"Orbs" are not evidence of the paranormal. They are not ghosts and they are not even "unexplained"!
How can I say this when I maintain there are no “experts” on the paranormal? Because so-called “orbs” have nothing to do with the paranormal! Let me back up a moment and say then I’m not talking about anomalous lights and globes of energy that are seen with the naked eye, I’m talking about those pesky, transparent balls that seem to show up in photos and have been claimed for more than a decade to be “evidence” of ghosts.
Many of the "orb photographs" that turn up on Internet websites or in books seem to come from cemeteries but they have an annoying habit of showing up almost anywhere. They have become the most commonly reported types of "paranormal photos" claimed by “ghost hunters” in recent years.
Much of “orb” photos could be blamed on low resolution, low pixel cameras --- but not all of them. Despite what has been seen and heard, there has never been any evidence whatsoever to suggest that these “orbs” are in any way related to ghosts. Yes, they have often turned up in photos that are taken at haunted locations, but they turn up literally everywhere.
As mentioned, "orb" photos are the most commonly seen "ghost photos" today and you will probably see more photos on the Internet of these purportedly "mysterious" balls of light than of anything else. While I do believe that genuine photographs of paranormal "lights" exist, they are not as common as many people think. The reason for this is that it’s very hard to photograph something at the same time you are observing it. However, it’s been done several times over the years during investigations. Are they ghosts? I don’t know but I can say that I believe the lights are paranormal in origin --- unlike “orbs”.
Even though I (along with many other researchers) have been trying to tell people that “orbs” are easily explained as a natural phenomenon, those that I like to call “orb-a-philias” have continued to post “orb photographs” on websites, print them in books, and excitedly show them to me on their digital camera screens. When I suggest a possible explanation for the “orbs”, downplaying the idea that they are ghosts, I usually get a reaction of--- anger, righteous indignation and a comment that I don’t know what I am talking about anyway.
So, rather than try and argue with every “orb-a-phial” that I come across, I’ll let this article do my arguing for me. I don't plan to write about "orbs" ever again and so please spare me the angry emails that claim that I have no idea what I am talking about. This is the final opinion that I have come up with on "orbs" and keep in mind that it is my opinion -- I'm not an expert because there aren't any paranormal "experts"-- but this is what I have come up with based on research that dates back over more than two decades. With that said, what follows are the reasons that I do not believe that “orbs” have any place in the field of paranormal research:
A typical "orb photograph" is usually one that is taken in an allegedly haunted place and somewhere within the photo is a hovering, round ball. Some of these "orbs" appear to be giving off light, while others appear to be transparent.
It should also be noted that "orbs" were quite rare (if not nonexistent) before digital cameras became common. In the early days of low-cost, cheap digital cameras, some "ghost hunters" proposed that digital cameras are "superior for orb photography". And since they were producing more "orb" photos, this was technically true. But the digital imaging chip is very different than traditional film photography and was far inferior until recent times. Some of the earlier, low-end digital cameras were made with CMOS chips and they would create "noise" in low-light photographs that would be mistaken for "orbs". It seemed that when they were used in darkness, or near darkness, the resulting images were plagued with spots that appeared white, or light colored, and where the digital pixels had not all filled in. In this manner, the cameras were creating "orbs", and they had no paranormal source at all.
The most common “orb” photos are merely refractions of light on the camera lens. This occurs when the camera flash or IR bounces back from something reflective in the range of the camera. When this happens, it creates a perfectly round ball of light that appears to be within the parameters of the photo but is just an image on the lens itself. Many people often mistake these "orbs" for genuine evidence of ghosts, although I have never really been quite clear as to why that is. Most “orb” photos occur when the camera flash is used.
Even so, “orbs” don’t have to have a camera flash to be created. They can also be caused by bright lights in an area where the photo is being taken, by angles of light and by many types of artificial lighting including Infrared lights.
But are lights and camera flashes the only thing that can cause “orbs” to appear? Far from it! Other objects that end up in front of the camera lens and are mistaken for paranormal images are dust, moisture, pollen, insects, snow, rain, hair, ash and scores of other semi-microscopic particles. In almost every case, the camera flash reflects on the surface of one of these particles and seems to “glow”, as one might expect a ghostly image to do. The one argument that always intrigued me from the “orb-a-phials”, though, was: why, if “orbs” were not paranormal, did they so frequently turn up in photos taken at haunted locations?
I decided to research “orb” photos from graveyards, which I had seen scores of over the years. Keep in mind that I have often been openly critical of ghost hunting in cemeteries anyway. By that I mean, just going out to cemeteries and shooting photographs and hoping to capture something on film. While this is great for the hobbyist, I don't feel that it's serious research. Despite this, I have not changed my mind about the fact that random "ghost hunting" is not an investigation. And if this isn't reason enough to discourage this kind of activity; I soon had another reason for taking this view.
I went out to a cemetery that I picked at random on a warm summer night and took several pictures. I had no stories or reports to justify the decision, but just took photos anyway. In reviewing the evidence, I discovered several of the photos were filled with semi-transparent "orbs".
I then went to a nearby field that was roughly the same size as the cemetery I had already visited. I walked around for a few minutes and again shot more photos. I was unfortunately not surprised to find that these photos were also filled with “orbs”. Was the field haunted? Of course not!
What I did was walk around both areas and stir up dust and pollen from the grass. When I took the photos, these particles in the air caught the reflection of the camera flash or the IR Light and appeared to be "orbs". I also discovered that such photos could be taken after walking or driving on a dusty road. The dust particles would reflect the light, just as moisture can do, and make it appear the air was filled was "orbs".
While the experiment just reinforced a belief that I already had --- namely that “orbs” are not paranormal --- I do think that it was worthwhile if even one “orb-a-phial” might see the results and question some of the photos that he or she has been presenting as genuine.
So, should we discount all “orb” photos? No, I don’t think that we should. As stated earlier, I do believe that there are genuine, paranormal images that appear and which are sometimes captured on film. These visible lights are a semi-common phenomenon but whether they signal the presence of ghosts is still open to debate. Regardless, I believe they are something paranormal in nature and we should continue to study them, as we have done for some time. It’s the “traditional orb photos” that have become the bane of paranormal research and I think that it’s time that we retired this irrelevant theory for good.