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Strange white flash in a dark room - II

  1. Sep 23, 2010 #1
    My wife and I are currently staying in a holiday apartment in France and a couple of days ago we think we started seeing the same white flashes in our baby's room at night. We know there's no possibility of external light sources as our baby's room is completely blacked out at night with shutters closed outside the window, blackout covers inside the window and curtains drawn. The first time my wife told me about it I just dismissed it saying the door must have been open while she was in there and I must have been going to the bathroom at the same time but she swore it was a white light like a camera flash that lit up the entire baby's room from the inside rather than a sweeping yellowish light like that from another room. She was wide awake at the time and said she saw everything in the room. Then I remembered I had been in the room with the baby a few nights before and although my eyes had been shut I saw a bright flash through my eyelids but when I opened my eyes it was dark. At the time I was convinced my wife had walked in and flicked the lights on but since there was no-one there and it was dark when I opened my eyes I just put it down to being tired and didn't think much more of it until my wife saw the flash. We got a bit freaked out as my wife is a little superstitious and started putting ideas into my head about paranormal stuff so we swapped rooms with our baby and tried to stay awake so we could catch it happening again but it hasn't happened again so far.

    Trying to be more rational about it, I was thinking there are so many possibilities of what this could be since we're in an apartment block with people above and below us. The floors are carpeted so static could easily be being generated and there's an elevator shaft nearby. There's a maintenance closet in the hallway outside our apartment which is next to the baby's room which probably has the electrical circuits running into it so it probably has a good grounding point in there. My conclusion to all this is that it's just static electricity building up and once the potential difference reaches a certain point or when there's a disturbance such as one of us walking into the room there's a discharge to ground and flash of light. We also have a big rubber exercise ball we sit on when we're rocking the baby to sleep which is very likely a source of static charge. Either that or we're just sleep deprived from the baby waking and it's all in our heads!

    A friend of ours who used to live in France said he's seen these flashes of white light too and apparently French hotels are notorious for it as they don't ground things properly. A lot of continental european electrical appliances such as the bedside lamps just have the two prongs with no earth pin (like US plugs) so that could be contributing to the problem. There's also very low humidity where we are just now which makes for worse static electricity.

    After our friend told us he'd seen it too and it was frequent occurrence over here it did put our minds at rest so hopefully other people will read this and won't freak out!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2010 #2

    Filip Larsen

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    Re: Strange white flash in dark room.

    Regarding the shared visual, do you remember if the flash produced reflected light or not in the room, like if you suddenly saw your girlfriends face light up a bit? If you saw things light up from the flash it should be a good indication that the light was external to your eyes. If not, I would say it still is a possible explanation that both you and your girlfriends was hit by the same radiation shower producing ionization in your eyeballs.

    Regarding the flashes on loud sounds, I often find that simply moving my eyelids (like blinking with eyes open, or trying to blink with eyes closed) just after going from a bright to a dark room may produce what I perceive as something like a small diffuse flash of light. The effect usually wears off after a few minutes and I ascribe it to the retinas being sensitive to small pressure changes when they just have gone from bright light to dark. Putting continuous slight pressure on my eyeballs in this situation usually always produces moving patterns of bluish-light that slowly dies out. If you experience the same, a surprising loud noise may make your eyes blink on reflex "producing" the flash.

    Edit: somehow I missed the age and many of the replies in this thread before posting ...
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  4. Nov 28, 2010 #3
    Re: Strange white flash in dark room.

    I had this happen to me and a family member this morning however it was not a dark room and there were 2 flashes which we both saw. The first neither of us mentioned then it happened about a minute later it was just like a camera flash but filled the whole room. We both were worried it was a short in a computer or lamp or a power surge but there was only one light on and one of us was looking at it and the flash did not come from that area. The blinds were closed and it is a very overcast day. There's no possibility of it being a car or outside light source.

