“THE ALLAGASH ALIEN ABDUCTION” and More True Paranormal and True Crime Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: The L-8 blimp spotted a possible oil spill and reported it back to base. While circling the area, witnesses saw the airship unexpectedly glide higher and higher out of site. But when it was seen again later, it was flying with no one on board. (Mystery of the L-8 Blimp) *** Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered while in prison… and there was no one more deserving of it. (The Murder of a Serial Murderer) *** Have you ever had a déjà vu experience? It’s the feeling, or impression that you have already witnessed or experienced a current situation. Why does it happen? The theories are mind-blowing. (Deja Vu All Over Again) *** One of the most researched cases of multiple alien abduction occurred in August, 1976, in the state of Maine. The Allagash Waterway incident is still considered one of the best documented alien abductions in the history of UFOs and extraterrestrials. We’ll look at this and other cases of alien abduction. (The Allagash Incident)
LINKS MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE…
“The Alien Abduction of Barney and Betty Hill” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/4992
“The Abduction of Betty Andreasson” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/5538
“The Abduction of Linda Napolitano” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/5427
“The Fraudulent Warrens” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/5725
“Demon in the Maze” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/5500
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Note: Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“The Murder of a Serial Murderer” by Fiona Guy for Crime Traveller: https://tinyurl.com/sjbl8jk
“The Allagash Incident” by Billy Booth for Live About: https://tinyurl.com/s4vk9fj, https://tinyurl.com/tgetcga
“Mystery of the L-8 Blimp” by Doug MacGowan for Historic Mysteries: https://tinyurl.com/tew5rro
“Deja Vu All Over Again” by Cynthia McKanzie for Message to Eagle: https://tinyurl.com/wpaf7lg,https://tinyurl.com/z56hlfl, https://tinyurl.com/u2cd9fd
Weird Darkness opening and closing theme by Alibi Music Library. Weird@Work music bed by Audioblocks. Background music, varying by episode, provided by Alibi Music, EpidemicSound and/or AudioBlocks with paid license; Shadows Symphony (http://bit.ly/2W6N1xJ), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), Tony Longworth (http://TonyLongworth.com) and/or Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (https://www.youtube.com/user/myuuji) used with permission.
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***WeirdDarkness™ – is a trademark and creation of of Marlar House Productions. Copyright © Marlar House Productions, 2020.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
THE ALLAGASH INCIDENT
Considered by most the “flagship case” of alien abduction. A husband and wife (Betty and Barney Hill) taking a short vacation in 1961, see a bright object in the evening sky. They are stopped on the road by aliens and become part of an abduction case for the ages. Regressive hypnosis plays a major role in unveiling a dark secret… a secret of alien abduction, and medical experimentation. I covered their story in a previous episode of Weird Darkness which I will link to in the show notes. While the story gets a lot of attention of Ufologists and curiosity seekers, it is by no means the only well-documented case of being abducted by extraterrestrials.
I also recently covered the abduction of Betty Andreasson which I will also link to in the show notes. In South Ashburnham, Massachusetts on the night of January 25, 1967, one of the most celebrated cases of UFO abduction began. Betty Andreasson was working in her kitchen while her seven children, mother, and father were in the living room… suddenly a bright light invades the house. From the yard, alien creatures are seen hopping toward the house! This is one of the strangest abduction cases.
Other cases include…
1967: As Patrolman Herbert Schirmer passed through the intersection of Highway 6 and Highway 63 on the outskirts of Ashland, he saw what appeared to be red lights on a large truck stopped a short way down Highway 63. He decided to check it out. He drove the short distance down 63 and stopped with his headlights shining on the object. According to Schirmer, the object was definitely not a truck. The red lights that he had seen were blinking through the oval portholes of a metallic, oval-shaped object.
1969: Only seven and a half years after the Betty and Barney Hill story, the New England states would again host an alien abduction. Buff Ledge in Vermont would be the site of a visitation by four UFOs which would make revolutionary aerial maneuvers. Two counselors would suffer missing time, and seek professional help.
The Pascagoula Abduction in 1973: Fifteen different people see a large, silver UFO fly over a housing project in St. Tammany Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana. Only a scant 24 hours later, Calvin Parker and Charles Hickson would unwillingly take a journey into the unknown… strange creatures with claw-like hands abduct them.
1975: Alamogordo, New Mexico would be the location of a UFO encounter involving Air Force Sergeant Charles L. Moody on August 13, 1975. Moody was in the desert observing a meteor shower at about 1:15 A.M. when he saw a glowing, metallic, disk-shaped object falling toward the ground about 300 feet away.
