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Home of Patti Starr, Certified Ghost Hunter


by Patti Starr, Certified Ghost Hunter

When people send me their photos of orbs and ask me if I think they are spirits I tell them that I need more information before I can just look at a picture and make a decision, especially if the picture contains several orbs. Now, more so than before, there is a great controversy about the presences of orbs in photographs.

Digital cameras produce more orbs because of what photographer refer to as "digital noise" or "hot spots" caused by the flash being too close to the lens. When the flash goes off, it reflects light back to the camera lens as a sphere. That is why you find so many orbs when using digital cameras. Others declare that orbs are merely dust particles, rain droplets, pollen, flying insects, or other contaminants caught too close to the lens.

At first, I didn't think that dust could ever look like a spirit orb... until I tried this experiment. I took my digital camera into a dimly lit room; placed a roll of toilet paper above my camera, about 2 inches away from the lens; scratched on the roll of toilet paper to make dust; then snapped away. Wow, I got some of the most amazing orbs. This was devastating to me, considering the fact that I was so convinced that all orbs were ghosts, spirits or some form of energy.

Since then, I employ many precautions when taking pictures. When buying a digital camera, I make sure that the lens will expand out, away from the flash, so that it will not cause hot spots that result in orbs. I avoid dusty roads, playgrounds and floral areas during pollen season. (Pollen tends to make beautiful yellow orbs). I also avoid rain, snow, fog, and very humid days; moisture droplets make the most perfect orbs and sometimes, even "mist" anomalies. During house cleaning, dust will be afloat for a while after sweeping or vacuuming, causing orbs in photographs, so I use this as a great excuse for not cleaning my house.! (Just kidding!)

I use a one million candle watt flashlight to illuminate areas where I'm going to take pictures or set up my video cameras. If I see a stream of heavy dust particles, especially found in attics or basements, I don't shoot in those areas. You are always going to get some dust because we do not live in a dust free environment. I look for areas that have few dust particles in the atmosphere.

I still believe that some of the orbs caught on film are spirit orbs, captured at just the right moment. When I'm doing an investigation, I take many factors into consideration. If I take a photo and another ghost hunter is shooting in the same area, I get pretty excited if we both capture the same orb anomaly--- same size, same color, and the nucleus is the same. Then, I’m convinced that what we've photographed is not a random dust particle, moisture, pollen or insect.

Other things that I ask myself when trying to determine if we are picking up spirit orbs are: did we get good EMF readings (unexplained changes in the area's electromagnetic field) to suggest a paranormal disturbance; did we register a cold spot; did we get a moving object in our video camera in the same area where we captured the orb photo? If there is other data to substantiate paranormal activity and the light streams are not polluted with dust, then I believe that the anomalies we captured on film are spirit orbs. I am the first to admit that ghost hunting is not an exact science, but I feel that the circumstantial evidence needs to be strongly considered when trying to determine if a place is haunted.

When examining photos for spirit orbs, you can also enlarge the photo to see if the orb is behind an object or if it casts a shadow. This will prove that dust or a foreign particle could not have caused the orb anomaly because of the flash from the camera. If you see an orb behind an object or causing a shadow, go back and measure how far the orb would have been from you when you took the photo. Dust orbs are created when the dust particle is very close to the lens and in no way can dust produce an orb if it is more than 2 feet away from the lens.

The other day, while viewing a ghost investigation on my camcorder, I thought the bright ball of light crossing my viewfinder was just another dust particle; then, I noticed something very significant. As the orb crossed the area that was being filmed, it passed a metal cabinet and caused a reflection as it passed. If I had not seen this, I would have dismissed it as another dust orb instead of a spirit orb. It is often quiet difficult to determine the difference between dust and spirit energy. You have to keep looking for qualities that dust or other contaminates cannot have.

Here is a fun experiment I try when I start getting orbs from my digital camera during an investigation: I have someone stand in the general location where the orbs are appearing. Then, I have them hold out their hands and I ask the spirits to get as close to their hands as they can. If they respond, I get more specific by asking the spirits to go to the left or right hand to see if they understand my request. I have a file full of these types of pictures were the orbs have gone right to their hands as directed. Now, I ask you, can dust do this?

I have also asked spirit orbs to lead me to different locations from where they were first photographed...or to change colors, shape or size. I have been quite amazed when, on some occasions, the orbs seem to grant my requests! Dust, pollen, insects, drops of moisture, etc. simply cannot follow instructions!

I also notice the size and color of the orb so that if I get another one in my next few shots, I check to see if it has the same characteristics as the first orb or orbs. I find it hard to believe that I’m capturing the same identical contaminate in more than one photo.

Speaking of colored orbs, I have receive many questions about the significance of orb colors. Are the red, black, or gray colored orbs a sign that the spirit is evil or demonic? I believe that the color comes from the energy that the spirit is releasing into the atmosphere, very much like showing us its aura, reflecting its personality or mood, not an indication that the spirit is "evil" or "demonic".

I tell my clients that it is impossible for me to determine, just by looking at their photographs, whether the area in which they photographed orbs is haunted or not. The appearance of orbs may be one indication of paranormal activity, but other indicators should--and must--also be considered before concluding that a location is haunted.