Thursday, 28 July 2016

And now voices with direction ...

Crows in a treeIn another recent experience, MA (my acquaintance who experiences microsleep with REM - MWR) heard a voice saying various things which were, unfortunately, not recorded at the time. What was interesting, however, was that the voice appeared to come from different directions each time it spoke! MA has never heard this phenomenon before. Such solitary voices have, until now, not come from any particular direction in space.

This new 'positional' aspect of MWRs once again makes me wonder if they might be evolving over time. Perhaps MWRs can expand their repertoire, through some unconscious process, over time. Recent novelties have seen 'alternate realities' (see here), the sensation of touch (see here), amplified hearing (see here) and now sound coming from a particular direction in space.

If this IS evolution, in which direction is it going? It seems to me that the direction is towards greater realism in the dream elements of the experience. Apart from the specific feeling of coming out of a MWR, that MA always feels, it may soon be difficult to differentiate MWR experiences from reality! But why should MWRs evolve at all? Ordinary night-time dreams don't become more realistic over time (unless anyone knows different). But MWRs are part dream and part reality. As I've noted from misperception, our brains appear to have a strong tendency to make sense of what they perceive. So that could provide the pressure for MWRs to evolve towards more realistic dream elements.

Suppose there are people out there who experience MWRs but are unaware of their natural origins. And suppose their MWRs have evolved to the point where they appear completely real though still including apparent paranormal elements. Such people could be forgiven for thinking such experiences are genuinely psychic instead of xenonormal!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Small robot on wall

Crows in a treeMy acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR) had another disturbing strange incident recently. While gazing at a featureless white wall, for no particular reason, a strange figure suddenly appeared on the wall. It was 'robotic' in appearance with a silver metallic sheen. Its edges were well defined while the 'body' looked more amorphous. The figure, which was perhaps half a metre high, looked three dimensional and yet was somehow flat against the wall. The object did not move. The experience, which occurred a few weeks ago, has not been repeated.

After a few seconds MA came out of a MWR and the object vanished. It was clearly a dream-type experience superimposed on real scenery. MA found this experience oddly disturbing compared to previous strange stuff.

The robot reference got me thinking that someone else who had this experience, unaware of its natural explanation, might consider the incident an alien contact. It would, after all, be easier for an advanced alien civilization to send robots to explore the universe, rather than living creatures, as they would not require life support systems and could remain active for centuries. These MWR experiences just keep springing surprises.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Transparent figures in photos

HDR ghostAnyone taking a picture and seeing a transparent figure in the resulting photo might feel that a ghost was worth considering as an explanation. But it may, in fact, have a natural explanation (apart from a long exposure). Indeed, such photos may become increasingly common thanks to a feature found in many modern digital cameras and phones. It is called HDR or high dynamic range imaging.

Digital photography has a relatively low dynamic range compared with the human eye. This means that details, visible to the naked eye, can be lost in shadows or brightly lit parts of a digital photo. HDR fixes this problem by taking multiple photos (usually 3), at different exposure settings, when the shutter button is pressed once. These photos are them combined to produce a single picture revealing details in dark and light areas of the picture. Depending on the setting, you can either save all three photos, and combine them later in photo editing software, or it can be done automatically in the camera at the time of exposure.

When HDR pictures are produced in the camera, it is possible that the photographer may forget that they were taken that way. Unfortunately, the fact that HDR mode was used may not always be visible in the EXIF data. It should be obvious to the photographer at the time that HDR was used but that fact might be forgotten later. One clue might be if there is some motion blur when the shutter speed appears fast enough to stop it. A transparent figure may appear in HDR photo because someone moved during the extended time it took for the three shots to be taken.

The photo (above right) shows a HDR shot of ASSAP's own Seriously Strange magazine. In front of it there is blurry red object that appears partially transparent. It is a red cord swinging through the picture while the 3 shots were being taken.

The 'HDR ghost problem' may well solve itself over time. It is likely that HDR software in future will automatically delete objects that don't show up in all three shots. The problem may eventually become restricted to certain older camera and phone models.

Monday, 18 July 2016

How important is coincidence?

Hooded figureI have been reviewing the anomalous experiences I've had over the years. I'm not sure how many there have been but it is certainly in double figures (not including repeat incidents like the door ghost). Given that most people are lucky to get one or two in their entire lifetime, I feel privileged. Also, I think it gives me a large enough statistical sample to make a few tentative observations.

