Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Ghost in red?

Red ghostOn two occasions recently I've seen a sign as a ghost (see here and here). It might seem unlikely to some that a sign could be misperceived as a human, or ghostly, figure. Then, unexpectedly, I found I had a chance to illustrate the phenomenon of ' ghostly signs'.

I was looking at a photo I'd taken recently when I noticed a figure in the background that I hadn't noticed at the time. It was someone in the distance, apparently dressed in red. You can see the figure in the photo here (right) which is a cropped version of the original (otherwise completely unedited). The figure appears to have a small head and rather prominent shoulders.

I really thought this was a person (or ghost), at first glance. Zooming in the 'figure', it looked too rectangular. Looking at other photos, taken at the same location at the same time, I found several examples of rectangular red signs with similar proportions. By chance, there was also a very real person in a red top in one photo. However, their shoulders were nothing like as square! Interestingly, this person was around the same height as the red signs.

I'm in no doubt that the red object in this photo is one of the signs at this site. It may not look terribly convincing, to most people, as a human figure, particularly on prolonged close examination. However, it does demonstrate that signs can be of similar height and proportions to real human figures and in locations where people might well stand. I think the photo shows that signs are a credible source of ghostly misperception, when seen briefly, in peripheral vision or poor viewing conditions.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Life suddenly goes into fast forward!

Crows in a treeLooking out of a train window recently a witness experienced something extraordinary. The train was stopped at a station but suddenly the witness felt they were moving. But out of the window the station was still there. It was not one of those experiences of false movement when a train on an adjacent track is moving. There was no other train present.  

It suddenly became apparent that the train really WAS moving, despite appearances to the contrary. But the strangest bit was this. The scenery briefly went by much FASTER than the speed of the train. It appeared to be catching up with reality! It was like watching a recording in fast forward mode. So what is going on?

Regular readers will probably be unsurprised to know the witness was my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) experiences. MA goes straight into a dream state during microsleep episodes that last just seconds. Being awake before and after means that the dream episode can feel very much like a waking experience. A small proportion of the general population, typically with certain sleep disorders, have such experiences.

What appears to have happened is that MA went into a MWR while the train was stopped at the station. As the train moved off MA was actually seeing a dream version of the station, indistinguishable from the real thing. The motion of train probably stirred MA out of the MWR. On coming out of the MWR MA's brain had a conflict between live visual input, showing the train moving, and the MWR showing a stationary scene. In order to reconcile the two MA's brain did a 'fast forward' of the scene to catch up with reality. It could simply have 'jumped ahead' but presumably decided that a fast forward was more 'realistic'! The way such sensory conflicts are resolved by our brains leads to apparently strange experiences that nevertheless appear realistic. It is easy to see why they would be interpreted as paranormal.

I can't think of a paranormal report exactly like this incident. However, it is easy to see how such an incident could be viewed as paranormal, or possibly the effect of alien technology, by a witness. It could even be seen as a manipulation of time or space. It is certainly something to consider when people report bizarre time or space distortion effects.

"The point is, we're in a little trouble if you don't ..." This was the latest snippet overheard by MA during a separate purely aural MWR incident. It is typically frustrating. Is the speaker actually talking to MA, or a third party? What has MA, or a third party, not done? Not least, what is the trouble? Intriguingly, the 'my point is' phrase implies that we are coming in at the middle of a conversation even though it is all MA heard. Remember that all this content comes from MA's own brain. So are these scenes being played out unconsciously before MA hears them or do they simply appear as if they have already started? What ius certain is that they could easily give the impression of having originated outside MA's brain.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Scary ghosts?

VigilWhy are ghosts supposed to be scary? I say 'supposed' because I have not found my own encounters with ghosts scary. Until now ...

I was on a train, gazing out of the window, as you do. My attention was caught by a tall dark figure standing very close to the track by an overbridge. For some reason I cannot fathom, a feeling of dread enveloped me as I saw that figure. I stared at it intently as we passed by. That's when I realised that the figure was, in fact, a sign, with similar dimensions to a large man. The ghost was a particularly effective misperception. I was certainly in no doubt, when I first saw it, that it was a person. Indeed, I was surprised that the train driver did not sound the horn in warning.

