origin of a ghost light?

zac850

Well-Known Member
I was just wondering what the origin of a ghost light was? Keeping a random light on stage all night dosen't seem like it has a point... just seems like a waste of electricity...

Is there a reason for it?

Personally, my school dosen't keep a ghost light on, but we're also a gym/cafeteria/theater, so thats another reason. The local theater i'm starting to do stuff at keeps a ghost light on at night.

Yea, i'm getting side tracked, Anyway, whats the point of it?
 

digitaltec

Active Member
A light left on when a theatre is locked up for the night, the ghost light has several purposes. The light is placed on stage so that the first and last people in and out of the theatre may safely find their way. In olden days, ghost lights were gas flames and served as pressure release valves for a theatre’s gas system.

According to myth, the ghost light is also left on to ensure that the theatre is never “dark” and to keep the theatre muse happy. Supposedly, the light illuminates good ghosts while keeping bad spirits at bay. When all the theatre lights go out, the ghosts think they have been abandoned and create accidents and mischief.

Now, I can post the entire theory behind the ghost light or you chould just do a search on the net. Basicly it's an old Myth. Just listen to the soundtrack for The Phantom of the Opera. :lol:
 
i was given to under stand by someone wise that they had a practical purpose: to keep the gas pressure from building up too much and going kablooey during the night, or when the next person when walks in with an open source of flame
 

Smatticus

Active Member
I haven't been on the site in quite a while and was browsing posts since my last visit when I came across this post. I didn't know that ghost lights referred to lights left on when a theatre wasn't in use. The experience I've had with the word 'ghost' I've had someone describe 'ghosting'... which I've understood is like a glitch when you loose control of one or more instruments and they just stay on. For example, during a dance recital last year we were going to a blackout and we had a number of instruments remain on despite every channel being at zero, the master being at zero, and the presets being turned off. The TD I work with calls this 'ghosting' though I do not know what it is caused by. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?
 

ecglstec

Member
Ghosts lights are lights that are meant to illuminate the stage when you first walk in. Some are on stands that are placed center stage, others are fixed to walls. See above ^^^^

Ghosting is when a dimmer operates sporadically; sometimes not going off or at other times flickering. They are two entirely different terms. Ghosting is typically caused by a faulty dimmer, but can occasionally be a faulty console or cable. Ghosting circuits suck and present a danger to inexperienced electricians who assume that a dimmer off at the console = no power on the circuit.
 

Mayhem

Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Smatticus said:
I haven't been on the site in quite a while and was browsing posts since my last visit when I came across this post. I didn't know that ghost lights referred to lights left on when a theatre wasn't in use. The experience I've had with the word 'ghost' I've had someone describe 'ghosting'... which I've understood is like a glitch when you loose control of one or more instruments and they just stay on. For example, during a dance recital last year we were going to a blackout and we had a number of instruments remain on despite every channel being at zero, the master being at zero, and the presets being turned off. The TD I work with calls this 'ghosting' though I do not know what it is caused by. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

The only time I have seen this happen is when the optocoupler controlling the triac failed. As such, the channel remained illuminated despite any attempts to dim it
 

ecglstec

Member
Typically it is in the actual dimmer, but there are quite a few times, especially in analog adapted systems, when the contol cards fail or the DMX to analog converter can fail.
 

Smatticus

Active Member
Ah ok, I had just never heard the word ghost used in two different contexts as was brought up in this post. Dimmers operating sporadically sounds like a reasonable definition, though our system is any kind of adapted analog system, atleast that I am aware of, it is all two year old ETC equipment. And Mayhem, I have no idea what you said. :? I do know that we have made mistakes when running our board where channels would not go down as I described... I believe in the event that you accidentally Park channels at full or whatever intensity they remain that way even with the grandmaster down until they are released from Park. This happened quite recently when I came in to do a show, someone had messed with the board and accidentally Parked a bunch of lights and dimmers. Consequently I now check for Parked dimmers and channels as soon as it looks like something won't turn off when I want it to.
 

