Dave Wood briefly delves into why people
investigate at night and why some investigate with the lights out.
Much to the chagrin of many a rationalist there is almost an unspoken
tradition that paranormal investigators investigate at night time and
often in complete darkness. This brief piece explains why this practice
causes so much consternation but why it is often necessary. And finally
that if you seek to be scientific you must always justify your
Rational but interested onlookers often
question why investigations are held at night. This is normally suffixed
with an – often derisory – observation that there is no reasons “ghosts”
should only appear at night. What is perhaps a more valid question is
why an investigator’s first reaction is to turn the lights off. On a
simple level it is pointed out that if you want to see a ‘ghost’ you are
best of seeing it in good lighting. Then at least you can be sure of
what you see. A raft of other problems can be brought in, such as
accurate operation of equipment and the ability of night-vision
camcorders to see every detail in very dark conditions. But perhaps the
most compelling criticism is that in the dark any person’s eyes will
inevitably play tricks on them. A lot of what is seen during
investigations could just be a paranormal interpretation of ambiguous
stimuli. Doing it in the dark can also been seen as crass. It conjures
up images of a band of thrill-seekers whose main objective is to get
scared and see things. Damning criticism indeed – but is it justified?
The first instinct of the conscientious investigator should be to seek
to observe paranormal phenomena in a place in the
same location and environment the observations were made in the first
place. This may in fact have been at night, which is a firm
justification for investigating at night. However, if sightings were in
the day then that is the best time to investigate. Unfortunately in
reality this is often not possible. If a group is investigating a public
building it is often not possible to shut it during the day, so on an
operational level the only option is to investigate at night.
Furthermore the level of distractions involved has to be considered. If
a group of individuals seeks to observe an environment for any unusual
noises, for example, they need to be reasonably assured the building
isn’t filled with visitors or that there is not a lot of daily noise and
traffic interfering with the senses. But a cautionary note is that after
2-3am the body’s physiology and perceptions do begin to change and any
results should be treated with some suspicion.
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.
In the case of PSI, it is conducing longitudinal research into
investigator perceptions, so in each case the environment has to be held
as constant as possible.
If an investigation group claims to be
scientific it must always not only justify but demonstrate and
understand the decisions it makes and the consequences of those actions.
So next time you turn out the light, remember why you’re doing it.
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