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Paranormal Glossary

Below are some commonly used words and phrases which are often used in the context of paranormal or unexplained phenomena or events. ARPAST would like to thank About.Com and InfinityParanormal.Com for providing this information.

Be sure and check out our Frequently Asked Questions list for even more information.


Abominable Snowman - a hairy, human-like animal reportedly inhabiting the snows of the high Himalayan Mountains; also called Yeti

After Life - a continued life or existence believed to follow death

Agent - the apparition, or ghost, that is seen by a human being (or "percipient")

Akashic Records - a mystical, spiritual realm where memories are stored since the beginning of time

Alpha Rhythm - electrical activity in the brain (about 10 cycles per second) associated with a state of mental relaxation

Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) - a term used to refer to any state of consciousness that is different from "normal" states of waking or sleeping; ASCs include hypnosis, trance, ecstasy, psychedelic and meditative experience; ASCs do not necessarily have paranormal features

Angels - benevolent spiritual beings who help people in need; also known as a guardian angel

Announcing Dream - a dream believed to announce an individual's rebirth

Anomalous Experience - a general term referring to unusual experiences that cannot be explained in terms of current scientific knowledge

Anomalous Phenomena - phenomena that science, in its present state of knowledge, is unable to explain

Apparition - a disembodied spirit that appears visibly to human beings

Apport - a solid object that seemingly appears out of nowhere in the presence of a medium; some apports are believed to be assembled from invisible material matter while others are teleported from another, often distant location

Asport - any object that the medium or spirit makes disappear, or teleports, to another location

Astral Body - a term used by occultists, spiritualists and theosophists to refer to a supposed "double" of the person's physical body; the astral body is believed to be separable from the physical body during astral projection (out of body experience) and at death

Astral Plane - a place where all the thoughts, memories, fantasies and dreams of everyone in the world exist; the astral plane is said to have many levels, and is said to operate at a higher frequency than the physical plane

Astral Projection - the process by which the etheric body, spirit or mind separates from the physical body whilst maintaining a level of consciousness

Atlantis - A legendary island continent supposed to have existed west of Gibraltar and have been engulfed by the Atlantic ocean.

Aura - invisible to the naked eye, it is a glow supposedly surrounding each individual; it changes color and form depending on the mental and physical well being of the individual

Automatic Writing - communication from a spirit in written form accomplished when the medium holds a pen or pencil against paper and allows the spirit to take control of his or her hand to write out a message or an answer to a question

Automatism - any unconscious or spontaneous muscular movement caused by a spirit; automatic writing is one form of automatism


Banshee - in Gaelic belief, a banshee is a female entity who heralds a death by groaning and screaming

Bermuda Triangle - a triangular area of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and a point near Melbourne, Florida, in which numerous watercraft and aircraft are said to have mysteriously disappeared

Bilocation - being (or appearing to be) in two different places at the same time

Black Magic - magic used for evil often with the intent of injuring or killing someone or for the personal gain of the practitioner

Bloody Mary - a game commonly played by children, in which an individual goes into a dark room with a mirror and chants "Bloody Mary" thirteen times; a ghost is said to appear and try to scratch or kill the person; identity of ghost differs in almost every version told, but the most commonly heard is Queen Mary Tudor of England


Cartomancy - a method of divination by reading cards such as the Tarot

Cat Scratches - a game commonly played by children in which they sit in a circle holding hands in a dark room while chanting "cat scratches" -- a window in the room is left open to let in the "cat"; supposedly when they turn the lights back one or all of them have scratches on their arms

Cerebral Anoxia - lack of oxygen to the brain, often causing sensory distortions and hallucinations; sometimes is used to explain features of the near-death experience

Channeler - a person who allows a spirit to temporarily possess his or her body in order for the spirit to be able to communicate with the living; such individuals are also called "trance mediums"

Channeling - a form of spirit communication during which an unseen entity takes possession of the channeler, or trance medium, in order to convey a message or impart spiritual guidance and/or wisdom

Chiromancy - (aka Palmistry) a form of divination based on reading the lines on the palm of the hand

Chupacabra- aka "goat sucker" a creature that feeds on the blood of goats. Described as half-man, half-beast/vampire, with red eyes and a snakelike tongue, also has been described as looking like a kangaroo.