Later I tried to analyze why this particular ghost left me with a feeling of dread. I may have been worried that the figure was so close to the track that there might be a horrible accident, though this didn't occur to me consciously at the time. Another possibility is that the lighting made the 'figure' look sinister. The short rail trip I was on is one I do frequently but I'd never seen the sign before. It might be a new sign but it is more likely I'd simply never noticed it before. The lighting, from an overcast sky, may have highlighted the sign relative to its background, bringing it to my attention. The sign is unusually tall for a person which may make it look a bit threatening, I suppose. Either way, I thought I was watching a real person at the time so I never felt afraid because I thought it was a ghost.

Many people are afraid of ghosts, despite having never seen one. On the other hand, many witnesses are, as in the current incident, not even aware that they are seeing a ghost at the time they experience one. So they are unlikely to be scared at the time of the sighting.

Hauntings, on the other hand, are understandably disturbing. Having apparently random unexplained events occur frequently in the same location is likely to be unsettling. As I've pointed out before, we do not know that ghosts actually produce hauntings. For instance, ghosts are not seen actually doing haunting stuff like moving objects. And they only appear in a relatively small number of hauntings. In addition, ghosts are often seen without any associated haunting phenomena. This suggests that the idea that hauntings are what ghosts do is not a robust conclusion from the actual evidence. So, while I can see how hauntings can be scary, I'm not so sure most ghost actually deserve their scary reputation. Nor am I convinced they produce hauntings.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Touched by a ghost!

Crows in a treeThe witness was sitting on a moving train, looking out of the window. They felt someone sit down in the adjacent seat. Curiosity soon got the better of the witness who, after a few seconds, turned to casually look at their new neighbour. There was no one there!

That's the basic account, now for the detail which is vital in understanding paranormal cases. First of all, the 'witness' is my acquaintance (MA) who has microsleep with REM (MWR) experiences. MA goes straight into a dream state during microsleep episodes that last just seconds. Being awake before and after means that the dream episode can feel very much like a waking experience. A small proportion of the general population, typically with certain sleep disorders, have such experiences.

MA did not actually see or hear anything. It is possible the ghost made a noise while sitting down but this could have been drowned out by the train noises. Instead there was only the physical feeling of someone's clothes touching MA's when the ghost sat down. It felt perfectly normal, just as if a real human being had sat there. It was not possible for the ghost to have actually been a real person as MA still felt the 'contact' while turning round. MA does not recall exactly when this feeling stopped. A crucial point is that MA remembers coming out of a MWR while turning to look at the ghost. So the experience definitely appears to be a MWR episode. However, crucially, this is the first time MA has ever felt anything physical in such an experience. MA's MWRs have hitherto been exclusively visual and / or aural.

This is very interesting! It means that MWRs can involve physical sensations as well as visual and auditory ones. It is not yet known if the three can combine in one experience. We'll have to wait and see. Interestingly, MA did NOT feel any sense of presence. There was, instead, the normal physical sensation of someone's clothes touching MA's. It was so real that MA was shocked to see no one there. And this is someone for who strange experiences have become routine.

This physical sensation clearly extends the range of reports of apparently paranormal phenomena that MWRs can cover. For instance, in some ghost cases there are reports of witnesses apparently being touched by someone, or something, invisible. These reports no longer rule out the possibility of MWRs as a possible xenonormal explanation.

Monday, 12 October 2015

When considering lights in the sky ...

UFOI took this light in the sky photo (right) recently. It was dusk with no cloud. The foreground is a roof with chimney. The photo here is a cropped section of the original but is otherwise unaltered. Many UFO sightings are described as lights in the sky. Anyone taking this photo would, therefore, feel entitled to report it as a UFO.

So what is it? Luckily, it is one of a whole series of photos showing the same object. In most shots the light is not in the sky at all but in front of buildings or the ground! Knowing the background behind the taking of a photo is often crucial to understanding it. So here's what actually happened.

I was taking photos when I noticed a curious glowing light some of the shots. The object, initially apparently just above the ground, moved as I panned around. In fact, it clearly moved synchronously with the camera movements. It was, thus, obviously, a photographic artefact. I then deliberately panned the camera to a position that placed the glowing object in the sky. The result is the photo here.

