It’s a Bug! It’s a Water Drop! It’s an Orb!

Oh Orbs. The investigators favorite thing to debunk. The photo above is a screenshot from my DVR camera in the boiler room at Edinburgh Manor. What you can’t tell from the still photo is that I was actually looking at a whirlwind of orbs flying in all directions around the room. Was this a crazy vortex of spirits hunkering down in the furthest hiding spot away from the team that was now tromping through their home? Was it an irritated spirit stewing about and waiting to do us harm the next time we ventured into the basement?  Unfortunately, no, this is just dust with a smattering of bugs. Trust me, I wish this was a swirling vortex of spirits, that would make my investigation life so much easier. I could just yell up to my team “Hey guys! I found where they are hiding, bring the containment unit!” 

Despite years of debunking, people still send photos and videos of orbs to paranormal teams asking “did I capture a spirit?” And sadly, we have to tell them that they took a really nice photo of some dust or a bug. Dust often looks a bit like light, fuzzy floating orbs. Bugs on the other hand tend to be very bright, solid, and move in erratic patterns. Sometimes you can even see the wings moving on a bug. The third most common type of orb is water vapor. This often happens outside when your flash bounces off a bit of vapor or mist in the air. Actually, all of these glowing balls are caused by light reflecting off of the object (and this does include IR light). 

Most orbs submitted to paranormal teams are either one shot from a point-and-shoot camera or a short video. The single photo orbs are really hard to call paranormal because the data you have is extremely limited. Video at least affords a view of the objects movement in relation to the space and other items in that space. When I see strange lights moving around a space on my video, I will watch all of the video of that space to see if other objects move in the same manner and if they are all moving in the same direction. This is where that map you drew during the investigation can be really helpful because there very well could be a door, window, or air vent that is moving the dust in the space.  I can almost always debunk these videos by using the additional data on hand. 

So if orbs are so easy to debunk, why do people continue to report them as paranormal activity? My guess is because there are occasionally occurrences of real orbs that have been seen by people in reportedly haunted locations. I have seen such an orb in the basement of the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, MO. Sadly, I do not have a photo or video of the occurrence. During the event, I was sitting on the floor while talking to another investigator when I noticed a quarter sized ball of orange light appear on the other side of the room. I was certain I had just seen someone’s flashlight and got up to see who was in the hallway, except there wasn’t anyone else in the basement with us. What was different about this orb? Primarily, it emitted light and therefore did not need an external light source (such as a flash) to bounce off of it to be seen. I could see it without the aid of a camera. This is probably the most important question you can ask someone if they give you an orb photo, did you see it with your own eyes? If not, you can tell them that it is interesting but it could also be dust or a bug. 

Be aware, most people are VERY convinced that their evidence is real evidence and may not like having it debunked. I have been known to ask people if they REALLY want me to tell them what I see in the photo. If they want to believe, then I don’t want to argue with them about dust and bugs. If they are open to my thoughts, then we can discuss what they captured. I have long given up trying to change the mind of the true believer and am happy to spend my time in the pursuit of obtaining evidence that may some day affect the perception of the paranormal in the mind skeptics like myself. 

Until next time, Happy Hunting! 

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