attract the witness's attention. They may hear their name apparently being called or someone knocking at their door, for instance. So 'someone whistling' to gain a witness's attention fits well. It is also common for external sounds, like an alarm clock going off, to be incorporated and modified in dreams while someone remains asleep. So, all in all, I think hypnagogia fits well with the circumstances.

I wondered what someone else, unaware of hypnagogia, might have made of this incident had they experienced it? I suspect they would probably have dismissed it as 'imagination' and quickly forgotten about it. Not everyone has my limitless curiosity!

Now suppose that same hypothetical witness had heard their name being called (with no one else present), instead of the whistling? A cursory search of the web suggests that such an experience might well be interpreted as a ghost calling! I doubt that such an incident would be dismissed or forgotten.

In short, I think that hypnagogic experiences which correspond with our cultural expectations of the paranormal are more likely to be remembered, and considered real, than others. I further suspect that a witness told that their whistling experience was likely to be hypnagogia would probably accept it. I think the opposite would true for name calling.


  1. A pedantic point is that this is 'hypnopompia' (as it occurred whilst waking up) as opposed to 'hynagogia' (which occurs whilst falling asleep).
    A more significant point is that this is so undramatic compared with the various auditory / visual / tactile hypnopompic hallucinations that I've experienced, I would have put it down to birdsong if I had experienced it. It's so similar to birdsong I don't think it's at all evidential of being a hypnopompic hallucination.
    Good luck in experiencing something more dramatic next time!

    1. I call all these experiences hypnogogia as there seems no obvious logical reason, based on the evidence, to differentiate between them, in terms of causing apparent paranormal phenomena.

      The experience may well have been undramatic compared to many others but I would certainly consider it evidential. As a birder I am very familiar with blackbird song and this particular call was exactly like a human whistling to attract my attention. The fact that it happened just as I was waking is, I feel, no coincidence.