“Demonic Orbs” and Other Fallacies and Facts

6When one popular paranormal show’s host described footage of an anomaly and declared it a “demonic orb,” it was time to admit the orb debate had sunk to a new low.

Most serious paranormal investigators react negatively to the “orbinators.” I use this term to describe those who are on the precarious far right of the orb debate. These are the people who will argue voraciously at the idea that an orb is anything but a spirit. Through paredolia, they insist that there are faces or figures in the orbs, as if each orb was a windowed Christmas ornament. Further, they connect the color of the orb with some spiritual meaning, the colors taken from magical practices or that of a chakra chart.

On the far left, we have those that insist that an orb is never anything paranormal, no matter what. They have debunked enough orbs that they are now convinced that even if the orb is waving at them with a connected EVP saying look at me, that this is not evidenceas if each orb was a windowed Christmas ornament. Further, they connect the color of the orb with some spiritual meaning, the colors taken from magical practices or that of a chakra chart.

The middle majority is where you find those committed to scientific investigation. These people understand the gravity of their work and significance of their evidence. They seek to eliminate all mundane probabilities, before moving into the area of paranormal possibilities. And yet, this is the group that often receives the most negative reactions from the blind believers. Why? It is much easier to believe (or want to believe) that this is Aunt Helen rather than dust contamination.

To start a discussion it is best to go to the beginning and look at the original or mundane definition: an orb is simply a sphere or a globe. The definition itself describes a three-dimensional body. From literary prose, orbs can be used as a verb that means to enclose, contain or encircle. The paranormal encyclopedia online offers this definition: “synonymous with sphere, when used in association with the paranormal, an orb is an anomalous globe-shaped spot, either white or colored, that shows up in photographs taken at allegedly haunted locations.” Yet just as we have a working definition, it seems that people other than myself.

The Paranormal Encyclopedia site offers these points to ponder:
1. “Ghosts” have been alleged seen in photos since the 1880s (birth of celluloid film)
2. Orbs were not a topic of discussion until built-in flash pocket cameras went on the market.
a) Orbs usually appear in the dark with flash digital still photography.
b) Orbs were first seen on video footage moving.
c) From the early nineties on, with new digital technology, orbs became popular.
d) All anomalous spots became labeled as orbs.
3) Ghost hunters of all abilities latched onto orbs and began claiming these were “proof” of spirits.
a) The Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society (GHRS), and other reputable paranormal organizations, stopped accepting them as proof of paranormal activity.
b) When an editor of the Paranormal Encyclopedia did the research for their article, it was found that every source of information from “orbinators” had an agenda to make money on their orbital insights be it a book, conference or video program.
4) Fuji Films in response to a question from Helena Cowell stated that floating dust may be the culprit in flash pictures, causing white spots due to reflection. Besides dust, this may also ring true with rain, snow, pollen, moisture or any particles floating in the air at the time of the shot.
a) Further, Fuji stated that the contaminant will appear big and light and out of focus and may form a shape that corresponds to the camera’s aperture (round)
b) Scott Denning, a paranormal investigator interviewed for their article questions how many control shots have been taken in areas with little contaminants or in places not without the haunted reputation.
d) The final answer from this piece may be that multiple shots must be taken, with and without flash.

Just when your amateur ghost hunter thinks they understand orbs and can debunk appropriately, the next problem occurs. People are offering their own form of cataloging orbs so that any chance of comparative or correlative studies is stopped before it can begin. At the popular Ghoststudy site, an article there suggests there are two classifications of orbs: busters and talents. Buster orbs are caused by the use of digital cameras with flash as noted above and are described as “false positives.” The sound advice offered is to document the weather and other conditions around at the time. However, this site believes talent orbs are real spiritual phenomena in a spherical or oblong shape. They do offer the caveat that a paranormal investigator will rarely witness such an orb a few times, and it may even be seen with the naked eye. To make it even more confusing, the article states that most talent orbs are human and might possibly also involve animals.

While the site, paranormal.lovetoknow.com, agrees that the debate is real, this site also points out that all information regarding the colors of orbs is theory and has no scientific basis. The site also points out that another problem is that if an image file is intentionally or unintentionally manipulated, orbs can occur due to distortion, pixilation or other problems.

