"And sometimes to this day, when the sun is out and the birds are singing, when the roadsides are covered with wildflowers, you can smell freshly baked bread and hear sweet old Mrs. Johnson's sewing machine humming away in the distance. If you're really lucky, you might even get a glimpse of her ghost, wearing her favorite sun bonnet and pulling weeds around the place where her little cabin once sat."
Not a very spooky ending to a ghost story told around a campfire late at night, is it? It's definitely not. And because of it not being very spooky, stories like this are all too often overlooked when digging around for haunting legends to investigate. However, stories like this are out there and not uncommon at all. Sadly, they're largely ignored in favor of the thrill of night time investigations and hunting.
Most ghost hunters these days focus on spooky places at dark. Why? Probably because of the age old superstition and misconception of "ghosts only come out at night", combined with a various assortment of bits and pieces of beliefs and mythology from all over the world... Light is positive, dark is negative. Three A.M. is the "anti-hour". Let's not forget the witching hour of course, and tons of other beliefs pertaining to the dark of night. All of those reasons equate in some form or another to some type of negativity and somewhere along the passage of time, ghosts were thrown into that mix of negative things that are associated only with the dark and night.
Of course, to many ghost hunters, it's also just more spooky at night. It's part of the thrill of the chase. Old superstitions and fears that we don't even think we have lay hidden in the subconscious and add to that thrill. You can't see everything around you and the absence of daytime nose pollution, in addition to the sounds that only manifest while most of us are sleeping, enables one to hear things that many are not normally used to hearing. Screech owls in the back of the property bring about startled utterances of "Oh my God, what was that!?". Stray cows mournfully bellowing out for their bedded down herd makes the unaccustomed want to run for their cars. Even the small and harmless out-of-site armadillos shuffling and rooting through the pine straw and undergrowth leaves impressions of a 400 pound unknown beast trampling around in the dark while watching your every move.
Often times though when the suggestion is made to investigate or begin an investigation at daylight, the suggestion is met with hesitation and the sense of spoiling the fun. That's fine if you're into ghost hunting for just that thrill or to wear the badge of "I'm a ghost hunter and I walk around cemeteries and abandoned houses at night because I fear nothing". But for the serious investigator, the one who gains fun, enjoyment, and a thrill from the critical and analytical aspect of investigating the unknown, for the one who likes to keep objectivity in mind and biases out, it's just plain common sense to have an investigation during daylight, or at least arrive during daylight hours for a pre-investigation inspection. Sometimes people learn that when they go the old local house place that's rumored to be haunted and find nothing at night, but later hear someone make the comment of "you should have went there in the early afternoon. That's when the grounds keepers always smell freshly caught fish under that old oak tree". Sometimes people learn when they arrive at the popular haunted cemetery after dark to see gates locked and "no visitors after dark" signs posted.
Many reputable and long time paranormal researchers have stated that the best evidence is often captured during the daytime. According to them, the evidence tends to be of better quality due to the fact that night time photography and video has limitations because of the lack of light. According to some, up to 80 percent of the unexplainable apparitions caught on film were done so during daylight. Stephen Wagner, who writes for the paranormal section of About.com, has stated that in the collection of photos that he's acquired over the years, the majority of the truly unexplainable ones were taken during the day. Long time investigators and researchers (Price, Holzer, Auerbach, Southall, Chacon, etc...) have all documented unexplainable phenomena during the day. Such phenomena from apparitions to heavy poltergeist activity have all been witnessed during broad daylight.
The office that my mother formerly worked at during the day was often plagued with unexplained occurrences. The occurrences soon turned into to allegations of the office, a former apartment building, being haunted. They had toilets to flush by themselves, heard footsteps on the old wooden floors, and several of the ladies working there were even witness to a drawer in one the file cabinets suddenly and quickly opening all the way up. The incidents were truly unexplainable. After checking, no one was in the back that could have walked through the hall. Everyone was busy with paperwork and not in the bathroom. And everyone in the main section of the office were sitting there at their desks when the cabinet opened up by itself right in front of them. So many strange things happened there that the resident office skeptic soon turned into a believer, acknowledging that something was going on that couldn't be explained by his rational sense of logic.
