An Introduction to Blacklights
Ever watched the movie The Conjuring? There was a scene where they looked for a girl who disappeared in a room, and Ed Warren asked for a blacklight. One essential piece of equipment paranormal investigators use is a blacklight, simply because it helps them check physical traces not immediately apparent to the naked eye.
In this article, we will cover what backlights are, their purpose, their history, and why paranormal investigators think it’s such an essential tool for them.
What are Blacklights?
A blacklight, also called a Wood’s lamp, UV-A lamp, or ultraviolet light is an analog lamp that produces long-wave ultraviolet light that is not visible to ordinary human eyesight. In reality, the visible color is blue or violet rather than black.
Two Types of Blacklight
There are two ways a blacklight can produce UV light. The first way is for a lamp to have violet filter material to filter the most visible light and allow the UV light to pass through. Blacklight lamps with this filter are given the industry designation of BLB (Black Light Blue) in the lighting industry.
The second way is for the actual lamp to produce real UV light but without the filter material. This second method produces more visible light and can be perceived as blue. This type of lamp, commonly used in insect traps, is given the designation BL (Blacklight) in the light industry.
A Brief History of Blacklights
The inventor of the blacklight was William H. Byler in 1935. A graduate of the University of Central Missouri in 1927, he was a research scientist for General Electric Corporation. After two years at GE, William H. Byler became research director at the US Radium Corporation. Dr. Byler was awarded several patents throughout his distinguished career.
In paranormal research, there is no direct evidence of when paranormal investigators started using blacklights. But most people who dabble in this field can agree on one thing: blacklights can effectively detect fraudulent instances of paranormal activity.
What are Blacklights used for in Paranormal Investigations?
Blacklights are used in paranormal investigations, such as revealing hidden and hard-to-see evidence, detecting unusual markings and patterns, and as a potential light source to maintain a sensory-deprived area.
Revealing Hidden and Hard-to-See Evidence
While it is true that many paranormal enthusiasts claim that it is possible for people to see ethereal beings and spirits using a blacklight, its primary use is for detecting the presence of bodily fluids such as blood, urine, sweat, semen, and saliva. Different fluids will shine brighter due to their particular mix of chemicals.
Detecting Unusual Markings and Patterns
Blacklights can help paranormal investigators detect unusual markings and patterns on surfaces that are potentially associated with paranormal activities.
Though it is possible to hide a fingerprint pattern using gloves, the traces of someone touching a doorknob or the footsteps of a person walking down the stairs would be visible under a blacklight. Ghosts or spirits would not leave any footsteps.
When fingerprints, footsteps, and other signs are detected, it can help investigators debunk “evidence” and help to prove that somebody is trying to fake ghostly activity.
Used as a Light Source
Blacklights can be used as a light source that allows investigators to maintain a dark environment which helps with sensory deprivation and allows them to focus all of their attention on potential signs of paranormal activity. People are often more alert in a darker environment, and their non-visual senses are heightened.
False Positives and False Negatives
Using this type of equipment, just like any other tool, is not 100% accurate. Paranormal investigators still need some expertise in lighting and forensics to be able to use a blacklight effectively.
For example, an investigator must be able to distinguish between recent physical signs and signs that have been there for quite some time (e.g., recent footsteps vs. footsteps from 2 days ago). It is entirely possible to wipe an area clean of fingerprints and footsteps before conducting an investigation. That step would ensure more accurate results.
Without the proper knowledge and process, there is a chance an investigator could get a false positive when investigating paranormal activity.
It is also possible to fool a blacklight into getting a false negative. It is an analog tool, after all. If a fraudster wanted to leave no traces, they might clean up after themselves using bleach to remove footprints and leather gloves that don’t leave telltale signs. Plus, many paranormal investigators believe some ghosts leave footprints and handprints behind, though that claim has never been substantiated (accounts of ghosts leaving physical signs behind are conflicting and unreliable).
Real-Life Paranormal Investigators
Ed Warren was a self-taught paranormal investigator, lecturer, and author in the 1960s. Lorraine Warren was a clairvoyant and medium who worked closely with her husband. Together, they claim to have investigated over 10,000 paranormal cases in their career.
Not much is known about this couple’s life except their paranormal investigations, which include popular instances of alleged ghost and demon manifestations like the Amityville house and the Perron case, which was the basis for the movie The Conjuring.
In the film adaptation of the experiences of the Perron family, Ed, and Lorraine Warren were shown to have used a blacklight multiple times in their investigation of the house that the family claimed to be haunted.
Other Uses of Blacklights
Besides its use in paranormal investigations, blacklights have been very useful in other fields, such as Medicine, Art, Finance, and Engineering.
In 1925, an early version of the blacklight was used by Margarot and Devaze to detect fungal infections in a person’s hair. This “blacklight” was very effective in determining the condition of the scalp and where the boundary of the infection was located.
Blacklights were also used widely in the art world by detecting fraudulent artworks, especially in paintings. By using UV light, many experts can validate if the claimed paintings or sculptures have been created centuries ago or just recently.
For many banks, blacklights have been standard practice since the mid-1900s. Most currencies use UV-Fluorescent Phosphors inks that are invisible under normal lighting conditions but can be seen under a blacklight.
The Pitfalls of Parapsychology
This field has no shortage of critics since it’s a branch of study that deals with paranormal and psychic phenomena (e.g., precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, ESP, telekinesis, apparitions, and hauntings.)
Many experts say this field fails to establish robust evidence of true paranormal activity. Critics also say parapsychologists also fail to rule out all possible explanations about the phenomena they investigate and immediately conclude the paranormal.
Whatever other scientists might say, people have always believed in paranormal phenomena, which is apparent in legends and folklore in cultures worldwide. For believers, one thing is clear: Blacklights are an essential ghost hunting tool in continuing the traditions of paranormal investigations. So, if they have a blacklight handy and they’re experiencing possible paranormal activity, all they have to do is get their trusty lamp and start sleuthing.