The glowing object is actually lens flare caused by a bright streetlight in the original (uncropped) frame. Had someone taken just one photo, with the light in the sky, it might have been interpreted as a UFO. I've not come across a UFO photo that was obviously lens flare to date but that may only be because I hadn't thought it would produce a convincing UFO. But it turns out that lens flare IS something to be eliminated when considering UFO photos after all.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Monk and nun ghosts

Shadow in treesI've heard that ghosts of nuns and monks are common in the UK (see here, for instance). I say 'heard' because I've not come across many contemporary accounts personally. So, either my sample of ghosts is atypical or the monk / nun form may be disappearing. I was prompted to think about such ghosts by a recent experience.

I was out and about when I caught sight of what appeared to be a nun's wimple. It was an oval white shape with a yellowish circle in the middle. For a few seconds it really WAS a nun, to me anyway. I was startled as it was not a place where I'd ever expect to see a nun. Given that fact, I wondered if it might be a ghost. And when the 'nun' vanished, to be replace by a white sign, my ghost suspicion was confirmed. It was a classic misperception ghost. I could not see the writing on the sign from a distance making its true identity unobvious. The circle in the middle, giving the impression of a face, was actually a picture. The yellow colour was not obvious from at the distance where I originally saw the ghost.

The experience demonstrated to me why monks and nuns ought be fairly common as misperception ghosts. All you really need is a dark shape resembking a figure, such as a shadow, with a lighter area suggesting a face in an appropriate position. Then you have the classic monk in a habit. I tried taking some photos of suitable shadows in foliage to see if one resembled a monk or nun.

The photo (above right) is the nearest I got to a shadowy 'monk' figure. The 'ghostly figure' is in the centre of the photo. There is a suggestion of a 'cowl' at the top, formed by some leaves. It looked like a ghostly monk figure, briefly, when seen with the naked eye. However, in the photo it is possible to examine the image at leisure so its inadequacies become plain to seek. I only spent a few minutes trying to get shadow 'monk' type photos. I'm sure that with a bit more effort I could get a reasonably convincing photo of such a ghost.

So, if monk ghosts are relatively easy to misperceive, why haven't I seen them before? And why have I not come across many contemporary reports of them? I think it may be because such dark figures are more likely to be labelled as shadow ghosts these days. As far as I recall, shadow ghosts only appear to have come to prominence relatively recently. Are monk ghosts and shadow ghosts different interpretations of the same basic kind of apparition? If anyone has any information on the history of monk ghosts and shadow ghosts I'd be interested to hear about it.

PS: By coincidence (or not), a few days after taking these photos I saw two real nuns. It was the first time I'd seen any in years!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

White ghost in a tree!

Greek statue (not)So, I was looking through some recent photos, as you do, when I found a ghost. I should say, straight away, that I deliberately take photos in situations where I think something resembling a ghost might appear in the resulting picture. But this was NOT one of those photos. It was, instead, a rather distant picture of a bird. I wasn't expecting anything odd in the photo at all but I could hardly miss it when I looked. I have cropped the photo (right) to highlight the ghost, otherwise it is unaltered.

To me, the pale object (top centre) looks like the profile view of a head facing left. I can see an eye, a mouth, a nose, a hairline and a neck. Shadows suggest that the head is illuminated from the left. My first thought was that it was a classical Greek statue.

So, if it most closely resembles a statue, why am I calling it a ghost? Well, one popular idea about ghosts is that they are pale or white. In reality, witnesses usually report ghosts as looking just like normal everyday people. As discussed recently (here) popular ideas about ghosts generally differ widely from real life reports. My point is that I can easily see how someone discovering this 'statue head' in a photo they'd taken might report it as a ghost.

So what is it? There is no statue, Greek or otherwise, at the location. The 'statue head' effect is clouds seen through a hole in tree branches. That it resembles a statue is pure coincidence. In the field of anomalous phenomena, coincidence is frequently mentioned in connection with subjects like precognition or telepathy. But it is actually an important factor throughout the whole field of anomalous phenomena. It can explain many apparent paranormal reports. For more on this subject see here.