A good friend of mine who is somewhat sensitive to ghosts has had quite a number of experiences during the day. She's experienced the sighting of a man wearing overalls outside her house, heard whistling and shuffling in the grass while doing chores outside, has heard someone moving around dishes and utensils in the dish strainer when there was no one there, and many other experiences. She's said that probably thirty percent of the things that happen around her place happen during the day. Daytime phenomena at her place is not in the majority, but it's definitely not rare when it happens.
Another good friend of mine relayed a story to me about the house that a friend's friend lived in at one time. The friend stood in amazement one day while a commode seat lifted up and then closed back down repeatedly. They later moved from the house after coming home one afternoon and seeing all of the kitchen cabinet doors wide open and their contents laying in the middle of the floor.
Of course those are just local incidents. If they can happen here in a place that is not famous for it's hauntings, it seems to reason that they could happen anywhere. Many daytime visitors to the former Civil War battlefields have reported apparitions as well as the smell of gunpowder, disembodied shouts and moans, and hearing the galloping of horses. Even the smell of lilacs has been smelled by visitors to Gettysburg, said to be from the use of lilac water at the time to cover up the literal stench of death that overtook the town. Daytime visitors to an old courthouse in San Jacinto County, Texas have reported seeing the apparition of Rufus, a man that was hung there. The famous Waley House in San Diego, said by researchers to be one of the most haunted structures in the United States, has had it's share of daytime phenomena witnessed by vacationers. A woman who works at Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire, England, recalled the time when she was struck in the face by what felt like sand when opening up one morning. A fellow employee of hers has said that never a day goes by that something unexplained doesn't happen. Again, these are just a handful of instances. The Queen Mary, Hand Hotel in Wales, The Lemp Mansion in Missouri, Alcatraz, The Myrtles Plantation, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, etc, etc... All have been the locations of reported daytime unexplained phenomena ranging from dishes being thrown by unseen forces to phantom houses appearing out of nowhere.
Some other reasons for investigating (or at least beginning an investigation) during daylight are objectivity and basic safety. It's good to get a different perspective on things during daylight. Sometimes the sources for those strange sights and weird sounds seen and heard at night are easily explained during the day when their source can be more clearly seen. Hazards from uncovered wells to the hidden run down house of a crazy neighbor hermit who likes to fire his gun in the air to scare off strange vehicles driving down 'his' road are more easily noticed. Ghost investigation can be lots of fun if taken seriously, but that fun starts to fade away when an investigator falls for a teenager's prank, sprains an ankle while tripping on a loose floorboard, or gets lost down a road that they shouldn't have taken.
This of course is not at all to say that ghost investigators shouldn't go at night. Going at night does have it benefits. Due to it being dark, actual apparitions are many times easier to see against the dark back drop. Abnormal sounds are also more easily heard due to the absence of the daytime noise pollution mentioned earlier. Depending on the location and the type of activity, some are definitely more haunted at night and a night time visit could very well pay off. There does appear to be more evidence gathered at night. But one has to ask if it's because more people go hunting at night. Night also seems to be a more active time for hauntings. But again, is it because less attention is paid during the day due to that preconceived thought that "nothings going to happen while the sun is still out"?
It's clear to see that night time isn't the only time of day when the ghosts come out. In an attempt to answer some of the questions regarding day vs. night hauntings, it would seem that the best time of day for a thorough investigation is both. Arrive early in the day, talk to witnesses, ask about times and days that have the most activity, and gather base readings for everything. Look around, familiarize yourself with the surroundings, and make note of everything you see, hear, smell, and feel. Stay until well after nightfall and do the same. When morning comes, you might walk away with nothing new. Or you might walk away with the most compelling evidence that you and others have ever seen. After the data is in and the evidence is reviewed, you just might get a bigger surprise than you've ever gotten at night.
Reverend Chaos (aka Shawna Lowman)