I think it is a useful sample of experiences because they all shared the same witness - me! This means that the standard of recording is fairly consistent. In addition, as an experienced paranormal researcher I could investigate each experience at the time. Given how quickly conditions at a site and the psychological state of a witness can change, this is extremely useful for drawing accurate conclusions about reported experiences.

I noticed two things straight away. Firstly, I was able to find xenonormal explanations for all the experiences. Secondly, coincidence was a major factor in causing pretty much all of the experiences.

Most reports of anomalous phenomena are not investigated straight away. Indeed, many aren't investigated for days, weeks or even months. The problem with that is that evidence of coincidence as an explantation is highly likely to be lost in that time. Take the case I reported recently of the ghostly hooded figure (pic right and account here). Had I not taken a photo of the hooded figure I would never have noticed the vegetation covering the lower half of the tree stump. This vegetation hid the fact that the shadow actually stretched right down the tree stump. Without this coincidental factor there would never have been a 'hooded figure'. Nor would there have been a 'figure' if the lighting had been brighter - it would then have appeared more obviously like a tree stump. Nor would there have a 'figure' if the stump had been seen from a different angle or distance.

Now suppose I'd reported the hooded figure, never taken a photo, and someone else had investigated the case few weeks later. If the investigator had visited the same spot where I stood, it is highly unlikely they would gave seen a hooded figure. One or more of the contributing factors that gave rise to my sighting would almost certainly have been different, particularly lighting. The same could be said about all of the experiences I've had where coincidence played a big role, which is just about all of them.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ghostly hooded figure

Hooded figureFollowing on from my last two posts, here's another attempt at a photographable misperception, this time from last winter. It is an apparent ghostly hooded figure (pic right). It only looked like a hooded figure briefly when seen in real life. Oddly, in the photo it looks slightly more convincing - to me anyway.

I see a dark brown hooded 'figure', apparently looking downwards to the left. I can't make out a face just a dark shadow. In popular culture hooded ghosts are often portrayed as having a dark area where the face should be. Thus, many people would, I imagine, see this as a classic ghostly figure.

Hooded figures are quite often reported as ghosts. All you need for such a 'figure' is a misperceived tall thin object with a dark area where the 'face' should be. An object like a tree stump, for instance. And that is what this hooded figure really is. The stump is leaning forward causing a shadow to fall on its front. Some vegetation in front of the stump is obscuring the fact that the whole of the front of the stump is in shadow, not just the top bit! Without that vegetation, it would no longer look like a hooded figure. The stump is about the size of a tall human belong. This makes the whole thing a coincidence.

Though the photo resembles a hooded figure, to me at least, I am not misperceiving it as a real figure. It is, therefore, not my goal of photographable misperceived ghost. I think it closer, though, than the 'bigfoot' example from my last post.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Giant ghost or Bigfoot?

Green ghostIn my last post I said my goal is, one day, to get a photographable misperception of a human figure. I'd like to expand on that idea a bit.

Almost all ghost photos I've examined show something that was NOT seen by the witness at the time of exposure. And even in those few examples where something odd WAS seen by the witness at the time, it was not what appeared in the resulting photo. Clearly, such photos are mainly photographic artefacts caused by such things as long exposure, focus problems, reflections, shadows etc.

What I want to photograph is an object (which is NOT a human figure) that was seen by a witness as a human figure at the time of exposure and still looks like one in the resulting photo. In other words it is a photographable misperception (as discussed in the last post). Given that is "a ghost (or apparition) is a human (sometimes animal) figure, witnessed by someone, which cannot be physically present" (see here for a discussion of this definition) then an object misperceived as a human figure certainly qualifies as a ghost. So, if I could get a photo of such a ghost and it still appeared as a human figure in the picture it would, in effect, be a photo of a genuine ghost!

In the cases where I've seen a misperception ghost and photographed it, the result has always been not much like a human figure. See these examples, here and here, for instance. But there was ONE exception. It is the photo above (right) taken a few months ago. OK I don't actually see the object as a human figure in this photo. However, I can appreciate why it appeared as a real person, at first glance.

One oddity is that the figure would have to be very tall, if real. The 'figure' (a pollarded tree) is about twice the height of a fence just behind which must be at least 2m high! Given its huge size and shaggy appearance I'm surprised I didn't misperceive it as Bigfoot, or at least an ape!

