Why Orbs in Pictures Are Not Proof of the Paranormal

Why You Should Give Orbs in Pictures More Scrutiny

Blurred motion of elegant Hispanic woman in forest
Colin Anderson / Getty Images

There is an ongoing debate, or at least spirited discussion, among ghost hunters and paranormal investigators about the validity of orbs as paranormal evidence. Orbs are anomalous spots that sometimes show up in photographs. Most are white, some are multicolored; some look solid, others appear textured.

Many ghost hunters believe they are evidence of ghosts, that they are some kind of spirit or psychic energy manifesting as these glowing balls of light.

A growing number of researchers, however, are concluding that orbs are nothing more than dust particles illuminated by the camera flash. Actually, researchers will usually say that "most" such orbs are the result of dust, being reluctant to say that "all" are dust, leaving room for the possibility of a paranormal explanation.

Experiments: Orbs in Pictures

Countless experiments have now been conducted showing that dusty areas do produce orbs in flash photographs. Small insects, rain, snow, pollen and other airborne particulates can also produce them. These experiments were designed to show that these airborne elements can be the cause of orbs and may not necessarily be ghost phenomena.

​But how did orbs become associated with the paranormal in the first place?

Paranormal Assumptions

Most people do not take photographs in very dark locations, either indoors or outdoors. The people who do this on a regular basis, however, are ghost hunters.

Skulking around abandoned buildings and cemeteries at night with their digital cameras, you will hear them warning other ghost hunters before taking dozens of photos with the flash on.

Of course, they did not see any luminous orbs of light with their naked eyes when they took the pictures, but there in many of the photos are brightly glowing orbs.

The ghost hunters are in a possibly haunted location and the orbs were invisible to the eye, yet they show up in the photos. Ghost hunters conclude that the paranormal must be involved.

Orbs, unfortunately, have become all-too-easy things to point to as evidence when they are most certainly nothing of the kind. The experiments with dust and insects have shown that clearly.

A Common Anomaly

Orbs show up in everyday pictures all the time. They show up in pictures from birthday parties, weddings, sports events and more. Some orbs are large and white, while others are small and colored.

​Some ghost hunters say these pictures show paranormal activity, too, but that is difficult to prove.The simpler explanation is that it's just dust.

Again, these orbs tend to show up more prominently in ghost hunting photographs because they are usually taken in a darkened environment and they stand out more clearly against the dark background. But they do show up under normal lighting conditions, even if more faintly.

Even floating orbs caught on video could be insects or dust that catch the light.

No More Orbs

Many experts dismiss orb photos as non-paranormal anomalies. There seems to be no compelling reason to consider them as anything but dust and such.

But that does not mean there are no ghosts, it just means there are areas of more compelling research, such as electronic voice phenomena.