3 Types of Refutable Evidence

When paranormal investigating, the goal is to provide irrefutable evidence of a haunting or the presence of a spirit/ghost. While we would prefer a ghost hold still for a photo or clearly speak into the mic, that rarely happens. But one thing that gets under my skin is when investigators claim the following phenomena alone “proves” a haunting or a paranormal presence.

I was taught by the experts (TAPS) that orbs, even properly documented ones, are not irrefutable proof of a haunting.
According to the veteran ghost hunters, to be considered an orb, the following three characteristics must apply:

  • It has its own flight path (in video)
  • It projects its own light (meaning it’s not reflecting off another surface)
  • It is a complete circle

I think the first time I heard them say that was around 2005 or so, but it still applies. The only thing that’s changed in fifteen years is our gullibility. Because television shows and Youtube videos rarely investigate orbs (knowing it’s not proof even if all three characteristics apply anyway), people nowadays just see circles in their photos and assume it’s a ghost. But they’re ignoring the giant mirror in the background that’s probably reflecting the camera’s flash, or they’re not taking into consideration that the historic building they’re in is over a hundred years old and probably has dust particles floating freely.

Two out of the three characteristics above (excluding the “flying its own path” in still photos) do not solely determine that a place or person is haunted. What a properly documented orb indicates is energy in that specific area. Energy we often cannot explain and attribute to spirits, but not energy that on its own irrefutably proves the existence of a ghost. You can’t hand a picture of orbs to a skeptic and say, “Look at this ghost I found!” and expect them to agree. No sensible person with a basic understanding of light would.

What orbs might actually be:


  • A bug
  • Dust
  • Stain on camera lens

Orbs in the picture below were captured during a storm. If you zoom in, you can see the texture of the raindrops and can even see some orbs resemble the teardrop shape of raindrops in flight.

Copyright 2020, Danny Raye.

The orb below is a complete circle and has no source for reflection. But still, you doubt it being paranormal because it could be a stain on the couch. Doesn’t prove a ghost was sitting on top of me while I napped.

Copyright 2020, Danny Raye.

Matrixing (Pareidolia)

Probably one of the most common mistakes an investigator makes is over analyzing evidence. If you stare hard enough at anything, your brain will process familiar patterns into images that aren’t there. When it comes to still photography, especially in night vision, the pixels can take on many forms that appear as apparitions.

My advice has always been, if you don’t see it the first time, it’s not there. If you think you see something in a picture and you have to outline it, zoom in 150% to see it, or have to describe the form you see to a fellow investigator, you’re under the influence of matrixing.

Below is a picture of my brother and―apparently highlighting in yellow―a face my mother saw. When she presented it to me, I saw nothing. I knew based on the clarity of the photo and how far she zoomed in that she was under the influence of matrixing.

Copyright 2020, Danny Raye.

In the next photo, boxed in the red, appears to be the face of a screaming woman. What you’re looking at is a window that has been completely blacked out by a trash bag. Now, that trash bag was not pulled taut, so there are wrinkles and shadows and reflections from the light in the room. Could this be a manifestation of a screaming woman? Possibly. Could it be a crease of the trashbag caught at just the right angle to look like a screaming woman? Sure. The problem is that this photo in and of itself does not prove my house was haunted by the ghost of a screaming woman.

Copyright 2020, Danny Raye .

This also applies to audio evidence. If you have to strain to hear it, or amplify it to where the static sounds like a horde of flies, you’re forcing yourself to hear what should be heard naturally. Much like seeing faces in abstract patterns, if you listen to static long enough, your brain will piece together specific sounds until they form words. No guarantee anyone else will hear exactly what you hear in that horde of flies. And if that’s the case, you can’t call that recording irrefutable evidence.

Again, apply the rule of thumb: if you didn’t hear it the first go around, it just isn’t there. The only reason you should manipulate or enhance audio is to clarify a disembodied voice you heard on the first review.

Mist is condensed water vapor that clouds the appearance of a surface. Because mist is a natural phenomenon, it’s hard to determine its authenticity in visual recordings or still photographs. Mist as evidence will always sort of be stuck in that “unexplained” category that neither proves or disproves a haunting.

Unless of course you’re capturing full-body apparitions or phantom objects as mist, your mist most likely is shapeless and hovering and is not irrefutable proof of a haunting. It’s just there. I’ll tell ya, you hand a picture of a mist to a skeptic claiming you caught a ghost this time, they’re going to dispute it. And I know what you’re thinking, “Screw the skeptics!” But skeptics are your voice of reason.

Even if a misty photograph accompanies other documented paranormal activity, it will almost always be the least impressive. No one runs screaming out of a cemetery because they saw a mist. And no true investigator would deem a place haunted based off the lonely picture of an unexplained mist.

Below, we have a mist captured outside our back patio. Now, my mother is a cigarette smoker and would step outside the house to enjoy her Marlboro. So when she showed this to me, my reaction wasn’t “ghost”, it was “smoke”.

Copyright 2020, Danny Raye.

In the picture below, however, the blue light is self-emanating. The orbs might be a reflection off the metal chain link, but the misty white form is unexplained. Notice the isolation of the phenomena compared to the rest of the backyard. I have no explanation. Still doesn’t verify it’s a ghost, it’s only classified as unnatural and unexplained.

Copyright 2020, Danny Raye.

Investigating can be a daunting task, especially at a location where the stakes of it being haunted are greatly expected by witnesses or anticipated by the owners. Remember, we as paranormal investigators aren’t there to commiserate activity, but to prove it. So even if the location has a grim past, even if a famous murderer lived there, even if a hundred people claimed to have experienced activity there, your job is not to be persuaded by all that. As Jason Hawes said in Ghost Hunters, go in to disprove a haunting and you’ll always come out with genuine evidence.

Source: Rosney, Mark; Bethell, Rob; Robinson, Jebby. Beginner’s Guide to Paranormal Investigation. Amberley Publishing. 2009.

Disclaimer: All photos copy written by the author were taken by the author or a relative, and thus are the property of Danny Raye. I have not tampered with my photographs. They were taken in a previous home of mine.

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