Going Dark: Reasons For and Against
Written by Mark Stinson - Ghost Vigil Investigations
Why do paranormal investigators "go dark" on investigations? What is the purpose of turning down or off the lights? Let's say up front, that no one can be right or wrong on this question.
Ghost Vigil Investigations doesn't always "go dark" on an investigation, but when we do "go dark," I've listed the reasons we do it below. I'm sure of you "go dark" for other reasons, and those reasons are just as valid as these. I'm pretty sure reason #1 came from reading Loyd Auerbach. But reason #2 came from either Troy Taylor or Vince Wilson. Reasons #3 and #4 are provided in the interest of honesty. Reason #5 comes from experience. Reasons #6, #7, #8 and #9 were suggestions to me by management within two other TAPS Family groups...
As a working theory, let's consider for a moment that ghosts are "seen," "heard", "felt," or "smelled" using senses other than our physical senses. It possible we see them, hear them, feel them, and smell them using our PSI (or extrasensory perceptions)...and not our eyes, ears, skin, and nose. Well, 99% of all humans (and investigators) are completely caught up in their physcial senses. So by turning down the lights and experiencing the paranormal environment in a somewhat sense-deprived state, we free the investigator from his "flesh-bias." I'll sometimes ask my investigators to close their eyes for a few minutes at the beginning of a vigil and just sort of "experience" the room sightlessly, in the hopes that it will put them in the right frame of mind to sense using their innate PSI.
As a working theory, let's consider for a moment that ghosts are seen, heard, felt, or smelled by our physical senses. We must consider that ghosts must gather or generate energy, and then use that energy to manifest in a fashion that can be sensed by our physical senses. The theory goes that this is a difficult process for the ghost/spirit. If you wanted to find a lit candle in the middle of a grassy field, would you rather look for it at Midnight or at Noon on a sunny day. So the theory suggests that by turning down the lights, you are putting the investigators in the right frame of mind and the right conditions to better sense lesser manifestations they might not otherwise notice.
We consider ourselves fairly serious about this field, our investigations, and our analysis of evidence. But I would be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes we "Go Dark" on historical haunting investigations because its fun. If there is a haunting legend that a huge hulking dark figure is sometimes seen in a jail cell at the 1859 Jackson County Jail...then what paranormal investigator in their right mind doesn't want to sit in that jail cell with the lights turned off. I'll admit it.
Another reason that I've had for "going dark" is psychological experimentation. This sounds a bit unethical, but there have been a few times where I have placed investigators in fairly dark frightening places and asked them to "investigate," when in fact I've been trying to see just how the darkness and the atmosphere of the space will affect them. In one specific example, I closed one of our most skeptical investigators alone in a pitch-black cell at the 1859 Jackson County Jail...just to see how he would react to that environment. I was curious how someone who absolutely does not believe in ghosts (as this team member believes) would be affected. I asked him to sit still on the floor of the cell. Within a minute or two, he was up and pacing in the dark. In ten minutes he wanted out. The psychological impact of that environment was pretty intense, ghosts or not...
During the daytime, there is often more traffic, people walking by, and other noise in the neighborhood where your investigation is taking place. High levels of movement and activity outside the location of your investigation can be extremely distracting, invalidate your EVP work, and lead to anecdotal experiences (mostly sound) that can be mistaken for paranormal. At night, things tend to quiet down...and this is less of a problem.
Some groups turn down or off the lights to help calm everyone on the investigation and in the home. When its is dark, it quiets people automatically, without having to demand that everyone quiet down. For some groups its sort of an unspoken rule that when it "goes dark," things get quiet. To quote one group, "We have done things with the lights on and found that people just don't focus as well." (Dave Bender of API, and now Bender Investigations)
Considering the theory that manifestations require a source of power, some groups believe that "going dark" can (theoretically) force the issue, leaving the investigators as one of the only power-sources to draw upon within the environment. Basically, batteries, equipment, and the investigators. (Jeff Leeper of CPI)
Light can obscure subtlety...and it tends to distract us from our other senses and our ability to reason and think. When we focus less on our sense of sight, we are forced to use our powers of deductive reasoning more...and to understand and logically analyze the input we are receiving from our other senses. (Karl Sherlock of PPI)
When reviewing evidence, it makes things easier to understand your light sources and where they are coming from. When you eliminate all of the light sources except the flash, this can keep things simple. Low light video captured with Nightshot technology is basically represented in shades of green and black. Eliminating color in this way from the video can also simplify your analysis of what you've captured. (Tim Ellis of UPPRS)
Of course, if your witness/client always experiences the paranormal activity at night and not during the day...it would help to investigate at night. If your witness/client always experiences the paranormal activity during lunch when the house is fully lit, you would probably want to investigate during lunch when the house is fully lit!
Another thing to consider when choosing to "go dark" or not "go dark," is the fact that our eyes have a tendency to malfunction in low light environments. As our eyes attempt to focus in low light and are shifting the focus of reception from the cones to the rods, we tend to get a lot of false input. Investigators will sense movement and sometimes flashes of light, where there is neither.
You must also consider that fear of the dark can make some investigators less effective in a dark environment. And in the dark, investigators are more likely to get injured or break something belonging to the client by stumbling over it, etc.
I'm guessing that as long as this list is, there are still more reasons that could be given for "going dark." When deciding whether and when to use this method, make sure you know why you are doing it...and understand that "going dark" is not always the right thing to do on every investgation.