Ghost Orbs – An Overlooked Question

Ghost orbsGhost orbs are a controversial topic.

Some orbs can be explained as refracted light from moisture, reflective surfaces, insects, pollen or dust.

But – and this is important – false orbs aren’t the big problem I thought they were.

Unfortunately, many ghost hunters took my earlier advice.

Now I’m embarrassed when I hear someone dismiss a credible orb as “it’s just dust.”

Usually, false orb shapes are irregular.

In other cases, you can see the insect or dot of pollen in the center. It’s more solid-looking. Enlarge your photo and take a close look, to be sure.

When it’s a bug, the reflection is usually white. Pollen usually shows up as a solid yellow dot in the center of the orb. It’s not see-through (translucent).

Always rule those things out.

What if you can’t debunk it?

Some of us believe that unexplained orbs –  described as photographic anomalies – indicate possible paranormal activity.

But some ghost researchers still insist that orbs aren’t evidence.

The Skeptics’ Arguments

Critical skeptics fall back on the easy answer that every unexplained orb is just dust. Or insects. Or a reflection.

That’s a convenient excuse.

When I ask how much research they’ve done with their own cameras, trying to create fake orbs, they usually change the subject.

Or, they snap back, “I don’t have to. It’s obvious.”

In the years since I wrote this, I’ve met just one researcher who thoroughly experimented with orb photos. He told me he could create convincing, orb-like images with extremely fine powder carefully blown from the surface of a credit card.

Perhaps he can. I’m still trying to replicate that, myself. So far, no luck.

But… Sure, Let’s Pretend It’s All Dust

Okay, let’s say that those orbs are “just dust.” (Important: I don’t believe that’s the universal answer.)

There’s still an overlooked question.

In fact, it’s obvious when you think about it.

Why do we see so many more orbs in photos taken at haunted places?

Why are there dozens of orbs in photos taken at a haunted cemetery, and hardly any orbs at a field just down the street from that cemetery?

If they’re both equally dusty, shouldn’t we see an equal number of orbs in the photos?

Let’s backtrack for a moment.

Ghosts and Physical Evidence

Most ghost hunters point to physical evidence such as doors that slam without explanation.

Or, they’ll talk about lights, radios and televisions that turn on “by themselves.”

Similarly, I’ve heard a broken piano play music at The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana.

We’ve seen balls roll by themselves, pencils move across tables, and so on.

So, why is it so preposterous to think that a ghost might deliberately lift flecks of dust, to manifest as orbs in our photos?

Remember the movie, Ghost?  In one scene, Patrick Swayze – as a ghost – struggles to move physical objects.  Fortunately, another ghost shows him how it’s done.

But what about ghosts in cemeteries and other haunted locations?  Maybe no one has shown them how to move large and heavy objects.  Perhaps a particle of dust is all they can manage.

A ghost that gets our attention with a fleck of dust is no less real than a ghost that slaps someone, rolls a ball across the floor of a deserted hospital, or slams doors in an empty hall.

Debunking Ghost Orb Photos

Many experienced ghost hunters dismiss orbs caused by obvious reflective objects, pollen, insects, and rain.

Those ghost hunters have viewed thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of orb photos. They know what to look for:

  • An irregular shape, not a nearly perfect circle
  • A solid-looking dot or shape at the center of the orb
  • A solid dot of yellow in or near the center of a pollen orb
  • A solid white shape inside an insect orb
  • A solid white or grey dot inside a dust orb
  • A brilliant white orb, usually an irregular shape, if it’s rain or moisture
  • A repeating series of circular orbs, usually in a line, if it’s a lens flare from the sun, the moon, or a reflective surface.

If You Can’t Debunk It

The next question should be: Is the dust an anomaly?

If you’re seeing unexplained orbs in photos taken at one location, take photos at a nearby location with similar levels of dust,  pollen, and so on.  Equal orbs indicate natural causes.

However, if you see orbs in photos at a haunted cemetery but not in photos at the Little League field next door, the real issue isn’t whether it’s dust.

Instead, ask why the orbs only show up in the haunted cemetery.

The answer might be ghosts.

Myrtles Plantation – More ‘Ghost Orb’ Photo Tips

Ghost orb pictures are among the most popular evidence of hauntings, and orbs can be the easiest subjects for beginning ghost photographers.

Some people seem to attract ghost orbs more than others. We’ve known ghost hunters who never see orbs in their photos, but they get great EVP… and vice versa.

Those of us who do capture ghost orbs in pictures, also seem to bring home higher percentages of ghost orb photos each time. We don’t know if the ghosts have become more comfortable with us, or if we’re developing an innate sense of where the orbs are.

Some ghost researchers claim that one or two orb photos per hundred (using a film camera) is very good. In profoundly haunted locations, as many as 35% of my photos will include anomalous orbs.

However, at The Myrtles Plantation, several of us — mostly researcher Margaret Byl (of G.H.O.S.T.S.) and I — were taking photos outdoors, after dark. To our amazement, we saw no orbs in pictures where humidity should have produced them.

The photo, above (dark scene with white picket fence), was taken in back of The Myrtles Plantation, near the marshy land and pond. We expected at least a half dozen false (natural) orbs in this and other photos.

(I haven’t analyzed other patterns yet, such as images in the grass that may be significant.)

I’ve included this photo to show you that, even in a very haunted location, professional ghost hunters don’t always find great orbs or other anomalies in their photos.


Indoors, we’re cautious when an orb might be from a reflective surface. (That’s rare,* but it can happen. So, we err on the side of skepticism.)

At the right, you can see one of my few good orb photos taken at The Myrtles Plantation. (An enhanced close-up is shown on the left, below.)

That’s a broken piano at the entry to the most haunted wing of The Myrtles Plantation. We checked the piano carefully, and some of the keys are jammed so that the piano doesn’t work. In fact, it can’t.

We also examined it closely for microphones or other evidence of a hoax. It’s a real, broken piano with nothing added.

There’s no sound equipment anywhere in that wing, that could account for what we heard later that night.

During our visit, that piano started playing all by itself, around midnight. I’d heard the stories of the piano music, of course.

However, I was expecting something classical… a piece by Debussy or something.

Not even close.  It wasn’t a melody, but the “plink, plink, plink” of a small child tapping on the keys at the far right side of the keyboard.

The experience was eerie, but one of the less startling events of a dramatic night at The Myrtles Plantation.

We weren’t at all surprised to see an orb over the piano in several of our photos — taken from different directions — including this one.


*For years, I was among the most skeptical voices regarding “ghost orbs.” Then, after several years’ intense study of orbs – with multiple cameras (film and digital) – I discovered that it’s very difficult to create a convincing (but fake) orb in photos.

Since then, I’ve been trying to undo the damage I caused by my early (199os and early 2000s) assertions. See my article Ghost Orbs – An Overlooked Question.