Friday, 29 January 2016

Too strange to be noticed

Ginat glowing pig (not)I recently mentioned (here) that we might be missing many ghosts because they generally look like normal people. But might we also be missing stuff because it is just TOO strange as well? On the face of it, it appears unlikely that people might routinely miss extraordinary sights. But a recent experience of mine suggests that it certainly happens sometimes.

I like to think of myself as a reasonably good observer, mostly because of disciplines learnt through bird watching. I also regularly notice unusual things, probably as a result of my long interest in the paranormal, as I've recorded many times in this blog. But I now have definitive evidence that I've missed at least one strange sight.

Regular readers will recall the photo I took of a 'giant glowing pig' (see here). Well, I happened to return to the same location around a month after taking that original 'pig' photo. I took another photo (right), which still looks like a giant pig to me! But here's the strange bit. This time I SAW the 'pig' with the naked eye before taking a picture. And it looked just the same as in the photo - a giant glowing pig! And someone else present, who I pointed it out to, agreed!

So, how did I manage to take a photo of the 'pig' on the previous occasion without ever noticing it? I think it's a question of expectation. Just as someone visiting a house they know to be haunted will often hear lots of strange noises (some or all of which have mundane explanations), so if you're just out in the countryside, not expecting anything bizarre, you might well not see it when it appears. I think the degree of 'strangeness' may be a factor too. A giant glowing pig imight just be 'too weird' to be noticed! And even if it IS noticed, it will probably be dismissed as something normal, even if the explanation isn't at all obvious.

If this hypothesis is true, one wonders how many truly bizarre things are being missed all the time! Perhaps we're only seeing stuff we 'know' from ghost stories and science fiction movies. Maybe the world is a lot stranger than we imagine.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The man who vanished (temporarily)

Crows in a treeI was waiting for a train at a quiet station recently. With no train for a while there was no one else about. I looked around hoping to see some wildlife to watch to pass the time. That's when I noticed a young man walking along a path a little way from the station. I looked away for a couple of seconds, distracted by a noise, When I looked back to the path, the man had gone. I was now puzzled because I know that path well and there is no easy way off it, short of climbing over fences and walking through dense undergrowth. So I scanned the area to see where the man had gone. Then I saw him, further along the path. In fact, he was just where he should have been had he continued to walk at the pace I saw him going at before. But here's the weird bit. There is NOTHING to obscure the view of the entire length of the path from the position where I stood. There is some thick undergrowth but it is only tall on the far side of the path from where I was standing. I SHOULD have been able to see the man as soon as I turned back, after being distracted by a sound. So how did I not see him when I definitely should have? Was he a ghost perhaps?

While I considered this puzzle, the man stood opposite me on the other platform of the station. He looked completely normal, but then most ghosts do. One thing I did notice was that he was dressed entirely in dark clothes and, significantly, was wearing a hood. The weather was overcast and it was rather dark for the time of day (early afternoon). I tried to work out some non-paranormal explanations for the man's bizarre temporary disappearance.

There were various possibilities. For instance., maybe the man had gone into the taller undergrowth on the far side of the path, briefly, for some reason I can hardly imagine. Or maybe he had bent over to tie his shoe laces. Both of these possibilities would have entailed the man going faster after the brief delay so that he arrived at the place and time I next saw him. His hood, however, suggested a more likely explanation. There is a bend in the path which would make him look away from my position. This would have caused his face and head to be hidden from me by that hood. It is possible he would have then blended in with the tall dark leafless vegetation behind. So, even if I'd looked directly at him he would have been hidden in plain sight! The bend is in the stretch of path he would have traversed when I looked away. So, it makes sense and fits the known facts but without doing a reconstruction I can't be sure.

There are, of course, lots of other possibilities, mainly involving the man doing something quite odd. And, of course, people do indeed do odd things from time to time. Similarly, many apparent paranormal incidents involve unusual coincidences. And this could be an example of a coincidence. If the bend in the path was indeed responsible for the disappearance, I would have had to turn back just as the man was looking away for a few seconds. It is important to consider the unlikely, but entirely feasible, before looking at paranormal explanations for a bizarre incident.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Huge glowing finger?