Clairalience - the ability to use the sense of smell to receive a spirit's message

Clairambience - the ability to use the sense of taste to receive a spirit's message

Clairaudience - the ability to hear sounds to receive a spirit's message

Clairoleofactor - to have an extraordinary sense of smell, as if you could smell flowers before they bloom or smell trouble before it occurs or death before it happens

Clairsentience - the feeling or sensing of a spirit's message

Clairvoyance - the ability to foresee the future or to see objects or events that others can't, using only your eyes and ears

Cold Readings - a technique that allows fake mediums, mind readers, and magicians to obtain previously unknown information about a person using a series of statements, questions, and answers

Collective Apparition - a spirit sighting witnessed by multiple people

Crisis Apparition - a specific type of spirit sighting during which the apparition manifests itself to a particular human being, usually a loved one, at a time of crisis or death

Cross-Species Communication - to have a special rapport and understanding with animals, plants or alien beings

Cryptozoology - the search and study of animals which are only rumored to exist

Crystalomancy - the art of gazing into a crystal globe, a pool of water, a mirror, or any transparent object; the person may put him/her self into a hypnotic state to see visions or to summon forth spirits or demons

Curse - a calling on a god or spirit to enlist trouble or evil upon a person


Deja Vu - seeing or doing something completely new but having the distinct feeling that the experience has been done before

Dematerialization - the fading or disappearance of an object

Demonic Spirit - an entity or spirit spawning from the devil that is or was of this earth; said to have the capability of human possession, and strength greater than any flesh and blood creature; usually distinguished by their dark, or black masses of psychic energy & willingness to physically attack an individual

Demonology - one who studies and practices the art of demonology; an individual who specializes in the removal of evil or demonic forces from a given environment using the art of demonology; one who brings demonic forces out of their slumber to be cast away; someone who uses the art of demonology to incantate demons for ones use in battling them

Demons - demons are said to have the ability to enter your home via the Ouija board; it is claimed that in such cases a demon will attach itself to an individual and not the home and therefore will follow where ever that person goes; similar to but not to be confused with possession

Deport - movement of an object from a secure and enclosed space

Direct Voice Phenomenon (DVP) - a spirit voice heard during a séance that is usually emitted from an area near the medium or through a horn or trumpet that is presumably spiritual in nature; the voice does not come from the mouth of the medium and is always directed to those attending the séance

Direct Writing - occurring most often during a séance, direct writing is a phenomenon in which alleged spirit hand writing appears on a previously unmarked surface

Discarnate - another word for spirit or ghost that literally means "out of body"

Discarnate Entity Theory - a theory in regards to haunting which claims that there exists some physical aspect of the body, such as a soul, that survives the body after death

Divination - the ability to obtain unknown knowledge or future events from omens; Astrology may be considered divination

Divining Rod - a forked rod from a tree said to indicate the presence of water or minerals underground

Doppelganger - a ghostly double of a living person

Dover Demon - demon-like creature said to have large head, orange eyes, and peach colored hairless skin, that resides in Dover, Massachusetts

Dowsing - to be able to find underground water and/or underground minerals; to communicate with a spirit or entity using dowsing rods


Ectoplasm - 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; it is usually a dense but liquid, milky-white substance with the scent of ozone

Electrokinesis - the generation of electricity from the mind that can be used to charge watches and batteries

Electro-Magnetic Field (E.M.F.) - a field of force associated with electric charge in motion; there is a theory that a high amount of electromagnetic energy can cause poltergeist activity, but also a theory that these same high energy levels attract spirits and that it is indeed spirits that cause the strange phenomena

Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) - a term used to describe noises and voices recorded on traditional audio or video tape, but, that are not usually heard by humans while the tape is recording; it is only during playback that the usually soft, hushed voices can be heard

