Spirit Orb Types (and the Theories Behind Them)

Updated August 5, 2021
Metallic orb reflecting sunset sky

An encounter with an orb can leave you wondering exactly what you just saw. Is it a spirit orb or something else altogether? Many people see spirit orbs in person or in videos and photographs. And while some orbs have real-world explanations, others are more mysterious and may contain messages from the spirit realm.

Spirit Orbs

Many paranormal enthusiasts theorize orbs represent the energy patterns of ghosts or entities. According to the theory, each orb can contain the energy of one or more spirits. This type of ghost orb manifests as glowing spheres of gold, green, blue, or crimson. Based on the size and color of the orbs and what each color represents, people then make guesses about what they encountered and why it happened.

Figure with a glowing head with glowing orbs in a spooky forest

Angel Orbs

Author Debi Chestnut explains the angel theory of ghosts in her book, Is Your House Haunted? Poltergeists, Ghosts or Bad Wiring. Many people believe certain types of orbs are angelic visits. Chesnut points out that some spirit orbs contain a pattern like a spiderweb, and a few even contain faces. There are many orb photos from special family gatherings, worship services, or spiritual places that show the face of a loved one in an orb. Likewise, wedding photos often reveal orbs hovering over a bride or groom. A photo of a newborn may reveal an orb nearby. For those who have experienced them, a visitation from an angel orb is a profound experience filled with love and reassurance from friends or family who have died.

Spirit Guides

Spirit guides may also show up as orbs. These guides from the Divine realm provide you with comfort, advice, and direction to help you serve your higher purpose.

Orbs in Photos and Video

Orb photographs and videos arouse curiosity in even the most hardened skeptic. While many dismiss these orbs as nothing more than pollen, dust, or moisture captured the instant the investigator snapped a picture, others aren't so sure.

Digital Cameras

Paranormal investigators use all types of cameras in their work. While most of these are digital cameras, some investigators are still old school, using film and instant film cameras. Paranormal investigators commonly use digital cameras in the hope of snapping a photo of an apparition or ghost. What they often capture are orbs. In fact, the number and variety of orbs investigators have captured in photos has increased significantly since the introduction of digital cameras. While orbs did appear on traditional film photos, the plethora of orbs from digital cameras is noteworthy and has caused many to conclude the orbs are an artifact of digital photography.

The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) has examined this phenomenon thoroughly and proposes Orb Zone Theory (OZT) to explain why orbs are so commonly captured on camera. The theory relies on a common photographic artifact called a circle of confusion. Circles of confusion are essentially highlights that are out of focus in the image, causing an orb. The orb is created when the camera's lens is out of focus and the object(s) appears to overlap in circles of light.

FujiFilm explains, "The circle of confusion refers to the measurement of a point of light that falls on the focal plane (camera sensor)." When the focal plane lines up with the focal point, the photo subject comes into focus. The FujiFilm website states, "It's this point where the light converges the Circle of Confusion can then be measured."

Man Taking Picture Of Defocused Lights

Circle of confusion-created orbs are often gray or white and translucent, although some can be opaque depending on lighting. Researchers discovered dust, bugs, and other particles can create this illusion as well. Since this type of orb isn't necessarily noticeable in the moment you take a photograph, many paranormal enthusiasts misunderstand how camera lenses work to create them and mistake them for supernatural evidence. Scientists have recreated the same effect by blowing dust particles into areas they photographed, suggesting dust is, indeed, a common culprit when orbs appear in photos.


Orbs also frequently appear in videos. These are often dismissed as nothing more than insects out of focus or dust stirred up by individuals or air currents/breezes. Some investigators' rule of thumb is, if you didn't see it at the time you were shooting the video, the orbs are most likely explainable and aren't paranormal or supernatural in origin. Others contend real orbs generate their own light within the orb itself, so glowing orbs may indicate the presence of a spirit.

Evaluating Energy Orbs

Paranormal researchers approach orbs differently than casual paranormal enthusiasts. Using their protocols can be helpful in evaluating any orbs you find.

Orbs in Photographs

If you notice an orb in a photo, evaluate it carefully.

  • Study each picture and dismiss any questionable anomalies, such as those that may be a result of lens flare, dust, insects, or circle of confusion artifacts.
  • Even if photos seem to have spirit orbs, don't use orbs alone to substantiate claims of paranormal activity. Instead, look for other evidence that occurred at the same time the orb was photographed, such as abnormal EMF readings, electronic voice phenomena, or personal experiences such as sightings of an apparition, disembodied voices, or unusual physical sensations.
  • Investigators use photos of orbs as possible paranormal activity, but don't typically use these as supporting evidence of a haunting.

Orbs You See in Person

Orbs in photographs are one thing, but what about orbs that you see with the naked eye? Some people witness orbs that appear to move with intelligence and purpose. If you're unable to find a logical explanation for these orbs, such as ignus fatuus (also known as will-o'-the-wisp, which is a glowing light caused by gas combustion from organic matter) or lightning bugs, then there may be a paranormal explanation. As ghost hunter and author Troy Taylor notes, there is a distinct difference in an orb and glowing lights seen with the naked eye or on camera. In his book, Ghosts on Film, he discusses how he and other researchers photographed glowing lights. He writes, "Were they ghosts? I don't know, but I can say that I believe the lights were paranormal in origin --- unlike 'orbs'."

Young woman in front of glowing orbs

Understanding Orbs

As photography improves and paranormal researchers use new techniques and equipment, investigators may gain a better understanding of the orb phenomenon. Until then, it's amusing to entertain one or more of the many theories that abound around orb activity. Who's to say which theory is right or wrong?

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Spirit Orb Types (and the Theories Behind Them)