Orbs

Orb reflected in TV screen

Orb reflected in TV screen

Picture immediately following, without the orb.

Picture immediately following, without the orb.

There are few things that inspire more argument and eye-rolling in the paranormal community than Orbs. I remember the first time I heard the word “orb”. I was a naive twenty-something, heavily involved in my religion which taught there was no afterlife. I  was perusing the internet when I came across someone who claimed to have photographic proof of a spirit. I thought, “I have got to see this!” She was on a nighttime ghost tour (here in Gettysburg, believe it or not) and she had captured an orb sitting on a bench next to another person. I remember thinking it was some kind of a joke. I dismissed the photo and its author as evidence that insanity was still very much alive in the world, and stored the word “Orb” away for later use.

After the death of my ancestral faith, I started exploring alternative beliefs. I had always been taught to fear the spirit world as demonic interaction. Now I wanted my own answers. I began my obsession with the paranormal world by watching the Ghost Adventures episode on the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. I had just finished reading The Shining and was dying to visit the Stanley. I was so thrilled to realize it was actually haunted! I loved the way Zak and his crew did the investigation! They were very efficient and business-like in their approach. (I guess I expected to see the cast of Finding Bigfoot, or South Park’s representation of them.) At any rate, some of the earlier episodes of Ghost Adventures pointed out interesting orbs as evidence. I reached into my memory banks and pulled out my first skeptical exposure to orbs. I started to wonder if they knew something I didn’t.

Most paranormal groups start out by cutting their investigative teeth on cemeteries, and we weren’t any different. We weren’t stupid enough to think a picture full of orbs was anything other than dust or moisture, but when we would take a picture of a lone orb that was either very bright, large, or moving we would take notice and think we had gotten some evidence. In fact, when investigating my brother’s house I took a picture of an orb that can be seen reflected in the TV. I thought that was clear evidence that orbs have substance and are real.

I would become angry when people would mock me, or others like me, for thinking orbs were signs of spirit activity. We tried to find books on orbs and only found more inconclusive evidence. Until we picked up a book by Jeff Belanger called Communicating with the Dead. In the chapter on Spirit Photography, author and photographer Ken Milburn called the orbs “Lens Flare. “The lenses in most digital cameras have four to nine elements. That’s four to nine separate lenses that are glued together to correct for various types of aberrations. So each one of those surfaces is capable of taking up a reflection and recording it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be some bright light that you can see inside the frame, either. It could be something that is off to the side that just happens to hit the front of the lens and then reflects on the elements of the lens. Lens flare can even look like a ball in motion because of the multiple lenses.” (71)

Jeff goes on to relate his experiences with orbs and his new digital camera from Olympus. When he questioned Olympus on the cause of the orbs, they said that the flash was picking up the dust particles and moisture droplets found in the air. There is also the possibility that smaller cameras place the flash closer to the lens, which results in more lens flare. Flash travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second)–the average point-and-shoot camera has a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second. Imagine the light from the flash bouncing all over the place in the split second the shutter is open. In fact, the light will travel 1488 miles during that time. (Belanger, 71)

I felt that handily explained the reflection of the orb I saw in the TV during the investigation at my brother’s house. I was catching an orb of light expelled by the flash and bouncing around the room. (By the way, I strongly recommend Jeff’s book. It is very pragmatic and logical in its approach to the paranormal.)

We decided to run our own experiment. We went out just as it was getting dark and took multiple photos with and without flash. If orbs only showed up in the pictures using flash, we would know that the orbs are, in fact, related to the flash.

The experiment was not as conclusive as I expected, but we got enough orbs to demonstrate part of my point.

With Flash Without Flash

 

 

There are no orbs in either of the above photos. In such a wide open space as this I don’t think there would be the possibility of light bouncing around, but lens flare would still be possible off the interior lenses…but it didn’t happen here. There also does not appear to be as much dust and moisture during the winter as there is in summer. So these pictures are inconclusive. No doubt partially due to the fact that it is still not full dark out.

 

This picture was taken as we were driving down the driveway of a bed and breakfast. The driveway was gravel and we can see the flash formed orbs around the dust in the air.

This picture was taken as we were driving down the driveway of a rumored haunted bed and breakfast. The driveway was gravel and we can see the flash formed orbs around the dust in the air.

Here's a lone orb we picked up down in the slaughter pen near Devil's Den. I took this picture and there was nothing visible to the naked eye before I captured this. There was a creek rushing among the boulders in the distance, however. Which would indicate the orb was most likely moisture.

Here’s a lone orb we picked up down in the slaughter pen near Devil’s Den. I took this picture and there was nothing visible to the naked eye before I captured this. There was a creek rushing among the boulders in the distance, however. Which would indicate the orb was most likely moisture.

 

The above picture is of my Craft room. As you can see, it has books on Witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot decks, a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, and crystals. I took over 50 pictures, with flash, in this room and didn't get a single orb. Every picture looks exactly like the above. Then I took 50 pictures of the room without flash and every picture looks like the picture below.

The above picture is of my Craft room. As you can see, it has books on Witchcraft, a couple Ouija boards, Tarot decks, a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, and crystals. I took over 50 pictures, with flash, in this room and didn’t get a single orb. Every picture looks exactly like the above. Then I took 50 pictures of the room without flash and every picture looks like the picture below.

Craft Room

The only thing I believe I have proved with this short experiment is that dust and moisture cause orbs. I’m not so sure about lens flare, however. It seems if the flash alone could cause orbs I would have gotten at least one. We have taken more than 200 photos in the last few days and orbs have been almost nonexistent, except in the presence of dust and moisture.

Jeff Belanger concludes his chapter on Spirit Photography without a dogmatic stance against orbs. In fact, the picture on the cover of his book includes a couple of bright orbs found in a darkened cemetery. I think it would be silly of us to claim no orb is ever a sign of spirit presence. I have seen and captured orbs with faces in them. But now that we know dust and moisture cause orbs, and flash flare could cause orbs, we must cave to reasonable doubt and dismiss the vast majority of the orbs we see.

If anyone in the paranormal community would like to present evidence supporting or negating my experiment, please do

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