I spent most of my childhood in Avalon, New Jersey learning the ways of the water. I fished quite a bit in my youth and have actually been able to equate many ocean experiences to that of my paranormal experiences. I would like to preface my explanation of orbs and their origin, along with some additional information designed to protect you, with a story that we will use throughout this article.
Not so long ago I took an inexperienced friend out on the water for a day of recreational fishing. He never really fished in his life and knew very little. Since the wind and current were ripping in the intercoastal waterways that day, I decided to use heavier 1lb sinkers/weights to make sure we would hold the bottom as we drifted at a pretty good clip. As we drifted, the sinker would trace the contours of the bottom floor of the bay and causing the line to respond with quick, tight pulls. My friend was so excited. Every time the heavy sinker would drag and hit a lump or pocket on the bottom, bending the rod in the process, he exploded with excitement yelling that he was getting “bites”. I did try to educate him on one occasion, that it was just the sinker on his line, bumping around across the bottom. He didn’t want to believe – swearing that he knew the difference – telling me that it WAS a fish biting his line.
We didn’t catch anything that day. And even though I knew what was causing his “bites” and tried to educate him, I didn’t harp on it. I wanted his experience to be the best it could be – he was so excited about all the action he received on his rod and that was all that really mattered to me at the end of the day.
So what is an orb? Chances are, if you are on this site you already have a good understanding about what people claim they are and what they look like. If you don’t know anything about orbs, let me try to sum it up expeditiously:
Orbs are balls of energy and light that are sometimes thought to represent the energy field of a spiritual being. Spirit orbs are typically white, but they may appear in different colors.
Maybe you’ve seen photographs containing these anomalous, spherical lights – maybe you’ve even taken a few yourself. Many paranormal investigators and paranormal thrill seekers have produced countless amounts of images over the years with orbs in them and so are quick to present these photographs as evidence of the paranormal. All one has to do is Google “orb photography” and you can see thousands of pictures posted by people claiming their photos of orbs represent a paranormal origin.
I remember fishing with my friend - trying to tell him that he was not feeling “bites”, rather the sinker bumping along the contour of the ocean floor – he didn’t want to believe. And here is where I make the same discernment about orbs. Some people will object and believe what they want, but I have to make this statement in order to educate: Orbs are NOT paranormal.
Ok, ok – there might be a few instances where an anomalous light appears in your photograph or on video that might be a spirit. However, these instances are very few and far between. For the most part, paranormal investigators and thrill seekers haven’t caught something of a paranormal origin and these anomalies can easily be attributed to logical, earthly origins. Let’s discuss a few of them.
Letting the Dust Settle
Dust is a big culprit in producing orb photography. When your digital camera is operating with your flash settings on, you are merely seeing the end result of this airborne debris, reflecting light, out of focus and larger than expected – thus producing an orb result. The best way to replicate this effect at home on cue is to take a towel or an article of clothing and whip it in the air a few times. Pick up your camera and with the flash on, take a picture. Voila’! You just captured orbs on camera! Spooky, huh?
In video, with the help of Infrared Lighting (IR) to see in the dark, dust will reflect this light in the same way as flash photography. Often times dust is mistaken for a spirit orb. Some people claim that it can’t be dust – stating that “it has its own flight pattern”. I have news for you – EVERYTHING has its own flight pattern, dependent on air currents and temperature. One speck of dust can move incredibly different, in the same room, than another piece of dust and should not be addressed as paranormal solely because they are moving at different speeds or patterns.
Stop Bugging Me
Bugs are also to blame in the world of spirit photography for the same reasons. These tiny, little winged insects can fly around and produce the same kind of photographic results as dust. These are even more evident than dust in videography. Some insects have a frantic flight pattern while others can fly straight and fast, or slow and lumbering. The IR light used on a camera can reflect off of this insect and produce a much larger size due to focus errors and light refraction – resulting in spherical light.
The weather can also be a big adversary in the world of paranormal photography. Precipitation, water vapor and humidity can result in orb photography for the same reasons. The flash of the camera reflects off a small bead of atmospheric water and produces a large circular light or many lights in one picture.
This photo, courtesy of Google Images/SpiritWeb, clearly shows how some people misinterpret atmospheric water for being spiritual orbs. The photographer claims these are ghosts and even says they have faces to them.
