Thursday, 26 May 2016

Goodbye my spooky friend!

ShadowI haven't seen the door ghost since I last reported it here in February. In the past it has never gone missing for more than a week or two but this time it looks as though it might have gone for good. Having been around for 4 years, I'm starting to feel like I've lost a friend!

The door ghost (door what?) is, of course, a misperception. Such misperceptions are usually fragile which is what made the door ghost so unique. So why has it vanished now? What has changed?

One of the big variables that affects misperception is lighting. I've noticed that the door ghost was always spotted more in winter than summer, with no sightings at all in June. This suggests that the angle of the sun in the sky is an important factor. However the ghost has been missing throughout March and April which have been produced a high proportion of sightings in the past.

Another important factor in misperception is familiarity. Typically objects are only misperceived once by any individual witness. That's because on the second occasion the witness's brain knows what the object really is and no longer misperceives it. The exceptions to this are if the witness forgets about the original sighting, in which case they can misperceive it all over again. There are also some very rare misperceptions that are so strong, to particular individual witnesses, that they may be seen repeatedly even if the original sighting is remembered.

I believe I saw the door ghost repeatedly because, having a terrible memory, I forgot about it from time to time. It would explain why there were usually a few days, or a week or two, between sightings. That was how long it took me to forget about my previuous sightings!

As I mentioned in February, I approach 'the door' from a different angle these days. So is that the reason for the ghost's final disappearance? To find out, I set myself the task of observing how I approach the door. The problem is, I wanted to observe an unconscious task. I knew if I thought about it, I wiould almost certainly do something different. So what I needed to do was forget about the task until I was actually in the process of doing it. Surprisingly, it turns out that this is actually possible! I just think hard about the task when I'm actually at the door and then forget about it. Having a terrible memory actually makes this task easier! Then, a few days or weeks later, I will be reminded of the task by the sight of the door itself.

What I discovered was that I consistently approach the door from a significantly different route to the old one. I think that is likely to be the reason for the ghost vanishing. Being a creature of habit, I'm unlikely to change back to the old route so it's likely the ghost will never return. So why don't I just deliberately position myself in the 'old' position and look for the ghost? Sadly, that doesn't work because of the 'familiarity' problem outlined above. So, it is with great sadness I say, goodbye my spooky friend!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Shrinking object

 Crows in a treeWhat happens if you are woken from a microsleep with REM (MWR)? Objects could get shrunk, apparently!

My acquaintance (MA) who experiences MWRs has never been woken up from one before. This is hardly surprising as they usually only last a few seconds at a time. However, recently MA was woken by being addressed by someone. The person was holding a strange glowing object up in front of them, apparently for MA to inspect! Then, suddenly, the object was gone. MA realised the 'glowing object' was part of the MWR itself.

Astonishingly, the episode was repeated a few minutes later when MA was once again woken from a MWR by being spoken to. Once again the person was holding out the strange glowing object which duly 'vanished'. Puzzled, MA looked around and found the glowing object. It was a table lamp. And this is where it gets truly weird. The object was identical to the one MA had seen in the MWR, except that it was much larger and further away, though in the same direction. In the MWR the lamp had been small enough to hold in the palm of a person's hand. In reality it was much too big for that. It was clear that the person had never held the lamp at all. Indeed the person did not even hold their hand up. Apart from that, the MWR and real scenes were identical. So what's going on?

MA thinks the lamp covered the same angular size in both views. However, in the MWR MA's brain somehow brought the lamp much closer to the witness. To do that and maintain the same angular size, the lamp had to be considerably 'shrunk' in size so that it could fit in a palm. It is easy to see how such effects could produce experiences interpreted as paranormal. A witness might see a bizarre object which subsequently vanishes. The object may, in fact, be some mundane item nearby which was radically changed in size to appear quite different. The object MA saw didn't look like a table lamp at all at the time. Indeed, had MA not had the experience twice, the true identity of the glowing object would probably never have been established. It seems that MWRs can not only produce apparent time distortions but size distortions too.

The size distortion effect is probably not caused by being woken from a MWR. It probably just allowed the effect to get noticed. It seems that it takes a second or two to come out of a MWR when woken and strange effects continue during that time. Being woken may help the witness remember the details of the MWR more clearly compared to coming out of one normally.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Fame at last!

Crows in a treeSo, I saw my latest celebrity a couple of days ago. I had actually forgotten about the whole famous person thing after the disappointment last month of failing to fulfil my prediction. So it wasn't as if I was unconsciously looking for as celebrity (see here) - as far as I know. So, is this latest sighting close enough to the original prediction to count as a hit?

For those people who are not regular readers, some background. I had noticed my tendency to see more famous people than I thought was 'normal'. I worked out that I saw an average of 0.23 celebrities per month. But what was really weird was that I appeared to be seeing them at regular intervals, with the next one due in April 2016. Random events should not occur at regular intervals! But I had no sightings in April so I concluded the pattern and prediction had been a coincidence after all.

