Orbs – a load of balls, or could they REALLY be ghosts after all?

Ok chaps – orbs.

We all know they are a reflection caused by the flash hitting a particle and doing something technical but quite explicable, that results in little circles on your digital photos.

Dust, not ghosts.

I have been saying this since series 2 of Most Haunted,and I said to Phil, Karl and Yvette that orbs were dust.. (Series One I was holding out for a possible thoughtographic explanation – Andrew Oakley of Parasoc gave the first technical/optical explanation of orbs as dust. I had previously been confused by having taken many hundreds of digital photos in dusty locations for work, with never an orb appearing. A change in chip architecture was the missing explanatory factor here.)

My early scepticism about orbs arose from the fact they did not appear on non-digital pictures (with a few exceptions, but they may not be classic orbs), are not visible to the naked eye,an that they enter the history of ghosts in the 90’s with few if any precursors – I think BOLS (balls of light) can usually be distinguished from orbs, as BOLs are visible to the naked eye.

However my rigorously sceptical brain today made me think “Is dust an adequate explanation?” Parasoc did series of trials (I was not present) on making orbs appear in specified places, and got results which seemed to show orb/mind interaction – but they were suggestive only, and they have not yet as far as I know tried to replicate the effects. Odds are they were just random chance, and will not be repeatable.

I am also pretty much 100% certain dust is what causes orbs. The question, and it is a much bigger question the more i think about it, is does the dust origin actually rule out a ghost involvement, or a paranormal on, in the positioning of that dust? It clearly does not:  yet the dust/spirit issue is constantly presented as “one or the other” – yet both COULD be involved. We have been conned in to a false choice:  but actually dust makes perfect sense as an agent for psi events, being small and easily manipulable by psychokinesis– if such exists, and also moving dust would be within the capacity one assumes of the puniest spirit’s “energy level” 🙂

Dust moves on air currents, which might show a ghosts presence, and dust is a fine agent which was used historically along with smoke and incense for giving invisible spirits form in the ritual magick practice of “evocation to visible appearance.”

So why one or the other? That is just sloppy thinking. Occam’s Razor suggests dust alone, but Occam’s Razor is frequently dangerously misleading. So are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or should you take my argument with a pinch of dust? 🙂

cj x


About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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10 Responses to Orbs – a load of balls, or could they REALLY be ghosts after all?

  1. Tom Ruffles says:

    No, the existence of dust obviously doesn’t rule out the involvement of ghosts, but I can’t see that orb photographs help either. The fact that so many people present what they think are ghost images is irrelevant. Surely the key factor is getting an entity, if it is there, to communicate using the dust. To use dust as a medium you’d need to set up a signalling protocol and means of capturing the dust conveying information (oh, and a way of determining that any effect was caused by the target entity and not bystanders). Digital still cameras aren’t going to be enough.

    I suppose the problem with the dust explanation, compelling though it is, is that as you can’t link every orb in a photograph to a particular mote in the air when it was taken, there is always the possibility that a particular orb effect had another cause. But I feel inclined to go with Bill ‘the Razor’ on this one.


  2. Chris Jensen Romer says:


    Ah, some one responded to my playful and slightly tongue in cheek challenge! Actually not just dust; pollen, water droplets, reflective surfaces, all manner of things can cause orbs. The Parasoc challenge was to get Orbs to spells out message in English like “I’M NOT DUST” or better still “THE MONEY IS BURIED UNDER THE OLD TREE”.

    I would generalize though from the point I’m making here – we know people photography “orbs”, but that tells us nothing for or against the existence of paranormal dust movements. :)That may seems a ridiculous point, till I take ti to the next sate of my argument – “people see ghosts, but we know sane and well people hallucinate”. Just seeing a “ghost” does not actually tell us much – only if the ghost coincides with some other relevant event, or is witnessed by multiple witnesses, or there is a number of related sightings in a short ime, or the apparition conveys new information unknown to the percipient is there actually a real interest I think from a psychical research perspective – the famous veridical cases.