1975: As seven loggers began their journey home, they see a “luminous object, shaped like a flattened disc.” All of the men agreed that Travis Walton, captivated by the sight, left the truck to get a closer look. A blue beam hits him, throwing him to the ground. He would vanish for five days, and soon begin telling his story of the inside of an extraterrestrial spacecraft. They even made a big budget movie about the incident.
1976: While America was still buzzing over the Travis Walton abduction, three women are abducted near Stanford, Kentucky. Heading for Hustonville on Highway 78, they suddenly see a “bright, red” object in the clear, night sky, turning a nice evening into a night of terror.
1979: Robert Taylor was sixty-one-years-old at the time that he had the most unusual encounter of his life. He had worked as a forester all of his adult life in the Dechmont woods located in Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland. On the morning of Friday, November 9, 1979, he and his red setter rounded a corner on a forest trail and saw an unbelievable sight, a UFO! The object appeared to be hovering just above the forest floor. It made no sound, and seemed to be motionless.
1985: Well known writer Whitley Strieber would be abducted by aliens while in his isolated cabin in upstate New York over the Christmas season of 1985. He encountered 4 types of alien beings, which subjected him to medical tests.
1987: A policeman named Philip Spencer claims to have taken a picture of an alien being. If this is true, it is one of only a few in existence. The scary Ilkley Moorin Yorkshire, England would hold the secret of the strange creature encountered one early morning. Godfrey was frightened, but ran after the creature, taking one photograph. Through hypnosis, he would recall an odd flying object, and an alien abduction.
1988: John Salter Jr. and his son are abducted by benevolent aliens. One of the few cases in which alien abduction turned out to be a good thing. Medical experimentation has a happy ending, with improved health for both abductees.
1989: An extremely compelling case of alien abduction is that of Linda Napolitano. Napolitano has claimed that she was abducted by the so-called “greys,” who floated her from a closed bedroom window into a hovering UFO. As time went by, several different eye witnesses came forward to substantiate her claims… Several bystanders, including a well known politician, actually see the incident. This case was also covered in Weird Darkness recently and I’ll link to it in the show notes.
In August 1993, 27-year-old Kelly Cahill, her husband, and three children were driving home after a visit to a friend’s house. Their routine journey would soon become a harrowing trip into an unknown world of strange beings that occupied space but were void of color as we know it. The Dandenong foothills, near Victoria, Australia would be forever linked to one of the strangest creatures in Ufological archives.
1997: One of the weirdest cases reported to the Welsh Federation of Independent Ufologists is the multiple sighting of UFOs on the same night – except one family got too close for comfort and were apparently abducted. The strange and disturbing events began to unfold when for several nights an elderly man living in Little Orme, Conwy, was troubled by what he called “frightening” beams of light over the Great Orme.
All cases considered the most well-documented in Ufologoy. And then, there was Allagash Waterway. One of the most researched cases of multiple alien abduction occurred in August, 1976, in the state of Maine. The Allagash Waterway Abduction is an integral piece of the alien abduction puzzle. This case gained worldwide attention when it was dramatized in an episode of television’s Unsolved Mysteries. Twin brothers Jack and Jim Weiner, along with their friends Chuck Rak and Charlie Foltz, would be participants in an event involving a UFO sighting, missing time, and medical procedures performed by beings unknown.
Not only were the four men fishing buddies, but they were all art students, having met at the Massachusetts College of Art. They set out for what should have been an uneventful, relaxing fishing trip. It was not to be. After being on the waterway for a time, the four fishermen had canoed to Eagle Lake. They had no luck there and returned to the bank. As they were beginning to get low on provisions, they decided to do a little fishing at night. To be on the safe side, they built a roaring fire on the bank to use as a landmark, in case they became turned around on the lake.
After a short period of time, all four of the men’s attention was drawn to a large, bright light in the sky over the lake. It was much more brilliant than a star. Only a couple of hundred yards away, the UFO was hovering over a group of trees. The object began to move and change colors, from red to green, then to a whitish yellow. The men were watching the object in awe, wondering what it might be. At this time, they estimated it to be about 80 feet in diameter. Charlie Foltz decided to signal to it with his flashlight. At once, the UFO began to move toward them. They were being watched.
The object silently made its way toward the men. They began a dash to the shore, paddling as fast as they could. A light from the object beamed down and engulfed the men and their canoe. The next thing they knew, they were back on the bank. Foltz again signaled the UFO with his flashlight—but this time it rose upward and departed from their view. Then they noticed that the large fire they had started only a short time ago was already burned to ashes, which should have taken several hours. What had happened to them?