Empath - someone who shows considerable empathy, especially of the apparently psychic type

Empathy - the ability to understand the experience or emotional state of another person or animal; often used to refer to an apparently psychic ability to experience another person's sensations, pain or emotions; also known as clairsentience or intuition

Evocation - the summoning of (often evil) spirits using a magical incantation or ritual

Exorcism - the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities which have possessed a person or object

Experimental Parapsychology - parapsychological research involving experimental methods rather than survey techniques or the investigation of spontaneous cases

Extrasensory Perception (ESP) - an awareness of actual happenings or information not attained through the normal senses


False Awakening - an experience in which a person believes he or she has woken up, but actually is still dreaming

Flying Saucer - a term, coined in 1947, to refer to unknown disk-like aerial objects, often believed to be extraterrestrial spacecraft; the term has now been largely superseded by "UFO"

Focal Person - person who is at the centre of poltergeist activity


Genuine Haunt - term used to describe a type of haunt where part or all of a spirit's consciousness has not crossed over and occasionally exists in a state of dementia, not really being aware of what has happened to him/her; because of the consciousness involved in genuine haunts, often communication is possible.

Ghost - term used to describe the visual appearance of a human being or creature that has died

Glossolalia - unintelligible speech generally uttered in a dissociated or trance state; also known as "speaking in tongues"


Hallucination - a sensory experience that does not correspond to physical reality

Haunting - paranormal phenomena such as apparitions, unexplained sounds, smells or other sensations that are associated over a lengthy period of time with a specific location

Holy Water - water that has been blessed by a member of the clergy said to have the ability to negate negative energy

Hypnotherapy - the treatment of an ailment through the use of hypnosis


Incorruptibility - inexplicable lack of decay in a corpse

Indirect Voice - mediumistic phenomenon in which the discarnate entity appears to speak using the vocal apparatus of the medium; often the voice will sound very different from the medium's normal voice

Intuition - act of knowing without the use of usual rational processes

Invocation - summoning benevolent spiritual beings


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Ka - ancient Egyptian term for the astral body

Karma - the doctrine of fate as the inflexible result of cause and effect; the theory of inevitable consequence

Kirlian Photography - the process of photographing the human aura founded and developed by two Russian scientist, Semyon and Valentina Kirlian

Knowingness - to get information without knowing where it came from


Levitation - there are records of monks and nuns rising up whilst in prayer; it has been suggested that levitation is possible due to molecules becoming refined to the point of the body changing onto a lighter plane; energy level increases have been suggested to raise the level in the atoms of our bodies and make levitation possible

Ley Lines - lines of energy that cross the Earth; when two or more of these lines intersect, they form an energy vortex that can act as a "fuel station" of sorts for spiritual activity; a great many haunted properties are located on or near one or more of these vortices

Life Review - flashback memories of the whole of a person's life, often associated with the near-death experience

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board - a game in which a group of people surround a person in a circle while placing two fingers beneath the individual; the group concentrates on lifting the person with their mind while chanting the words "light as a feather, stiff as a board"

Loch Ness Monster - creature that resembles a Plesiosaurus dinosaur; seen in the Loch ness Lake in Scotland

Lucid Dream - a dream in which one understands he/she is asleep, and has complete control of the dream

Lycanthropy - the supposed magical transformation of a person into the form of a wolf. Also knows as shape-shifting, therianthropy, or werewolf


Macro-PK - psychokinetic effects that can be directly observed rather than only inferred from statistical analysis

Magnetometer - a device used to measure the presence of a magnetic field as well as its strength, direction, and fluctuation; paranormal researchers use the device in an attempt to detect a ghost's magnetic or energy aura

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 identifiable

Medium - someone who can communicate with spirits on behalf of another human being; the word suggests that the medium acts as a midway point, halfway between the worlds of the living and the dead

Metaphysics - derived from the Latin word meta which means beyond; that which is beyond the laws of physics

Micro-PK - psychokinetic effects that cannot be directly observed, but only inferred from the statistical analysis of data