Hazel Courteney, a writer with the Daily Mail, reports that Kalus Heinemann, a NASA researcher, studied pictures of spiritual healers with anomalies and at first thought it was contamination. Using scientific methods including microscopes, he failed to find a direct answer regarding causation. When even the camera itself checked out, he found himself asking people about these circles and spiritual healers said they could make them appear, especially at spiritual events. Heineman began to set up experiments, one involving two cameras taking the same picture at the same time, and he found orbs on only one photograph. He also estimated that orbs can move at around 500 miles per hour. Courteney reports that Heineman stated, “There is no doubt in my mind that the orbs may well be one of the most significant “outside of this reality” phenomena mankind has ever witnessed.” However, many of Heineman’s peers do not agree with this link to the spirit world. If you have been reading this article, it will not surprise you to note that this became a major topic for the world’s first orb convention, in 2007, in Sedona, Arizona. Thus with the help of a few scientists, a theology expert, and a group of healers, the “orbinators” became a part of the paranormal community.

Obviously, the rift began. Troy Taylor, author and president of the American Ghost Society, firmly states that orbs are not paranormal. While Troy Taylor calls the blind believers “orb-a-philes,” many of us have our own terms for the emotional outbursts from this group. Taylor offers a great list of tips to debunk orbs:

1) Rule out all possible explanations. Clean your lens regularly and more often if the environment warrants it. Keep all lenses free of dirt, water, smudges and fingertips.
2) Dust is the biggest problem – and this includes dead skin cells to pet dander.
3) Insects are drawn to light and may be filmed. The in-flight bug may cause an orb to appear to have a trail or tail.
4) Moisture can appear and does, whether it is raining or not. Water can be a variety of shapes and colors.
5) Light can cause orbs whether due to a flashlight or flash of another investigator, light can cause the lens of the camera to react and so many of these problems will be user-related. According to Taylor, there is a term from the science of physics, called back-scattering, that explains the phenomena of orbs in photos. This diffuse reflection of waves, particles and signals sends these back to the direction they came from. In physics, the phenomenon that creates orbs in photography is actually referred to as back-scattering. Back-scattering is a diffuse reflection of waves, particles, or signals traveling back to the direction it came from. And this can occur and does occur with all mentioned above, and more!
6. Patterns in orbs can be caused by pareidolia. This is a when the brain processes what it sees into a familiar pattern: a face, skull, flower or figure.
7. Always document the conditions that you are investigating in – weather, light, temperature, and bugs.

In conclusion, while the debate will continue, there is no hard evidence that orbs do exist and many professionals no longer will examine orb photographs. Those who are sure they can discern a “real” orb from a fake orb, no matter what you choose to call them, is at best difficult, because there is no hard evidence or photographs confirmed to be “real” orbs. While the scientist may think he is onto something, and he may be, there are orbs reported in every-day photos every day and these are posted on many paranormal websites. The majority is from people as confused and as the paranormal investigators try to discuss the mundane effects, it begins to move into belief defense and then pointless argument. Will this end in the near future? Orb-so-lutely not!

Courteney, Hazel. July 20, 2007. Is this proof that spirits DO exist? Retrieved from dailymail.co.uk/…/article-46…/Is-proof-spirits-DO-exist.html


Lillee Allee

Lillee Allee

Representative at National Paranormal Society
Lillee Allee has studied religion, spirituality and paranormal investigation for over 40 years. She is the widow of John D. Allee, an internationally known dark magician. She continues to consult in paranormal investigation. Her specialties include: Marian and cultural spiritual phenomena/apparitions, spiritual support to teams and clients who want spiritual counseling after investigation, evp work and old school audio, the accuracy and research of past life regression and seance, and spiritual protection. Lillee was also one of the first to incorporate trained canines into paranormal investigations. She hosts a radio program on the para-x.com network, Happy Mediums, with Debra Ann Freeman, who also consults with paranormal investigative teams in Southern New England. Lillee is a published author and journalist, and legal clergy with degrees in psychology and mass communication. Lillee walks on the middle path sees learning as a life-long endeavor and is looking to make a difference and contribution to this field before she too will be heard on someone’s EVP. Lillee is always available to educate and consult and continues to enjoy guesting on other’s radio and television programs.
Lillee Allee

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