It was obvious to the four buddies that they were missing several hours of time. Little was said between them at this time. They packed up their belongings and headed back home. As time went by, the events of that terrible night on Allagash would begin to have an effect on their lives. The first man to suffer was Jack Weiner. He began to have awful nightmares of strange beings with long necks and large heads. He could see himself being examined while the other three men sat idly by.
The strange humanoid beings in Jack’s nightmares were described as having metallic, glowing eyes with no lids. Their hands were like an insect’s, with only four fingers. There are similarities between this event and the Betty Andreasson abduction. The other three men also were having dreams of a similar nature. Finally, in 1988, Jim Weiner decided to visit a UFO conference, which was hosted by author Raymond Fowler. When the conference ended, he talked to Fowler and related his remarkable encounter on the Allagash Waterway.
Fowler was very experienced in dealing with the exact problem that Jim, his brother, and the two other fishermen were facing. He suggested to Jim that all four of the men undergo regressive hypnosis, a type of hypnosis that recovers lost memories. After the four men completed their sessions, it was determined that all of them had been abducted by strange beings from the UFO that engulfed them and their canoe on the Allagash Waterway. Part of the abduction involved very sensitive personal issues of the taking of fluid (semen) samples and other humiliating medical tests.
The men all recalled the abduction procedure—some would recall one part of it, and some another part, but when combined, they showed a complete picture of a typical alien abduction. Since the men were all artists, they were able to draw striking depictions of the examination room, the instruments used, and the aliens. This information would be invaluable to those who study the phenomena of alien abduction. The four friends would also take lie-detector tests, which they all passed, further verifying their encounter.
THE MURDER OF A SERIAL MURDERER
Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys over a period of 13 years before he was caught in 1991. He was a serial killer who openly admitted his crimes. He detailed his kills and his engagement in necrophilia along with the cannibalistic nature of his crimes to the horror of police in over sixty hours of interviews.
This was a man whose Wisconsin apartment was full of the remains of his victims with four severed heads found in his kitchen and a further seven skulls found in his bedroom. Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Dahmer received 15 life sentences after a two week trial in 1994. A further life sentence came three months later in Ohio for the murder of his first victim, Steven Hicks. The state of Wisconsin abolished the death penalty in 1853 saving Dahmer from death but he was destined to spend the rest of his life behind bars. However, this was not to be his fate.
Jeffrey Dahmer was beaten to death in prison two years later by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver who has claimed he found Dahmer ‘unrepentant’ for his crimes. Scaver, a convicted murderer himself, has recently broken his silence on why he killed Dahmer, an attack that has taken him from the shadows and into the spotlight for being the person who murdered one of America’s most notorious serial killers.
Born in 1960 in Wisconsin, Dahmer was 34 years old when he was killed in 1994. He has been called the Milwaukee Cannibal and the Milwaukee Monster for his crimes and was convicted on a long list of charges including murder, indecent exposure, and disorderly conduct.
Jeffrey Dahmer was 18 when he committed his first murder in 1978 after picking up hitch-hiker Steven Mark Hicks. Hicks went willingly with Dahmer on the pretense of drinks and listening to music.
Dahmer did not want Hicks to leave; he hit him over the head with a dumbbell and then strangled him. He dismembered his body and buried the remains in the backyard of his family home where he was living at the time. The flesh was dissolved in acid and the bones crushed to ensure he had got rid of the body entirely. By the time of his arrest, Dahmer was living in his own apartment with less chance of his activities being discovered.
In July 1991 Dahmer invited three men back to his home, only one accepted his offer, 32-year-old Tracy Edwards. Once at the apartment, Dahmer forcibly tried to take nude photos of Edwards while threatening him with a knife. Edwards tried to befriend Dahmer and please him, realizing his life was in danger. Edwards found the right moment when Dahmer was distracted, punched him and ran out the front door.
He flagged down a police car still with a handcuff on his right wrist and told the officers of what had happened. Unable to remove the handcuff, Edwards agreed to return to the apartment with them to get the key. When in the apartment the officers noted a large knife, pictures of dismembered bodies and a foul odor and arrested Dahmer. Their subsequent search of his apartment revealed the horrific scenes in which Dahmer was living in.
Officers found an array of body parts and bones of his victims all around the apartment; in the fridge, on the stove, in plant pots and in his bedroom. Never before had police officers stumbled across such a crime scene and they are unlikely to ever again.
