Originally posted to Chicagoland Ghost Club on 11/23/00


First off, let me qualify the rest of this by saying that I do not hold the opinion that orb pictures are definitely not evidence of paranormal activity. That being said, I've done some very rudimentary experimentation, mostly by accident, on capturing orbs in
pictures. The hardest part of any experimentation in the supernatural is the difficulty in controlling variables. As most of
us realize, we're lucky if the "variables" don't control us. I have a feeling I might take some heat on this, so let me further preface
this with the disclaimer that I don't consider myself a Ghost Hunter. Especially in the initial stages, they found me. I'm more
interested in the stories, the chill factor of which is enhanced with even the slightest evidence. And, often on my jaunts, I take little more with me than a digital camera. Bottom line, I'm lazy, cheap and hate dealing with Walgreen's photo finishing centers. A well written article which I whole heartily agree with on how digital cameras are a Paranormal Don't was written by Troy Taylor and can be found at the URL below.

I've seen it stated in some web sites that "no natural phenomena" could have caused the glowing orbs caught within a snap shot.
However, I have been able to reproduce the effect using natural phenomena and have also reproduced the effect with a controlled variable.

My first trip to Bachelor's Grove produced a photo with a series of these orbs trailing up from the Newman gravestone (URL listed below). It had been raining heavily that day, but had tapered off by the time I went into the cemetery. Still, the trees were heavy with water. While I was elated with the seeming success, I did have serious reservations that they were not some trick of the camera, no matter how inadvertent. I was using an Olympus D-320L camera borrowed from the university I was working for at the time. On these cameras, the automatic flash setting is the default whenever the camera is turned on. Although it was too bright for me to notice whether or not the flash had gone off, it very well may have. I began a series of tests trying to reproduce the effect. That night I took pictures of water trickling at various speeds from a faucet, of mist from a spray bottle, even stood in the shower, both pulse and message, but couldn't get the same result. The weather the next day was much the same. From my window at work, I noticed the rain was falling in the same heavy drops as on the previous day. I tore outside, and took some random shots. Much to my dismay, the orbs appeared again.

Since then, I've purchased my own Olympus D-220L off of e-bay. A good bargain for what I paid for it, and about all I could afford. The lens is terrible, but beggars can't be choosers. However, it makes a good pocket camera, and it's usually with me. Driving down Lake Shore Drive, and just crossing the Chicago River, the moon was just rising over Navy Pier in a clear and cloudless sky. I pulled to the side of the bridge and tried to get some shots. The first shot, right after the camera was turned on, flashed. Knowing that wouldn't get the distant light, I turned off the flash, and took another picture just a few seconds later. Place, equipment, subject all the same, the only variable being the flash. Although the moon was too distant for the lens, the pictures showed distinct orbs with the flash and no orbs without.

When the flash feature is turned off, the camera adjusts to take in more light. These images are directly from the camera and have not been altered in any way.


I fully realize that this leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Could it just be the nature of digital photography, more specifically, a poor quality Olympus that caused this?This is entirely possible, however if this camera is the extreme end of the spectrum, and the effect could be controlled, then it is logical that cameras with different lenses and under different circumstances might fall somewhere within this spectrum and therefore catch less orbs. However, the orbs that they did catch may very well be from the same source.

Could the flash or other light sources actually be picking up paranormal objects? Of course this is possible, but a mundane reason is more likely. The only way to find real proof is to reproduce their capture WITH FILM in conjunction with data from other instruments (like readings from an EMF meter) either indicating that anomalies are present or not.

How do we explain photographs both digital and film that have captured orbs in broad daylight without the use of a flash?
If a flash bulb could produce this effect in a picture but not to the naked eye, then it is equally possible that other sources of light, both ambient and artificial could produce the same effect. We've all seen photos where sunlight creates a mirrored image on the lens of the camera. There could be particles floating in the air that could also reflect light into the lens. The effect may be less likely with other light sources, which may explain the discrepancy between the amount of night orbs verses the amount of day orbs caught.

How do we explain orbs caught on video that float from one location to another? I've also found in Bachelor's Grove, on clear evenings, that the amount of orbs I've captured tend to increase depending on how close I am to the pond. Pictures taken directly over the pond produce the most orbs. It may be any number of things from droplets of evaporated water (which might explain the Chicago River) to pollen. Each may be caught in the slightest wind and not necessarily move straight up, but even sideways and down.

Please understand that I sincerely hope I am completely wrong. I would love to find a way of capturing on a physical medium something from the beyond. What I've found is far from definitive proof for or against orb photography. If I seem critical of anyone's work or efforts, I hope it is understood that I am only attempting to hone down the possibilities. Paraphrasing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, if we deduct all the impossibilities, then the last possibility, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

With deepest respect to all searching for the Improbable Truth,
C.T. Thieme

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URLs Cited:
Digital Cameras - or Ghost Hunting at it's Worst
Bachelor's Grove - First Expedition (update coming soon!)
Lake Shore Drive Shots