The Orb Conspiracy
Please feel free to share a link to this article to help educate others on what photographic and video orbs really are. Spoiler alert, they are not paranormal. I will explain why the false information that photographic and video orbs are paranormal has been spread around.
I will first note that as of the day I am authoring this blog post I have been a paranormal investigator for 13 years. In addition I managed a photography lab for 13 years before I retired in June of 2020.
I receive a lot of questions via email pertaining to people sharing their paranormal experiences and looking for my interpretation on their situation. I would guesstimate that four out of 5 emails that I receive are related to orbs. I have discussed orbs in the past in various blog posts and podcasts, but I thought that it would be beneficial to create a detailed blog entry on orbs that I can refer people to when they email me with photos and videos of orbs, believing that they may be paranormal in nature due to wide spread misinformation which is even propagated by many people involved with the paranormal community including but not limited to ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, paranormal enthusiasts, online video channels, theatrical movies, and televised paranormal programming.
I will perquisite with a reminder that ghost hunting and paranormal investigating are two different completely things, and just like the false information spread around that orbs are paranormal in nature, ghost hunting and paranormal investigating terms have been used interchangeably even though they are two completely different things. A ghost hunt is strictly an event geared towards entertainment where the only goal is to attempt to experience paranormal activity without any or very little actual scientific investigation involved. A ghost hunt is all about the spooky and ignores the science. A paranormal investigation uses scientific methodology and reasoning in order to attempt to explain perceived activity with everyday science before even beginning to consider something as paranormal. Paranormal investigations are about science before the spooky.
The Orb phenomena was fueled in the mid to late 1990’s by Dave Oester whose Yahoo! Groups page (which is a now defunct online discussion group medium) boasted thousands of followers. Oester claimed that he coined the term “Orb” and took credit for creating the hysteria, although both claims are completely incorrect. Photographic and video orbs have been documented since photography gained a flash and faster shutter speeds. This means that the presence of orbs in photos and videos are due to the mechanics of the camera and physics, and not paranormal in nature. The Orb hysteria was already strong before Oester fueled it, but was amplified as he utilized the popular orb misconception and just added a few of his own bits of misinformation to gain notoriety for himself. He claimed that Orbs were in fact ghosts and that they could easily be captured anywhere and anytime. He was a major advocate of ghost hunting in cemeteries since it was popular with people new to the paranormal field as another common misconception is that ghosts and spirits congregate in graveyards. By advocating for ghost hunting (which is very different than paranormal investigating) he would add followers to his Yahoo group by making these claims. After being brought to school by many skeptics, paranormal investigators, and parapsychologists he quickly jumped ship on his advocacy pertaining to ghost hunting in cemeteries and spreading false information about orbs which caused him to stop actively spreading false information about orbs in order to promote himself. Unfortunately it was a little too late. There is something recognized as the Availability Cascade which is where false information gets propagated around by various sources and in the end a large amount of people adopt it as fact, when in reality it isn’t the truth. That is why there are so many people who to this day still claim that orbs are paranormal, and you will see countless videos and photos online produced by ghost hunters and inexperienced paranormal investigators of proclaiming that orbs they captured on camera are paranormal in nature. To put it plainly, orbs are not paranormal.
A photographic orb, also known as backscatter, most commonly occurs when using flash or video photography in situations where there is a minimal amount of light in the location being photographed or filmed. There is a scientific principal that is known as the “inverse square law” which is when light intensity is inversely proportional to the square distance from the source. Basically this means that the strength of the light is much stronger closer to the camera than it is at the far side of the location that you are photographing or filming. Due to the inverse square law any small object between the camera and the scene that you are photographing or filming will appear out of focus comparatively to the rest of the photographic field which results in the small object appearing larger than it really is, out of focus, and with a foggy like appearance. A photographic orb can be due to any small airborne particle whether solid or liquid in form such as dust, humidity, insects, pollen, pet dander, snow flakes, rain drops, or plant life just to name a few. Small pockets of various gases not normally present in our localized atmosphere could cause orbs to appear in photographs or videos as well. In general photographic orb causing particles may be free floating or resting upon the camera lens. These orb like visual artifacts in photos and videos are very common and very often misinterpreted as something paranormal due to the Availability Cascade that I mentioned earlier, meaning due to wide spread misinformation that has been accepted as fact by many people, when in reality it isn’t true.
A real electromagnetic based orb of any kind would be self illuminating and perceivable as an object free floating and projecting its own light whether or not it is in range of the electromagnetic spectrum that we are able to perceive with our eyes, meaning that it could potentially only be visible on an infrared or ultraviolet camera. One type of orb that would be visible to the naked eye that produces its own light would be one consisting of plasma. There are four forms of matter as recognized by the scientific community. These forms of matter are liquid, solid, gas, and plasma. A plasma orb would be very visible to the naked eye and would be very brief in tenure, and only occur under very certain circumstances such as during a lightning storm where the lightning excites plasma to become visible.
In locations where higher humidity is present condensation can also build up on the lenses of optical equipment which can make the image appear out of focus. Due to this you may see what appears to be a stationary mist, or the condensation can collect dust particles in the air, all of which can affect the quality of your photographic or video footage. Our own breath can cause mist clouds in a room with little air movement which can cause orbs to appear in photos and videos.
