Mysterous Ghostly Orbs Perplex Researchers

by Hazel Courteney

“Below is the unedited copy of the feature I wrote that appeared in the Daily Mail in July 2007.”

Could strange spheres of light offer proof of the spirit world?

orbs1Tens of thousands of ordinary people around the globe are reporting mysterious spheres of light known as orbs, which have started appearing on their digital photographs. A few scientists are taking this phenomenon seriously and incredibly claim to have found evidence of beings from other dimensions.

The world’s first conference on the Orbs Phenomenon took place in May this year in Sedona, Arizona – where several scientists controversially stated that orbs, spherical or circular objects that are appearing on digital pictures – demonstrate good evidence of ‘other worldly’ life forms. Their conclusions, if correct, could have huge implications for the way we view our universe and our part in it.

Dr Klaus Heinemann, a former research professor at Stanford University, who now does research in fluid dynamics and nanotechnology under contract for NASA, the American space agency says ‘My first encounter with orbs was in September 2004, when I noticed a bright, clearly defined small circle of light on several pictures that I had taken at a gathering of spiritual healers. When I first saw the spheres, like thousands of people I presumed they were due to dust particles, flash anomalies, water particles and so on. But I was sufficiently intrigued, that I quickly returned to the room in which the pictures were taken in the hope of finding a rational explanation. None was forthcoming’.

As a scientist with considerable experience in sophisticated electron microscope techniques which examine down to atomic levels of optical resolution, Heinemann decided to try and discover the cause of the mysterious circles. He began taking hundreds of digital photographs at random events to see what happened. Apparently, high definition digital technology can enhance the appearance of something that would otherwise at very low contrast, not previously have been visible on older type cameras, hence why Heinemann states that we are now witnessing this new phenomenon.

Heinemann soon realised, following advice from a psychic friend, that if he “asked” the orbs to appear on his pictures, they appeared more regularly. Becoming ever more fascinated; he set up dozens of experiments, including using two cameras on a tripod under controlled scientific conditions. His early experiments found that orbs can move very fast, up to 500mph or more, so in order for him to obtain clear pictures the orbs needed to remain still, which at times they did. According to Heinemann this implies some level of conscious intelligence.

Although remaining sceptical at the possibility of such a conclusion, Heinemann also found that during his numerous dual camera experiments, orbs would often appear, but only randomly in one or the other of the two images simultaneously taken with the two separate cameras. The orbs, he says, literally choose which camera to appear on, or indeed whether to appear at all!


Eventually Heinemann concluded that he was witnessing intelligences from other realties adding ‘Until now there has been a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that the spirit world exists, and I believe it’s no longer anecdotal as thanks to digital technology we can now see it. We are dealing with non-physical, albeit real, phenomena.’

Why, you may wonder would an accredited scientist make such outlandish statements which some scientists might dismiss as ‘nonsense’? To help answer this question, Professor William Tiller, a theoretical physicist who spent 35 years researching consciousness and matter at Stanford University in California, reminded us that what we see with our physical eyes comprises less then ten percent of the universe. This is because human vision operates only within a limited range of the electromagnetic spectrum. For instance, we cannot see radio waves which carry huge amounts of information – yet we know they exist.

Miceal Ledwith, a former Professor of Theology, who for ten years was President of Maynooth College, at the University of Ireland, reminds the sceptics that in 1861 when Dr Ignaz Semmelweis demonstrated that when physicians went from performing autopsies to delivering babies, without washing their hands, there was a high rate of infant mortality. His mainstream colleagues ridiculed him. Yet he had found evidence of what later became known as bacteria.

‘Most great discoveries throughout history have been initially ridiculed. To my mind, there is no doubt that the orbs phenomenon is real and deserves to be taken seriously. There are not just a few pictures of orbs, which could easily be faked, but hundreds of thousands from all over the world.’

Ledwith, a theologian with 30 years experience, did not join this debate lightly saying ‘I first heard about orbs in 2002 when I attended a spiritual school in America as part of my ongoing research into the thousands of doctrines, beliefs and religions currently practised. The orbs quickly became a fascinating scientific study.’

To date Ledwith, who was also a member of the International Theological commission at the Vatican has a collection of over 100,000 orb pictures. ‘They come in all shapes and sizes ranging from a few inches to several feet across. Sometimes they appear alone and at others I have photographed hundreds of them in colours ranging from white, to blue, green, rose and even gold. Over time I realised that a flash seemed to be essential, even in daylight because I believe we see the orbs through a process known in physics as fluorescence. The camera flash sparks this fluorescence process that makes the orbs visible to the camera. It’s also more effective to take pictures in the same place every day and with the same camera.’