Jeffrey Dahmer was unique in that he was very open about his crimes when questioned. He seemed almost relieved to be caught and explained his motives for the killing and the keeping of the remains. He engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism, experimenting with each new victim. He told stunned officers he had a compulsion to kill, a need to keep someone with him and not allow them to leave no matter what it took.
His acts after their death were to fulfill his fantasies and keep them with him for as long as possible. At his trial, the defense argued that Dahmer was insane while the prosecution argued he was calculating and fully aware of his actions, although both sides agreed on Borderline Personality Disorder. Expert witnesses argued over this state of mind, his compulsion to kill, his motives and his methods.
At the end of two exhausting weeks for all involved, Dahmer was declared sane and not to be suffering from a mental disorder at the time of each of the murders and he was sent to the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin to begin his sentence.
At around the same time, Christopher Scarver found himself checking into the Columbia Correctional Institution. Scarver was serving life without parole for the murder a supervisor at the training programme where he was working as a trainee carpenter in Wisconsin. He had shot Steve Loham in the head on 1 June 1990 after demanding cash. Mental health issues have been prominent during his time in prison with a number of mental health assessments and a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Up until 2015, Scarver has never talked about the events of the murder of Jeffrey Dahmer and another man at the prison, Jessie Anderson. In an interview with the New York Post, he has now spoken about what led him to take Dahmer’s life.
Dahmer was reportedly in solitary confinement for his first year in prison and Scarver claims he was not liked in prison, regularly clashed with other prisoners to the extent that when he came out of solitary he was always escorted by officers wherever he went.
The behavior which bothered Scarver most, he claims, was Dahmer’s habit of taunting other prisoners at meal times by creating limb shapes from his food and using tomato sauce as blood, leaving his creations for people to find.
According to Scarver, Dahmer repeatedly played such ‘sick’ practical jokes which were not appreciated by other prisoners or guards. Scarver was particularly disturbed by Dahmer’s crimes and the details of what he had done to his victims before and after their death.
In November 1994 Dahmer was left alone by the guards, who along with Christopher Scarver and a third prisoner, Jessie Anderson were tasked with cleaning the bathrooms of the gymnasium. Scarver felt Dahmer and Anderson were laughing at him, sniggered at a joke after poking him in the back.
Their time alone gave Scarver opportunity to confront Dahmer about a newspaper report, asking whether the details of what he had done to his victims were correct. According to Scarver, Dahmer tried to flee clearly sensing danger. Scarver attacked Dahmer with a mental bar crushing his skull. He then moved onto Anderson, attacking him in the same manner.
Dahmer was killed almost instantly from extensive head injuries while Jessie Anderson died two days later. Christopher Scarver claims he spent 16 years in solitary after the killings and complained of cruel and unusual punishment bringing a civil rights actions suit against the Wisconsin prison.
The suit was initially dismissed but upon appeal to the US Court, Scarver and a number of other prisoners with mental health problems were ordered to be relocated. In recent years Scarver has been in talks for a book about the killing of Jeffrey Dahmer, clearly taking advantage of his new-found fame.
Scarver has also claimed he was left alone with Dahmer on purpose with guards hoping something would happen as they ‘hated him and wanted him dead‘, although he would not elaborate further on such claims. Christopher Scarver is now serving a further two life sentences for the murders of Jeffrey Dahmer and Jessie Anderson.
For many involved in the Dahmer case, the lack of the death penalty in Wisconsin was a disappointment. In many other States, Jeffrey Dahmer would have most certainly been put to death for his crimes. For them, his murder just two years after his imprisonment may have been the justice they were looking for. For others, Jeffrey Dahmer has been released from spending the rest of his natural life in prison as punishment for the 17 lives he so brutally took.
MYSTERY OF THE L-8 BLIMP
It began as a routine military mission.
Blimps were much more common during the WWII era than they are today. Back in the 1940s, they were often used to patrol the seas for enemy submarines. In California, searching for Japanese subs was undertaken by missions directed from Moffett Field, about 25 miles south of San Francisco. Under Moffett’s umbrella, many blimps took off from and landed at a special airfield on Treasure Island, located in the San Francisco Bay.
On August 16, 1942, one of these submarine missions took off from Treasure Island with two crew members: Ernest Cody and Charles Adams. The blimp they were piloting was the L-8, which had made such missions before. Both men were experienced in these reconnaissance missions and nothing but a routine trip was expected.
