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The Great Orb Debate


Aside from the mere existence of ghosts and spirits, the single greatest debated topic in the field of paranormal investigation is...ORBS. Orbs are spherical objects that are not visible to the naked eye, yet appear in still and video images. It is the belief of some investigators that these spheres are the spirits of those who have passed and remain among the living. The Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators (CCPI) believes that the vast majority of these images can be rationally and scientifically explained.

We at CCPI have developed an acronym for the word ORBS:

  • Ordinary

  • Random

  • Bits (of)

  • Stuff


Let’s take a look at the single-most common orb culprit: dust. Dust is everywhere. Dust is any small particle that can be carried by an air current. It can be comprised of dead skin cells, dirt, fabric fibers (denim is the biggest contributor), cigarette or fireplace soot, dead plant matter, food debris, or even bug feces. Grossed out yet? Even if you can’t see it on hard surfaces, it’s still there. The majority of dust particles are microscopic and are not visible until combined with millions of other particles to form a visible layer. Unless you’re in a “clean room” where microchips and the like are manufactured, you’re going to encounter dust.

Another culprit of orb phenomena is pollen! What is pollen exactly? Pollen is the airborne part of plant reproduction. When two plants really love each other and they want to make a baby plant.... All kidding aside, pollen is the genetic material from male plants that is used to fertilize female plants. Plants release billions of pollen spores into the air with the hope that some find their destination, thus propagating the species. While some pollen spores are visible to the naked eye and are a real nuisance on car windows and sinuses, most are not visible and could potentially appear in your investigation photography.

Third on the list is water vapor. Even if it is not raining, snowing, or humid when you take your picture, there was still water vapor in the air. How? You, the photographer, are breathing. With every breath, you expel millions of microscopic water molecules into the air. If you want to guarantee no water vapor orbs in your photos, it is recommended that you stop breathing for at least five minutes prior to taking your photo to ensure all water vapor has dispersed.

The final common culprit is swamp gas. Swamp gas (a.k.a. bog gas or marsh gas) is the result of trapped fermentation and decomposition gasses from plant and animal matter. When a plant or animal dies, if the decaying process isn’t properly ventilated, the resulting gasses can build up and eventually escape. The smell is not at all pleasant and it’s flammable! This gas also contains microscopic molecules that can be captured on film as orbs.

One additional culprit is the presence of bugs. While bugs can appear as orbs, the presence of their wings are more frequently perceived as evidence of fairies, not ghosts.

So, if all of these examples are not typically visible to the naked eye, how do they appear in photographs and video as orbs? Today’s cameras - digital cameras in particular - are hypersensitive in order to capture the best quality photo possible. They are designed to pick up the tiniest details, which makes for great photographs unless those pesky orbs are present. One way to help eliminate “orbs” in your day to day photographs is to eliminate the flash if possible. The light from a camera flash will reflect off of any surface and if there is dust, pollen or water molecules close enough, it’s going to reflect off of them and give you a nice, shiny orb in your photo.

But my orb was blue (or orange, or green, or pink...)Orbs are not auras. There is no known “meaning” behind a particular orb color. More often than not, your orb color is merely reflecting the color of a nearby object that is of the same color. If you’re taking a photo of a person wearing blue jeans and the “orb” in your photo appears blue... The next time you get a colored orb in a photo, look closely at the rest of the photo. Remember, light can reflect from surfaces at any given angle as long as there’s nothing to impede it.

But the orb in my video changed direction and there was no wind or other detectable air current... Were you breathing? Were you or someone else moving within the room? Remember Newton’s First Law: “An object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.” A dust particle is so light that it can ride infinitely on the tiniest of air currents. Thanks to Sir Isaac Newton, we know that an object - even an air current is not going to stop moving until something stops it or changes its direction. Even when you breathe or move your arm, you are affecting the air currents within a room. A closed room with no people in it still has air moving within unless all air vents, doors, windows, and other access points are completely sealed off.

But I saw a face in the orb! Have you ever looked at a singular piece of dust under a microscope? One singular dust molecule contains more valleys, crevices, and craters than the surface of the moon and the Grand Canyon COMBINED! Combine this fact with the phenomenon known as pareidolia, apophenia, or anthropomorphizing - more commonly known in the paranormal field as matrixing. This is fancy terminology for the brain’s ability to find familiarity in unfamiliar objects - it tricks the eyes into seeing what isn’t there. If you look hard enough, eventually your brain will make you think there is something rational to be found in the material you’re looking at. Kind of like Where’s Waldo puzzles...without Waldo.

To initially be a believer in orb phenomena is normal for most investigators. Before CCPI was officially formed, we investigated an indoor location and used a video camera for the first time. (This may give you an indication of how long ago this was.) We set up the camera and left the room with all lights on because we did not have night vision. We would come back in every thirty minutes to change out the tape. The following night when we reviewed the footage, we were amazed by the number of orbs that were buzzing our heads when we would enter the room. At the time, we had no knowledge of dust orbs and were (albeit temporarily) convinced it was various spirits doing an ethereal dance with us when we would come in to change out the tapes. We stayed up all night glued to the VCR/TV - convinced we had just captured proof of the existence of ghosts. With further knowledge and experimentation, we later learned that we were stirring up the dust in the room when we would enter and exit and that was being captured on the video footage, but it was and remains to this day, the most fun we’ve ever had analyzing investigation footage!

The general rule for CCPI today is: unless it is visible to the naked eye or casts a significant shadow, it’s more than likely a common dust/pollen/vapor orb and can be dismissed as such.


-Clarissa Vazquez
Founder, Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators
© 2017 Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators.




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