Digital Data Errors
One of the lesser known reasons for orb photography comes straight from the (now defunct) Kodak Company. In the late 1990’s, I spoke with the engineers of Kodak, trying to assess why the digital camera is so prone to producing orbs. Their reply to my inquiry shed a lot of light on these phenomena in a way that I would have never expected and will share this with you as well.
The digital camera is a marvel in itself. It is able to collect large amounts of environmental data, process that data, and produce an image of that environment all in a tenth of a second. A digital camera calculates all this data in the form of pixels – and each pixel has its role in the production of a digital image. The mass amount of data the camera processes is aligned and distributed to each pixel of the camera. If your camera is 6 mega pixels, that means 6000 pixels define your one image, and each pixel contains its own image that when combined, produces a single large image - in other words, your photo.
Like all electronics, sometimes things can get “buggy”. Because the camera is doing so much in a split second, it is prone to make mistakes. Believe it or not, an orb is one of the errors it can produce and here’s how.
Let’s say you snap a picture with your digital camera. You now know from reading earlier that it has to collect all this information for each pixel and arrange all this data to make up one large image. Sometimes data is erroneous or not recorded. When this happens, the information is missing for one particular pixel - or maybe even a few. Missing data is white. So we have one blank pixel out of thousands. What the camera will do in that split second you take the picture is try to “fill in the blanks” by collecting information from all the surrounding pixels. When it does this, those pixels are now affected by the missing data as it tries to correct itself. The result leads to a spherical white shape of misinterpreted data. It’s almost like a drop of water and the ripple effect. The drop being the missing or erroneous pixel data, and the ripples that get smaller as they travel farther away from the center are all the pixels around the blank white pixel that try to “fill in the blanks” until it has enough information to produce the image which may result in what so many people believe is a spiritual orb.
So now you know my interpretation of orbs and their origins. Now let’s regroup, take this a step further and really bring this fishing story to fruition.
My inexperienced friend was so insistent that day – claiming he WAS getting bites left and right. He was so excited. And I suppose if he had chartered the boat and was a paying customer, as a captain, his experience for me would be so much more important than telling him the truth about the sinker bumping along the bottom of the ocean. As a charter captain, I would want him to return, to pay money to fish with me again. To get the word out and have his friends pay me to take them out fishing even if that means supplying disinformation. On that note, let’s talk about “Ghost Tours” and “Paranormal Workshops”.
There are many paranormal thrill seekers spending millions of dollars a year to be involved in a situation that affords them a better possibility to experience the paranormal. From local paranormal groups here in Chester County that offer paranormal workshops in “supposedly” haunted places for $75 bucks a pop, to Ghost Tours in Philadelphia that promise a paranormal experience. The end result of these experiences is far too similar when speaking with people. Orbs.
During paid tours or workshops around the area, paranormal groups will ask their customers to take pictures during their experience. Can you believe that many people often capture orbs with their digital cameras? You bet. But can you believe that these paranormal groups or tours will actually tell these paying people that they definitively captured a spirit on camera? Of course they do – anyone willing to pay that amount of money WANTS to have a paranormal experience and the paranormal group or ghost tour company WANTS to have you come back – to tell friends… to rave about your experience. This is all disinformation, not education, designed to satisfy paranormal thrill seekers. My advice is to do your research first on these groups. If they are presenting pictures of orbs as evidence of the paranormal, you probably want to look elsewhere. This goes for paranormal groups offering workshops, ghost tours – or even if you need a paranormal group to investigate your home or work place. And if this is the case – remember, you shouldn’t have to pay for a paranormal investigation in your home or work place. If you are required to, look elsewhere.
I can honestly recommend one Ghost Tour that I have been involved with in the past – Ghostly Images of Gettysburg. They are professional, knowledgeable, and educate their customers. As for recommending a paranormal team that can help and educate you – provide the support you need and investigate your claims, well – just send us an email.
So what does this all mean in the end? To put it simply, you're not always going to catch something when you go "fishing". And those "bites" that you feel? Well, sometimes they aren't fish at all and have another logical explanation.
- Todd M. Weber, CCIPR.org
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