Ghost Photos – False Anomaly Tests

The following are a few photos from more than six years’ tests, trying to fake convincing “ghost photos.” I tried to recreate circumstances I’d blamed for photos with orbs, apparent vortices, and so on.

All of these pictures were taken in low-light conditions. I always used the flash on my camera to try to highlight the deceptive object or issue. I wanted to create false anomalies.

Click on any image to see it larger, with a brief description.

Note: If you’d like to see each full photo without the description over it, right-click on the thumbnail image and select “open in a new tab.” However, the descriptive text doesn’t conceal anything important.

The first group of photos are things that could look paranormal if you didn’t know what was in the picture. Half of the photos show a single piece of hair or a few strands of it. That could happen if a photographer has long hair (as I do) and doesn’t pin it back.

The other photos in this first group show camera straps. I used to think pictures of camera straps always showed both ends of the strap exiting the frame of the photo. Not true. Now I know the weird, textured shape can even seem suspended in front of the photographer.

Also, my camera strap is almost black. The reason it looks white is because the camera’s flash is very bright, and it highlights the camera strap.

About 90% of the “vortex” pictures I’ve seen were probably camera straps, or something like them. If you use a camera strap (recommended, especially in dark settings), be sure to loop it around your wrist or — if it’s a very long strap — over your arm or shoulder.

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Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows thumbnails of the kinds of pictures that will be here.

Photos of hair and camera straps

The second group of photos shows how difficult it is to create convincing, fake “ghost orbs.”

The first few pictures are flash photos taken on a densely foggy morning. Even the one with the white lines (a spiderweb) doesn’t show convincing-looking orbs.

Next, you can see some smoke photos. Unless your camera is sensitive to smoke, you’d need to be surrounded by smokers for smoke to be a significant issue.  Regular cigarette smoke barely showed up. When we tested clove cigarettes (a different density of smoke), that was slightly more convincing.

Incense looked anomalous in my photos. However, unless your team is using a sage smudge, or the client burns lots of incense at home, I’m not certain we need to be concerned about smoke.

I could not get chimney smoke to show up in photos. Unless weather conditions are “just so,” hot air — and woodsmoke — rise into the atmosphere. Smoke is not likely to descend and remain thick enough to be an issue.  However, smoke from a nearby campfire could be an issue.

The remaining photos show some random samples of test photos, trying to create lens flares and fake orbs. Insects, house lights, and even sparkly, reflective jewelry didn’t produce anything noteworthy.

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Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows thumbnails of the kinds of pictures that will be here.

Attempts to create false orbs and anomalies

After years of study, using film and digital cameras, I finally had to admit that I’d been mistaken about false, ghostly anomalies.

  • Orbs are much harder to fake than I’d expected. Moisture, reflective surfaces, and even house lights rarely create convincing orbs. Most lens flares are too obvious to confuse with unexplained orbs, and lens flares are far more difficult to create in typical ghost hunting circumstances.
  • Camera straps can cause “vortex” images, even if one or two ends of the strap seem to vanish in the photo. Keep your camera strap wound around your wrist or arm.
  • Hair can cause weird looking lines and swirls, some of them dotted with an orb at the end. Wear a scarf if you’re taking ghost photos.
  • Cigarette smoke is very difficult to capture in a photo. We tried traditional cigarettes (it’s nearly invisible) and clove cigarettes (before the ban). Cloves gave better results, but still aren’t much to worry about.
  • Smoke from the right incense can appear ghostly. However, unless you’re using sage smudges at a site, I don’t think that’s an issue. Cone incense and incense on charcoal dispersed too quickly to photograph. Stick incense produced the best results, but it had to be waved right in front of the lens, even on a very still night.
  • Fog causes faint, repeating orbs. In hundreds of foggy photos, I saw nothing I’d confuse with a ghostly orb.
  • Jewelry, house lights, and spider webs don’t seem to create confusing images in photos.

Don’t take my word for it. That’s important. Run tests with your own cameras. Know how they respond to these kinds of issues. No two cameras have the same sensitivities.

