Debunking the Dust: Orbs Aren't Evidence of Life After Death

It may yet be possible for the paranormal community to capture the image of a full-bodied apparition digitally on video or on filmCircling the drain, though, is a concept in the unproven, Fortean arena that orbs are souls, and that they can be recorded on physical mediaAccording to Backscatter Photography, an orb is an optical phenomenon that produces round, oval artifacts on an image—the consequence of a camera’s flash reflecting off unfocused dust motes, vapor droplets, and frequently insectsThis defect is particularly evident in modern ultra-compact digital camerasOrbs are a paranormal mythWhile they are prevalent, and often repeatable, data of this sort comprises a false positiveThere is no documentation in Holy Scripture, or in physical science to indicate that these are surviving personalities. From antiquity until now, the question of whether the dead can return and haunt the living has been a topic of sizeable debate. Christian theology generally teaches that the deceased have moved onto judgement and are barred from the realm of the livingOthers point to 1 Samuel 28:3-5 where the sorceress received a visitation from Samuel as evidence that some form of contact is possible.

The paranormal Reality TV league has been behindhand in its insistence that their research is empirical, and that orbs are demonstrably souls—to the point where they seem to commend the viewer to treatises, and dissertations that don’t existThere is a theory that spirits are electromagnetic, they say; published studies have been written on dislocated consciousness, and light refraction, they perorateTypically, there is no substance to these claims, but they do bolster their many indiscriminate true believers, and the ratings and advertising revenue have been augustThere appears to be great evidence for everyone except the scientist or serious Christian researcher.  The scientist and Christian researcher do have a theory though. Their theory is that what these "ghost hunters" are seeing is simply dust.

The fascination with orbs seems to have taken root in the eighteenth-century sightings of ball lightning, a rare, airborne phenomenon in the form of a radiant sphere several centimeters in diameterClosely related to ground lightning, the discharge usually accompanies a thunderstorm. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the occurrence does exist, but the problem lays in the superstitious interpretation assigned to it. Ball lightning is in fact high density plasma interacting with microwave radiationIn her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of seeing it while living in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. There is no reliable data to indicate human intelligence, and unlike most orb accounts, Ball Lightning could conceivably crash through a window, melt objects, and start fires. 

There is no testimony in the Gospel, nor in the annals of scholarship to indicate that orbs are ghostsMany professional photographers dispose of the photos or analogue film rolls where these flaws appear.  Current iPhone technology has ongoing problems with green lens flares caused by the reflection between the light source and elements on the lens.  Fortunately, the age of digital photography has provided the skill to remove these defects with assets of remedial software—loading images onto programs like Adobe Lightroom, and healing tools in Photoshop Fix.  Creating orbs for fun can be an interesting exercise tooTo do so, stand near any heat register where the furnace filter is clogged, likewise a lit fireplacePhotograph a busy, dusty gravel parking lot in July or August and you are guaranteed to capture a legion of orbs.  You can also simulate orbs with cigarette smoke, and by abrasively rubbing a wad of Kleenex near a lens aperture

Be aware though; waiting for paranormal activity will predictably lead to disappointment. 

Tracy Garnett holds a BA in English, with a minor in Radio & Television from Northern Kentucky University. He also holds certification in Parapsychology from the Koestler Unit at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a trained Lay Demonologist with the Fraternity of Christ the King.


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