Friday, 22 April 2016

A bizarre near miss!

Crows in a treeI was wandering slowly towards a lightly-used railway station recently when I saw someone I recognized standing alone on the platform. I couldn't remember their name, at first. But I did know immediately the man was a well-known actor whose work I admire. Regular readers will be aware that I am waiting to see if my 'prediction' that I'll see someone famous this month (see here) will come true. And it appeared it had!

But as I got closer I realised, with some disappointment, that the man was not who I thought it was at all. There was a resemblance but that's all. But the man definitely WAS the famous actor from a distance, not just someone who resembled them. So this would appear to be a case of misperception. I suppose we could call it 'identity misperception'. So what's going on here?

Firstly, I'll admit I've thought about seeing someone famous several times this month. However, I wasn't thinking about it consciously when I approached the railway station. But perhaps I was unconsciously on high alert constantly looking for someone famous. This could partly explain why I've been seeing famous people at 'predicted' intervals. It could be that, though I'm not consciously looking for them, unconsciously I am, but only when I 'expect' them. Of course, the famous person still needs to be physically present but, even so, being on the lookout has got to improve the chances of seeing one. I've no doubt I've passed famous people in the street, on occasion, without noticing them.

Secondly, the idea of 'identity misperception' is interesting. Misperception substitutes images from visual memory onto objects our brains don't properly recognise. A classic case is where a poorly-seen tree is viewed as a human figure. The figure is, in my experience, someone the viewer does not recognise. It hadn't occurred to me before that a poorly-seen real human figure might be seen as someone recognisable to the witness. But since visual substitution draws on the witness's memory, this makes perfect sense!

Thirdly, how do I know for a fact that all these famous people I've been seeing where really who I thought they were? Well, in all those cases I got a very close view of the person, often down to a metre or two. I've even brushed shoulders with one! Also, in many of the cases I had someone with me who completely agreed with the identification. And, in many cases, I heard the famous person talk, either to a companion or on the phone, thus confirming their identity. In fact, I don't recall one example of me seeing such a person on my own where they did not speak. So I'm confident of all those earlier identifications.

So how would 'identity misperception' affect anomalous phenomena cases? It might explain somes case of people being seen when they are physically elsewhere. And though most reported apparitions are not recognized by their witnesses, some of those that are might be explained by 'identity misperception'. I think there are more implications to examine arising from 'identity misperception'. I will no doubt return to the subject.

It does mean, of course, that I still haven't seen the expected famous person this month, despite apparently unconsciously looking hard for one. And time is running out.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Double UFO photo

Grey sky UFOsPhotos containing multiple UFOs are surprisingly common. I find it surprising because seeing even one UFO is an unusual thing. But, then, I suppose there's no real reason why UFOs should not appear in groups.

Anyway, here's a UFO photo (right) I took recently. Apart from being cropped, the photo is completely unedited. It shows two somewhat fuzzy objects against a grey sky. The objects look, to me, like white circles, or spheres, with a dark ring around their middles. Overall they resemble the planet Saturn in appearance. So what are they?

The first thing to say is that 'fuzzy' is the key word here. The objects are out of focus. It is difficult to get small moving objects in the sky in focus using autofocus. I did succeed in getting these objects in focus in another photo which showed that they are, in fact, gulls.

So why do birds look like circles with a dark ring? The 'ring' effect is caused by their wings, which are grey, which contrasts with their white bodies. The circular shape arises from the birds being severely out of focus. It is surprisingly how often out of focus objects feature in anomalous photos. In this case, the lack of any other objects in the photo to compare with makes it difficult to appreciate just how blurry these objects really are.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Strange animal?

not snakeThe photo (right) shows what appears to a strange-looking animal. Is it a large lizard or even a huge snake? I suggest it is large because it towers over the ground vegetation (including clumps of grass) in the background. Given that the photo was taken in the UK, where there are no large lizards, it would have to be something incredibly rare and unlikely, maybe an escape from a zoo or collection or even an alien animal of some kind.

I took this photo because the object looked like something interesting but I could put my finger on what it was at the time. Looking at it later, I deliberately made the image darker and suddenly I could see what it suggested - a huge green lizard, of course. I then cropped the picture to further emphasize the lizard look. I don't think everyone will see it as a lizard but some will.

Now, suppose someone else had taken a photo of this object but in low light conditions. They might well have seen it as a large lizard on the resulting picture and reported it as such. Any photo they took of the object would look like a lizard without any editing at all.

I did all this to illustrate what happens how important context is to anomaly reports. I'm sure that a lot of important contextual information is routinely missing from paranormal reports and anomalous photos. If such contextual information was available to anomaly investigators it could easily point them towards a xenonormal explanation in many cases.

The next picture contains a larger crop of the (otherwise unedited) original photo. It is now obvious that the 'lizard' is actually a moss-covered log. Or is it? I still think the object suggests some sort of animal even in its original form. I know it is a log because I examined it closely when I took the photo.