Ghost Photography 101 – An Overview

Cover of Ghost Photography 101, by Fiona Broome - 1st EditionGhost photography is a fascinating subject.  Ghost photos are also among the easiest ways for paranormal investigators and ghost hunters to find evidence of hauntings.

In the following articles, you’ll learn more about how to take ghost pictures, and what to watch out for.

Most of these are excerpts from the first edition of my book, Ghost Photography 101.  (That first edition is now out-of-print.)

Ghost Photography Articles

In these articles, you’ll see photos — mostly in color — from the book.  Some are real anomalies, others are explained as false anomalies… things to watch out for when you’re taking pictures at haunted sites.

These articles and photos aren’t intended as the last word in ghost photography.  They’re a starting point for each investigator.

Try similar experiments with your own cameras, to see what real and fake results look like.  Then, you’ll feel far more confident about your ghost photos.

Tips for the Best Ghost Photos

Ghost Photography Tips

The following is an edited excerpt from the first edition of Ghost Photography 101, by Fiona Broome.

Man in Blue ghost photo - Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA
Fiona’s famous ‘man in blue’ photo. (Ft. Worden, WA)

If you simply bring a camera to haunted places and take lots of photos, you’ll learn the ins and outs of ghost photography on your own.  Trial-and-error is fine.

However, the following tips might make the learning process easier.

If you take pictures at random, you won’t return home with as many ghost photos as you could with a more focused approach… no pun intended.  First, learn where the “hot spots” are at the site.  Ask others where they’ve felt the most chills, found the most EMF activity, or taken the best ghost photos.  That’s a good place to start.

Take cues from your ghost hunting tools

If you have ghost hunting tools such as an EMF meter or a pendulum, you can use them to help you identify the best locations.

For example, if your EMF meter detects energy spikes — or drops lower than it should — that’s a potential location for ghostly photos.  Try taking photos standing directly at the location where your EMF meter indicated something odd.

However, sometimes when you’re in the middle of an anomaly — or a haunted spot — your camera won’t record anything unusual.  So, step away from that spot. Turn around and take pictures of it from a distance and from several different angles.

Unexplained photo - Gilson Rd. Cemetery, Nashua, NH
One of many strange ‘ghost photos’ taken at Gilson Rd. Cemetery, Nashua, NH

Several ghost hunting tools can detect EMF-related anomalies.  Of course, an EMF meter — especially a sensitive meter such as the K-II — can reveal the most electromagnetic anomalies.

You may identify equally good, active locations using a hiking compass, dowsing rods, or more specialized tools such as an Ovilus or any real-time paranormal communication device.

If you have a hiking compass, the needle points in the direction of magnetic north.

However, if you’re near electromagnetic fields (EMF), the compass needle will point away from magnetic north and towards where the highest EMF is. (Movement can easily affect hiking compasses, so I only pay attention to needle variations more than 30 degrees from magnetic north.)

Likewise, dowsing rods can behave strangely around elevated EMF levels. For many people, the rods cross each other at the point where the EMF is at its highest.  For others, the rods separate or even swing in circles.

Keep in mind that dowsing rods may also detect underground springs, buried pipes or electrical wires.  So, if the rods continue to behave strangely along a straight line, you may be walking over underground pipes or wiring.

The Ovilus is one of many tools that became popular during 2009.  It seems to respond to EMF surges by talking.  Using a pre-programmed vocabulary — plus additional words and names that baffle many researchers — the Ovilus “speaks” out loud.  Similar tools include the Frank’s Box, the Shack Hack, ghost radar apps for mobile phones, and “ghost box” devices.

If you’re using one of these tools and it starts talking, take photos.  Take lots of photos.

If someone’s camera or cellphone suddenly stops working, that’s another cue that EMF energy is interfering.  Take photos right away.

This ghost photo is actually breath on a chilly night.
This eerie photo is probably just breath on a chilly night.