The destination of the early morning trip was the Farallon Islands, about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The blimp would circle the islands and then return to base.
One hour into the flight, the L-8 radioed back to Treasure Island that they had detected a possible oil spill and that they were going to investigate further.
Two ships saw the L-8 circling the Farallon Islands at approximately 10:30 that morning. A PanAm airline saw it on course at 10:50. Soon after, however, a witness said it glided upwards further into the sky.
Its whereabouts for the following hour are unknown. The next appearance was around noon when people on a beach near the city of Daly City were thrown into a panic as the L-8 crashed into some rocks along the shore and then bounced back up into the sky. The blimp would finally come to rest on a busy street in that city. Running to the wreckage, the potential rescuers were shocked to find the blimp’s cockpit empty.
The investigation looked for clues once it had been firmly determined that neither Cody nor Adams were anywhere on board. Investigators noticed that one of the doors had been propped open. This was unusual, but all of the necessary equipment was in working order. The parachutes and life raft were still stowed in their correct places. Two of the life vests were missing, but that didn’t seem to indicate anything unusual, as it was a policy for men to wear them whenever a mission took them over water.
The biggest mystery was why neither of the men had radioed for help during whatever crisis had ensued, as the radio was in perfect order.
All sorts of theories were proposed: a fight broke out between the two men and they fell out that open door, they were somehow captured by the enemy, even the old standby of UFOs was suggested.
The blimp was removed from its crash position but the subsequent investigation yielded no clues. Years went by and the L-8 was eventually repaired and would stay in service until 1982. Most of its duties after the crash were for non-military endeavors and it was even used to broadcast sporting events for television in its last days.
Not a trace of Cody or Adams was ever found. The L-8 blimp mystery remained a secret to the end.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Most of us have on one or several occasions had a déjà vu experience. It’s the strange feeling we have experienced or witnessed something before. The term déjà vu is French and means, literally, “already seen.”
For a long time, this eerie sensation has been attributed to everything from paranormal disturbances to neurological disorders.
In recent years, as more scientists began studying this phenomenon, a number of theories about déjà vu have emerged, suggesting that it is not merely a glitch in our brain’s memory system.
Psychologists have suggested that déjà vu may occur when specific aspects of a current situation resemble certain aspects of previously occurring situations.
If there is a lot of overlap between the elements of the new and old situations, we get a strong feeling of familiarity.
Alternative explanations associate déjà vu with prophecy, past life memories, clairvoyance, or a mystic signpost indicating fulfillment of a predetermined condition on the journey of life.
Whatever the explanation, déjà vu is certainly a phenomenon that is universal to the human condition, and its fundamental cause is still a mystery.
Another intriguing possibility is that there is a hidden connection between déjà vu and the existence of parallel universes.
As some already know, the multiverse is a theory in which our universe is not the only one, but states that many universes exist parallel to each other. These distinct universes within the multiverse theory are called parallel universes.
According to Dr. Kaku, quantum physics states that there is the possibility that déjà vu might be caused by your ability to “flip between different universes”.
Dr. Kaku mentions, Professor Steve Weinberg, the famous theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner, supports the idea of a multiverse.
Weinberg says that there is an infinite number of parallel realities coexisting with us in the same room.
“There are hundreds of different radio waves being broadcast all around you from distant stations. At any given instant, your office or car or living room is full of these radio waves.
However, if you turn on a radio, you can listen to only one frequency at a time; these other frequencies are not in phase with each other.
Each station has a different frequency, different energy. As a result, your radio can only be turned to one broadcast at a time.
Likewise, in our universe, we are tuned into the frequency that corresponds to physical reality.
But there is an infinite number of parallel realities coexisting with us in the same room, although we cannot tune into them.”
While your radio is tuned to pick up a certain frequency and thus a single radio station, our universe consists of atoms that are oscillating at a unique frequency that other universes are not vibrating at.
Universes are usually not “in phase”, that is vibrating at the same frequency, with each other due to the divisions caused by time, but when they are “in phase” it is theoretically possible to “move back and forth” between universes.
So although it is “uncertain”, it could be possible that when you are experiencing déjà vu, you are “vibrating in unison” with a parallel universe, explains Dr. Kaku
Déjà vu is not always a pleasant experience, of course. One of the most bizarre déjà vu cases ever recorded deals with a man who was trapped in an eternal time loop. This person experienced never-ending déjà vu and his condition reached a stage when he avoided watching television, listening to the radio and reading newspapers because he felt he had “encountered it all before”.