Mayhem

Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Smatticus said:
Ah ok, I had just never heard the word ghost used in two different contexts as was brought up in this post. Dimmers operating sporadically sounds like a reasonable definition, though our system is any kind of adapted analog system, atleast that I am aware of, it is all two year old ETC equipment. And Mayhem, I have no idea what you said. :? I do know that we have made mistakes when running our board where channels would not go down as I described... I believe in the event that you accidentally Park channels at full or whatever intensity they remain that way even with the grandmaster down until they are released from Park. This happened quite recently when I came in to do a show, someone had messed with the board and accidentally Parked a bunch of lights and dimmers. Consequently I now check for Parked dimmers and channels as soon as it looks like something won't turn off when I want it to.

I wasn't aware of this aspect. I have a service manual for the event in my workshop so I will have to have a look. However, I am sure that you would have checked this, having previously identified it as a problem.

What happens if you run the dimmer without any input from the board?
 

mr_sound

Member
and i thought the ghost light was just a tradition limited to the theater i work at. well for us, it's to please the ghosts. the emergency exit lights cast enough of a glow to see the light switches...so the light isn't there for that reason...though it does help.

now here's a question...if the light has to be on to please the ghosts, what happens when you turn on the lights in the theater and no longer need the ghost light? we used to keep ours on, hidden away in one of the wings, but that just got annoying so now everyone turns it off when they come in. if having the light on keeps the ghosts happy, then wouldn't turning it off at all make the ghosts mad?

of course we don't need to have the ghost light off for strange things to happen......the building is old enough to do that on its own.
 

zac850

Well-Known Member
hum, I think its that the ghosts don't like a darkened theater. However, if thats the case, wouldn't they get mad during every blackout?

By the way, I don't know about everyone else, but i don't believe in ghosts.
 

mr_sound

Member
oh well i've always beleived in them. i don't buy the whole ghost light thing though....not to the point where i'd be afraid to turn it off at night. but hell, with 10 grand of my sound gear sitting there at night......i tend to be a little paranoid.

but our theater is actually haunted. various people have actually seen ghosts.

now that i think about it, in high school we never had a ghost light on in our theater......that i know about.
 

sallyj

Member
In some states, I think that the ghost light is a law-they just don't call it a ghost light. It is a safety thing, so if somebody is crossing the dark stage, they won't walk off the edge or into the pit.
I like the idea of keeping the theatre muse, or ghost happy. Our theatre supposedly has upwards of five ghosts. All I will say about that is that somebody not of this plane lives in the theatre.
As for location, down center stage is probably best. Ours usually hangs a little bit stage left because the cable for it isn't long enough, and who wants to mess w/ extension cords? Our ghost light used to be permenantly mounted on the down left wall, but it was removed.

SJM
 

The_Guest

Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
First of all you need some light to light up the theater, not everyone is smart enough to open the ETC light switch buttons to signal the aux console to turn on the cats, house, wings, etc. Theaters do not have any windows, its pretty dangerous to walk around in them in the dark. Plus, what would you rather do: keep the house lights fairly dim and change all of them regularly or simply buy a cheap hardware store long life florescent bulb and plug it into the AC on stage. House lights are already hard enough to change as it is, the ghost makes so much more sense. Someone always forgets something and there are people (principals/janators) that really have no clue how to turn on the lights.
 

Inaki2

Active Member
Oooohhh trust me, ghost lights are usefull...I should Know, can't remember how many times I've crashed thru the set trying to get to a light switch!!!
 

Smatticus

Active Member
Now that I think about it, we have no ghost lights in our theatre, anything you leave on that is controlled by the system it turns off. Fortunately all of the switches and preset buttons are right next to the backstage door and main entrances, where there are no switches we don't ussually enter and exit from.
 

Les

Well-Known Member
In some states it is actually against the law to not have a ghost light. If you don't have a ghost light, and a theif breaks in at night, falls off the stage and breaks his leg, he could actually sue you for damages.
 

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