During lectures on orbs, Ledwith has been approached by people who state they are communicating telepathically with the spirits within the spheres, but says there is no validation as yet for such claims. He cautions ‘To say the orbs are spirits of the deceased is an oversimplification and far more research needs to be done. I believe they could be many things. Indeed, they may turn out to be the spirits of those who have passed on, or, as some spiritual teachers state, they might be spirits waiting to be born into a physical body.

They may also be, or represent a host of other intelligences, from nature spirits, to beings of pure energy that have never incarnated in a physical form. There are literally hundreds of types of orbs.’

John Pickering, an illustrator and his partner Katie Hall who live in the Lake District agree with Miceal. They first saw orbs in their photographs back in 2002 and soon began taking more pictures. Orbs quickly became more than a hobby.

‘It’s rather addictive’ says Pickering – for the first year or so we saw hundreds of different types of orbs, but then we started seeing other beings. Some looked like archetypal fairies and nature spirits whilst other orbs seemed to be able to swirl into various shapes that looked like angels. You can more of their work on: and their book Beyond Photography (O Books) shares some of their amazing experiences and lots more pictures of the orbs.

The consensus from the scientists currently studying this phenomenon is that the orbs are plasma like balls of subtle energy – but an energy that can now be detected by physical means.

Apparently orbs also have the ability to swirl into various shapes such as vortices of energy that look like mini tornados. In many cases, Heinemann and Ledwith state that photographic enlargements of the orbs reveal an interior structure that appears to be unique to the particular orb or spirit.

Heinemann also noted that orbs can change size and shape very quickly and they emit a specific type of light known as coherent light. Basically this means they emit laser like light in very specific directions which he says could only occur if the orbs choose to do this, and re-iterated they are intelligent.

But, not everyone is so convinced about this phenomenon. Gary Schwartz, Professor of Psychiatry, along with optical scientist Katherine Creath, at the University of Arizona, conducted experiments into orbs during 2005 and Schwartz remains sceptical saying ‘We feel that a large majority of so called orb pictures are too readily attributed to some form of paranormal phenomena when in fact stray reflections in uncontrolled environments often produce orb like images.’


Heinemann and Ledwith agree this can happen, but both categorically state there is abundant evidence to conclude that genuine orb phenomenon does exist. They also argue that a large number of orb pictures have been taken in the ocean, especially around whales and dolphins, in which stray reflections and other possibilities have been ruled out due to the conditions at the time each picture was taken. You can see some of these wonderful images on scientist Dr Joan Ocean’s (yes, her real name) web site at

Also, even I know that if for instance you move a camera while a picture is being taken, especially in dim light you can easily get a double image. ‘Of course you can’ agreed Heinemann, ‘when you attempt to photograph orbs, it’s a question of trial and error. We were quickly able to eliminate the common problems associated with photography such as dust particles, water droplets, reflections and a host of other likely causes and can now easily differentiate between photographic anomalies and real orb pictures. For the novice, discerning fake orbs takes time, practise and diligence. The more photographs you take, the more easily you will eventually be able to distinguish orb-like features from real orbs.’

What are us mere mortals to make of all this?

Dawn Flockhart, a psychotherapist based in Edinburgh saw her first orb on a Vivienne Westwood tee shirt worn by a friend. ‘I asked her what the sphere was and she said ‘It’s an orb’.’ I had never heard of an orb and quickly forgot about this incident until weeks later when I received an e-mail from a travel agent who had booked my upcoming holiday in Sedona. As part of the ‘What’s On’, it mentioned the conference on orbs and out of curiosity I booked a ticket.’

‘When the first speaker Professor Alberto Villoldo, a medical anthropologist who had worked at San Francisco State University, showed us this amazing picture of a huge orb which he claimed was a group soul orb picture taken during an ancient ceremony in the Amazon, I honestly thought this was going to be a ‘new agers, off the wall’ type event. But the scientists were very matter of fact and I saw hundreds of orb pictures taken by people from all walks of life from 16 countries. When we were invited to ask the orbs to appear and simply start taking pictures – I thought ‘what the hell’. Much to my surprise there were orbs in practically every picture. ‘These days most of my friends think it’s all rather weird, until we start taking pictures and they can view the evidence for themselves. We have all noticed they appear more at happy gatherings.’