But now I'm not so sure. This latest sighting is a certainly a near miss. It is just two weeks out of a predicted gap of four months between sightings. I could easily say it was a 'hit' but, having defined a hit as within April, I can't now change the rules. The average certainly remains at 0.23 per month. So, according to the apparent pattern, the next celebrity sighting is due in August. If it occurs during that month I'll be strongly tempted to say the pattern has indeed been maintained, with this this latest sighting just an 'outlier'!

The latest sighting was, incidentally, another actor, this time seen in the street. Though not at a railway station (as many such sightings have been) it was within a couple of hundred metres of a very large one! Another coincidence is that I had seen this particular actor, who does not do much TV, on DVD just a few weeks before.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Ghost in a restaurant

Ghost in restaurantYou never know when you might se a ghost. I was wandering through a shopping mall recently when I noticed someone eating in a restaurant ahead of me. I thought nothing of this unremarkable event until, a second or two later, as I got a little closer I noticed the figure had gone! Indeed, it turned out that the restaurant was closed, dark and empty. And yet the person had been brightly illuminated, moving and very solid-lookingl. So, a hungry ghost then!

Slightly shocked, I walked closer to the restaurant and suddenly saw the ghost again, this time outside the restaurant, eating at a bench.

To see what happened, a diagram (right) helps. I originally saw the ghost at the position marked 'witness'. The ghost was visible in the window of the restaurant at the position marked 'ghost'. The ghost was actually a reflection of the (real) person sitting at a bench marked 'M' on the diagram. I could not see the person from my original sighting position because there was a building (marked 'B') in the way. The 'ghost' was a reflection of the person in the restaurant's window. Crucially, the whole scene was in shadow except for one bit - the person at the bench who was brightly sunlit. Also crucially, the reflection put the person in a place exactly where you'd expect to see someone dining in the restaurant. So this dramatically good ghost effect relied heavily on coincidence, as do so many xenonormal sightings.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Invisible book?

Crows in a treeSomething odd happened. My acquaintance (MA) who gets MWRs (microsleep with REM) noticed a sudden change in the scene ahead. MA was sitting reading a book. Nothing strange there except that, seconds before, MA could see things behind the book which were now obscured by it, despite having not moved the book. Had the book temporarily become invisible?

The key here is that MA 'woke up' from a MWR at the point the book 'changed'. It is clear that, in the MWR, the book was made to appear to be lying horizontal, allowing MA to view the scene behind it. In reality, however, the book was always physically in the vertical position, blocking any such view.

MA often goes into MWRs while reading. And any book MA might be holding often falls down in the process. So when MA comes out of the MWR, the book is lying horizontal. What appears to have happened here is that MA's brain simulated the usual result of this experience in the MWR even though it had not physically happened.

MA cannot remember the details of the background scene revealed by the 'invisible book' but recalls it looked totally normal. So it was probably a reasonably faithful reproduction of the actual scene that MA would be very familiar with, taken from memory. In the past MA has seen objects not physically present inserted into a scene during a MWR, like the train ghost incident. This appears to be the first example of an object physically present being 'removed' by a MWR!

All of this shows how an OBE (out oif the body experience) may be manufactured by our brains. Though we are used to seeing the world as it appears from the point of view of our eyes, it is clear that the brain can substantially edit such scenes in suitable circumstances, like a MWR. It can also show show scenes from a different viewpoint, as I've experienced myself in my mini-OBE (see here). Put these abilities together and it is not difficult to see how a brain could manufacture a view from just under a ceiling, showing the viewer prone below.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

And the result is ...

Crows in a treeOh dear! My prediction that I'd see someone famous in April did not happen. Regular readers will be aware that I had noticed my tendency to see more famous people than I thought was 'normal'. I worked out that I saw an average of 0.23 celebrities per month. But what was really weird was that I appeared to be seeing them at regular intervals, with the next one due in April 2016. Random events should not occur at regular intervals! So I reminded everyone of my prediction in my blog post of 6 April. Naturally, such hubris was rewarded with failure.

There are two kinds of prediction, in my opinion. Those, like this latest one, published for all to see in advance. Then there are those first mentioned only after the event they predict. The latter, of course, suffer from the problem that it could just be faulty memory. That is why I published my own prediction for all to see.

It was not a prediction based on a dream or psychic vision. I'd simply noticed an unlikely pattern in the dates of my celebrity sightings. It could, of course, have been a coincidence, albeit an unlikely one. But now, with the breaking of the pattern, it would seem it really was just a coincidence after all. Seeing patterns in data, something humans are good at, is important in providing original insights. Unfortunately, coincidence is always a possible alternative explanation that needs to be ruled out. The way to do this is by gathering more data. If the pattern then breaks down it means that coincidence is a likely explanation, as happened in this case.

It will be interesting to see when my next celebrity sighting occurs. That's assuming one does!