    I'm convinced it is either an electrical or some seismic thing but web searches brought me here. While I don't believe in ghosts or anything magical/spiritual this has left us both unsettled.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2010
  5. Nov 28, 2010 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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  6. Nov 29, 2010 #5


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    Re: Strange white flash in dark room.

    Living a few miles from a fairly busy airport, the flashes from the light warning beacons on low flying aircraft and helicopters can be surprisinngly bright at ground level. I have seen these many times in my own bedroom at night over the years, with the curtains drawn. If you happen to be in exactly the right place, you see just one bright flash which lights up the room, and you don't necessarily hear any aircraft noise. If you didn't know the cause, I think you might well assume the source ot the light must have been inside the room and not outside.

    I have even seen these flashes lighting up the ground out of doors in gloomy conditions, when the aircraft was invisible above the cloud cover.
  7. Nov 29, 2010 #6
    Re: Strange white flash in dark room.

    Like I said, when it happened the first time neither of us even mentioned it but to happen again about a minute later made us take notice. To me, that eliminates passing vehicles or aircraft lights/reflections.
  8. Dec 3, 2010 #7


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    I had this experience for the first time last night and I was able to reproduce it. It doesn't match all of the symptoms perfectly, but I thought I would share. I've been re-writing this all morning to be very careful with my words.

    I have regular cotton sheets on my bed and a microfiber comforter. I should add that I sleep in perfect darkness. I have blackout curtains and keep little LEDs and stuff out of my room when I'm sleeping.

    I noticed that when I rolled over or moved my legs, I could actually get a tiny arc(?) between the comforter and the metal bed frame. Actually, I could never see the arc, but I would hear the tiny "tick" of an arc and see a flash. To me, the flash always looked like it came from the floor and reflected very slightly off of the wall and the ceiling. If I tried to look at it directly, I couldn't see it.

    Now, I've NEVER noticed this before in my entire life, but I was able to recreate the tiny flash maybe once out of ten or so kicks of the comforter. This was at ab out 1:30AM, so I didn't exactly spend a long time at it (maybe 10 minutes). I did notice however, that the phenomenon was entirely invisible once dawn approached. I got up at about 6:30 (still perfectly dark as far as I could see), but I was unable to cause a visible flash in my peripheral vision.

    Maybe this is totally unrelated, but I've never seen a flash happen as a result of (what I assume is) a static arc.
  9. Dec 3, 2010 #8


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    Bingo! :smile:

    I was meaning to mention something like that but I never got around to it. You don't specifically need cotton and microfiber to reproduce it. Other materials can work just fine, but cotton is still good). Wool blankets or furry slippers dragged across the floor will do it very well. It's easiest to reproduce the effect when it's very dry. And this is often the case in the winter time when the heater is going (effectively drying the air). And that's the same time of the year that the blankets, slippers, robes and pajamas are out too! Don't bother trying to reproduce the effect when it's humid.

    Perhaps the absolute easiest way to reproduce it, is on a dry, winter evening/night do some laundry (if you have an automatic laundry dryer, that is). If your automatic dryer has a light bulb in that lights up when the dryer door is open, unscrew the light bulb. (You want it as dark as possible, and you don't want the light to go on when the door is open.) Dry up a bunch of socks, underwear, blankets and such so they're quite dry. You could probably even start with dry clothes at the beginning, but just make sure they're hot and dry, and have tumbled around for awhile before continuing. Then turn off the lights to the laundry room. Try to get it completely dark. Now open up the dryer door (in the complete darkness) and pick up a few socks. It's like the paparazzi catching up with Lindsay Lohan on a particularly festive night. :bugeye:

    Of course, that's about the easiest way to reproduce the effect, but not the only way. You could also reproduce it by walking around in darkness wearing warm, fuzzy clothes when the air is dry; as long as you don't mind stumbling into things occasionally. It won't be as dramatic as the dryer, but you will get flashes once in awhile.

