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In the field of the paranormal, orbs nowadays have become the new amazing evidence of ghost activity. These photographic anomalies are circular shaped, bright anomalies that went unnoticed by the witness, as he/she took the photo. Proof of spirit activity or a simple digital camera issue?

By Michele Bugliaro Goggia - last modified: April 12, 2007 5:49 PM

The word "Orb", from the Latin "orbis", is a name for a round object, especially a disk or a sphere. In the field of the paranormal, orbs nowadays have become the new, most reported, amazing evidence of ghost activity. Accidental photographs of glowing orbs come from each aficionado of the supernatural. These photographic anomalies are circular shaped, bright extras that most of the time went unnoticed by the witness, as he/she took the photo. Orbs appear in all kind of photos, even though haunted houses and cemetries are their favourite places. There can be one orb or many orbs in a single photo.

It's hard to trace back the origins of this curious phenomenon. The International Ghost Hunters Society has given an approximate birthdate of 1996 as the origins of orbs. Other more reliable sources indicate how the widespreading of compact digital cameras has started the phenomenon. Nowadays, therefore, orbs are very popular, becoming the goldmine of all paranormal believers. They are everywhere. What are orbs, anyway? There are two opposite theories:

Let's examine each school.

Orbs as spirit energy

There are many groups who still believe orbs are ghosts, sprits or even extraterrestrial beings. Orbs react to the presence of people: they increase in number when people are present in a haunted location, believers claim. Let's read the following theory:

"We teach that a spirit is represented in an orb configuration pattern. When the spirit is moving about, its shape is an orb, but when it comes to rest, meaning that it is no longer in motion, the spirit energy that is compressed within the orb is released and this spirit energy expands into what we call Ecto - Vapor or Ectoplasm. Often an orb will contain more than one soul and when its spirit energy is released, multiple orbs flow forth from the single orb. The orb may be observed as a small white sphere shooting through a room and through a wall."


The above quoted text lacks any solid validity, though. First and most important, the orb being a spirit is just a claim. There is no way to reproduce a ghost orb in laboratory. Additionally, there is no proof orbs contain souls. It's more likely some ghost hunters expect to find proof of their beliefs in orbs... Yet, this is just a belief.

To further support the ghost theory, believers point out that orbs are caught in haunted places. Actually, orbs are caught just anywhere, both indoors and outdoors. To add fun to the already questionable orb phenomenon, orbs were also responsible for the creation of crop circles.

Orbs as dust particles

Rational researchers have been able to explain the very vast majority of orbs as dust particles, pollen, spores and rain droplets. Dust particle orbs usually feature circular pattens. These naturalistic orbs are gained following a simple procedure and mean: by using a digital camera with built-in flash. The size of the camera is a factor in the recent proliferation of orb photos. As digital cameras have steadily shrunk in size, reports of orbs have increased. As cameras have become smaller, the distance between the lens and the built-in flash also shrank, decreasing the angle of reflection back into the lens. That's why orbs appear in photos shot with a flash against a dark background!

Therefore, it's safe to classify orbs as it follows:

A typical orb is created because a reflective solid airborne particle, such as a dust particle, is situated near the camera lens and outside the depth of field, in other words out of focus. That means that, while the orb appears to be a solid object with respected diameter, in reality, as a dust particle, it is a lot smaller (2 - 20 um)! A scientific article by Mark Kimura, Ph.D., of the Paranormal Research Investigations, has given the final touch on the question. Kimura's paper just confirms the dust school and even gives further indications to identify non-naturalistic orbs (if they exist):

"PRI considers orb photos as paranormal if they are taken under the following conditions:

1) A film SLR camera with a lens hood is used

2) No flash is used

3) There are no circular patterns inside the orb

4) The orb has color


Evidence supporting the naturalistic hypothesis is overwhelming.

external links

Orb at Wikipedia

Some Misanthropic Musings On The Nature Of The ‘ORB’

Science of Orb Photos

Orb Theory

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Related Images

A typical orb, as it is appears in very many cases. Just dust. (souce: Wikipedia).

A typical "paranormal" photo in which an orb is found (source: Wikipedia).

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