Temperature Drops and Cold Spots

7th April 2023. Reading Time: 9 minutes General, Paranormal Theories. 2118 page views. 0 comments.

Is a drop in temperature a sign of something paranormal? Psychical Researchers would observe temperature drops when observing psychic mediumship demonstrations. We then fast forward to modern-day paranormal investigating and look at what natural explanations can cause us to feel these cold spots and the best way to measure them.

Temperature drops and cold spots are one of the more common pieces of phenomena that paranormal investigators talk about.  Even if you are not an investigator, many accounts of witnesses who have experienced what they believe to be something paranormal often talk about feeling a fast and steep drop in temperature or a phantom cold breeze.  Measuring the temperature is not something that is new when it comes to the paranormal.  A lot of what we do as modern-day paranormal investigators has been inspired by the works of psychical researchers from the past.  

Psychical Research and temperature drops

Various psychical researchers from the past observed what they believed to be significant temperature drops while observing psychic mediumship demonstrations.  Some referred to it as a paranormal wind.

In his book Researches in the phenomena of spiritualism (1874) Sir William Crookes wrote

"These movements, and indeed, I may say the same of every kind of phenomenon, are generally preceded by a peculiar cold air, sometimes amounting to a decided wind. I have had sheets of paper blown about by it, and a thermometer lowered several degrees. On some occasions I have not detected any actual movement of the air, but the cold has been so intense that I could only compare it to that felt when the hand has been within a few inches of frozen mercury."

Italian parapsychologist Ernest Bozzano recorded experiences with this phenomena at the Millesimo Castle with famous medium Marquis Centurione Scotto.

"On the evening of July 7, 1928, the heat was very oppressive … we happened to mention this disadvantage, and immediately blasts of unusually strong, icy air were felt by us all….There was a continual change in the direction from which these air currents came; sometimes they descended from the ceiling, then we felt them in front of us, or at our side, or blowing from behind us; sometimes they were like small whirlwinds. It felt as though several electric fans were working in the centre, outside and above the circle."

After a second seance he wrote

"Almost immediately we felt strong blasts of icy air which rapidly increased in force, giving one the impression of a powerful supernormal electric fan which periodically wafted its pleasant, cooling currents of air over the sitters…. These currents were so strong that our hair waved in the wind, and men's coats, and the lace on the ladies' dresses were blown about."

Modern Psychic Mysteries at Millesimo Castle by Huck, Gwendolyn K (1929)

Harry Price 

From his headquarters at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (NLPR), Price used his specially equipped seance room as a means to potentially measure psychical phenomena.  From dictaphones to record spirit voices to barographs to detect changes in atmospheric pressure, it is perhaps an insight into why ghost hunters still use these kinds of measuring devices in modern-day paranormal investigation.  Fixed to the wall of the seance room was a simple thermometer.  This would register any changes in the temperature during a sitting with the medium to help lend weight to the theory that there is a drop in temperature when in the presence of paranormal phenomena.

Image Source: Public Domain

In 1923, Price tested a medium by the name of Stella C who was said to hold psychic abilities but had never been tested.  This point was important to Price as he wanted to be able to work with a medium that had not previously been through testing procedures for authenticity.

In the first place, I installed a Nigretti and Zambra self-registering thermometer, which was fastened against an enclosed oak beam, high up, on the wall farthest away from the medium and not within reach of any member of the circle during the sittings.

The séance room was not heated before or during the sittings, and no sudden changes in the temperature were apparent except during the production of the phenomena.  Scrupulous care was taken in setting the thermometer and recording the readings.  Col. W.W. Hardwick (now Managing Editor of “Light”) checked the readings with me, and other sitters also noted the variations that had taken place during the sittings.  I believe I am right in stating that no other investigators have systematically recorded, by instrumental means, the thermal effect produced during a long series of sittings.

On most occasions, the indicator of the thermometer has shown a drop in the temperature during the sittings.  During the first few séances, when we were experimenting with various kinds of tables, and when telekinetic action was particularly strong, the mercury fell many degrees below that recorded at commencement of sittings.  During the later stages of our experiments, when we had succeeded in diverting the power to the production of other forms of phenomena, the thermometer did not show that marked drop in the temperature recorded in the earlier séances.

The low temperatures appear to synchronize with violent manifestations.  That this drop in temperature is a fact, and that the cool breezes experienced during sittings are a physical and not merely a psychological effect, I have conclusively proved by instrumental means.  There is no question of error in observation or fraud involved in these experiments.  As Sir Oliver Lodge (in a letter to me on this subject)

    
The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research  (Vol. XVIII, No. 5, May 1924)
Stella C - A Record of Thirteen Sittings for Thermo-Psychic and Other Experiments by Harry Price, F.R.N.S.