    Most ghost groups seem to be interested in seeing, experiencing the haunt directly. I don’t think that tells us much more than witnessing orb photos does. Given sufficient expectation, misperception might just confirm a previous but non-paranormal hallucination. We need to look for veridical cases,a nd we need to look for veridical orbs, for if they exist, and as I say if one holds to the possibility of psychokinesis they should, then we may actually find something of interest.


    You get my general drift Tom?
    cj x

  3. Tom Ruffles says:

    You get my general drift Tom?

    Yeah, some things never change.

  4. Balders says:

    It would a be shame and amusingly ironic if the only physical interaction ghosts had was to influence the path of dust particles such that they ended up in the right position for you to take a photograph of them.

  5. Tom Ruffles says:

    “??? In what sense? I’m still very silly? ”

    Uh, smug, patronising, condescending, were the words that actually sprang to mind, but silly will do.

  6. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    I’m no sure how. I was agreeing with you, and expanding upon your point. Hardly patronizing? My suggestion that dust might form a medium for ghost manifestation however is silly. And I’m certainly not smug or condescending, you know that!
    cj x

  7. Tom Ruffles says:

    Sorry, apologies then Chris, that was harsh – there is always a problem determining tone; it sounded as if you were making fun of what was intended to be a serious point, but I guess not. I must try harder not to get involved in blog discussions.

  8. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    No Tom, entirely my fault. No I thought your point was the critically important one, which is why I developed it in my response – we really did try with parasoc the experiment of trying to get orbs to appear in certain places, or to communicate by forming letters, just to test the hypothesis. In fact as I posted this on the Parasoc website, Stephen Atty’s comment there is worth citing

    “I think it all comes down to being impartial again CJ. I think the “orbs are the first stage of manifestation” stance frankly casts the whole field of paranormal investigation in an extremely bad light. I would say that 99.99% of orb photos are dust, as is most video footage. But I’ve witnessed video footage with orbs going “against” the predominant current. Now it might just be down to the complexities of air currents in a building, or maybe its something not totally explainable. I’ve also taken photos were we’ve got orbs to appear on command in specific places, now maybe that’s just down to luck, and possibly a dusty room.

    I think what makes people go for the manifestation idea is that quite often the orbs appear in almost “staged” locations, hovering over the shoulder of the bride at a wedding when their father is dead, and so on. So its almost guilt by association really.”

    I think there is general agreement dust is not paranormal in the slightest, and i agree my suggestion is therefore silly. Yet the possibility that dust might not be subject to PK, or form a medium for a “spirit” to manifest remains – hence my absolute agreement when you wrote

    “Surely the key factor is getting an entity, if it is there, to communicate using the dust. To use dust as a medium you’d need to set up a signalling protocol and means of capturing the dust conveying information (oh, and a way of determining that any effect was caused by the target entity and not bystanders)”
    and my subsequent comments on how this returns us to the classic problem of apparitions, veridical versus non-veridical cases. I thought that was your point, and I expanded on it.

    Pictures of orbs show us nothing but the presence of dust – they are akin to pictures of ouija boards, or pictures of Alec Harris or Stewart Alexander or whoever. The message not the medium is the vital bit – and as no one disputes the existence of dust, we may have to look a little deeper, which I thought as i said was your meaning.

    My often playful tone may mask the seriousness of the point, but I don’t see any disagreement here. I wonder – I know ASSAP did some superb work on orbs, as did DAve Wood’s bunch with their fabulous Orb Project. But an explanation for the mechanism for the phenomena in no sense remove the possibility of it being used for paranormal information transfer and i’m worried by the tendency to laugh at all orb photos and just dismiss those who mention them as crackpots. That really is smug and condescending, and I don’t think we should go there…

    Still your comment did sting! Was I really a smug and condescending child back in the SPR of the early 90’s? I thought I was neurotic, and frequently nervous as quite shy! I just talk loudly as at conference when excited or puzzled!

    And do keep up the blog discussions – I wish I had time to read more 😦

    cj x

  9. Shangkala says:

    Where’s the ORBS pics?
    But its ok. To find more information, we’d like to share our ORBS experience :

    Hopefully useful for your journey 😉


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