Never Trust ‘Orbs’ Taken On Your Smartphone: Experiments You Can Ttry At Home


MICKEY GOCOOL goes the full Paranormal Blue Peter with these fun experiments to capture fake spirit orbs with your smartphone!

photograph orbs

My name is Mickey Gocool and I am the Founder and Lead Investigator for North London Paranormal Investigations, based in London, UK. I regularly receive calls, emails and social media messages from individuals who believe their homes are haunted. So I am about to share with you a few tell tale signs that you may or may not have a ghost in your house.

Most individuals who contact NLPI are looking for help to understand what is going on in their homes. They are experiencing phenomena and believe it is Paranormal. This belief originates mainly from watching films like “Paranormal Activity” or TV shows where phenomena experienced claims to be paranormal.

In this article, I will explain what “orbs” are and invite you to take part in three experiments using you very own smartphone or device. I’ll explain how to use cameras to record, under controlled conditions. The experiments should be easy to conduct and the results obtained you may wish to share.

What are Orbs?

Most Haunted, the British TV Show, inadvertently started the Orb “craze” many years ago by capturing anomalies on camera and describing them as “orbs”. Viewers would later capture “orbs” on Smartphones ultimately believing they have caught something ghostly too. In fact, Orbs are mainly airborne particulates such as dust, pollen and man made fibres. These particulates are very close to the fixed lens of a smartphone and as such the lens cannot focus on the particle hence giving it an orb like appearance. Lens flare can also be attributed to many reports of “orbs” captured on smartphones usually with the cameras light on illuminating the particle.

Recently, our local newspaper reported that a ghost had been captured dancing above the flames of a bonfire at a local public fireworks display. Again this was purely a camera lens anomaly of the flames themselves with the ghostly effect of it dancing due to the smartphone being handheld and moving around. Which would explain why no one else witnessed the “ghost” except for those viewing the screen at the time. See for yourself:

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Orbs are not readily replicated on expensive cameras with various aperture and focus settings so we can safely say it is a fixed lens attributed phenomena and not a spirit of some wandering soul who long departed this earth. Professional photographers using professional equipment rarely experience “orbs”.

An orbs experiment you can try at home

So you want to test for orbs huh?

Most “orb” footage sent to me for explanations are filmed using smartphones with an individual sitting on a sofa and or a dog/cat in the same room although the scenarios do vary somewhat but the fundamentals are consistent. Air is constantly moving and dust is forever present. Have you ever noticed the dust moving in a shaft of sunlight coming through a gap in your curtains at home?

It is only natural to be concerned about “stuff” moving about your home and captured on camera and some accept the camera lens as the cause. Some individuals will argue that they have a genuine orb capture. I cannot subscribe to this in anyway unless the camera and lens were not of the fixed type which would make the anomaly interesting therefore warranting further investigation.

Ever wondered why attics and basements produce more “orb” footage? The fact is that they are usually the least used spaces and are prone to dust.

So lets get on with the experiments. Note: If you have a smartphone or device that has two cameras built in always use the camera on the rear of your device.

Orb experiment one

This experiment is designed to demonstrate that “orbs” captured on smartphones are usually dust and other airborne particulates.

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What you’ll need

  • Smartphone or smart device with built in camera lens, flash or camera light and screen.
  • A darkened room.

What to do

  1. Position yourself in a room in your home. Your living or bed rooms are ideal
  2. Turn off your main light and have the TV on or a small lamp so you are not completely in the dark. So that we don’t spook ourselves!
  3. Make sure your smartphone is set to record with the flash (camera light) on.
  4. Look at the screen on your Smartphone and monitor it.
  5. Start recording…
  6. Now slap the bed covers or cushions on your sofa or if you are wearing a jumper then shake that for 10 seconds or so.
  7. Remain still and hold the camera steady.


Record and note your observations. What do you see in the screen?

Orb experiment two

This experiment demonstrates that the “orbs” captured on a smartphone are due to the lens itself.
All lenses are circular and so are the “Orbs” captured.

What you’ll need

  • A smartphone or smart device as in Experiment One
  • A small piece of dark coloured card about two centimetres wide and one centimetre tall
  • Stickytape

What to do

  1. Lay your smartphone or device on a clean and flat surface face down so that the rear camera is exposed.
  2. Place the piece of cardboard over half (50%) of the lens using the sticky tape to hold it in place
  3. Using your smartphone in “Record Video” mode repeat Experiment On
How to set your phone up to photograph orbs


Record and note your observations. What do you see on the screen? Try covering 30% of your smartphone or smart devices lens and repeat the experiment. Are there any notable differences observed?

