The paranormal and supernatural have their own vocabulary. Here are just a few words and terms that will help you understand what you're reading or discussing.
afterlife - Almost every society and religion has some belief in life after death. The Christian version of the afterlife involves some type of judgment upon the body’s demise and the assignment of the soul to either Heaven or Hell, while many societies believe that life simply continues in another plane of existence.
agent -The apparition, or ghost, seen by a human being (or percipient).
amulet - Any object that's thought to have the power to ward off ghosts and evil spirits or to bring good luck.
angel - A supernatural being that exists on the level between God and mortals is said to be an angel. One of the duties of the angels is thought to act as guardians over humans.
anomalistic psychology - The scientific study of anomalous phenomena, including, but not limited to, such parapsychological events as ESP, life-after-death experiences and alleged alien abduction experiences.
anomaly - A term used to denote phenomenon not behaving or occurring according to conventional scientific knowledge; deviation from that which is normal or common.
anpsi - Referring to psi ability in non-human animals; a contraction of “animal psi.”
apparition - The visual appearance of a disembodied spirit. It doesn’t necessarily take on a human shape or show signs of personality or intelligence.
apport/asport - An apport is a solid object that seemingly appears from nowhere in the presence of a medium. Some apports are assembled from invisible material matter; others are teleported from another often-distant location. An asport is any object that spirits or the medium makes disappear or teleports to another location.
astral body - One’s soul, appearing as an exact double of the person’s physical body, separated temporarily as during a dream or out-of-body experience or permanently as in death. Also see doppelganger.
aura - In scientific terms, the normal electromagnetic field that surrounds the body; in metaphysical terms, the life force surrounding the body is presented in color, with the color corresponding the body’s physical and/or emotional state.
automatic writing - Communication from a spirit in written form. The medium holds a pen or pencil against paper and allows the spirit to take possession or control of his or her hand to write out a message.
automatism - Any unconscious and spontaneous muscular movement caused by the spirits. Automatic writing and sleep walking are forms of automatism.
autonographist - Professional automatic writer.
banish(ment) - The expulsion of a ghost, spirit, demon, or other entity/entities thought to be possessing or haunting a human being or location. The ritual, which may be conducted by anyone but should ONLY be undertaken by a professional, is usually secular in nature, but may call upon some Higher Power to cast out the evil force(s). Also see exorcism.
banshee - A female death omen spirit of Ireland and Scotland that attaches itself to families -- especially those whose surnames begin with "Mac" and "O" -- and manifests to herald an approaching death in the family.
bilocation - The state of being or the ability to be in two places at the same time.
calling ghosts - Spirits who call out the names of the living in order to lure them to their deaths are called calling ghosts. The sirens of Greek mythology were calling ghosts.
caul - A thin membrane of amniotic fluid that remains covering the head of a newborn at birth. Those born with a caul are said to be blessed with luck, protection and supernatural powers. Such individuals are thought to be able to see and speak with ghosts and spirits.
chalcedony - A type of translucent quartz, usually a smoky blue in color, that was used by the ancient Egyptians to drive away ghosts, night visions and sadness.
channeling - A form of spirit communication, mostly popular in the United States during the "New Age" fad of the 1970s. During a channeling session, an unseen entity takes possession of the medium (called a channeler) to impart spiritual guidance or wisdom. The channeled entity was seldom a deceased human; rather it was a spiritual creature such as an angel, demon, the Higher Self, or part of the universal mind.
clairalience - The ability to receive a spirit’s message through smell.
clairambience - The ability to receive a spirit’s message through taste.
clairaudience - The ability to receive a spirit’s message through sound.
clairsentience - The ability to feel or sense a spirit’s presence and/or message.
clairvoyance - A type of extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance is the ability to see objects, events, places and people not visible through normal sight. Some individuals are gifted with clairvoyance throughout their lives while others may experience only one clairvoyant event in their life.
collective apparition - An unusual type of spirit sighting in which more than one person sees the same apparition.
collective unconscious - From the analytical psychology of Carl Jung, the collective unconscious is the collective memory of all of humanity's past, held in an individual's unconscious mind.
confabulation - A term used to describe when real-life experiences are mixed with imagined ones.
