A box of candy? No, various colored dust orbs
If one watches paranormal investigation TV shows -- and I do to an extent that is likely not healthy -- one cannot help but encounter "orbs." These are typically small balls of light or energy that show up in video, still, and thermal images from investigation scenes. All serious investigators agree that most of the time the orbs are natural phenomena -- light reflecting off of dust, moisture, insects, etc -- but, and this is hotly debated, sometimes they may or may not be paranormal in nature.
I tapped the brains of a who's who of paranormal investigators regarding The Great Orb Debate, including Dave Schrader, Kris Williams, John Zaffis, and Nina De Santo.
Eastern Pennsylvania Paranormal Society investigator Nina De Santo is especially passionate about the orb issue. "With the paranormal boom everyone has become a 'Ghost Hunter.' Every orb, spot, blur and spec has been classified as an 'entity' and that honestly drives me nuts!" she says emphatically.
"The vast majority of orbs are nothing more than dust, bugs, moisture, pollen and the like," she states. "But in my years of investigating, I have found a small percentage of orbs to be unexplainable. These orbs are self-illuminating and show up in pics that coincide with other paranormal activity at the same time: things like temperature drops, K2 meter hits, ghost meters lighting up, sensor alarms going off, EVPs caught, etc," De Santo says.
She calls these “intelligent orbs,” continuing, "in most cases when we ask them to follow us around they do interact and appear in multiple pics. In these cases, you will usually see the same orb formations throughout the investigation. The evidence presented here is a series of images of orbs from when I was channeling entities' messages. At the time these pics were taken, EVPs where caught on our digital recorder as well as our ghost meter alerting us to a presence. We also caught an entity saying my FULL NAME on the ghost box after I asked, 'What’s my name?'”
She continues, "It was explained to me by an entity that we see them as orbs in pics due to the fact that the energy frequency of where they exist is seen this way through the limited capacity of our equipment, as in a 2D digital camera, in which they appear to us as orbs of light, when in fact we are seeing an energy formation. As our equipment becomes more high-tech, we will see them not just as energy formations but in more detail, which has already started to happen in some cases," she adds.
"The following images were taken at an undisclosed hotel in Boston. The paranormal activity in this location was extreme - one of the most haunted locations I have seen. No one has investigated this hotel before, as they do not want paranormal activity associated with their name."
Shades of Ghost Busters.
"I was fortunate to have known someone who allowed me access to investigate," De Santo continues. "The location was built in the early 1900s and has an extremely diverse history attached to it. These pics of orbs are presented in the sequence in which they were taken during the investigation. The most compelling part about this investigation and the orb pics is that I asked the entities to follow me from one side of the room and back to the other, which they did, as can be seen in the pics."
John Zaffis, the "Godfather of the Paranormal," has been investigating for almost 40 years and is the star of Syfy's Haunted Collector. He is open-minded on the topic of orbs. "I used to look at orbs as
just dust or moisture, but I have seen video of them responding to
command’s from a person. She told them to go to the right, the left, and
to leave the room. They did, so I try to keep a open mind with this
type of energy. I call them 'spirit energy' and it takes a lot of them
to come together to from a ghost."
Since the events sounded so similar, I asked if he was referring to Nina's orb experience, but he told me it was someone else; so there are at least two women out there bossing orbs around.
Ghost Hunters veteran, and now co-lead investigaor of Ghost Hunters International, Kris Williams, takes a much more hardline stance.
"For a still camera, the orb is caused by the flash. The light bounces off the bug, dust or water particles in the air making them look like glowing balls of light. I have never been a fan of orbs caught on a digital camera. I've always liked how [Ghost Hunters] Grant [Wilson] and Steve [Gonsalves] explained it: it's like having one page out of an entire novel. You can't see what happens leading up to that picture or what happens after it's taken.
"As for sizes, it's all a matter of how close or far the dust, bug or water particle is from the camera. Being a skeptic, orbs, up to this point, for me have always been explainable," she concludes.
Dave Schrader is host of Darkness Radio and head judge of Travel Channel's Paranormal Challenge. He's an orb skeptic, but leaves the door open a crack. "99% of the time they can be easily explained as particulates in the air, i.e. - dust, bugs, moisture, etc," he says. "A few things to consider, if they are a true self sustaining spirit light, why do they only show up in pictures where a flash is used or where it is brightly lit, and reflective surfaces can be seen bouncing light back at the camera causing lens flare?" he asks.
"Quick experiment time," Schrader continues. "Take a picture of Grandma's couch with a flash, then pound the cushions for a few seconds and step back and take a second picture with a flash, Voila! Look at all the spirits you have freed from a doomed existence trapped in a couch."
Regarding variable orb size, he says, "The reason some 'orbs' seem larger than others is the placement of the dust, bug or whatever in relationship to the lens, the closer it is, the brighter and larger it will seem; it's a visual trick called 'forced perspective.'"
However... "With that said, there is the occasional 'orb' anomaly that defies logic and seems to only appear when called upon and has a distinct, almost Glenda the Good Witch, look to it, or a unique lace doily pattern within it."Personally, I just have a hard time believing that when I die I will only be seen as a small moving ball of light," he adds wryly. "The logic doesn't add up for me, I promise when I cross over I will come back baring information for all."
We'll hold you to that, Dave.