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Orb Phenomena

by Rick Fisher

Ghost/Spirit photography has become an exciting new hobby for many paranormal researchers and ghost hunting groups looking for evidence to confirm the existence of ghost. While I believe that photos cam document paranormal phenomena, not all photos are of paranormal nature. Strange anomalies or images showing up on film can have a rationale explanation for it. 

In the past few years hundreds of not thousands of paranormal and ghost hunting groups have sprung up around the world, many calling themselves investigators, and researchers. Since ghost hunting doesnt pay anything few are willing to devote their own time or money to do any type of research on orbs or the orb phenomena. 

What is an orb? It is a word used to describe a type of anomaly, a ball of light. An orb is not a ghost.

What is orb phenomena?

It has convinced many people that orbs are ghosts and nothing else.

It has convinced some who walk down a dirt road that hundreds of orbs in their photos is now the most haunted place on earth.

It has convinced some who take a photo from a moving vehicle that hundreds of orbs in their photo is from a portal that they are driving past.

It has convinced some that the place they are investigating must be haunted because of the orb in the photograph.

It has caused some to claim that the orb above john doe's grave is in fact john doe.

It has prevented membership in ghost hunting groups.

It has cost friendships between ghost hunting groups.

It has caused competition between ghost hunting groups to see who has the best orb photo.

It has caused competition to see who has the most orb photos on a website.

It has caused people to trespass on private property just to get an orb photo.

It has caused people to vandalize, spray graffiti and trespass after hours at gettysburg national park, which is now considering closing at dark.

It is a moneymaker for some who charge a fee to look at orb photos submitted by others.

It is photos sent to me that I have rejected as being paranormal and show up on other websites as authentic ghost photos. 

Quite a controversy this orb phenomena. Now people are certainly entitled to their opinions and beliefs but they are not willing to separate fact from fiction, "ghosts are not every where" orbs are everywhere. There are a number of reasons that orbs show up in photos and here are a few: dust, dirty camera lens, moisture in the air, rain, snow, wind, pollen, insects, or supernatural phenomena, etc.. 

Just because you do not see something doesn't mean it is not there that includes ghosts, dust, or other airborne particles not visible at the time the photograph was taken. The process of elimination must be used when determining just what orbs in photos are and this is what most of us fail to do.

If I sound critical it is to get your attention, we need to take a good hard look into the orb controversy. Im suggesting that more guidelines and common sense should be used when doing any ghost photography. 

I am not talking about the protocols established by others such as not taking photographs in certain weather conditions, we all know that. What I am talking about is using the instruments to get physical readings at least confirms that somethings is there since the instruments do not give readings on dust and it offers a little more evidence that just snapping a picture. Does getting physical readings on an orb mean its a ghost, of course not but we need to find out if it is. That’s why research is so important; we are no closer to proving orbs are ghosts since this craze started, although Id like to believe some orb anomalies are.

I also realize that most people can not afford to purchase some of the instruments that others use and please do not go in debt trying to buy them, however it would be wise not jump to the conclusion that going to a cemetery, or battlefield and snapping a photo means that the orb you just got in your photo is a ghost.

This also applies to other types of anomalies being photographed. Photos showing up as ectoplasm could be smoke (fire-cigar-cigarette-pipe) fog, your breath,supernatural phenomena, ect.

Photos showing up as vortex's could be a camera strap, your hair, rope or wires, reflection, lens flare, supernatural phenomena, etc.

Photos showing up as apparitions could be fake using various photo shop techniques on the computer; most I have seen are. There are very few authentic photos of apparitions the most famous is the brown lady of Rayham hall.

What do you say to people who want to show you a photograph? The best thing you can do if someone wants your to comment on a photo is to say it is interesting. This way you are not committing yourself to an answer either way.

If you are not sure about the photograph don’t be afraid to tell someone, its safer to say I don’t know what it is then to say its definitely a ghost or something paranormal.

I have now made a policy of not viewing or commenting on any anomalous photos unless instruments were used. This  has drastically reduced the number of phone calls and photos I receive by email. I have also come up with a classification system to separate what I believe is and isn’t  an anomalous photo.


Class 1-Supernatural

Anomalies that can NOT be explained, instruments were used to gather physical readings or measurements. Photos should show readings and instruments being used if possible.

Class 2-Psychic

Anomalies that are seen, sensed, or heard. Examples would be seeing or feeling a presence, cold spots, scents, and or voices. Photos should show anomalies as the event is occurring.

Class 3-Natural

Anomalies that can be explained. Examples would be reflection, lens flare, dust, rain, snow, fog, breath, insects, pollen, etc. Photos should be disregarded as paranormal.

Don’t be afraid to try and experiment and recreate things on your own, how else will we learn. Using digital cameras is a great way to learn. Go out and deliberately take photos in all types of weather conditions, take photos of bright objects, lights, whatever you can think of and you will learn what reflection is, what lens flare is, what rain is and hopefully what dust is.

For anyone wanting to learn more about ghost photography, I recommend the field guide to spirit photography by author Dale Kaczmarek. Visit for more information.

Can we photograph ghosts? I believe so but we need take a more serious approach to it. We need to work together; separate the serious researchers from the not so serious, encourage the use of equipment, and to recognize only class1 or class 2 photos, we need to find out just what the orb anomaly is. And most importantly we need to disregard that dirty four letter word "dust” that’s been responsible for causing so many problems in what is called the orb phenomema. Wont you join me?

2003 Rick Fisher

Paranormal Society of Pennsylvania

Some of the views expressed in the above article DO NOT  necessarily express the views or opinion of Ghost Hunters Incorporated


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