control - A control lives in the spirit world and is manifested by a medium, usually in a séance, to act on the medium's behalf as guide among the spirits. A control may appear as a disembodied voice, speaking through the medium's own voice, write with the medium's hand, be materialized visually either partially or full-form, or take full possession of the medium's body.
crisis apparition - A crisis apparition is a specific type of out-of-body experience in which the agent projects his or her astral body at a time of crisis or death to a particular percipient, usually a loved one.
cross-correspondences - Interrelated bits of information received from the spirit world by different mediums at different times and locations. The communications must be joined together to form a complete message from the spirit(s).
déjà vu - French for “already seen;” the feeling or illusion of having previously experienced an event or place actually being encountered for the first time.
demon - In Christianity, demons are evil spirits, the minions of Satan.
direct voice phenomenon (DVP) - A spirit voice, spoken directly to sitters at a séance. The sound usually seems to come from a point near the medium, or through a spirit horn or trumpet, but not from the mouth of the medium.
direct writing - A spectral phenomenon, seen most often in a séance, in which spirit handwriting appears directly on a previously unmarked surface.
discarnate entity - A spirit or ghost.
divination - The act of acquiring information via paranormal means, such as via tarot cards, palmistry, scrying, etc.
doppelganger - Meaning "double walker" in German, a doppelganger is, basically, the shadow every human has; however, there is some intelligence given to it. It may only be seen by its owner, although it is reported that pets can often see one's doppelganger. The doppelganger is there for one's support and sympathy but will sometimes give advice, thoughts and ideas by whispering them in their owner's ear. While rare, doppelgangers will occasionally decide to make themselves seen by others and they do so by manifesting as a double of their owner. They then go about playing tricks that can sometimes be quite mean, causing great distress for the owner's family and friends. If the owner sees their doppelganger in this complete form, it is a sign of bad luck and great misfortune, and some believe it means the owner will soon die. Other beliefs are that the doppelganger is one's astral body, one's soul or an apparition of a living person.
dowsing - A behavioral form of automatism in which one uses an instrument, such as dowsing or diving rods or a pendulum, in order to find subterranean water or oil or to locate lost objects based upon how the instrument behaves in the dowser’s hand(s). Also known as water witching.
dream, veridical - A dream of paranormal nature in which the dreamer is given information about events unknown to them.
drop-in communicator - A drop-in communicator is a spirit or entity that makes its presence known at a séance. Its identity is usually unknown to the medium and the sitters.
dybbuk - A dybbuk, found in Jewish legend, is the restless soul of a deceased human being that enters the body and takes possession of a still-living person.
ectoplasm - Ectoplasm is a solid or vaporous substance, lifelike and moldable, that supposedly exudes from the body of a medium (usually from one of the facial orifices) to form seemingly corporeal limbs, faces, or entire bodies. Ectoplasm is a usually dense but liquidy, milky-white substance with the scent of ozone. It can also be the residue left behind by ghosts or other paranormal phenomena. Many experts believe that spirits use ectoplasm to materialize.
electronic voice phenomena (EVP) - The capture of spirit voices on magnetic tape as an audio recording. Many times, no sound is heard while the tape is recording. It's only upon playback that the harsh, hushed voices can be heard.
elemental - Many societies believe in the existence of elemental spirits, those spirits that have never inhabited human form but consist of the base human emotions, such as love, anger, fear, etc. Elemental spirits are usually entrusted with the care and guarding of sacred areas and lands.
ESP - See extrasensory perception (ESP).
ESP cards - See Zener cards.
extrasensory perception (ESP) - The paranormal sensing of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. ESP is divided into three categories, telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition. ESP occurs in mediumship, possession, cases of apparitions, some cases of poltergeists, hauntings, near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences.
exorcism - The expulsion of a ghost, spirit, demon, or other entity/entities thought to be possessing or haunting a human being or location. The ritual, conducted by an exorcist, is usually religious in nature, and calls upon some Higher Power to cast out the evil force(s).
faith healing - See healing, psychic.
fetch - In Irish and English folklore, the term for one's double, an apparition of a living person.