That is the closest I've got so far to my goal. What I really want is an object that still looks like a human figure, if only to me, in the photo. I will keep trying!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

There is no such object here!

Ghostly tubeThere is no such object here! That was the unlikely thought that flashed through my mind as I suddenly noticed an object I didn't recognise about a metre away. It was a plastic tube pointing almost directly at me. It reminded me of an endoscope. It felt almost as if someone was spying on me from behind a pile of stuff!

This was an over-reaction, of course. I noted how easily I went from seeing an unexplained object to a narrative involving spying! I guess I watch too many spy dramas. There are probably many anomalous reports that involve the witness interpreting an unrecognized mundane object they see in terms of something paranormal. If you think that was an over-reaction, what happened next was worse! I spent an hour taking over a hundred photos of the object trying to get it just right, with the best one shown here (right).

What I see when I look at the photo is a plastic tube with its end pointed towards me and to the right. The tube curves behind downwards to the left. At least that's what I see sometimes! At other times I see it quite differently. And you may see something different too. That's because it is a rare example of a photographable misperception. I described another one that worked rather better sometime ago (here).

I had to take dozens of photos to get the misperception to work, even for me - the original witness. I had to vary the lighting, the angle of view, the background and, crucially, how much of the object was visible. Misperceptions are extremely sensitive to viewing conditions. In the end I got a version that works for me, some of the time. If you don't see a plastic tube at all that's normal - misperception varies a lot between people. It will also depend on what device you are using to view the picture.

I was right in my first thought - there WAS no plastic tube present! The object is actually a strip of thin white cardboard that has curled up at the end to form a cylindrical shape. When I first saw it I thought the uncurled bit of cardboard below was a continuation of the cylinder, leading to an overall impression of a plastic tube. I quickly realised what the object really was but the misperception still reappeared several times after that. Generally, though not always, misperceptions only work once. When you're brain sees the object correctly it does not usually misperceive it again. But this misperception was persistent which is why I tried to photograph it. My goal is, one day, to get a photographable misperception of a human figure!

Monday, 4 July 2016

New house effect may have an ally

What's making noises in your house?I was struck by an article in New Scientist that I came across a few weeks ago. It said that people often have trouble sleeping for the first night in unfamiliar surroundings. It's certainly something I've experienced. It is called the 'first night effect'. Research has shown that those experiencing the effect were more alert in the left hemisphere of their brain during sleep compared to the right. This suggested that half the brain was unusually alert, presumably to possible threats that might be present in an unfamiliar location.

I found it interesting because it has parallels with the 'new house effect' (see here) that can explain certain haunting phenomena. It works like this. When you first move into a new house there are, naturally, lots of unfamiliar sights, smells and, particularly, noises. These become familiar over time but at first they can appear strange and unexplained, even paranormal.

It is easy to see how the two effects might work together. Someone moving in to a new place may be woken in the middle of the night by an unexplained sound. They would be more readily woken because of the first night effect. And the noise could be interpreted as a haunting phenomenon because of the new house effect. In reality, the sound could be completely normal, like pipes contracting after central heating goes off.

It is striking how many people report cases of haunting when they first move into a house, despite the previous occupants having had no problems. Similarly, it is often visitors to a building that first report strange things going on that the residents have never noticed. It seems likely to me that the first night effect and new house effect probably do indeed work together.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Touching sensation without touching

Crows in a treeMy acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR) had another incident recently involving apparent 'alternate realities'. In the previous incidents MA apparently turned off a TV which switched itself back on and flicked a bit of paper in a train (see here) Neither incident was what it seemed and the TV one felt distinctly paranormal.

The latest incident was not that strange, at first sight. MA switched something off but then found, after coming out of a MWR, that it was still on. It became clear that the switch was only operated in the MWR, not in real life. This is like the previous 'alternate reality' incidents but with an important difference. MA could FEEL the switch being pressed while doing it! In other words, MA had the sense of touch in a MWR.

All MA's previous MWRs consisted solely of sound and vision. This is the first instance where MA has noticed the sensation of touch too. Obviously, this makes the 'experience', composed partly of reality and partly of a dream, feel even more real than usual. Anyone who gets MWRs but is unaware of what they are might easily think, on finding a switch on that they KNOW they turned off, think it might be a haunting phenomenon. Having actually felt the switch being operated can only emphasise how real it was. Even though it wasn't!