Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Sense of presence in the rain!

RaindropsI turned and looked for the third time but there was still no one there! This was despite distinctly hearing someone shuffling about behind me on each occasion. So, a ghost then!

I was in a nature reserve hide. For those not familiar with such buildings, they generally resemble a wooden garden shed, as this one did. In this example, there were windows at the front to observe wildlife, unobserved by animals. At the back was an open door. There was a wooden boardwalk leading up to the door. I was sitting watching birds through the front window when I heard someone coming into the hide behind me. When they did not come to the front window I looked round, out of curiosity, but there was no one there. This happened twice more. It definitely felt very odd!

I worked out, after a while, what was causing this 'sense of presence' phenomenon to occur. It was the sound of heavy rain on the hide roof and boardwalk. The sound, on occasion, resembled someone shuffling along the boardwalk or wooden floor of the hide. Though I've been to this hide many times before, this was the first time I'd been there during heavy rain. That was probably why I'd never heard this 'presence' phenomenon there before. I felt the sense of presence so strongly that I looked three times, despite seeing no one on each occasion.

I have, of course, had a sense of presence before, also caused by sound (see here and here for instance - note how 'shuffling' is the same adjective used). This latest example was in a completely different location and situation to the previous examples. It suggests that natural sounds may produce a sense of presence in many different circumstances. This examples is the most powerful I've come across so far.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Demonstrating precognition

Sun behind treeI was thinking about precognition the other day, as one does. I came to the conclusion, despite some apparently excellent examples around, that precognition is surprisingly difficult to demonstrate. Here are some hypothetical examples to demonstrate what I mean.

Example 1: Witness A has a strong feeling that event A is about to happen and it does, within a day. On the face of it this looks like a good demonstration of precognition.

Example 2: Witness B has a strong feeling that event B is about to happen and it does, within a day. Yes it's the same as example 1. However, further research reveals that witness B has strong feelings about the future several times a week and has done so for over a decade. This is the first time any of B's premonitions have come true.

Example 3: Witness C reads about event C in a newspaper and suddenly remembers she had a dream about just such an event the night before.

OK, firstly, examples 1 and 2 are identical in what actually occurs - a witness feels something will happen and it does. However, in example 2 the witness has had so many such premonitions, which were all wrong until now, that far from appearing incredibly unlikely, the final correct prediction almost seems inevitable!

Secondly, in example 3 witness C only remembers the dream after reading the newspaper. So how many dreams has the witness had which did not apparently predict any real life event? The answer is probably rather a lot. It is, in effect, the same situation as with witness B. The main difference is that witness C has forgotten all the dreams that did not come true whereas witness B may remember many at least some of their previous wrong predictions. Also, witness C did not initially see the dream as precognitive while B thought their feeling was. Question: if you only realise you've predicted the future after it has happened, but didn't think it was a premonition at the time, is it precognition?

Thirdly, there is the question of what constitutes a correct prediction. Suppose witness 4 dreams about event 4 which actually occurs. The essential events in the dream and event D are the same, However, there are many details in the dream that are different to event D. Also, many additional things happen in the dream than do not occur in the real life event D. Do all these differences count against this being a hit or not? I have, incidentally, seen many examples of this where there are a number of material differences between the prediction and event but it is still counted as a hit. I'm not so sure.

Fourthly, there is the question of symbolism. Do we accept a prediction as being fulfilled if it relies on symbolism rather than a literal description of the actual event? Again, I'm not so sure.

When I view some remarkable-sounding examples of precognition against these points many start to sound rather less amazing. I think when it comes to judging examples of precognition it is a case of "it's complicated".

Monday, 10 July 2017

Looking at an angle but seeing level

Perspective foxThere is something wrong with this photo (right), to me at least. The photo appears to be taken at the same height as the fox's head, looking straight at it. The thing is, the picture was taken from above at an angle I've calculated as at least 40 degrees.

The first question is this: do other people agree that the photo looks to be taken at fox head level? If not, then it is misperception and some people will see it straight ahead while others won't. If anyone sees the fox as if from above, please let me know (here). I have seen this effect before in other photos (see below). However, I've never seen the effect when simply looking at an object with the naked eye so I assume it's a photographic artefact.

So next question: what might cause such a photographic artefact / misperception? First clue: the photo was taken with a telephoto lens. This introduces a perspective distortion, namely flattening the scene. In other words it 'compresses' the scene so that objects appear closer to each other than they really are in real life. For instance, the out-of-focus leaves in the foreground look close to the fox but they are many centimetres from it.

I think such flattening of perspective may be part of the answer. I think also the lack of a visual cues to the angle of view is important. If the fox was near a fence or wall, for instance, I think would be obvious what the angle of view was. The fact that a camera has one lens may also be a factor as this removes the stereo vision that allows us humans to get a 3-D view with our eyes.

StorkI have come across other examples and here is one (right). This clearly shows a flying stork, apparently from the same height as the bird. However, it was taken from the ground and I would estimate that the stork was at an elevation of at least 30 degrees. Once again, a telephoto lens was used and there are a lack of visual cues in the background to the angle of view. And once again the point of view has been 'changed' to look at the object as if it were straight ahead.

It appears as if the viewer's brain is 'rotating' the image to make objects appear straight ahead, for some reason,. I don't know why but if anyone does, please let me know. More examples would help in solving this puzzle. Whatever the reason, it is clear that photos do not always show objects at a correct angle. This is worth bearing in mind when examining photos with few objects in them, such as views of the sky. Such photos may give a false impression of where the photo was taken from which could be vital in understanding any anomaly in the picture.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

One possible explanation for some haunting sounds

Sun behind treeI realise I've mentioned my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) several times recently. I don't apologize fore this as MA keeps reporting novel phenomena from MWR episodes. Each such novel phenomenon increases the range of apparently paranormal reports that MWRs might explain. So what's happened now?

Well, MA's MWRs fall into two broad categories - voices and visual. The 'visual' phenomenon are totally immersive, like virtual reality. MA is sometimes 'transported' to somewhere completely different. There is also a variation where the scene is the same as the one where MA actually is but with some significant differences (like the train ghost). The 'voices' phenomenon is not immersive and MA continues to see what is going on in the real world. It sounds like snatches of an overheard conversation which are usually nothing to do with MA. There was a notable new variation recently where MA's own voice appeared in such an episode.

The latest novelty was in such a 'voice' phenomenon. In addition to a voice there was the sound of a heavy lorry driving by. When MA 'woke' from the MWR both 'voice' and 'lorry' stopped instantly. This is the first time such a 'voice' MWR has involved sounds other than actual voices. It clearly demonstrates that these 'voice' MWRs can extend to a broader soundscape involving other noises. It is also perfectly possibly that MA has had 'sound' MWRs involving no voices but other non-real noises instead! These would not have been as obvious as voices in a room where MA was alone and so might have been dismissed as 'normal'.

Inexplicable sounds are probably the commonest phenomena reported in haunting cases. So a witness who was getting MWRs, not realizing their true cause, might hear strange, inexplicable sounds that could be attributed to a ghost. MWRs are typically a symptom of certain sleeping disorders. Sleep disorders often go undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, for years, sometimes for an entire lifetime. So there is likely to be a small but significant percentage of the population who experience MWRs without realizing what they are. And, as MA's experiences have shown, these experiences could easily be misinterpreted as paranormal experiences, including haunting phenomena.