Miracle - a beneficial event attributed to supernatural or divine intervention


Near Death Experience (NDE) - term used to refer to the experience had by any person who clinically dies, or comes very close to actual death, and is revived; often, the person recalls extraordinary even paranormal visions of an afterlife; American physician Dr. Raymond Moody coined the phrase in the 1970's

Necromancy - black magic practices involving communicating with the dead

Necronomicon - the book of the dead


Objective Apparition - apparitions or phenomena that appear independent of our minds, thoughts, or feelings

Object Haunt - a type of haunt that involves a psychic echo, or imprint, on a particular object that the ghost had an attachment to in their physical life

Occam's Razor - the principle of preferring the simplest explanation of event, "a person should not increase beyond what is necessary the number of entities required to explain anything"

Occultism - a system of practice and belief, which assumes that there is the existence of supernatural, paranormal and mysterious forces

Orbs - allegedly the true spirit form and one theory is that these are seen at the beginning of a manifestation; orbs can be often caught in photographs; eempirical data has shown that the vast majority of "orbs" are due to airborne particulate matter (dust)

Ouija Board - a board pre-printed with letters, numerals, and words used by mediums to receive spirit communications; usually, a "planchette" is used to spell out words or point out numbers or words

Out-of-body Experience - term used to describe the paranormal phenomenon in which a spirit double, or "astral body", leaves your body and travels to another location


Paranormal - something that is beyond the range of normal human experience or scientific explanation; the activity can involve ghosts, apparitions, spirits, haunts, poltergeists, etc.

Parapsychology - the study of phenomenon, real or supposed, that appear inexplicable, or presently accepted scientific theories

Past-life Recall - to remember or have mental flashes about living in another century, or time period

Past-life Regression - the act of using trance or hypnosis to visit former lives

Percipient - term used to describe any person who sees an apparition or ghost

Phenomenon - a phenomenon (plural: phenomena) is an observable event, especially something special (literally something that can be seen (from the Greek word phainomenon = observable)

Place Memories - refers to a location that captures energy and uses it to record an image of an event that once happened there and replays it

Planchette - a palm-sized, triangular platform, usually on wheels, that is used as a pointer during the operation of a Ouija Board

Poltergeist - derived from the German word meaning "noisy ghost or spirit", a poltergeist is a non-human entity that is usually more malicious and destructive than ghosts of dead human beings; some of the traditional activities associated with poltergeists include thumps and bangs, levitating and moving of objects, stone throwing, and starting fires

Portal - a doorway, entrance, or gate between two worlds, the physical and the spiritual

Possession - altered state of consciousness in which the conscious personality of the individual is replaced with that of another personality

Precognitive Dreams - to have dreams of events or incidents before they happen

Prediction - to be able to predict future events before they occur

Premonition - feeling or warning about a future event

Progression Hypnotherapy - the act of visiting future lives through the use of hypnosis

Pseudoscience - any body of knowledge, methodology, belief, or practice that claims to be scientific or is made to appear scientific, but does not adhere to the basic requirements of the scientific method; term is based on the Greek root pseudo- (false or pretending) and science (derived from Latin scientia, meaning knowledge)

Psi - a term parapsychologists use to generically refer to all kinds of psychic phenomena, experiences, or events that seem to be related to the psyche, or mind, and which cannot be explained by established physical principles

Psychic - a person who uses empathic feelings to tap into non-physical forces

Psychical Research - term coined in the late 19th century to refer to the scientific study of the paranormal. Now largely superseded by "parapsychology"

Psychokinesis (PK) - the ability to move objects using one's mind

Psychometry - to touch an object with your hands and get information about the object, it's creator, its owner, or it's history


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Radionics - use of certain instruments to detect radiations, or emitions, from a living organism, such as dowsing

Radio Voice Phenomenon (RVP) - term used when referring to the voice of a deceased human being received over a regular radio

Raps - the name given to unexplained knocking sounds associated with physical mediumship and poltergeist activity

Raudive Voices - intelligible voices recorded on magnetic tape under conditions of silence or white noise that are heard only when the tape is played; a phenomenon discovered by Konstantin Raudive