Heinemann and Ledwith agree saying ‘The orbs definitely seem drawn to spiritual type gatherings and we regularly see orbs near healers’ hands or heads. Perhaps they assist in the spiritual healing process. But they most frequently appear at happy, positive occasions such as parties, christenings and weddings.’

Apart from appearing in thousands of pictures, what you may ask are the orbs here for? What’s their purpose? And can they harm us?

Take the case of Anna Donaldson, a freelance photographer who was commissioned to take pictures of Keith Watson, a medium who had been drafted in to help solve the disappearance of Sarah Payne, the little girl who was snatched while playing near her grandparents’ home in West Sussex seven years ago.

The shoot took place at the exact spot where Sarah was last seen, because the medium had suggested that he ‘might pick something up’. Sure enough when the pictures were developed, a mysterious glowing dot appeared in one of the crucial images.

I didn’t believe in any of this paranormal stuff’ says Anna, but I couldn’t find any fault with the camera – if there had been, then all the images would have been tainted, not just one of them.

Still sceptical, Anna had the film and images analysed for technical faults, but again no one could provide a logical answer – until a member of the Psychic Institute suggested that the pictures could indeed be evidence of ‘auras’. In this case, Anna was told that the bluish colour of the orb suggested the presence of a very young soul.


Still intrigued, Anna arranged to photograph Watson again – at the exact spot from where another young child had disappeared, this time in Greece. To her astonishment, the photographs again showed the presence of a blue orb. And when Anna repeated the shoot the next day, in a bid to rule out a trick of the light, she got the same result – only this time it was two orange orbs.

‘So what I now had was pictures of orbs from three different countries, on three different days – there’s simply no way that could be a chance occurrence or a technical fault,’ says Anna.

I still don’t know what to think about it, but I suppose because a camera can pick up an image at a shutter speed of 1/2,000 of a second, it is possible it can detect things the naked eye cannot see.

Could it have been the spirits of the lost children?

Terri Caldwell, a healer from Belbroughton in Worcestershire who has been seeing orbs in pictures for several years says ‘To my mind the orbs are the spirit world simply going about their business, they are definitely attracted to locations where people are learning or happy. I believe we are all spirits having a physical experience and when we die our energy field, which carries all the information about us, continues on. Orbs are certainly are not to be feared’.

Heinemann concurs, but noted that on extremely rare occasions when he has photographed dark orbs at sights of reported hauntings, he found that dark orbs absorb light, whereas the coloured orbs emit light. ‘Globally there has been a huge increase in the incidence of light emitting orbs, whilst dark ones are very rare. Therefore, one might conclude that dark spirits do not feel welcome near the light emitting orbs.’


As to their purpose, Ledwith commented that audiences regularly ask ‘What are the orbs here to do for us?’ and says ‘this shows an egocentric attitude. The orbs have always been here and are an everyday part of reality as much as we are. Their world may be as real as ours, but simply exists on different frequencies. If you change your TV channel you switch to different frequencies, which contain different information. It’s illogical to think that what we cannot see is not real, because the human eye is only able to receive such a very narrow part of the light spectrum. Horses and dogs, for instance, can see spectra of light that are invisible to us. We have tended to dismiss anything we cannot see as paranormal – ghostly or whatever, which is absurd.’

Heinemann summarised ‘Research into orbs is in it’s infancy but the photographs of these spirit emanations offer evidence, as close to scientific proof as we have ever come, in proving the existence of the spiritual reality. And there is no doubt in my mind that the orbs may well be one of the most significant ‘outside of this reality’ phenomena mankind at large has ever witnessed.’

Such is the interest in this phenomenon that another conference for scientists and Orb enthusiasts alike is being organised in Glastonbury in the UK from July 11-13th 2008. Details can be found via

Klaus Heinemann PhD and Miceal Ledwith PhD have collaborated on a new book called The Orb Project, featuring hundreds of pictures and their research. Available from Jan 2008 from Simon & Schuster/ Beyond Words Publishing.

Meanwhile Klaus Heinemann’s site is: and you can find Miceal Ledwith via:


This article was sourced from
Photographs 1,2,4 & 6 (in order of use in the article) are by John Pickering and Katie Hall, and 3 & 5 by Dr Klaus Heinemann.
An edited version of this article also appeared in “News Monster” at:
and also in the Daily Mail (UK) at: