A friend emailed me the link to the YouTube video attached to this story after Patch published a story on the flashlight activity at the Country House in Clarendon Hills. I have to admit, I've never watched the show Ghost Hunters or any other reality show like it. Like the readers who have criticized us in the comments since we started this series, I am much too suspicious to believe anything unless I am there to witness it myself—and even then, I'm skeptical.
I knew that night there would be no way I could know with absolute certainty that the All City Paranormal team's flashlights weren't rigged, but my flashlight was still sealed in the hard plastic it came in when I got it from my car. The casing had to be cut in order to open the package, and I knew I hadn't rigged my flashlight.
After my experience at the Country House, I tried to find any technology on the Internet that could turn on a flashlight remotely—something like a cell phone jammer that would turn on any flashlight that might be within range. I couldn't.
The host on the "Viper Paranormal" YouTube video offered another explanation. In the video, he said the flashlight turning on and off is basically a short circuit that occurs at random. He said that many ghosthunters unscrew the backs of their flashlights to the point where the flashlight is teetering between staying on or off, then set it down to ask questions. He compares the effect to lights flickering on and off in a home.
"You're not getting enough voltage to that light and for a split second that light has no power. Well, it's the exact same thing with this flashlight. When this thing is unscrewed, it's teeter-tottering between having a connection. And basically you've got a short circuit, so sometimes this light's going to come on, and sometimes it's going to be off," said Mike St. Clair, the host of the Viper Paranormal YouTube series.
Theoretically, then, any vibration could cause the connection to be completed and the light to turn on.
Lisa Jahnke, one of the lead investigators at All City Paranormal, which Patch followed as part of our haunted venues series, said they do not unscrew the backs of the flashlights during the question and answer sessions. They use mini Maglights that turn on and off by rotating the head and handle in opposite directions. Jahnke said their method is to turn on a flashlight, then slowly turn it off to the point where the flashlight turns off.
The team from ACP had three flashlights on the table that night at the Country House. One or two would turn on after a question was asked.
The ACP team sent me video of one of the investigators, Shannon Bartowiak, setting up her flashlight for a question and answer session and drumming on the table to demonstrate that vibrations are not causing the light to turn on.
It seemed entirely plausible to me that a flashlight barely making a connection could turn on and off randomly. Logically, with three flashlights, the probability of at least one turning on directly after a question was asked would be higher.
It doesn't explain, however, how the flashlight I had brought from my car was turning on and off. To my knowledge, I had it turned completely off. I hadn't told anyone I was bringing it into the room. It was on the desk next to me, several feet from the conference table where the ACP team was sitting, and no one had any contact with my flashlight but me.
I tried to reproduce the same conditions with my own mini Maglight at home—turning the flashlight until it was just barely off, then setting it on its end on the table in front of me. After two hours of talking to it, asking it to turn on if it liked being a flashlight, kicking the table leg under it and hitting the table next to it, the flashlight didn't turn on once.
The YouTube host also said a combination of editing and random flickering is what makes it appear as though ghosts are responding to questions. TV shows might cut out the time period between when the question is asked and when the light turns on.
"Well, on the television shows, they can set this thing down and ask questions for an hour, and the thing will flicker on and off maybe one time. And then when they edit that programming, they'll say the question and then—bam—the light will flicker. Now what we're seeing is just a few seconds of this, but they've been sitting there for an hour doing this," St. Clair said.
You be the judge. I have put together some clips showing light response from that night. I am allowing the video to run unedited between the time the question is asked and when the light turns on.
In the video, the white circle of light is the flashlight. There are two meters on the table that glow red throughout the session.
What do you think? Random short circuit or paranormal phenomenon? You tell us.
Stay tuned for the full story this week.