Reciprocal Apparition - a rare type of spirit phenomenon in which both the agent and percipient see and respond to each other

Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis - a theoretical psychic force produced, often unconsciously, by an individual undergoing physical or mental trauma; when released, some think the power causes paranormal occurrences such as poltergeist activity; frequently, the phenomenon is linked to adolescent human beings

Reincarnation - the idea that soul can be reborn into a new human body

Remote-Viewing - ability to access distant or shielded information primarily of visual character, such as natural or structural features, via an unknown mental process

Residual Haunt - a term used to describe a spirit energy that is trapped in a continuous loop; often called a "cinema of time" haunt, this type of apparition is not believed to contain a consciousness therefore there could be no communication between the agent and percipient

Retroactive Psychokinesis - paranormal influence that an agent can have on an experiment after it has been completed

Retrocognition - term used to describe 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"


Séance - a gathering of individuals, usually led by a medium, for the purpose of receiving spirit manifestations or communication with the dead

Shape-Shifting - paranormal ability to assume the form of another person, an animal or other entity

Skeptic - a person inclined to discount the reality of the paranormal and to be critical of Parapsychological research; generally seeks rational or scientific explanations for the phenomena studied by parapsychologists

Sleep Paralysis - an (often frightening) state of seeming to being awake but unable to move

Smudging - a native american ceremony involving the burning of sage said to rid a location of negative energy

Spectre - a ghost or apparition

Spirit - electromagnetic entities, in the form of orbs, mist, vortices, or shadows, which are the signature of a once-living person, who has returned to a specific location

Spirit Guide - a spirit that watches over a living person and offers it wisdom or guidance

Spontaneous Human Combustion - refers to cases in which a badly burned human body has been discovered in circumstances suggesting that the fire originated spontaneously in or on the body of the victim

Stigmata - unexplained markings on a person's body that correspond to the wounds of Christ

Subjective Apparition - hallucination created by our minds

Subliminal Perception - sensory impressions below 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

Super-personalities - negative entities

Synchronicity - meaningful coincidences that often are mediated by subconscious PSI activity


Telepathy - communication using the mind as opposed to other senses

Teleportation - paranormal transportation of objects to a distant place

Temporal Lobe Activity - electrical activity in the temporal lobes of the brain; often associated with strange sensations, time distortions and hallucinations; sometimes used as an explanation for seemingly paranormal experiences such as apparitions and alien abduction experiences

Thixotropy - a property that is exhibited by certain gels; a thrixopic gel maintains its shape and appears solid, but if it is subjected to certain forms of disturbance, such as shaking, it will start to flow like liquid; possible explanation for bleeding statues etc.

Trance Medium - a medium that shares his or her energy with a spirit through the use of a trance or a channeling session


UFO - Unidentified Flying Objects, considered to be alien aircraft; it is interesting to note that a large majority of UFO's are sighted during or after an electrical storm


Veridical Dream - a dream that relates to actual events of either the past, present, or future that the dreamer is unaware of

Vortex - a mass of air, water, or energy that spins around very fast, creating a vacuum to pull objects into its empty center


White Magic - magic or incantation practiced for good purposes or as a counter to evil

White Noise - a hiss-like sound, formed by combining all audible frequencies


Xenoglossy - the alleged writing or speaking in a language that is unknown to the individual speaking or writing it

Xenonormal - something that appears paranormal but which has natural causes


Yeren - a mythical man beast or red haired ape 5-6 feet in height; sightings of the Yeren have been reported in Asia and the Shennongjia Mountains in Central China

Yeti/Bigfoot - an ape like creature most often sighted in the U.S but also around the globe since the mid 19th C.; it has been suggested that bigfoot exists in another dimension and travels to this one via either astral projection or through portals; the latter has also been suggested for the loch ness monster


Zombie - dead bodies with no souls; said to be created by black magic of voodoo sorcerers

Zooform Phenomena - a term used to describe entities that resemble animals, but appear to be supernatural