Remember to take photos inside the area where the EMF or other electronic signal occurs, but also step away and point your camera so you’re looking at the location, from a distance of at least a few feet.

Your “gut feeling”

Your “gut feeling” is the single most useful tool to help you identify spots for ghost photography. Whether you get goosebumps, the hair goes up on the back of your neck, or you simply feel prompted to take a photo, pay attention to those subtle cues.

Share those feelings with others. You may be surprised by how many people will confirm what you’ve felt.

I believe that everyone has some psychic sensitivities.  They’re often felt as a “gut feeling.”

Few people are sure of their intuition at first.  If you mentally note how you feel when you take good ghost photos, you’ll soon recognize those “gut feelings” more confidently… and then take more pictures when you do.

It’s important to learn to identify real anomalies and the normal things that can look like them.

However, it’s not as easy to create fake ghost photos as skeptical critics insist.  When it doubt, trust your gut feeling.

Sparkles and Other Surprising Anomalies

The following is an excerpt from the first edition of Ghost Photography 101, by Fiona Broome.

Your camera can suggest “hot spots” for good ghost pictures.  One of the best indications is a phenomenon called sparkles.

In the late 1990s, my research team noticed bright, sparkling lights that slowly drifted towards the ground after I took photos in haunted areas.  They appear to flare when the flash goes off, but the lights linger for about half a second afterwards.  On rare occasions, they fade over a period of nearly two seconds.

I called them “sparkles” in my earliest ghost hunting website articles in the 1990s, and the term is now used throughout the ghost hunting field.

If we could capture those sparkles in photos, they might look like the following photo. (It think it’s actually a spiderweb or some hair.)

Sparkle-type image
What sparkles can look like. (Actually a spider web or hair.)

Sparkles usually appear about 20 – 30 feet away from the camera.  They look about the size of ping-pong balls.   We see dozens of them, sometimes all at once and sometimes in a subtle sequence.

Usually, the sparkles are white or pale pastel colors.  Some researchers report more vivid colors.

Sparkles seem to have mass, or they wouldn’t drift towards the ground as if pulled down by gravity.  However, people standing immediately underneath them don’t see or feel them as they fall.  So far, we have no idea what causes sparkles.

We know what they aren’t.  They aren’t bugs (including fireflies), dust or pollen.  They aren’t rain or moisture.

Note: Insects immediately in front of your camera can also seem like bright lights, but only when the flash highlights them.  In addition, if you’re in an area with fireflies, we’ve noticed that some fireflies “answer” the flash on the camera by flaring their lights as well.

Remember, the anomalous sparkles never show up in photos.  (I wish they did.)  They’re best seen through the camera’s viewfinder (or lens), but most spectators (about 80%) see the sparkles whether they’re looking through a camera or not.  Both film and digital cameras seem to highlight sparkles.  Some are better than others.

My oldest camera is among the best to reveal sparkles.  It’s an Olympus AF-1 Twin that my mother bought me, many years ago. It uses 35 mm film. Today, you may find cameras like it at thrift shops for just a few dollars.  (I recently found one at Goodwill for $1.50.  It works well, too. You might find something similar at Amazon.com.)

Once you see sparkles, you’ll know exactly what I’m describing.

Take as many photos as you can when sparkles appear, because there’s an increased likelihood that your photos will include anomalies… just not the actual sparkles you saw.

Photographing Ghost Orbs

The following is an edited excerpt from the first edition of Ghost Photography 101, by Fiona Broome.

Orbs are probably the most popular evidence of ghosts and hauntings.

Orbs are the easiest for beginners to capture in photos. They can be confused with dust, bugs, pollen, reflections and moisture… but not as often as you might think.

This photo at the lower right shows a typical orb at Pine Hill Cemetery (also called “Blood cemetery”) in Hollis, New Hampshire.  The picture was taken near some of the oldest graves in the cemetery. This orb is unusual because it was photographed without a flash.

Daytime orb - Pine Hill 'Blood' Cemetery - Hollis, NH
Arrow points at daytime orb – no flash, no reflection, no lens flare.