Geller effect - The ability to bend metal by paranormal means; named after famed Israeli paranormalist Uri Geller.
ghost - A form of apparition, usually the visual appearance of a deceased human's spirit soul.
ghostbuster - A person who removes a ghost, poltergeist, spirit entity, or spectral activity from a haunted site.
ghost hunt - A ghost hunt is an informal attempt to simply sight or record a ghost in a location similar to others known to be haunted.
ghost hunter - A person who searches for, finds, and sometimes is able to identify apparitions or the cause of spirit activity.
ghost investigation - A ghost investigation, on the other hand, is a carefully controlled research project, set up to record paranormal activity, usually at a location known or presumed to be haunted.
ghost lights - See ignis fatuus.
ghost seers - The belief that people born at a certain time of day or on certain days possess the clairvoyant power to see ghosts and things that other people cannot see.
ghost sickness - The belief that ghosts can cause illness and death.
glossalalia - Speaking in “tongues,” that is, using a language either unknown to the speaker or unknown to linguistic experts; it may sometimes occur in a religious context, as in when one is inspired by the Holy Spirit; not to be confused with xenoglossy.
goblin - A small, ugly, evil spirit.
gray lady - A gray lady is the ghost of a woman whose death has been caused by a loved one or who died while waiting for her lover to return or appear.
gremlin - A small, pesky spirit, generally friendly in nature, given to mischief and pranks involving electrical and mechanical equipment. Gremlins appear to be particularly fond of aircraft, and they were first acknowledged by the British Royal Air Force in World War I after pilots on dangerous missions reported seeing misty, goblinlike spirits in their aircraft.
guardian spirit - A personal protective spirit often thought to be an angel.
hallucination - A false or distorted perception of objects or events with a full belief in their reality. Ghosts, as we define them, are not hallucinations, because they have a real, external cause.
haunt - A ghost that returns to the same location is said to haunt it. Ghosts generally haunt places, not people, however it is not unusual for a spirit to attach itself to a particular individual or family due to a familial connection.
haunting - The repeated manifestation of strange and inexplicable sensory phenomena said to be caused by ghosts or spirits.
healing, psychic - Healing apparently brought about through a paranormal, non-medical means, such as prayer, the “laying on of hands,” immersion at a religious shrine, and so on. It is inexplicable to contemporary medical science.
hypnagogic state - The transitional state of consciousness experienced while falling asleep, sometimes characterized by vivid hallucinations or imagery; also sometimes used to refer to the similar state of awareness experienced during the process of awakening.
hypnopompic state - The transitional state of consciousness experienced while awakening; sometimes called hypnagogic state.
hypnosis - An artificiallly induced altered state of consciousness, characterized by heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction.
ignis fatuus - Literally meaning "foolish fire," ignis fatuus are any of a variety of ghost or spectral lights. According to some folkloric traditions, the lights are souls of the dead; in other legends, they are imp-like spirits.
intuition - The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition often through mystical or paranormal means.
Kirlian photography - A type of high-voltage, high-frequency photography developed in the Soviet Union by Davidovich Kirlian, which captures an individual’s aura.
levitation - The raising or suspension of persons or objects in the air in such a means as violates the known physical laws of motion and gravity.
lucid dream - A dream in which the dreamer is conscious of the fact they are dreaming.
magnetometer - A device to measure the presence of a magnetic field as well as its strength, direction, and fluctuation. Paranormal researchers us the device in an attempt to detect a ghost's magnetic or energy aura.
Marian apparition - The appearance of the ghostlike figure of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.
materialization - The manifestation or production of some physical object or person from the spirit world. The most difficult and impressive materialization is all (or even part of) a human spirit, especially if the ghost's face is recognizable.
medium - Someone who can communicate with spirits on behalf of another living being. The word suggests that the medium acts as a midway point, halfway between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Mesmerism - The original term for hypnotism, named after Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815).
metaphysics - A field of study dedicated to the nature of reality.
NDE - See near-death experience (NDE).
