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Sceptics' Corner - Orbs

Written by Bob

"Orb" is a term used by Believers for a light anomaly which they feel is of paranormal origin whereas Sceptics, who doubt their origin, prefer to use the term "light anomaly".
These anomalies are usually circular/spherical in form and are mostly captured on digital stills/video cameras, however they do also show-up on conventional film but to a much lesser extent.

"Orbs" are one of the most commonly seen examples of "paranormal evidence" but there is absolutely no scientific basis to this claim, however there are several thoughts, from Believers, as to what orbs actually are:

1. The first stage of a spirit's manifestation - its energy field.
2. Energy being drawn away from an electrical power source by a spirit in order to manifest or to communicate.

A lot of people also claim to be able to see faces in "orbs" but this is something that will be covered in a later article.

So why don't they show up so often on a film camera?
Perhaps they do, may be the processing labs see "orbs" as a flaw in the negative and don't make a print - if you are using a conventional film camera on a paranormal investigation you should always ask for all the negatives to be printed no matter what.
Looking at it from a Believer's perspective, a digital camera will capture paranormal orbs due to its imaging system being electronic and a spirit's energy also being electrical - the energy isn't a visible entity to the eye and therefore a conventional film camera cannot "see" it.

Why so many "orbs" on digital?
One possible explanation could be the camera's chip, apparently in low light the chip may compensate and inadvertently cause "noise", this "noise" could show as "orbs" on the resulting image.
Also some digital cameras "fill in" missing bits of an image, possibly creating anomalies in the process.

Now for the harsh realities from a sceptical perspective.
The majority, if not all, examples of orbs are either caused by dust, moisture, insects or some other small airborne particulate with reflective properties causing light to reflect into the camera lens. The bigger the "orb" - the closer the reflective particle to the lens. This light can be either natural daylight, artificial light, camera flash or even infra-red light as used with night-vision video cameras.

Below: in very basic diagrammatic form (camera in black) - the camera flash (in yellow) hits the airborne particle (in red) causing the flash to be reflected (in blue) back into the camera lens

So why do "orbs" show up in alleged haunted locations?
Orbs can show up anywhere whether reputedly haunted or not, take enough photos and you will eventually get one, any suitable airborne particle has to potential to become an "orb".
Perhaps they are more common in haunted locations because the properties are generally old and have dusty atmospheres plus photos taken in these types of places are scrutinised more thoroughly for "orbs".

Below, left: a deliberately created "Dust Orb".
Below, right: a deliberately created "Moisture Orb".

Photos: Bob

Video represents a better tool, there is often more opportunity to study the "orb" and its movement over a longer duration, whereas a stills' photo only represents a split second in real time.
The following video-clip shows a moving, flashing "orb" captured under the stage at the Theatre Royal in Margate (depending on your monitor type and settings, you may not be able to see the anomaly):

If the clip will not play, the server may be busy, please try again later

On the face of it, it's pretty compelling evidence of paranormal activity but take a few minutes to consider the alternatives.
Could this orb be an insect?
If it is an insect why does it flash?
A possible answer to these questions is, yes it could be an insect in flight, as it moves through the air with its wings beating, it presents different surfaces to the light, in this case infra-red. Some of these surfaces are reflective, others not. Those reflective surfaces bounce the light back to the video camera which then appear as flashes.
Now that we have introduced an element of doubt, we cannot say for sure that this video-clip shows a paranormal orb.

Having now possibly obliterated your belief in any "orb" being paranormal, there is still hope.
The following image was captured on a digital camera during the same investigation as the previous video-clip. This orb does not appear to conform to the "standard", could this orb be in the minority and actually be of paranormal origin?

Photo: Bob

For argument's sake, let's assume that some orbs are indeed paranormal, how on earth do we begin distinguishing the paranormal orb from say the dust orb? I'm afraid this, like most things associated with the paranormal, is something we will probably never get a definitive answer for.



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