About 90% of orbs are photographed using the camera’s flash.  This suggests that orbs have some physical content that reflects the light of the flash.

However, if orbs have a physical form, more people should see them in real life.  In fact, most people don’t see orbs, except in their photos.

Orbs usually white or pale blue, but they can appear in a variety of colors, both pastels and vivid shades.  Some are very faint.  Others are bright and almost opaque.

Now and then, orbs seem to include faces, but most are simply translucent circular (or spherical) shapes.

Sometimes the face closely resembles the person whose ghost is supposed to haunt the site.  That’s eerily reminiscent of the fake ghost photos of the late 19th century… and baffling.

Some “face” orbs are reported in locations more associated with faeries than with ghosts.

For now, orbs are a mystery and deserve more study.  We don’t have many answers, yet.

Orbs often appear close to people. I’ve seen hundreds of orb photos in which the orb is near a baby or a bride.  It’s difficult to dismiss them as mere coincidence.  Many people are comforted by an orb that represents a loved one who’s crossed over, and is visiting our world to celebrate a happy event with his or her family.

Ghost orb over historic home in Katy, TX
Orb over historic home in Katy, Texas.

Other orbs seem to manifest near haunted objects or specific locations.

The photo on the left shows a solitary orb over a house in Katy, Texas.  It’s one of just a few homes that survived the famous Galveston Flood of 1900.  The night was cool and dry with no insects and no breezes.

Many people think that the Galveston Flood affected the island of Galveston and that’s all.  If you research that famous flood, you’ll see that the flood extended into Houston and surrounding areas.  As a result, there are many rich stories and tragedies from that disaster, and some may indicate haunted locations.

In the photo at the lower right, orbs hover near haunted Houmas House in Louisiana.  It’s an extraordinary location for ghost photos.  Houmas House may look familiar because it’s been featured in movies and TV shows.  It was also the home of the man who designed the famous “Stars and Bars” flag of the Civil War.  Ghosts of Confederate soldiers have been reported near the house.

I’ve seen two full apparitions at Houmas House.  One was in the bedroom where Bette Davis slept while filming “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” at the house.

The other was at the front gate, where I saw an unusually tall black man pacing.   At first, I saw him from the “widow’s walk” on top of Houmas House.  The apparition looked only slightly translucent.  It was a sunny morning, and I saw him very clearly.

Ghost orbs at Houmas House (Louisiana)
Orbs hover at historic (and haunted) Houmas House, LA

I wanted a closer look, so I dashed downstairs and out the front door.  The figure was clearly visible until I was about 30 feet from him.  He faded quickly.  It probably took less than half a second.

After the apparition vanished from sight, I asked Kevin Kelly — the owner of Houmas House — about the ghost.  I described the figure in detail.  Mr. Kelly knew exactly which man I was describing.

Mr. Kelly showed me a photograph of the former slave, taken during the man’s lifetime.  I recognized the man in the photo right away.  His apparition looks almost exactly the same today.

I wish I’d been able to capture his ghostly image in a photo.  However, these kinds of encounters indicate locations — such as Louisiana’s Houmas House — where ghost photos are likely.

This is important: Credible ghost photos rarely occur unless other ghostly phenomena are reported, too.

 

Photographing Ghostly Ectoplasm

The following is an edited excerpt from the first edition of Ghost Photography 101, by Fiona Broome.

Ghostly figures in Portsmouth, NH cemetery
Smoke is the #1 explanation for crisp ‘ecto’ photos, like this one.

In the field, the word ectoplasm is often shortened to “ecto” and it’s considered rare. Ectoplasm is a complex and controversial topic.

Ectoplasm seems to be something physical.  People describe it as something that’s visible to the naked eye.  “Sparkles” may be small spots of ectoplasm, or they might be something different, since they don’t usually show up in photos.

Orb photos are popular and almost commonplace. Ectoplasm photos are rare and receive little attention.