NDEr - One who has undergone a near-death experience.
near-death experience (NDE) - Term applied to experiences undergone by persons who either seem to be at the point of death (or who are even formally declared dead) but then recover, or who narrowly escape death (as in an automobile accident) without being seriously injured; most NDEs feature certain common elements, such as a feeling of indescribable peace, a sense of being out of one’ s body, a movement into a dark void or down a tunnel, seeing a brilliant light, and entering that light; reports may also feature seeing one’s life “flash” in front of them, the encountering of an unseen presence, or being greeted by deceased relatives or religious figures.
necromancy/necromancer - A form of prophecy, in which the seer or sorcerer/sorceress raises the spirit (though not usually the corporal remains) of the dead in order to have the wraith foretell future events. It was thought that upon entering eternity, the spirit would have full knowledge of the past, present, and future.
OBE - See out-of-body experience.
OBEr - A person who has undergone an out-of-body experience.
objective apparitions - Apparitions or phenomena that appear independent of our minds, thoughts, or feelings. Subjective apparitions, on the other hand, are hallucinations created by our minds.
occult - Of, relating to, or dealing with supernatural influences, agencies, or phenomena; often used to refer to such practices as magic, astrology, witchcraft, etc., but not to be confused with parapsychological events.
oracle - In ancient Greece, a seeress who is about to communicate with the gods and deceased to foretell the future.
orb - Orbs are a form of energy that are of an unknown origin, although they’re thought by many paranormal researchers to be basic spirit forms. They usually cannot be seen by the human eye, but they can be viewed with night-vision equipment and recorded with photographic equipment.
other side - A term used to describe the spirit world.
Ouija board - A board pre-printed with letters, numerals, and words used by mediums to receive spirit communications. Usually a planchette is employed to spell out words or point out numbers or words. A game version of the Ouija board was mass-marketed as OUIJA by Parker Brothers in 1966 and is currently distributed by Hasbro.
out-of-body experience - An experience, either spontaneous or induced, in which one’s center of consciousness seems to be in a location outside of one’s physical body; there are two types of OBE experiences, the first involving the person believing themselves to possess a duplicate body, occasionally attached to the physical body via a “sliver” cord, and the second involving the person feeling entirely bodiless; in either case, many OBEs are characterized by the individual looking down upon their inert, physical body, seeing and hearing people gathered around their physical form and perceiving objects and events normally outside the range of physical senses.
pagan - A worshiper of a polytheistic religion, although some sects of Christianity consider all non-Christians to be pagan.
paranormal - Something that is beyond the range of normal human experience or scientific explanation.
parapsychology - The study of phenomena, real or supposed, that appear inexplicable on presently accepted scientific theories. The term was first coined in German by Max Dessoir and later adopted by J. B. Rhine in English. Except in Britain, the term has largely superseded the older expression “psychical research.” There are no legitimate schools of parapsychology in the United States, but a handful of universities are now offering limited coursework in consciousness studies.
parapsychologist - One who studies parapsychology; however, this title is not officially recognized in the Unites States, and it is illegal to call one’s self parapsychologist unless they have a degree in psychology from a recognized university.
past-life regression - A process by which a hypnotist regresses an individual through previous lives, thus suggesting reincarnation.
percipient A person who sees (i.e., perceives) an apparition or ghost.
phantom hitchhiker/phantom traveler - A phantom traveler is the ghost of a human or animal that haunts a specific roadway, route, or vehicle. The phantom hitchhiker, who requests a ride, then suddenly disappears from inside the vehicle, is the best-known type of phantom traveler legend.
phenomenon - A term used to collectively describe anything that cannot be explained in scientific terms.
physical mediumship - A form of mediumship in which the spirit communicates using both the physical energies and consciousness of the medium.
place memories - Refers to a location that captures energy and uses it to record an image of an event that once happened there and later replays it. Akin to a residual haunting.
planchette - A palm-sized triangular platform, usually on wheels, that is used as a pointer during the operation of a Ouija board.
poltergeist - A Poltergeist, which means noisy ghost in German, isn't really a ghost at all. It's actually a form of psychokinesis that is usually generated unconsciously by an adolescent, but may come from an adult with a troubled mind. A poltergeist manifests itself in the form of knocking noises, object movement and other physical forms.
possession - The idea that a person’s mind and soul can be possessed by a departed spirit.
postcognition - See retrocognition.
post-mortem communication - A message delivered to a living person from a deceased one, usually delivered via a medium.
precognition - A form of ESP in which the target is some future event that cannot be deduced from normal, presently known data.
premonition - A feeling or impression that something, usually dire in nature, is about to happen and about which no normal information is available.