WingHere's an unusual photo (right) I took recently. The picture shows a tree in winter. Unfortunately, the whole photo looks unsharp, probably the result of camera shake - it WAS taken in a hurry! The interesting bit is the large light object, behind the trees on the right, perhaps resembling a huge glowing finger. It is faintly reminiscent of the giant glowing pig reported recently (here). So what is it?

If I did not know what the photo was of I admit I might well not get the correct answer. I suppose I might guess, for instance, that it is the roof of nearby hut. I suppose some people might speculate that it could it be an unusual glowing ghost!

It's actually the wing of Barn Owl just behind the tree. I was trying to get a photo of the bird which is why I know what it is. But suppose someone else had caught this image by accident, without noticing the presence of the owl. They might speculate all sorts of weird things that the object could be.

Many anomalous photos fall into this category - an accidental photo of an object not noticed at the time of exposure. When such an object is partially obscured, like this owl, it makes identification more difficult. Who would guess an owl flying in daylight? In fact, in the UK both 'Barn Owls and Short-eared Owls are quite commonly seen flying in daylight. Other owl species may also be occasionally be seen flying in daylight if disturbed. When wild animals are photographed accidentally they will often not noticed by the photographer. That's because the animal is usually trying to avoid being seen!

While most things seen in photos that were not seen at the time of exposure are probably photographic artifacts, there can be other things too. There are so many possible xenonormal explanations for such photographic oddities.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Are ghosts common?

VigilUnlike in the movies, real ghosts don't generally glow, nor are they transparent. They usually look like perfectly normal people. So how do know if you're looking at one? Usually they give the game away when they vanish or do something else that's impossible, like only being visible to certain people in a group of witnesses. But what if they don't do anything unusual? Might ghosts actually be a lot more common than reports suggest?

I already have some evidence in favour of the idea that ghosts are quite common. I've been actively looking for ghosts for decades but only started seeing them recently, after learning about how misperception works. It was as if I'd unconsciously given myself permission to see them. Since then I've had dozens of sightings, many described in this blog.

I was prompted to think about this matter by seeing a couple of candidates recently that COULD have been ghosts. One was a man dressed like he was from the 1930s that I saw in a shop. I tried to work out if other people could see him but he never really interacted with anyone. There is, of course, a problem here. If no one interacted with him was it because he was invisible to them or that they just failed to notice him? It is quite staggering how people will fail to notice very real, large objects right in front of them. So maybe he WAS a ghost but there was no definite evidence. He might just like dressing that way. Or maybe he was going to a fancy dress party.

The other candidate was someone sitting outside in a howling gale with high winds and rain. It could just be eccentric behaviour, of course, but the figure seemed oblivious to the conditions that had everyone else around seeking shelter. The figure was there for at least half an hour. I looked several times to see if it was still there. Unfortunately, on the last occasion that I looked the figure had gone. So I'll never know if it simply walked away or vanished! I DO know that other people could see this figure because I asked one! Again, it might have been a ghost or just someone who enjoys the sensation of wild weather.

Though my recent observations did nothing to answer the question of how common ghosts really are, my overall experience in recent years suggests they are probably more common than reports suggest.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Insect vanishes then reappears

Apparent ghost insectI am short-sighted. However, even without glasses I can see all but the smallest objects. They might look fuzzy but I can see they are there. Until now, it seems!

Recently, while not wearing glasses, I noticed something small moving on a white wall. The small grey object moved away from me. I assumed it was an insect. Though insects are not common in winter, they are still around. But something struck me as odd about this insect. When I stepped forward to get a better look at it the thing vanished! So, a ghost insect then!

But this is where it gets even warder. As I stepped back the bisect reappeared in a new position. It then moved in exactly the same way as it had before. And as iI approached it again, it vanished again, only to reappear in the same position as before. Looking closely at the 'insect' it turned out to be a grey mark on a white wall. I have seen 'insects' in such circumstances before (see here) but they didn't move. So how can a grey mark on a white wall possibly move?