Orb experiment three

Let the dust settle – how to capture genuine ‘spirit orbs’

Controlled conditions. As we are attempting to capture a genuine spirit orb under controlled conditions, it is essential that the air in the room or ideally the property is undisturbed. This means closing all doors and removing pets from the room. Ideally this is a great experiment to conduct whilst you take your dog for a long walk.
If you believe your home is haunted and want to capture a genuine “Spirit Orb” then here is my advice to you for how to do so.

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What you’ll need

  • A smartphone, smart device or video camera with built in or external camera light with the capacity to record an hour worth of footage
  • A tripod or tape to secure camera in place
  • A semi-dark room with windows and doors shut ( The house should also have all windows and doors shut to prevent drafts causing false positives).

What to do

  1. Setup your camera on a tripod or fix it securely where it will not be moved by vibration. Use bluetac or tape to secure your camera to a fixed object if you do not have a tripod.
  2. Set your camera to record with the cameras light on and the rooms lights off
  3. Leave the room. Leave the house if you can would be even better. Ensure the property is empty of any living creatures, pets and humans for best results.
  4. Record for an hour and then return to observe your footage. Allow half an hour at the beginning of the footage for the “dust to settle” and watch the remaining half an hours worth.


Record and note your observations. What are the differences between experiments? Do the orbs captured appear truncated? Do the orbs match the shape of the lens with the piece of cardboard over it?

Tell us your thoughts on Orbs in the comments section below!


    • Dear Neal,
      Delayed response for which I apologise. My knowledge is extensive where it matters and the experiments work. That’s the point. I am certainly able to distinguish between dust, pollen or other airbourne particles. Anything that is anomalous warrants further investigation.
      Too bad for you for missing the point.

  1. Very good article. Concise and exactly details what orbs are and how to make them. Well done. Malcolm Robinson, Founder Strange Phenomena Investigations (SPI)

  2. Do you have pictures of the experiments described above? I would like a “control” to compare to so that I don’t guess if the experiment was successful or not. Thank you!

  3. Okay so. We have video recording equipment (security cameras) set up in the basement. On more than one occasion, we’ve had video footage of what looks like “orbs” or something flying past the camera; no one was in the basement, nor in the house for that matter, the last time it happened. There is no air circulation down there and the cameras are in a set position with motion detectors. I’m just curious to find out if there’s any real activity there or if it’s something else.

  4. Hi Persephone,
    Sorry for the delayed response.

    If you have a sealed room in a domestic setting then dust etc is an obvious culprit.

    Other locations can have bugs or insects which are capable of flight and therefore cause one to look again at the footage.

    From my own experiences, “Orbs” are not round. My team and I often get and orb like anomaly, except that it is “smoke like” and has a very fluid motion to it. This could not be cause by the shape of lens as the “orb” changes shape in a manner that is different from say movement of man made fibres where the shape does not change but just moves.

    I recommend using a lens hood for your video camera as that should prevent most particles from moving very close to the lens.

  5. Hi, I lived in a haunted house in Newbury when I was young me and my 3 sisters and my mum, doors would slam lights would go on and off loud thumping things being thrown all over the place and singing coming from the wardrobe! And ice seen it with my own eyes

  6. I have a photo with one single large orb taken indoors during the morning in a normal temperature environment and in broad daylight (no humidity or dust floating in the air). Also, no flash, and the other photos taken that day with the same camera did not feature any orbs, so no dust particles on the lense either. What’s your take on that? I have no opinion. I wasn’t interested in this stuff before but I do understand things like consistency in order to draw a conclusion. And this photo is not consistent or explainable by anything detailed above.

  7. I’ve been seeing orbs around my colleague on Teams calls recently. They seems to be moving intelligently and always in the same area. One moved really quickly – too quick to be an insect or dust in my opinion.

  8. Hi
    I have a short video taken on an Ring camera at 0330hrs which shows a strange flying object cutting through the blackness, dissapearing then reappearing as if a shooting star. I could do with an expert eye looking this over as no one i’ve shown this video to has any real idea of what it is ….

  9. I took a video of my husband whilst playing archery. When I watched the video back there was a large black object flying through the sky which none of us saw at the time. Didn’t look like the usual orbs I’ve seen on my phone. Would you review it?


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