PSI - A blanket term used to denote or describe paranormal events, processes and causes.
PSI phenomenon - Any event which results from, or is an instance of, PSI.
psychic(al) - Of or possessing paranormal abilities. A psychic person uses empathic feelings to tap into nonphysical forces.
psychic ability - The ability to sense that outside what is considered normal.
psychical research - Parapsychology; this term is still in use in Great Britain.
psychic healing - See healing, psychic.
psychokinesis (PK) - The mind’s ability to affect the external world and commonly referred to as “mind over matter.” Psychokinesis can occur either spontaneously or at will by some individuals. It is thought by many researchers to be the basis for most if not all poltergeist activity.
psychometry - The art of gaining paranormal information about an object or its owner by holding the object in one’s hand.
purgatory - In Roman Catholic doctrine, the place where souls of people who have died in grace must suffer while being cleansed of their sins before they can be admitted into heaven.
radio voice phenomenon (RVP) - Receiving the voice of a deceased human being over a regular radio.
raps - Noises, often tapping out an intelligible message, said to be produced by paranormal means.
raudive voice phenomena - See electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
reading - The statements made by a sensitive, or as a result of a divination process, in the course of obtaining paranormal information or “messages.”
reciprocal apparition - An exceedingly rare type of spirit phenomenon in which both the agent and percipient see and respond to each other.
recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) - Paranormal physical effects occurring repeatedly over time; a neutral description of poltergeist occurrences.
reincarnation - The belief that the human soul, or some aspect of self, transcends death and is reborn, usually into a new physical body, with the journey being repeated through many lifetimes.
remote viewing - ESP in the context of which a percipient attempts to describe a the surroundings of a geographically distant agent. The United States did extensive experiments involving remote viewing in the mid-20th century.
repressed psychokinetic energy - A theoretical psychic force produced, usually unconsciously, by an individual undergoing physical or mental trauma. When released, some think the power causes paranormal occurrences such as poltergeist activity. A classic, though fictional, example would be what Carrie (of film and Stephen King novel fame) did at the prom.
residual haunting - An energy imprint. Energy absorbed by inanimate objects is sometimes released in the form of a physical manifestation. These recalled events result in a residual haunting.
retrocognition - A sudden time warp in which you find yourself in the past, seeing or experiencing events of which you had no prior knowledge. Also called postcognition.
revenant - An apparition of a deceased person.
scrying - A divination technique employing staring into a crystal ball, pool of water or other reflective surface.
séance - A gathering of individuals, usually led by a medium, for the purpose of receiving spirit manifestations or communication with the dead. Also known as a "sitting," a "spirit circle," or simply, a "circle."
second sight - Celtic folklore concept that would be referred to today as psychic ability, particularly in the realm of divination and precognition.
sensitive - Parapsychology jargon for someone who's aware of or can feel (you know, is sensitive to) paranormal presences that can't be picked up by the regular five senses. Compare to medium.
shaman - A wizard in tribal societies who is an intermediary between the living, the dead, and the gods.
sixth sense - A term used to describe psychic ability.
sight - Appalachian folklore term referring to psychic ability.
sitter - A person who sits with a medium at a séance or reading and receives a communication from a deceased individual through the medium.
sitting - A gathering of individuals, usually led by a medium, for the purpose of receiving spirit manifestations or communication with the dead. Also known as a "seance," a "spirit circle," or simply, a "circle."
soul - While difficult to define due to the different definitions of soul among various religions, it is often thought to be the life-force of an individual.
soul loss - The loss of vital energy experienced as a result of any kind of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual trauma.
spirit - A discarnate being, essence or supernatural force of nature. While a ghost is a manifestation of a spirit that has existed in human form, not all spirits have resided on earth. Spirits can manifest themselves in the forms of orbs, mist, vortexes, or shadows.
spirit attachment - A type of possession. While the spirit does not actively possess the individual it does become attached to it. Much like haunting a person rather than a place.