It may be something similar to autokinesis, which happens with a point source of light in an otherwise completely dark environment. The light appears to move when, in fact, it is stationary. I have come across autokinesis on dark ghost vigils. And I think a similar phenomenon may also happen in broad daylight when there is a small object seen against a featureless background, like a uniformly white wall. However, the daylight version appears much stranger. That's because the rest of the scene looks perfectly normal making the apparent movement look very real and decidedly inexplicable.

I tried a few experiments to see how the phenomenon behaved. Luckily it was completely reproducible. I started by approaching the grey mark to a point where I could clearly see what it really was. It did not move. Then, as I moved away, it started to drift. I saw it approach a corner of the room leaving no trace behind. As I approached what I saw as the position of the mark it vanished and reappeared above the point I was looking at. In other words, I must have moved my gaze downwards without being aware of it. I was able to do this sequence of observations repeatedly and the same thing happened each time. I felt surprise, on every occasion, to see the spot reappear above the point where I was looking. I then tried the same thing with my glasses ON. However, looking at the mark directly, it never moved. But when I put the mark in peripheral vision it appeared to be moving upwards. However, despite apparently continually moving it never seemed to get any higher, relative to other objects nearby.

Clearly this visual perception phenomenon, whether autokinesis or not, can cause some very strange observations. And given that I could see a less dramatic version with glasses on, it may not just affect short-sighted people. It is something to consider when you come across reports of small objects apparently moving across a featureless background.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

V shaped UFO

UFOIt's an intriguing looking UFO photo (right). It shows a brightly-shining lopsided V-shaped object in a twilight sky. So what exactly is it?

Whenever I see a anomalous photo, like this one, my first question is not what is the anomaly but what is unusual about this photo? The answer to the latter question generally answers the former. It is easy to waste a lot of time concentrating on the odd object itself when, in many cases, the answer lies with the photo.

That is definitely the case here. The trees at the bottom of the picture looked blurred whereas the UFO appears relatively sharp. The shutter speed was 1/15s which is slow for a hand-held exposure. So the trees are most likely blurry because of camera shake.
If camera shake, is affecting the trees it must also affect the UFO too, meaning it is not really a lopsided V shape at all. If the UFO was a point light source (like a star), the V shape would represent a very large degree of camera movement. But that degree of blurring would, in turn, make the trees pretty much unrecognizable. So the object is most likely larger than a simple point source, or it might be moving, or both. As it happens, the object was identified by the photographer at the time of exposure. It was an aircraft, moving with multiple lights showing. The light trail appearance arises from the blurring together of the aircraft lights. The V shape follows the way the camera shook during the exposure and the motion of the aircraft.

What is interesting about this photo is that it demonstrates how some objects can appear more blurred than others in a photo affected by camera shake. By comparing the blur on known objects in the photo it is possible to make an educated guess as to what an unblurred version of any unknown object might look like. In any case, where there is motion blur in a photo you cannot take the apparent shapes of any objects literally.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Giant glowing pig!

Glowing figureIt is amazing what you can find by minutely studying your photos. Take this example (right), taken recently, for instance. I find it difficult not to see this object as anything but a giant yellow glowing pig standing on its hind legs, looking left. Yes, those really are trees surrounding the object, not twigs! The photos has not been edited in any way except for cropping. So what is this bizarre thing, photographed on an unremarkable overcast day in the English countryside?

The answer is that it is a rock face. The next photo (below left) shows exactly the same rock face from a different angle taken just one year (minus one day) before. The area shown is part of the top section of the 'pig's head'. This photo has been modestly enhanced (sharpened and brightness reduced) to bring out the detail of the rock face. The photo was taken from nearer to the rock face than the original photo in sunny conditions.

Pig faceSo how did the giant glowing pig photo arise? The 'pig' appears to glow and show almost no internal detail because it is overexposed. Such overexposure is quite common where you get a mixture of small bright objects against a dark background. The pig shape, including the snout, ears and neck, is largely the result of tree branches surrounding and crossing in front of the rock face.

