Paranormal Terminology

The following are definitions for various terms used in the field of Paranormal Research. Some of these terms may have alternate definitions in other areas of study, or in specific belief structures.

Anomaly – Something that is out-of-place and unexplained.


Apparition – Definition: Something that unexpectedly appears or becomes visible, apparently not by natural means.

Etymology: Middle English apparicioun, from Anglo-French aparicion, from Late Latin apparition-, apparitio appearance, from Latin apparēre.

“Apparition” is a blanket term used to describe many different types of unexplained visual phenomena.

Apparitions can be roughly divided into the following categories:
•Ghosts (phantoms, phantasms): The disembodied manifestations of the spirits or souls of deceased humans or animals that survive after death.2,3
• Hauntings: Occurrences of paranormal activity associated with a particular location or structure and usually attributed to the activities of an anomalous entity.4
•Orbs: A type of anomaly that appears in photographs, in which mysterious objects appear floating in the air.
•Doppelgänger: A wraith or apparition of a living person; a “spirit double” or exact replica of a person5.
•Bilocation: The phenomenon of a person appearing in more than one place simultaneously.
•Religious visions: The appearance of a deity (god) or holy person such as Christ, saints, prophets or the Virgin Mary (known as a Marian apparition).

The act of becoming visible; appearance; visibility An apparition, more commonly referred to as a ghost, is the actual visible manifestation of a being. These are usually appearances of people or animals who are no longer living. Although There are many cases claiming the appearance of a living being to others as when they were known to be in an entirely different location. This too, could be considered an apparition. Apparitions can appear to be solid or almost transparent. Some believe that apparitions are an imprint left by the living on the atmosphere around them, that can still be seen long after their death.

Channelling – A phenomenon in which a person allows themselves to transmit or messages directly from a personality or consciousness other than his or her own, usually through automatic writing or trance speaking; this other personality usually claims to be non-physical spirit or being.

Cold Spots – These are small self-contained air pockets that feel colder than the ambient temperature, they have been recorded between 10-40 degrees lower than the ambient air. They are usually found in the location at the approximate time of a manifestation. Witnesses frequently describe cold spots, or relate that they felt a chill upon entering the area (of a manifestation). It is theorized that these cold spots are the result of the manifestation using the heat energy of the surrounding air as fuel.

Crisis Apparition – An apparition that is seen when a person is seriously ill, seriously injured or at the point of death.


Demon – With deep roots In religion, folklore, and mythology a demon is a supernatural force that is generally described as a malevolent spirit. In Christianity demons are generally believed to be fallen angels, formerly of God. A demon is believed by some to be a force that can be conjured and controlled. Demons are also believed to have the ability to possess or inhabit the body of humans, requiring an exorcism to remove it. A demon or demons are portrayed differently in different cultures. Some believe demons to be actual physical beings that can take the form of anything, including small children. Others consider demons as more of a spiritual force of evil battling for one’s soul. Demons have been feared and written about in almost every culture in one form or another for as long as history has been recorded.

Demonologist – 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.

Demonology – The study of demons or beliefs about demons.


Direct Writing – where spirits actually communicate by the use of writing.

Doppelganger – A ghost of the present that looks identical to a living person, but behaves differently.

Dowsing Rods – A forked rod from a tree said to indicate the presence of water or minerals underground. May also indicate an energy field. Can also be made of metal.

Dowsing – Interpreting the motions of rods, sticks, pendulums, and other such instruments to obtain information (also called diving).

Direct Voice Phenomenon (DVP) – An auditory “spirit” voice that is spoken directly to the sitter’s at a séance.

Ectoplasm – A substance that allegedly oozes from ghosts or spirits and makes it possible for them to materialize and perform feats of telekinesis.

Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) –  These are created naturally on the earth and by man-made objects. A high concentration of electromagnetic activity in a specific area is considered by many as a sign of paranormal activity. Prolonged exposure to high EMF’s can actually cause paranoia and sometimes hallucinations. These effects can sometimes be attributed to suspected paranormal experiences.

Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) – Disembodied voices or sounds that are captured on recording (audio or video) devices.


EMF Meter – An instrument for measuring the magnitude and direction of a magnetic field typically used by paranormal researchers to detect a ghost’s magnetic energy.

Entity – A conscious, interactive ghost. Any being, including people and ghosts.

EVP Session – During an investigation one of the most popular ways of documenting paranormal activity is to use a digital voice recorder or other recording device and speak to any “spirits” that may be in the investigation location. The Session can contain questions, statements, or any other type of verbal conversation, which in turn may yield a response from the “spirits”. We have been known to get responses to our conversations that do not have any direct relation to the location or the people in it.

Extrasensory Perception (ESP) – The knowledge of external objects or events without the aid of senses.

