Friday, 23 March 2012

Dustbusting Ectoplasmic Orbs

First, yay for getting to use the word ‘ectoplasm’.  It’s just fun and doesn’t come up nearly often enough in general conversation.

I’ve been watching My Ghost Story which deals with people who have experienced paranormal activity.  They often document it with cameras, voice recorders, etc.  I believe in ghosts and spirits but I’m a skeptic about the evidence collected.

Especially orbs.

For those who don’t know, an orb is a round glowing object which appears on film.  It is often invisible at the time of recording, appearing only on the photograph or video.  They are supposed to be evidence of a spirit’s energy.  But there’s a problem.

Dust can reflect the light, creating glowing spheres.  If it’s close to the camera, it can appear quite large.  It can also change direction suddenly, appear and disappear as it rides the air currents.  If you want to create a photo with orbs, just make sure you have some light shining past your camera.  If you want to guarantee it, don’t vacuum for a few days beforehand. 

That’s all it takes.  I have a great deal of respect for the show Ghost Hunters because they rarely accept photos of orbs as evidence.

On a recent episode of My Ghost Story, one of the investigators showed footage of what he claimed was a string orb which floated near him and then went back and forth in front of the camera a few times before disappearing.  He’s talking about how the changes in direction show intelligence and is very excited over what he calls the ‘weight’ of the orb.  It’s not just a little ball but has a tail.

I’m watching it and it looks like a tiny scrap of hair floating on the air in front of the camera.  I’ve watched dust (not proud but I can zone out with the best of them) and hair or fibre scraps will do those kind of little barrel rolls.  The ‘orb’ in the images never goes behind anything which would give us an impression of distance so there’s nothing to disprove it wasn’t right in front of the camera.

The investigator was talking about impressions he had, cold spots and a sense of presence.  I believe those can be evidence of spirits.  Or drafts and high electromagnetic fields, which mess with our senses.  That’s the difficulty with paranormal investigation.  Tracking down ghosts in a lab hasn’t worked well.  We can’t be sure what the difference is between evidence for natural and supernatural phenomena because we can’t distinguish them for sure.

Some day, I think we’ll figure out what’s going on.  But if we’re going to, we need to do serious scientific research about it.  Too many investigators indulge in predestined thinking.  We know it’s haunted therefore any evidence we collect must be evidence of a haunting.  You can’t do research that way.

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