OK, so no one is likely to report a photo of a giant glowing pig (though who knows) but what if the object had, instead, been the size and shape of a human figure? It might easily have been reported as a photo of a ghost. Reports of real-life glowing ghosts are extremely rare. However it is quite a common portrayal of ghosts in movies so it is an understandable interpretation.

So, if you see a photo of a glowing figure, possibly reported as a ghost, it would be worth checking for overexposure. Other photos of the same scene would be helpful in checking this interpretation.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Can you miss seeing someone in plain sight?

Crows in a treeAn odd thing happened. I was waiting for a train, anxious to get a seat. As the train pulled in I could see a vacant seat just near the door which stopped right in front of me. I was first in and headed straight for the vacant seat only to find a woman sitting there. I was amazed. There had been no one standing in the train. It was possible, I suppose., that the woman had risen from a nearby seat and taken the vacant one instead. However, there did not seem time to do this and there was no newly vacant seat nearby. I genuinely wondered if the woman might be a ghost! However,as I was looking for another seat I did not get a chance to look at her closely. From a distance she looked very normal. But then most ghosts do ...

The most obvious explanation for the incident was that I somehow failed to see the woman in the seat when looking from outside the train. Looking from afar, she did not appear to blend in with the seat. So how had I missed her? I actually SAW a vacant seat, not something just vaguely resembling it.

So here's my theory about what happened. I think there were probably reflections in the window as I looked into the train, though I don't actually remember any. These reflections interfered with my view so that the unconscious bit of my brain could not decide what it was seeing. So, it decided there was no one in the seat and did a visual substitution of an empty seat. That would make it an impressive example of a type of misperception that I call 'imperception' (see here) where it is possible to miss seeing something in plain sight. If anyone knows the real scientific name for an imperception, please let me know.

I frequently look for vacant seats on approaching trains before boarding them. This is the first case I've had of seeing a vacant seat that was not. Incidentally, I would not have noticed any reflections in the window for the same reason you don't see the tree you are misperceiving as a human figure. So that would explain why I don't recall seeing any reflections.

Imperceptions can have an important role in reports of anomalous incidents. The witness may fail to notice something that is a huge clue to a xenonormal explanation for an otherwise apparently inexplicable event. I've always wanted to compare just what a witness to an anomaly reports and what a video camera would see of the same scene. If, and until, life logging equipment becomes common I guess it will not happen.

Monday, 4 January 2016

UFO ....

UFOI took this photo (right) recently of a UFO. It was twilight. which is why the image is noisy. As you can see, the object was bright white and star-like in appearance. Indeed it could have been a bright star, or maybe a planet, at first sight, as it appeared to be stationary and silent. However, the sky was overcast so that explanation was unlikely. As if to confirm this, after a few seconds the UFO appeared to start slowly moving rightwards.

Though I had an idea what the object might be, I couldn't be sure based solely on what I could see. So then I took zoomed image (below right), some 6 seconds after the picture above. As you see the single white light is now revealed as something more complex.

In this second image (which has been cropped) there appear to be at least 2 white lights and, crucially, a red one on the right hand side. If we assume the UFO is actually a plane the whole sighting starts to make sense.

UFOThe aircraft (which I believe it was) would have been flying more or less straight towards the observer (me). That's why it appeared motionless in the sky, at first. The white lights are close together and so look like a single light in the distance. And the red light is too close to the white ones to be seen at all until the aircraft gets reasonably close (or when viewed with a telephoto lens). That red light is on the right, meaning it is on the left from the pilot's point of view. This confirms that the aircraft is flying towards the observer as red position lights are on the left wing.

Once again, this shows the value of having a telephoto lens, binoculars or a telescope handy when viewing UFOs. Of course, sadly, this is highly unlikely to happen with most UFO sightings.

Incidentally, the plane was silent because it was at a highish altitude. In addition, there was a very noisy main road nearby, drowning out all but loud noises.