Tuesday, 8 December 2015

On being a witness

Golden seaI enjoy people watching. When standing around waiting for a bus, for instance, I like to imagine the people around me are about to be witnesses to an anomalous event. How accurate would their accounts of the incident be? Those watching their phone and listening to music probably wouldn't notice much but what about the others?

Recently I was standing at just such a bus stop when I heard a strange noise. It was quite loud and obtrusive. I knew what it was because I'd heard it before, but only twice. I looked for what I knew would be the source but could not find it. The odd thing was that no one else at the bus stop seemed remotely interested in the sound at all, even though it was rather unusual and clearly originated nearby.

Casual observations like this lead me to think that there could be a lot of unreported strange incidents going on all the time. Most people seem to notice little of what is going on around them, even when it unusual. I also wonder how much detail witnesses might recall if they actually DID notice something strange. And how much of what they recall would be accurate (see here).

There is an effect I've noticed about witnesses that I've mentioned here before. It is this; if you ask them questions about factors that might show a natural cause for their observation, witnesses will often recall events, that they have not previously mentioned, that support a paranormal interpretation. When this happens I recall watching potential witnesses apparently oblivious to their surroundings, odd or otherwise.

It would be great to study witnesses actually in the act of observing strange phenomena 'in the wild', as opposed to a staged incident. The chances of this happening by chance, with a convenient nearby CCTV for instance, are slim. We will probably have to wait for wearable lifelogging equipment to become commonly worn (if it ever does) to record such things. In my own case, I quite often come across odd things and always try to actively investigate their possible origins at the time. I've recorded many such examples in this blog. However, I am always on the lookout for strange phenomena and have some good ideas of their causes beforehand. These factors make me, I suspect, an atypical witness of strange phenomena.

And the photo? It shows a strange golden sheen on some waves in the sea. It might not be obvious, just from this cropped photo, what the cause of this phenomenon is. A clue is at the top of the shot where you can just see the support pillars of a seaside pier. The golden effect is a reflection of bright lights on the pier in the highly agitated seawater below. And the strange noise at the bus stop? It was the alarm call of a Grey Squirrel. Despite belong a long time amateur naturalist I've only heard the sound a couple of times before so I think it unlikely that many, if any, of the other people at the bus stop knew what it was.

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