The case of the unnamed British young man who experienced never-ending déjà vu for the last eight years of his life intrigued scientists. Never before had anyone heard of a similar case. What could cause a person to be trapped in an eternal time loop?
Doctors from the UK, France and Canada examined the man who was 23-year-old at the time. He first experienced the sensation in 2007, shortly after he started university. It soon became clear that the man did not exhibit any of the other neurological conditions usually associated with those who suffer from déjà vu.
Dr Chris Moulin, a cognitive neuropsychologist who worked on the study, says the man had a history of depression and anxiety, and had once taken the drug LSD whilst at university, but was otherwise completely healthy.
“This man was striking because he was young, otherwise aware, but completely traumatized by this constant sensation that his mind was playing tricks,” he says.
For minutes, and sometimes even longer, the patient would feel that he was reliving experiences.
He likened the “frightening” episodes to being in the psychological thriller film Donnie Darko.
“There was one instance where he went to get a haircut. As he walked in, he got a feeling of déjà vu. Then he had déjà vu of the déjà vu. He couldn’t think of anything else,” says Dr Moulin.
Brain scans appeared normal, suggesting the cause was psychological rather than neurological.
Whilst this case on its own does not prove a link between anxiety and déjà vu it raises an interesting question for further study, Dr Moulin says.
Scientists now propose they have made progress in their attempts to shed light on the sometimes uncanny déjà vu experience.
Can there be a connection between the déjà vu experience and the “I know this was going to happen feeling”? If so, how are these two related?
Anne Cleary, a memory researcher at Colorado State University who is one of the world’s experts on déjà vu says she has a new theory on why déjà vu is accompanied not only by feelings of prediction, but also an “I knew that was going to happen” feeling a minute later.
Cleary places humans in laboratories to induce déjà vu and the results of her studies are interesting.
Prior experiments had uncovered a strong predictive bias in people having déjà vu. Studies show people feel like they know what’s going to happen next. The situation is different in a lab where people who were having déjà vu were not able to actually predict what was going to happen next. That predictive feeling, however intense, was just that — a feeling.
“If this is an illusion — just a feeling — why do people so strongly believe they actually predicted what unfolded next?” Cleary said in a press statement.
“I wondered if there was an explanation in some sort of cognitive illusion.”
To test that theory in the lab, Cleary and co-authors immersed a bank of test subjects in a video game-like scene created in the Sims virtual world. Subjects were asked if they were experiencing déjà vu.
Next, the virtual scene would turn left or right. Then participants were asked, did the scene unfold the way you expected? In a later experiment, participants were further asked to rate the familiarity of the scene, both before and after the turn.
After crunching their results, the researchers found that when intense feelings of prediction accompanied déjà vu, they were strongly correlated with feelings of “postdiction” — that the person reported, after the fact, that they knew what particular turn was going to happen. But the experiment was set up so it would be impossible for them to know, because the turns were made at random.
The “I knew that was going to happen” bias was very strong when déjà vu occurred, and especially strong when the scene happened to be rated as very familiar. But, like the feelings of prediction, the feelings of having gotten the prediction right were not rooted in reality. In other words, déjà vu gave the subjects not only predictive feelings, but a strong hindsight bias after the fact.
Cleary’s team concluded that the high degree of familiarity that accompanies déjà vu also carries through to the postdictive bias. “If the entire scene feels intensely familiar as it unfolds, that might trick our brains into thinking we got it right after all,” Cleary said. “Because it felt so familiar as you were going through it, it felt like you knew all along how it was going to go, even if that could not have been the case.”
So the “I knew that was going to happen” bias is probably all part of the illusion of prediction that often accompanies déjà vu, Cleary says.
According to her prior experiments, déjà vu is a memory phenomenon in which we’re trying to retrieve a memory, but we can’t place it — sort of like the feeling of a word on the tip of your tongue. She has previously demonstrated in the lab that when scenes in the Sims mapped spatially to different scenes that were viewed earlier but forgotten, more instances of déjà vu occur.
Cleary was driven to do experiments probing the postdictive bias because it felt like a missing puzzle piece to her existing theories on why déjà vu tends to be associated with clairvoyance.
Since she started studying déjà vu over a decade ago, she’s had countless people describe to her their déjà vu experiences, including when they were very sure they’d predicted something without explanation. And it’s not just people who believe in the supernatural; many of them are what she calls “trained skeptics” – even fellow memory researchers — who report extremely unsettling déjà vu experiences in which they feel like they predicted what was going to happen next.