In fact, many professional ghost hunters seem to dismiss all “ecto” photos as cigarette smoke.  Is that fair?  From my experiments, the answer is a firm “no.”  It’s remarkably difficult to photograph cigarette smoke.

Like orbs, at least 90% of modern ectoplasm pictures have been taken after dark using flash cameras.  To confuse matters even more, there are many natural explanations for ecto-like forms in photos.

False ectoplasm in photos

Ectoplasm in photos could be, in order of likelihood:

  • Smoke.
  • Breathing, fog or moisture in the air.
  • An odd, reflected light.
  • Hair, insects, dust or pollen.
  • A camera strap.
  • A light leak in a film camera.
  • An error during film processing.

Let’s rule those out, if we can.

Film errors are easy to spot.  Examine the film closely, looking for scratches, splashes, fingerprints or other surface evidence of mishandling during processing.

A light leak in the camera will usually extend beyond the frame of the photo, into the edges of the film.

Insects, dust and pollen usually look more like orbs.  However, hair can be confusing, as can camera straps.

For reflected light to cause an ecto effect, it would have to be very close to the lens… and obvious.

Fog and drifting moisture are usually evident when the photo is taken.  You can usually confirm this with a flashlight; the beam of light will highlight bands of damp air that could appear in photos.

Eerie 'ghost' images in breath, Northfield, NH
Yes, this is what breath looks like in a ‘ghost’ photo, but is that all it is?

Breathing is a problem on chilly nights. It’s easily the #1 reason someone might think “ecto” when they look at a misty photo.  To rule it out, either don’t breathe (or stand close to anyone who is breathing) or don’t take ghost photos on chilly nights or when the dew point is high.

From my experiments, smoke is not likely to cause “ecto” effects.  It’s possible, but not likely.  (Those experiments are illustrated in the book.)

As with fog and moisture, you can usually highlight smoke with a bright flashlight, so you can tell if it’s an issue before you take photos.  If its light is reflected, the smoke will reflect your camera’s flash, too.

With those factors ruled out, we’re left with another mystery:  What are those eerie, misty areas and swirling entities in our photos?

Many professional ghost hunters agree that smoke is the best explanation when we see ethereal, ectoplasmic images in photographs.

Most ghost hunters insist that, even if someone had been smoking 20 minutes earlier, smoke particulate can remain in the air and reflect light, especially light from a flash camera.

If you’re serious about ghost photography and you’ve seen images that look like ectoplasm in your photos, run tests with your own cameras.  Rule out normal effects, first.

I recommend testing in a variety of weather conditions, especially varying levels of humidity.

Take test photos of different kinds of smoke, including smoke from:

  • Cigarettes
  • Pipes
  • Incense
  • Burning wood (like a campfire)
  • Burning paper
  • Matches

If you live near a factory that spews minute particles into the air, take after-dark photos near the factory.  Airports (and traffic paths of low-flying planes) can also contribute particulate matter in the environment.

It may sound like a mantra at this point, but it’s important: Always know what different normal effects look like, before deciding that you’ve photographed anything paranormal.

For locations with particulate matter in the air, check regional environmental websites.  In the United States, you may find helpful information at AirNow.gov and at the EPA website, http://www.epa.gov/air/emissions/where.htm

 

More Test Photos

The following photos are from several years’ tests, trying to create convincing, fake, ghost photos.  As you can see, it’s not as easy as I thought… or as simple as skeptical critics claim.

Spider webs with moisture in them

Some people might confuse the lines for ectoplasm, but most won’t.

  

Damp, foggy morning, using the flash in all photos

As you can see, there were no orbs, even in thick fog.  The third photo (lower left) has something odd in it, but it’s not an orb, as I’d been expecting from so much dampness.

    

     

Hair

In some cases, hair could be confused with light streaks or vortex images.  The color of the hair is the clue. (My hair is auburn.)

However, notice the last of these four photos, at the lower right.  It looks like it has large, overlapping orbs. That’s also a photo of hair; when the light catches it in a certain way, it appears as a series of large, faint orbs.