spirit cabinet - A spirit cabinet, or simply cabinet, is a solid or curtained enclosure within which the medium sits to allow the spirits to appear unimpeded in darkness. The first spirit cabinet was introduced by the Davenport brothers in the 1850s in New York City. Its use was quickly adopted by many of the leading mediums of the day.
spirit communicator - A spirit or ghost that uses a medium in order to communicate with someone either verbally or visually.
spirit hypothesis - The theory that individual consciousness survives the death of the physical body in the form of a spirit, and that it may be communicated with, especially through the use of a medium.
spirit operator - A spirit or ghost that uses a medium to physically manipulate something on earth.
spirit photography - A spirit photograph captures the image of a ghost on film. Many spirit photographs are supposedly intended as a mere portrait of a living human being, but when the film is developed, an ethereal ghostly face or figure can be seen hovering near the subject.
spirit portal - An area allowing cross traffic between our world and the spirit world. A form of doorway, it sometimes occurs in the form of a vortex.
spirit releasement - Contemporary term for an exorcism.
spirit theater - A term used by modern-day magicians to describe shows, acts, or tricks in which ghosts or other spirit activity are apparently produced.
spiritual guide - A spirit that watches over a living person and that offers wisdom or guidance. Referred to by some as a guardian angel.
spiritualism - A belief system that spirits of the dead can (and do) communicate with living humans in the material world. Usually this contact is made through an intermediary known as a medium.
spirit world - The place spirits go after death of the human form.
spook show - Also called a ghost show or spookeroo, a spook show was a magic show, most popular during the 1950s, that featured horror- and ghost-themed magic tricks. Often one or two horror movies were shown as part of the evening's entertainment.
stigmata - Term used to refer to the marks which appear spontaneously on the surface of the body in imitation of the wounds believed to have been received by Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion; sometimes observed on the bodies of certain devout individuals, and may also be induced by auto-suggestion or under hypnosis.
subjective apparitions - See objective apparitions.
subliminal - Referring to that which occurs beneath the threshold of conscious awareness.
super-ESP - A powerful form of telepathy that allows a medium to unconsciously pick up information about a deceased person from other living people.
supernatural - Something that exists or occurs through some means other than any known force in nature. As opposed to paranormal, the term "supernatural" often connotes divine or demonic intervention.
superpersonalities - Negative entities.
superstition - A believe that a given action or event can bring either good or bad luck when there is no rational or generally accepted grounds for said belief.
telekinesis - Out of vogue term for psychokinesis.
telepathic projection - A now-discredited theory first espoused by Frederic W.H. Myers, a 19th-century paranormal investigation suggesting that spirits of the dead sent mental messages to the living rather than physically returning as ghosts.
telepathy - Communication using the mind as opposed to other senses.
teleportation - A kind of paranormal transportation in which an object is moved from one distinct location to another, often through a solid object such as a wall.
thought transference - See telepathy.
trance - A state of dissociation in which the individual is oblivious to their situation and surroundings, and in which various forms of automatism may be expressed; usually exhibited under hypnotic, mediumistic or shamanistic conditions.
trance mediumship - A form of mediumship in which the medium shares his or her energy with a spirit through the use of a trance.
U.F.O. - Unidentified Flying Object – an (apparently) flying object whose nature is unknown; especially those considered to have extraterrestrial origins.
urban legend - A story that is too good to be true and takes on a life of its own, usually told from the angle of “this happened to a friend of a friend.” Paranormal urban legends include the vanishing hitchhiker, the devil baby and the hook and the boyfriend’s death.
veridical - Truthful; corresponding to, or conveying, fact.
veridical dream - See dream, veridical
vortex - A mass of air, water or energy that spins around very fast creating a vacuum to pull objects into its empty center. Sometimes acts as a spirit portal.
witch - One who follows an Earth-based religious path that may or may not be poly-theistic. Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. Witches do no worship Satan.
witching hour - A slang term for the time of night when ghosts are the most active, usually placed at between midnight and 3 a.m.
xenoglossy - The act of speaking in a language ostensibly unknown to the speaker. To be distinguished from glossolalia.
Zener cards - ESP cards, named after psychologist Karl Zener, who apparently suggested the symbols used on the cards – circle, cross, square, star and wavy lines.