    On a related yet different note, try looking into the mirror in the darkness while chomping down on a tasty, hard-candy breath mint. That will light things up too!
  10. Dec 17, 2010 #9

    I have experienced the very same. A bright light flashing the room, combined with a dump sound. I have seen this about ten times till now. Last time was this night at 22:17.

    I live in Norway (Trondheim). We are till now about seven people who have seen this phenomenon. It always happen in the same room, and there is no carpets there. It has not yet happened when we are in the room.

    The flash is just as bright as sunlight at daytime. The room (kitchen) is in the second floor and is in connection to the living room.

    The room has a new kitchen now, but when it happened this summer, the old kitchen was completely removed, all lights were removed and the fuses in the fuse box were taken out. There is nothing from outside which could make such a strong and bright flash, and combined with the dump sound the phenomenon clearly happens in the kitchen.

    The brightness of the flash is so strong you don't have to look at that direction at all to see it. Normally I have been about 5-7 meters away sitting in the sofa.

    I work as an engineer in electronics, and this phenomenon is very strange.

    I will try to cach it on my video recorder or find another way to document the phenomenon.

    Tom Roger
  11. Dec 29, 2010 #10
    My girlfriend and I only once experienced something very close to what everyone here has more or less described, but we only found that in the dark her cat had stepped on the camera, setting off the flash.

    Good idea to catch it on video, but I would recommend a very fast recording media speed and the
    highest rate of 'shutter' possible. I have noticed in editing normal 30fps video shot with common
    CCDs that even a camera flash will take up only two frames out of the thirty. What is more interesting
    is that the flash of the camera's effect on the scene as imaged in the first frame will cover the lower half of the frame and in the second frame it will appear only in the upper half. So looking at these frame's images one at a time it appears as though only the lower half recorded the flash
    and in the second frame only the upper part, regardless of the rest of the image remaining the same.
    I looked it up at the time and found it was the nature of the CCD recording device, that the bright white
    could not be absorbed with the full spectrum of the image, so the device merely cut half of it out of each frame.
    Using a very high rate of 'shutter' and very high speed of recording media may also reveal a direction or source of the flash....

    If my girfriend's cat posts on this thread, someone please refer her to my post which covers the incident in question. I will forthwith make attempts to illuminate the cat on the operation of cameras and treading carefully in the dark.
  12. Dec 29, 2010 #11


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    I don't see how this will work. Setting the camera to record in pitch black will cause it to fail to auto-focus (IIRC, most cameras these days use contrast in the visible light range to focus). You may get the flash on file, but the image will have no focus.
  13. Dec 29, 2010 #12
    I would imagine that you could use partial light filters to focus, or set the focus to infinite. Granted considering the duration of the event would probably not be long enough for the auto focus to lock in,
    but with the high speed protocol you could determine the duration by counting frames and determine if it has a source, and if it moves.
    My guess would be some manner of air static phenomena, perhaps the composition and amount of dust in the air may be triggering some static discharge. Maybe something related to ball lightning, especially If it happens after people enter and then remain still in a room for a period of time.
    Even if the all-black camera can't focus, you can get a measure the duration of the event by counting the frames where it appears, that's one hurdle jumped. Run a second camera using low light filters, or take the feed from one camera through multiple filters in a computer.
  14. Jan 10, 2011 #13
    Ive seen lot's of these flashes in my time, seemed faster than a camera flash and brighter. Sometimes id see many in a few seconds, other times just one or two. Id say they were about the size of an egg or a bit smaller. Just puttin it out there.
  15. Nov 24, 2011 #14
    Hey, I made an account so I could comment on this. It happened to me a while ago i was lying still on my back in bed trying to sleep and i saw a flash of light in what looked like a ball shape down towards my feet at the end of my bed. I thought I had imagined it for a second and ignored it. Then as I was turning to flip over onto my right side and I have a wall right next to me, this time I didn't see it directly like before but I saw the reflection on the wall. I read the post about static and the comforters but this was coming from the same place, about three feet from the ground and near my closet door, and it was also bright enough to light up my wall. I figured it had to be lightning or something because it had stormed a little before I went to bed. I racked my brain for hours trying to figure out what the first ball of light was that I saw. I thought maybe if it was lightning, it was reflecting off of the door hinges of my closet some how, but they make the light scatter and were in the wrong place anyways.
  16. Nov 25, 2011 #15