 

 

Smoke

Frankly, the smoke photos showed almost nothing.  The only way we could get smoke to show up in pictures, consistently, was to use actual stick incense.  The results open some interesting questions.  And, yes, some of these could be mistaken for anomalies.  That of course raises the question: If someone nearby were using incense, wouldn’t a photographer notice the fragrance?

  

  

Pollen

Pollen was very difficult to capture in photos.  Even shaking ragweed directly over the camera lens, the pollen rarely showed up at all.  (See the third photo, in the lower left, where I was shaking the ragweed in front of the lens.) The final photo in this series shows what it looks like to crush the ragweed with your hand, and then sprinkle the pollen in front of the camera lens.  These extremes suggest that pollen is rarely a problem for an experienced ghost photographer.

However, in the few photos where it did show up, it could look similar to orbs with “faces” in them.

Unless you’re standing directly underneath a tree that’s sprinkling pollen, or it’s a very bad night for hay fever, I don’t think pollen is a major concern.  Among the few photos that showed pollen orbs, even fewer were orbs that we’d confuse with actual anomalies.

Is it possible to confuse pollen for an anomalous ghost orb?  Yes.  Is it likely?  No.

  

  

Dust and dirt

Dust particles — from household dust and dust (or dirt) kicked up while walking — were equally difficult to confuse with anomalous orbs.

In the first photo (immediately below this text), that’s a Swiffer duster, caked with dust, that my husband was shaking in front of the lens.  Nothing showed up, except the actual duster.

In the next two photos, you can see orbs and other shapes created by reflected dust.  They’re more likely to be confused with ghost orbs, but I think I took 50 photos to get these results.

The final photo in the dust & dirt series shows what very dry, fine dirt looks like, sprinkled in front of the lens.  This is the same powdery, dusty dirt that could be kicked up by people walking or a car driving past you during an investigation.  It looked almost identical to pollen, but a finer texture.

Keep in mind, all of these particles were sprinkled within three inches of the camera lens.  Few produced images large enough to look like ghost orbs, and other characteristics  — such as a solid, dark dot in the middle, or an irregular, notched circumference — usually don’t match anomalous orbs.  However, a  few dust orbs did look like anomalous “ghost orbs.”  (Some researchers might argue that those few were actual ghost orbs.  After all, most of these photos were taken in haunted cemeteries.)

  

  

Rain

Rain produced such obviously fake results, I don’t think rain is an issue for professional or experienced investigators.  First of all, you’re likely to feel the rain even if you don’t see it right away.  Then, some of the drops reflect such as solid reflection, I doubt that you’d confuse a photo of rain with an actual, anomalous orb.

  

Breath

In my opinion, the number one issue for ghost photographers is breath.  Though these photos were all taken on a winter night, I was able to achieve similar results on a warm summer night when the dew point was high.  These are a few of many photos that show strange forms and mists, the result of exhaling sharply at the exact moment I took each photo.  So, these are extremes.

The third photo (lower left) intrigues me the most.  It’s a fairly benign-looking misty shape.  It could be confused with an actual, ghostly anomaly.

  

  

Before I completed the first edition of Ghost Photography 101, I showed these photos to someone else who’s been studying ghost photos for years.  He insisted that some of the photos did represent ghosts (particularly pictures like the third in the breath series.)

I could see his point, but in my research, if something could be explained by something normal, I have to discount that as a non-anomalous photo.  I’d rather err on the side of caution.

On the other hand, I think we need to explore another possibility:  If we give the spirits something to work with — like breath or incense — should we look to see what the spirits do with it?  After all, that’s not too different than using white noise to give the ghosts sounds to work with, to form EVP.  And, it’s also similar to using a device like a Frank’s Box, ghost box or “shack hack” to give entities sounds and words to use.

I’ll expand on this in the second edition of Ghost Photography 101.

Ghost Orb Sightings – An Overview

Orb sightings occur every day.