Modern-day paranormal investigation and cold spots

Evolving from the theory above that psychic mediums would absorb and change the atmosphere around them, one of the common beliefs in the paranormal field is that a spirit absorbs the atmosphere around as a way of gaining energy to be able to manifest or even communicate.  So in theory, we tend to believe that a spirit or a ghost is made up of energy. In order to manifest or appear, they must pull energy from the environment. Because the energy within the environment is made up of heat, their manipulating their surroundings means that the area they are drawing the energy from becomes cold. People claim when they feel they have been touched, it feels cold. An unexplained cold spot in the middle of an otherwise warmish room where there is no source of the draft is interpreted to be a spirit trying to appear. We carry around data loggers, Mel meters, and even temperature in an effort to record these drops in temperature. We are not looking for a drop of only 1 degree. We like to see a variation of at least 10 degrees for it to grab our attention.

If a cold spot is not paranormal, what could it be?

What becomes confusing however is when we are physically feeling that an area of a room is significantly colder than the rest, and our equipment doesn’t seem to show that the temperature is different. So why do we feel so much colder than what it is? This of course is assuming there is not a draft coming in from a window, fireplace, or heating vent which should always be eliminated as the first plan of attack. The same goes if you ask something to come forward and touch you. You are anticipating it and your brain could be making you feel that it is happening through the power of suggestion. 

Other explanations include:

  • Heat rises and when it cools it settles back to the floor. This means if there is airflow moving through the room, it can cause certain spots to feel colder than others. You don’t need to be standing next to the window to feel the draft.
  • It is also worth remembering that there are certain health conditions that can make a person feel cold when everyone else feels normal. If someone says they are cold and the rest of the room is not, it is quite possible they just feel the cold a little more than the rest.
  • A cold spot could be radiating from a cold surface or object nearby. Say you are in a building that has a big steel table. Something like a morgue perhaps. People may feel cold air above or directly around this table without touching the actual table. They may think that something is trying to manifest on the table. In reality, the object is radiating a cold pocket of air. When you stand in front of or next to a cold object, your body actually loses heat toward this object.
  • In areas where there is low humidity, moisture evaporates from your skin which can cause you to feel cold. Alternatively, when you are warm, moving air will feel cold to you. The air removes the heat from your skin making you feel cold.

How should I be measuring Cold Spots?

Laser IR temperature guns and thermal imaging cameras are two of the most popular ways to measure temperature. The problem with both of these is that they read the temperature of an object or surface, but they don’t measure the air itself.
When you are using a temp gun, for example, you are most likely hitting a wall or the floor because it needs a point to read. It will not read the cold pocket of air you are feeling in the middle of the room.

Photo by Sarah LLIFS

The same can apply to a thermal imaging camera. It reads the heat signature of the objects and surfaces around it. Not the air itself. It will most likely not show you if there is a pocket of air that is cold, just a cold object or surface.

Data logging is probably the best way to measure this with any sort of accuracy. If you were able to set up a grid of loggers it would more accurately show you where a cold spot is. It would also show you if the air was moving or still. We underestimate the power of data logging. Taking readings of the atmospheric conditions is really the only way to actually determine if there is a cold pocket of air. A mel meter can do the job in this instance as well as you are not reading a surface, it is the air surrounding the antenna. If I was to see a cold spot on a thermal camera and also have the same picked up by a data logger or mel meter, I must say I would be interested. I have in the past picked up a 30-degree drop in temperature from a data logger over the span of 10 seconds. Unfortunately, I could not replicate it and there is, of course, the chance that it was a cheap data logger from overseas that it may have malfunctioned. Especially since the other loggers in the room detected no change. We must concede that equipment can malfunction - in particular when a battery is low. This is why using multiple devices is essential as the possibility of them all malfunctioning at the same time is little to none.

Maybe Price had the right idea and we just need to keep our methods and our equipment simple!

So I would like to hear from you!  Do you think a temperature drop is an indication of something paranormal happening?


References

https://www.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/science-investigating-paranormal

The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research  (Vol. XVIII, No. 5, May 1924)
Stella C - A Record of Thirteen Sittings for Thermo-Psychic and Other Experiments by Harry Price, F.R.N.S.

https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/heat-rises-and-falls-stack-effect-air-movement-heat-flow/

https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/winds-paranormal

Researches in the phenomena of spiritualism / by William Crookes.
Crookes, William, 1874
Modern Psychic Mysteries at Millesimo Castle by Huck, Gwendolyn K (1929)

Cover Image by Sarah LLIFS

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