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    To venture a guess I'd say either ball lightning, or more likely a dream or hallucination. Occasionally I've had some pretty vivid dreams that stuck with me.
  17. Dec 10, 2011 #16
    I have come across several similar situations.

    The first was a periodic bright flash of light that appeared to come from the airconditioning vents in a newly constructed bank branch. I asked an employee if their security system was taking pictures and the said they could not comment. Three weeks later we had very strong winds and the banks airconditioning system stopped working entirely. It appears there was a malfunction in the wiring, an intermittent short.

    The second only happened a couple of times when I would just be dropping off to sleep with my eyes closed and I would 'see' a bright flash of light and hear a bit of a clunk as the refridgerator compressor, approximately 3 feet away from my head (in another room), kicked into action. That was wierd.
  18. Dec 13, 2011 #17
    My experience is basically the same as most of the previous posts. Wife kicked me out to the guest bedroom for snoring, knew I had to get up very early to travel, time was about 4 am when I hears my cats (playing?) making noise in the hallway. This is my family home for off and on some 55 yrs. I'm laying on my side and see a brief flash that seems to come from inside, but not sure. Prob. less than a minute later (now I know I'm fully awake) I see a second one - looks like a flashbulb going off inside the house. Thinking this could be anything such as a lunatic outside my bay window in the middle of the house shooting the camera in, or some police or rescue unit outside I am now going to check this out. As I move from the bedroom to the hallway (I'm on wood floors) a brilliant shaft of light totally engulfs me - brightest white you can imagine. In the the time it take for the foot to fall in the hallway - it's over. Not only did I think I prob. was dead, I was very much surprised about the total "lack" of physical impact it had. Much brighter than a photo flash - but zero affect on the retina. No indication of any heat or electrical force field felt. No fear felt as well - walked through it several times to see if it would happen again. All in all, three flashes I know of. Would like to know if a static flash as reported would not have any affect on the eyes.
  19. Dec 13, 2011 #18


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    You should probably have your eyes checked by an opthamologist, they might want to refer you to a neurological opthamalogist.


  20. Dec 13, 2011 #19
    Thanks for the insight (no pun), It's worth considering eye impairment. I'm still having a hard time explaining why there was reflection off the inside walls from a far away flash though. Two different animals being "inside" the flash as opposed to seeing it from afar.
  21. Dec 13, 2011 #20


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    A small discharge of static electricity can easily be visible if your eyes were well adjusted to the darkness (which would happen if you're in darkness for a half hour or so -- and the discharge is more likely inside a heated dwelling, on a cold, dry, night). Even comparatively dim flashes could appear bright when your eyes are in that situation. Even though the flash itself might only last a tiny fraction of a second, the image sensed by your retina (which can include the walls/floor/ceiling -- anything lit by the flash) might last at least a little longer than that, just due to the way the eyes work. But I doubt it would be enough destroy your night vision though (even if the flash did appear very bright compared to the otherwise near-total darkness).

    If the true intensity of the flash was actually the typical intensity of a camera flash, you would have perceived the after-image for quite awhile after. But maybe it just seemed really bright, because your eyes were already well adjusted to the dark at the time.

    And if the spark occurred outside your direct line of sight, all that you would see is the reflection off the walls/floor/ceiling etc., and you wouldn't see the source of the flash.

    You've mentioned that your [presumably furry] cats were playing before one happened. That could explain a flash right there. Fur can build up static fairly easily. When you moved from the bedroom to the hallway, did you touch a doorknob, or grab onto anything?
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