Orbs? What are they?

When you take a photograph, particularly with a digital camera, you may see odd-looking spherical objects floating around in the result. Some consider these to be paranormal in nature--a spirit orb. They may be thought to be the perfect form a ghost might take (a sphere being the most energy-efficient) or globs of energy that may hover near a ghost. However, in most cases, they can be explained fairly easily as dust particles, moisture, insects or flaws in the camera itself.

When taking photographs as part of a ghost investigation, it is important to note certain things. Wen outdoors, what was the weather like? Was it dry? Was it raining or snowing? Was it windy? What was the temperature? If it is cold enough, your breath can look like mist in front of your camera and coupled with dust orbs, can look pretty spooky. On a sunny day, the sun can also cause strange things to appear on your photos. Phenomena called "sun ghosts" (oddly enough) can appear as bright "orbs" on your photo. You can find out more about them at this site.

Diamond-shaped orbs are more likely caused by an object floating near enough to your camera to be "reshaped" by the diamond-shaped aperture. They might also be caused by a reflection, as shown in the photo on the left side of this page.

This is not to say that no orbs are paranormal. When photographing or video-recording, it is important to try to track other phenomena going on at the moment in order to assess the possibility of orbs indicating ghostly activity. In the video at left, at about 33 seconds (date stamp shows 2008: Jan. 27 07:22:36) an orb is seen appearing on the top right of the screen. At the time, the investigator who recorded this was on-screen in the back of the room. At this same moment, she visually saw an unexplained black shadow move quickly across the ceiling in the same area, just prior to the light going on (edited out). Was this a paranormal orb? It might seem possible. Other orbs in the video are not verified with other phenomena.

In another case, a photo was taken in a reputedly haunted tavern that revealed an orb that seemed to be floating near one of the patrons. In this case, the orb looks remarkably similar to the patron's cat, which had recently passed away. Genuine? The tavern was almost 100 miles from the owner's home. Why would the cat appear there unless he was attached somehow to the owner? This photo has been debated in the paranormal community, with some knowledgable people assuring us that it's just dust while others believe it to be the real deal. What do you think?

In summary, if you have become alarmed by "orbs" photographed in your home, you can put your mind at rest. Chances are much greater that you photographed some dust floating in the air or an insect buzzing by. But if you still feel that your home is haunted due to other experiences, please feel free to contact us through our "contact" page. We can help.

Dust orbs, photographed in a desert setting

Roughly diamond-shaped orb appears to be a reflection from the tv-screen into the camera lens.

The video above is a compressed-time video covering several hours of investigating time. The camera's refresh rate was about 1 image per second so the orbs appear then disappear. See notes to the left for more info about this video.

On the other hand, this orb appears to be that of a recently deceased cat. Click to see a larger version.

List of articles on "orb photography".

"Ghost Photography: orbs" by Robbin Van Pelt. This is a particularly good explanation of what goes on between the object being photographed, depths of field and angles.

"Orbs debunked" by Troy Taylor. Troy is the founder of the American Ghost Society and a well-known author of ghost hunting and history books.

"Orb: Paranormal" from Wikipedia Contains a nice explanation, some examples and an interesting reference list.