So what can you do to minimize photographic orbs? One option is if a flash is necessary then use an external flash and aim it towards the ceiling so you get illumination in the room but minimize direct illumination of various particles in the air that are between the camera and the object that you are photographing. This doesn’t mean that photographic orbs will be nonexistent, but if you minimize the direct light between you and the object that you are photographing it will help minimize photographic orbs. You can also angle your shots so that a light source is not behind you. Whether that light source is the sun, moon, a street light, a house light, a flash light, etc. it is important that the light coming from the source doesn’t have a direct line between you and the object that you are photographing. Most cameras built in the past 5 years can automatically take longer exposures negating the need for a flash. When recording video do your best to ensure that light isn’t emanating from the direction of the camera that is recording so there isn’t direct light shining on any particles between the camera lens and the area that you are recording. As with still photography be aware of the light sources that I mentioned a minute ago.
There is a phenomenon known as Observer Expectancy Effect. The Observer Expectancy Effect (also called the experimenter-expectancy effect, expectancy bias, observer effect, or experimenter effect) is a form of reactivity in which a researcher’s cognitive bias causes them to subconsciously influence the participants of an experiment to interpret results in a particular manner. Confirmation bias can lead to the experimenter interpreting results incorrectly because of the tendency to look for information that conforms to their hypothesis, and overlook information that argues against it. In the paranormal field that means someone who goes into an investigation biased that a location does have paranormal activity and the person will use equipment that will ensure positive sensory feedback coupled with personal experience activity and person interprets any type of activity to be paranormal because they want it to be paranormal. They may also attempt to convince others that benign occurrences have to be paranormal activity. The misinformation that orbs are paranormal has been spread around due to the Availability Cascade coupled with the Observer Expectancy Effect has lead countless people to believe that orbs are paranormal. The majority of people in the paranormal field are in the field of study because they enjoy seeing and experiencing what they perceive to be spooky. Due to human nature this can cause you to interpret things in a way of how you want them to be versus what they actually are. People choose to interpret orbs as paranormal because they want to or because they are unknowingly misinformed due to the aforementioned Availability Cascade. In either case they are incorrect, as photographic and video orbs are not paranormal in nature.
We live in a day and age where fact checking is minimal and false information can spread around like wild fire, especially on social media. People pass around claims of paranormal orbs like they pass around memes of cute cats, particularly on YouTube. So many people want orbs to be paranormal because it would be cool if they were that false information has been propagated across the globe and the Availability Cascade has become prominent leading many to believe that orbs are paranormal. This misinformation has been passed around for so long that it has been adopted as truth by many people when it isn’t remotely the truth. Some well meaning paranormal investigators have wasted countless hours of investigative time chasing orbs because they were mislead to believe that photographic and video orbs are paranormal.
You might say to me but Mr. Extreme I saw it on paranormal television shows so it has to be true. My response to that statement is no, the vast majority of paranormal television shows except for one or two will put out any bogus information or believe that handful investigation equipment to do what is claimed of them (such as the SLS camera, ovilus, and a device known as either Frank’s Box, Ghost Box, or Spirit Box) as fact when it isn’t the truth because it will bring in more viewers. In general the producers of the television shows don’t care about the truth, as they care about ratings and like the media will over sensationalize anything in order to get those ratings. Except for one to two exceptions paranormal television shows are not a trustworthy source of paranormal education. Orbs being paranormal are as bogus as the claimed ability of the SLS Camera or ovilus as well as the device known as either Frank’s Box, Ghost Box, or Spirit Box. So if you are using those devices please get rid of them. It is snake oil. Challenging the theories behind them with sciences completely negates their perceived ability to do what they are marketed to do. Spend your time and money on more worthwhile expenditures.
Now, I wish for paranormal investigators, ghost hunters, and paranormal enthusiasts to please repeat after me. Orbs are not paranormal and I will not forward images and videos of orbs around the internet claiming that they are paranormal entities. This can misinform the general public into thinking that orbs are paranormal and that their house is haunted. Some of you reading this will think that I am nuts because I don’t believe orbs are paranormal. To those propagating the the false information about orbs I challenge you to do some deep research about photographic orbs and electromagnetic orbs. Physics will prove my point that the orbs that you are seeing in photo and videos are not paranormal in nature. They are visual artifacts.
I have seen my fair share of paranormal over the years, but orbs do not fall into that category.
I know many of you involved with the paranormal investigation or ghost hunting field want them to be paranormal because it would be cool if they were. You may have even had your own experiences and whole heartedly believe that they are paranormal. Ignorance to science will allow that to happen. You may enjoy all of the “likes” and “views” that you receive on the internet if you post something with orbs claiming that it is paranormal. Just because you don’t understand the science or deeply want something to be paranormal in nature doesn’t mean that it is.
Let’s crush the orb conspiracy and focus our time and effort on worthy paranormal research and investigation.
I know some of you are dead set on orbs being paranormal even though all of the science would have anyone with any common sense understand that they are not paranormal, nothing I say will convince you otherwise because you so desperately need or want orbs to be paranormal. Some of you may simply have been misinformed due to popular misconceptions and I hope that this blog post educated you to the truth of photographic and video orbs.
I am often heard saying the phrase “science before the spooky” therefore since science explains photographic orbs as something that is not paranormal let’s say it one more time for those in the back of the of the paranormal classroom who aren’t paying attention or are misinformed…
Orbs aren’t paranormal, mmmkaaay?!