Investigating in the Dark

Too often it has been asserted that any seances or investigations must be conducted in the dark.; this seems to me to be more in tune with the witnessing of phenomenon in Gothic novels rather than physical phenomenon during a paranormal investigation. And then contrary to the logic of the above people start taking flash photographs – Why is this ?? Why do so many insist on Darkness to conduct their forays into the paranormal, is darkness a prerequisite for paranormal activity ??

Actually No. Apparitions have been seen at all times in all locations both inside and out, why then is there a preponderance for “Investigation” groups to pick a stately home or castle and conduct the investigation at night…?

What is more, when investigating at night there seems to be an unspoken code of conduct which demands that these nocturnal investigations are conducted in darkness. Why is there this irrational urge to turn the lights off at a venue.

What is obvious to the serious researcher and investigator is that the apparitions witnessed at these locations have been seen by ordinary people doing ordinary things at ordinary times of the day in all modes of lighting. Since most of these apparitions have appeared and been experienced by the original witnesses in perfectly normal lighting, the concept of holding investigations in the complete dark is imposing a condition which did not apply to the original. It may therefore stand less chance of reproducing the originally reported phenomena, and being in the pitch dark it is possible that an apparition could appear in the middle of a ‘lights out’ investigation without anyone even noticing. There is absolutely NO evidence whatsoever that Infra-red or night vision equipment will detect and reproduce an apparition despite its frequent inclusion on investigations.

Human beings have evolved into a diurnal organism, largely reliant upon the sense of sight at the great expense of the other senses. By investigating in complete darkness we rob ourselves therefore of the best developed of our senses, for the darkness confuses and overpowers the other senses feeding false information to the brain which construes from this abstract and distorted information a scenario, which it interprets as being paranormal in origin. As the ASSAP website phases it

“People can end up ‘experiencing’ non-existent phenomena that were not even reported by the original witnesses. Thus, such vigils may generate new reports of phenomena which are entirely spurious.”

Normal sounds are magnified and those sounds which we cannot understand are interpreted in a variety of ways – most of which being paranormal in origin. And yet, with the lights on, dimly at least, the causes of those noises – insects, rodents, cats, central heating ducts etc are easily identified for the natural causes which they usually are.

To the majority of us (not night shift workers) the hours between midnight and 6 am are spent in sleep (as a mean average – I sleep much longer for instance) and so the numbers of witnessed apparitions from this period are significantly less than at other times. And yet, first choice to the “Investigator” seems to pick this very time when least apparitions have been seen. The best and logical approach is to recreate the conditions regarding time, location and environment when the original sighting(s) was made.
There are also health and safety concerns with darkness vigils. Quite simply, it is easier to have an accident if you’re walking around in the dark, not that a serious investigation has people walking around much.

There is absolutely NO evidence to support a claim that the paranormal needs the dark to manifest, however there is some evidence which may support an argument that twilight or low light has been the best condition to witness apparitions. That all Dark conditions were not necessary is not a new idea, indeed as far back as 1927 Gustave Geley noted that,

It is untrue that absolute darkness is indispensable; very good manifestations can be obtained by dim light, especially if red.

An argument that the building isn’t filled with visitors so there is a lot of daily noise to stop apparitions appearing is nonsense, most apparitions have been seen at normal opening times regardless of who and what is going on, it is just that during daylight hours we are less inclined to interpret what we have seen as paranormal. How many of the people walking down a crowded street, who you see but do not interact with in any way nor come into physical contact with can you categorically state are not ghosts ? as apparitions have been recorded to be solid, create smells such as perfume and create footsteps – it makes one wonder.

So returning to nocturnal forays into the paranormal.

Arguments for
• a public building is not usually possible to shut during the day, so a group investigating only has the option to investigate at night.
• The level of distractions involved is less at night
• Night is often the only time that people can get to investigate
• Traffic noise is significantly less


Arguments against
• Cannot see to identify the cause of the believed paranormal episode : so insects and rodents scurrying and spider silk in the air are mis-identified
• Noises take on a different perspective, having lost the use of our main sense (sight) other senses heighten to compensate, and perceived sounds are altered from a normal perception.
• After 2-3am the body’s physiology and perceptions do begin to change.
• Reliance on electrical gizmos and gadgetry which have dubious claims to efficiency in a paranormal detecting sphere.
• Sudden bright lights from Camera flash and torches to the detriment of manifestation (see forthcoming on the effect of lighting)
• Safety issues


If it is essential that the investigation is conducted at night, to counter the arguments listed against which mostly center on altered physiological states and psychological perceptions it is best to consider the venue in terms of static lighting : that is a state of low lighting which does not change during the course of the investigation, rather than immediately turn the lights off and start imagining.

As Dave Wood of PSI intuitively wrote

The investigator should think twice about switching the lights off during an investigation. Pitch black usually serves no purpose save from ‘spooking people out’ and equipment operation and meaningful observation is nearly impossible. However a lower-light setting can often be justified. Bright lighting can provide plenty of distractions to the investigator, but gentle lower lighting can provide an environment of good perception and equipment operation.

Unless the paranormal investigators can justify their chosen methods for the investigation, in terms of scientific and logical reasoning then what is produced is merely a spooky experience by a group of thrill seekers at a reputedly haunted (or sometimes not even that) venue, that will not stand up to critical peer review.

Christopher J Huff MA
Archaeologist & Writer
The Real International Paranormal (TRIP) Administrator & Researcher
Author of Haunted Second World War Airfields