Most “ghost orbs” appear in photographs or videos in haunted places. So few people see them floating in mid-air, some researcher speculate that they can only be seen by gifted, psychic people.

What are orbs?

orb-newburyport-illus“Orbs” usually refer to the round, usually translucent, round or ball-shaped images that we sometimes see in photographs.

They’re usually white, but sometimes appear in pastel colors.  Rarely, they manifest as deep, rich and intense colors.

If you look at them closely, a few orbs seem to have faces in them.  Some orbs seem to be made up of tiny facets.  Most orbs appear as milky circles or spheres.

People often call them “ghost orbs,” since they seem to indicate paranormal energy.

However, many orbs in photos can be explained naturally. You can see the pollen in the middle, or the insect. The shape is usually irregular.

It may take you awhile to be able to tell the difference between an orb formed by moisture, a reflection, an insect, etc., but — once you can tell the difference — you’re not likely to confuse them again.

Don’t accept the easy dismissal of all orbs as dust, moisture, etc.  See the photos in my 2013 article, What Is “Paranormal”?, if you think moisture or reflections always produce orbs.

I recommend trying to create fake orbs with your camera, before deciding what’s real and what isn’t.  You may be surprised.

Unexplained orbs… they’re the orb sightings that really interest ghost hunters and paranormal researchers.

Orb sightings and the spirit world

Many people speculate about orb sightings. Some explanations include:

  • Ghosts.
  • Angels.
  • Demons.
  • An energy field indicating a portal opening or closing. (This is still my favorite explanation.)
  • A friendly spirit, manifesting to say hello.
  • A glimpse of “the light” that people describe in near-death experiences.

How to see orbs

The best way to see orbs is to take lots of photos in haunted locations, or places where people have seen (or photographed) orbs in the past.

These may include:

  • Cemeteries
  • Battlegrounds
  • Theatres (or buildings that used to have stage performances)
  • Older hotels
  • Living history museums
  • Historic homes (especially pre-1890 and open to the public)

Take dozens of photos, if you can.  Study them closely for orbs.  Adjust the contrast or lightness of the photo, so you don’t miss anything.

Tips for orb photography

  • austin-orb-bookcoverDay or night, use your camera’s flash.  It is possible to photograph ghost orbs during the daytime (see the orb on my book cover for The Ghosts of Austin, Texas) , but a flash seems to improve results.
  • Always take two or three photos in a row, as quickly as possible and without changing position. See if the same orb or orbs are in all photos; if so, there may be a normal explanation.
  • Save all of your photos until you exactly what to look for: Different colors, sizes, levels of contrast.

Tips for orb sightings

If you’re one of the fortunate few who see orbs floating in mid-air, here are tips to help you see more of them.

  • Practice your orb-spotting skills. With a friend or two, visit known haunted locations.
  • Most people spot orbs around dusk or immediately after it.
  • When you see an orb, have friends take photos of the orb. If possible, also get photos of you with the orb to see if the locations are similar in most photos.
  • Measure the temperature and EMF levels around the orb, if you have the tools to do so.

Orb sightings are a controversial topic in ghost hunting.  However, if you’re fascinated by ghost orbs or find comfort in them, every orb sighting can be very important.

Ghost Orbs – The Overlooked Question

orb-tyngs1-contrast-75Ghost orbs are a controversial topic, even among believers.

Most of us agree that many orbs can be explained as refracted light from moisture, reflective surfaces, insects, pollen or dust. Usually, those “orb” shapes are irregular, or you can see the insect or dot of pollen in the center, dispersing the light from the flash.

Whether all of them are actually that easily explained is another matter.

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

Critical skeptics fall back on the easy answer that every unexplained orb is  just dust.  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.”

But, overlooking that bravado, let’s say that those orbs are “just dust.”

There’s still an overlooked question.  In fact, it can be startling and 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.

SUMMARY

In most cases, ghost hunters dismiss orbs caused by obvious reflective objects such as stop signs, shiny headstones, car lights, insects and rain.

Sure, some orbs are caused by dust particles.  What’s important is this: 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.