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Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society

"Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde."

—Voltaire

What Are Orbs?

A guide to orbs and other photo disturbances.

What are orbs? Are they, as some investigators claim, spheres of energy? Not really. The term "orb" is a non-scientific term. In fact, appearances of orbs are generally tied to photographs rather than anything that can be seen with the naked eye. There is no such thing as a "true orb" in the paranormal sense.

Stories of orbs can be traced back through mythology, where balls of light seen hovering above swamps were thought to be imps or spirits. Since these apparitions, known as "Will o' Wisps" or "Jack-o-Lanterns" are isolated to swamps in the mythology, today's skeptics believe that the stories were actually about naturally occuring phenomenon, like ignition of methane gases in swamps, or phosphoresence of plant life in swamps.

So why do people see orbs with the naked eye, even today, even outside of swamps? Well, really, most people don't. Most "orb activity" is observed only in photographs. For the small percentage that really do see something with the naked eye, there are alternate explanations.

Ball lightning is one. Ball lightning is just a glowing ball of light that can even appear in absence of a storm. It's an incredibly rare form of lightning, so rare in fact that some scientists don't believe in it any more than they do in orbs.

What else could it be? Well, it could quite simply be a light that's far off and has no frame of reference for distance. Like someone carrying a flashlight. They are too far away to see the actual person, but far enough to see a bouncing light. This may seem too simple an explanation, but there has never been a shred of evidence that orbs are bits of energy floating about. There has been abundant evidence that the human eye doesn't always see the absolute truth.

So, back to the photographs. We've all heard of lens flares, dust particles, moisture droplets - anything that can alter a photograph and make it appear as though something paranormal has occured. The best suggestion I can make is to know your camera. Clean it regularly. Make sure you're shooting in conditions that you know. If you're outside and it's nighttime, you'll probably get streaking from bugs. If you're standing on shaky ground, be prepared for motion blurs. If you're using an actual film camera, beware double exposures.

For pictures of what these anomalies look like on film, check out this site: http://www.crawfordcountyghosthunters.com/Falseghostpictures.html

Good luck with your photos, I hope they come out well!

~SAPS Staff

Snow - The Ultimate Orb ExperienceSnow - The Ultimate Orb Experience

Mary's motion blurMary's motion blur.

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