All paranormal investigators want to be successful in capturing audio, photographic or video evidence of non-physical entities. Sometimes this desire can cloud our judgment regarding how we interpret our experiences and recorded data.
For the purposes of this article I will not address personal experiences of ‘Orbs’ that have been seen by individual with the naked eye simply because if I am not there witnessing these events, I can not begin to explain them away or verify them.
Orbs are one of the most, if not the most, common types of visual evidence that paranormal investigators capture. It is said that ‘spirits’ will manifest as balls of light that fly (or float) through the air under means of intelligent direction. They are commonly associated with ghostly activity of varying degrees. They appear to be spherical, translucent, globes of energy. They aren’t usually visible with the naked eye but, rather, show up on photos and video footage. Supports of the ghost/orb connection theory say that photos of orbs will sometimes show the orbs with concentric rings, faces and ‘internal amorphous luminescent structure’ at its core and that orbs are the souls of the departed or, at least, portals through which souls can travel from other dimensions in order to interact with the living.
These ghost theories seem to stem from the European myths of the ‘Will-O’-the-Wisp’ whom are creatures believed to lead travelers from well-trodden paths into treacherous marshes, quicksand or other dangers and dooms. The Latin name for Will-O’-the-Wisps is Ignis Fatuus, which means ‘foolish fire’. It was often referred to as a corpse candle. Folklorists linked the Will-O’-the-Wisp to souls of a departed person who could not enter heaven or hell and is forever doomed to wander the earth. These associations seem to have withstood the test of time and modern photography has given these orbs continual life in paranormal communities.
But how should the Paranormal Investigator approach these anomalies? Some investigators seem to jump to the ‘it’s a spirit’ conclusion rather quickly. Paranormal TV shows often try to convince the viewer that they are looking at spirit manifestations while the skeptic laughs. I not the type to go to either extreme, however, the evidence that I have seen is far from convincing.
In the book “How to Hunt Ghosts” by Joshua Warren he gives some details that bridge these two schools of thought. His defense is that spiritual energy and debris are both present in these photos… “it seems clear that many paranormal orbs carry a charge of static electricity. Perhaps an Orb is invisible but its charge attracts tiny particles in the air. Maybe small airborne debris is naturally drawn into the electric field of the orb, thereby emulating its shape and design. Such a fine and delicate conglomeration might be virtually invisible to the naked eye, but a camera’s bright flash reflects it easily”. Not a bad theory, but in my opinion, still a stretch.Warren is obviously a supporter of spirit orb theories and states he has witnessed orbs that seem coordinated in their movements and claims free floating energy would most likely take a naturally balanced shape, a sphere. He goes as far as to give the details of how one might judge the age and strength of a spirit by the characteristics of the orb itself.
After all of that, what does the scientific minded paranormal investigator deduce? For that answer I would like to quote from another paranormal text by Jaeson Jrakman called “The Art of Ghost Hunting”. In that text he gives an extremely lucid account of ‘particulate matter’ which outlines the vital data so that it can be assimilated by the layperson…
“Particles otherwise known as particulate matter are a mixture of tiny organic and inorganic particles of solid or liquid material suspended in a gas such as the atmosphere. Particles range in size from less than 10 nanometers the particles are no bigger than a few molecules to more than 100 micrometers in diameter where the particles are too heavy to be carried by the gas. The lighter the particle is, the greater the time it can be suspended in gas. Larger particles are forced to the ground in a matter of hours where lighter particles can be suspended for weeks until washed out of the gas by precipitation. The composition of particles depends on their source. Particulate matter can be created naturally such as from volcanoes, dust storms, forest fires, dust, living vegetation (Pollen), fog, rain, and sea spray. It can also be created through artificial means such as burning of fossil fuels, internal combustion engines, dust from construction sites, and spraying aerosol cans. All particulate matter can either scatter or absorb terrestrial and solar radiation.”
Since first reading that passage in 2003, I have done my best to be extremely aware of such particulate matter and its potential sources. In doing my own research I have learned that mold spores are small enough to spend days free floating in the air and can, in fact, reflect IR light. Mold is found in many abandoned locations that are said to be haunted and in many of the ‘creepier’ areas of homes, like the attic or basement. This does not mean these places are not experiencing paranormal activity, it’s simply a warning when ‘orbs’ show up in photos and videos from those locations. It is said that some of these particles can be inhaled over time and actually cause illnesses which can also lead to false reports of paranormal activity.
At this point, I would like to mention that Shore Paranormal Research Society does not include ‘Orbs’ as valid evidence in any paranormal investigation. The possibility is just too great of such orbs being something else. But I am sure those of you who are reading this watch at least one of the paranormal TV shows that are so popular right now and I want you look closely at footage of orbs that are presented as evidence of the paranormal. Ignore the voice over commentary and just look at the ‘orb’, consider the location, go over a mental list of particles that could be present their, and watch their behavior. Keep in mind that while indoors, air draughts and normal circulation does not occur in a linear fashion or in just one direction so don’t be mislead by a particle that seems to be changing direction intelligently. After taking your time and looking at the footage ask yourself, would I feel comfortable presenting this to a client as proof of paranormal activity?
In closing, I would like to say that I am open to the possibility of energetic anomalies being paranormal manifestations and thereby appearing as ‘orbs’, however I can only go by what I have witnessed for myself and so far I have not seen enough to convince me that orbs are anything but particles of solids or liquids suspended in the air. Conventional means of explanation can go a very long way. Always choose the simplest reason behind any event or occurrence and you will probably be correct in most cases.
Here are some links to videos of people presenting orbs…
Cats, Orbs and the Paranormal
This video is laugh out loud funny. The video footage is obviously dust. The cat could be looking at anything and doesn’t seem interested at all in the supposed ‘orbs’. The videographers have the nerve to end the video with the phrase ‘we rest our case’. If that’s the video they have chosen to prove orbs are paranormal then we should maybe look at some others…
Orbz Paranormal : Unusual light anomalies / orb’s
Again, the person making the video seems convinced, but it looks like dust to me…
Orbs vs. Dust
An attempt at being conservative with their orb theories, however their data on the characteristics and behavior of dust is inaccurate
Bugs vs. Orbs
Another video by the same people that did Orbs vs. Dust
Orb vs. Moisture
And a third by the individuals from the other to paranormal challenge videos.