Moss on logSo how can paranormal investigators obtain this hugely useful contextual information? In the case of anomalous photos, it is extremely useful to examine any other photos taken of the same scene at the same time, if available. With witnessed events, it is understandable if the people present only paid attention to the weird phenomenon itself. So they may well have not noticed a lot of useful information. Some contextual information can be gleaned from site visits by investigators after the event. However, things might well have changed since the original incident. Statements from any additional witnesses present might contain useful extra information. Sadly, with events where there is no photographic or instrumental record, it is highly likely that much important contextual information will be missing.

PS: Half way through month and no famous people yet (see here) ... starting to get nervous!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Amplified hearing?

Crows in a treeMy acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR - explanation here) noticed a 'new' strange thing recently. I put new in quotes because these things are probably quite normal with MWR but it's the first time MA has experienced them.

MA was on a train and could hear two women, seated nearby, talking. They were talking too quietly for MA to hear what they were saying. Then, quite suddenly. MA could hear every word perfectly. MA cannot remember what the conversation was about except that the subject seemed fairly mundane. Then MA came out of a MWR! As this happened, the words in the women's conversation became impossible to hear once again.

It appears that the MWR was somehow allowing MA to hear the women's conversation. Or was it? There are two likely explanations for this 'amplified hearing' phenomenon, both raising intriguing questions. The most obvious is that MA was not hearing the real conversation at all but a fictitious version produced by MA's own brain. A MWR is, after all, a part dream state. It is typical for MWRs to mix real sensory information with dream imagery.

The other likely explanation is that the MWR actually helped MA to hear the real conversation somehow. There doesn't seem any obvious way that a MWR could amplify the sound but maybe it could reduce background noises, like noise cancelling headphones. Hearing is, of course, like all senses, primarily a brain thing. So maybe there is a mechanism in the brain that can, in certain circumstances, filter out background noise. One clue is the way that, when people are asleep, certain sounds, like alarm clocks or babies crying, seem to disturb them while others, of equal volume, are ignored. It appears that the sleeping brain only hears things of vital importance, filtering out the rest. A MWR state is part dream and so might have access to such a noise filter mechanism within the brain. The same thing might happen in hypnagogic episodes. What is needed is more examples of this kind to see if a sound filter operates during such near sleep states.

Without knowing what the women were actually saying, it's not possible to say which possible explanation might be true. Whatever the cause of the phenomenon, it is easy to see how 'amplified hearing' could be interpreted as paranormal by someone who experiences it. If anyone knows of any reports of similar 'amplified hearing' experiences, please let me know.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

This is fame month

Crows in a treeSo here it is, April, the month when I'm due to see someone famous. It hasn't happened as yet but there's plenty of time. For those people new to this blog, a little background. Regular readers will be aware that I have noted my apparent tendency to see more celebrities, while going about my everyday business, than might seem 'normal'. I calculated that I see about 0.23 per month. I have not been able to discover an average rate for the general population but that seems high to me.

I haven't been able to find any statistics on this, perhaps not surprisingly, so I don't know what 'normal' is. I do, however, have a baseline to compare with. I have only started to see celebrities frequently in the last few years. Before that I probably only saw maybe half a dozen famous people in the whole of my life. I could name them all there were so few. This is why I'm convinced I'm now seeing an abnormally high number. But why?

My best hypothesis is that as we grow older we see, over time, more and more famous people in the media. So the number of celebrities that any individual might recognise grows with time. So, even though the chance of meeting any celebrity remains the same over time, older people will recognise more of them. This doesn't, however, explain why I seemed to recognise a lot more of them quite suddenly. But if this wasn't weird enough, there's another twist.

Back in April last year I wrote, that (23 April 2015): " I'm expecting my next celebrity in around 4 months! ". Now, of course., 0.23 is just an average, it doesn't mean that celebrities will turn up every four months on cue. Except that, in this case that's exactly what appears to be happening. So, I saw my next celebrity in August (see here) and then December (see here). And the next one is 'due' this month!

Am I creating this phenomenon through expectation? I don't believe so. I have a dreadful memory and most of the time I have forgotten all about the idea of seeing famous people. Indeed, on each recent occasion I've only remembered the 0.23 average AFTER seeing the celebrity.

I decided to mention it BEFORE any celebrity sighting this time as an experiment. If no sighting occurs I'll note it at the end of the month and put the whole phenomenon down to coincidence. But will mentioning the thing now make it more or less likely that I'll see a celebrity this month? It could make me think about the possibility so that, quite unconsciously, I might scan people in the street more carefully than usual. That would obviously increase the odds of seeing someone famous. I certainly won't do this consciously as I'm keen to see if it's a real phenomenon. So far this month I haven't thought about this subject until now and don't recall scanning people in the street. My gut feeling is that I won't see anyone famous this month but who knows.