How to Identify a Real Ghost Orb

Karen Frazier
Contributor Susie McGee
Artistic concept image of a ghost orb

Those familiar with ghost hunting often look for ghost orbs, or balls of energy, that appear in photographs or to the naked eye. It's important to consider many factors before identifying the object as a ghost orb.

What Is a Ghost Orb?

Most people associate wispy apparitions with the term ghost, but people who really search for these elusive beings often look for ghost orbs instead. An orb is just what the word implies; it's circular, much like a globe. In fact, orbs are often referred to as globes or globules. These balls of light can come in a range of sizes and illumination, with some barely visible and others brightly glowing. However, before you get too excited thinking about the ghost orb you witnessed recently, keep in mind seeing an orb doesn't necessarily signify that a ghostly spirit is nearby.

"A few months ago I encountered a darkish blue coloured orb around late night, roughly 11:30pm. I was sat in a middle room and saw this orb lurking around me. I tracked it as it moved and reached out to touch. I felt a coldish chill briefly around my legs and then nothing." - Reader comment from M

Spiritual Ghost Orbs

It is theorized a true ghost orb is one of a spiritual nature. Are these the exact spirits of the dead? Some people believe so. In fact, people who follow this theory believe that when they see an orb, they are actually viewing a deceased person's soul. There are others who don't believe these spheres are actually individual spirits, but instead hosts to many spirits, all contained within the pulsating light that forms an orb. Still others believe that while these orbs are spirits, they never belonged to a human body, believing instead that they are evidence of the spiritual side of nature. Others do not believe orbs are ever spiritual or ghostly in nature.

How Important Is Shape?

How can you positively identify an orb as a ghost? There really isn't a definitive answer since you are dealing with the spiritual world. Those who believe these spheres have ghostly origins think an orb is the form a spirit takes on as it moves about. Why a circle? There are various reasons associated with the belief that a globe or orb can house a spirit.

  • A circle encloses the spirit.
  • A circle can house more than one spirit.
  • It is easy for a circle or orb to travel.
  • The circle is a common shape associated with nature, such as the moon and the sun.
  • The circle represents eternity, which is forever for the soul.

This brings us back to the importance of shape. True spiritual orbs are easily confused with common everyday items, especially in photographs. Many people base their beliefs that they've come in contact with a ghost solely on evidence gathered through pictures. Unfortunately, these so-called orbs for the most part aren't ghostly at all.

"I woke up to go to the bathroom. I laid flat on my bed before rolling out. I noticed a small light coming across my ceiling. It hovered above me for a second, like saying bye. It was 3 to 4 inches round, Had a gold ring about 1 inch. Inside were several dots of lights. Many colored dots. Had a glow around it with a stream behind it." - Reader comment from Ronald

True or False

Have you ever taken a photograph of dust? Before you enter the world of ghost hunting, you really need to do a few trial runs with your camera. Raindrops, snow flakes, and, most common of all, dust particles can all take on the appearance of an orb when shot with a camera. If you truly want to discern the difference between a real ghost and common everyday objects, you'll need to take photos of a variety of things that could be perceived as orbs.

Pollen or dust orbs
  • Shake out a throw rug, and take photos of the dust particles.
  • Stand under a tree in the spring and shoot pictures of pollen as it blows in the wind.
  • Take a variety of pictures of rain at various times during the day to capture the rain's changing appearance.
  • Take pictures outdoors and notice how bugs and moths in motion often appear as orbs.
  • If you change cameras during your quest for ghostly pictures, be sure and take lots of trial shots again to become familiar with how your new camera handles pictures of dust, water droplets, etc. Many ghost hunters prefer using a 35mm camera over a digital one.

The key to discovering a real spirit is to know how to spot a fake orb. You can only do this if you have both to compare. Once you've accumulated a collection of orbs created by nature, you'll be better able to discern the real deal from a false appearance.

"... I see a large orange-ish orb before she tries communicating. This orb is bigger than a basketball which tells me she's still a protector of the house and the property." - Reader comment from Scotty Miller

The Real Deal

Now that you are familiar with how your camera shoots common items, what should you look for in a genuine apparition?

Tree with multicolored orbs
  • Singular orb: If dust or raindrops are in the air, they will more than likely show up in multiples, but a single orb may be real.
  • Pulsing orb: A pulsing, bright orb that appears to vibrate may actually hold a spiritual life. Obviously if you are taking still shots, you won't catch this, but if you see one of these in the room, try to record it on video.
  • Contrails: True orbs often leave a trail behind them as they move across the room. Look for this in photographs as well.
  • Its own light source: Keeping in mind camera flashes cause reflections, if an orb emits its own light source, it may be worth checking out further.
  • See it with the naked eye: If you can see an orb with your naked eye, it may be a spirit orb.
  • Deliberate movement pattern: An orb you see with your naked eye or appearing on video that seems to have a deliberate movement pattern (as opposed to a random pattern a bug might fly in or a drifting pattern such as dust), it may be worth more investigation.

Identifying Ghost Orbs

There aren't any clear criteria for determining whether an orb is ghostly in nature. However, by carefully evaluating conditions, what you saw, and the way the orb appears, you may get a better idea of its cause.

How to Identify a Real Ghost Orb