Exorcism – Ridding a person or a location of demons/evil spirits by using religious rites.

Exorcist – A person who performs the ridding of demons or other supernatural beings who are alleged to have possessed a person, or (sometimes) a building or even an object.

Fear Cage – An area of high EMF readings which can bring out feelings of uneasiness, anxiety and fear.


Ghost – These are generally thought of as the apparition (the appearance of) or spirit of someone or some thing that is no longer living. Many theorize that a ghost is simply caught between the world of the living and the afterlife. Possibly confused about their own death. This is why many people believe that ghosts are often found in places of terrible tragedy and sudden death. Other theories regard ghosts as just another form of energy. We are all made up of energy. Some scientists believe that energy doesn’t die, but simply changes form. Ghosts could be the same energy in a new form, without a physical body. Another theory is that ghosts are only imprints left on the atmosphere around us by what some call our “life force”. Although there may be no definite explanation for what a ghost is, it is hard to deny that there is definitely something about them that has captured the minds of millions. With thousands of reported sightings and encounters for centuries, it is also hard to deny that ghosts just might be real. The thought of a ghost being real is scary to some and fascinating to others. Can they see us? Do they hear us when we speak? There are different types of ghosts that people have reported encounters with as well. History will tell us that not all ghosts are considered friendly and some actually create feelings of sadness and terror.

Ghost Box – A controversial two-way communication device used for communicating with spirits/ghosts.  Debunked by many in the field.

Haunting – Repeated manifestations of unexplained phenomenon that occur at a particular location.

Hot Spot – A site within a haunted location where the activity is prominent and/or energy fields are focused.


Incubus – A demon in male form who, according to a number of mythological and legendary traditions, lies upon sleepers, especially women, in order to have sex with them.

Intelligent Haunting – A haunting by an intelligent or conscious spirit which interacts with living persons.

Levitation – To lift or raise a physical object in apparent defiance of gravity.

Manifestation – The tangible signs of a haunting, including tactile, auditory, olfactory, and visual.

Materialisation – The act of forming something solid from air.

Medium – A person with the gift of communicating with the dead.

Mist – This is the most common form of ghosts on film. They are usually blankets of light or a mist that can take various shapes and sizes. Often mists are associated with full body apparitions. Some theorize that this could be ectoplasm, which some people believe is residue from paranormal activity.

Motor Automatism – Bodily movement of an intelligent and purposeful kind of which the person is not aware, as with automatic writing.

Necromancy – A form of prophecy, in which the seer or sorcerer / sorceress raises the ‘spirit’ (not 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.

Near-Death Experience (NDE) – The out-of-body and other experiences people report having when they are close to death. Events within NDE include: an OBE, life review, a tunnel experience (drifting in darkness), encounters with guides (or angels), seeing dead relatives or friends, a moment of decision (or being told) to turn back.

Out of Body Experience (OBE or OOBE) – The experience that the self is in a different location than the physical body.

Occam’s Razor – The principle that we should always prefer the simplest explanation of events.

Old Hag Syndrome

Old Hag Syndrome – A sleep phenomenon that involves a feeling of immobilization, suffocation, odd smells and feelings and is sometimes accompanied by immense fear.

Orbs – These are found in many photographs taken in known haunted or paranormal locations. They usually appear as circular white balls of light, but can be a variety of colours. Sometimes they appear solid and other times they can seem transparent. Orbs are widely believed to be concentrated energy created due to paranormal activity, or the actual manifestation of a spirit in the form of energy. Orbs have been documented in both still photos and video footage. Although a majority of suspected orbs can be explained by dust particles or bugs, others remain a mystery.

Ouija Board – A flat board marked with letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words ‘yes’ ‘no’ and ‘goodbye’. The Ouija board can supposedly be used to communicate with spirits of the dead.

Ouija Board

Paranormal – Anything beyond what is normal in society. Paranormal is a general term (coined ca. 1915-1920) that designates experiences that lie outside “the range of normal experience or scientific explanation” or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science’s current ability to explain or measure. Paranormal phenomena are distinct from certain hypothetical entities, such as dark matter and dark energy, only insofar as paranormal phenomena are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical observation coupled with scientific methodology.

Paranormal Investigation – A formal planned and enacted project to research, document, and gain knowledge of paranormal occurrences in specific locations that have known activity or wish to know if they have paranormal activity.

Parapsychology – Term coined to refer to the experimental and quantitative study of mental abilities and effects outside the usual realm of psychology. Parapsychology includes the study of ESP, ghosts, luck, psychokinesis, and other paranormal phenomenon.


Poltergeist – German for “noisy ghost”, usually associated with knocking or movement of objects, which usually involves an agent. A poltergeist is a spirit, sometimes considered demonic, that manifests itself by the physical movement and sometimes breaking of objects. Poltergeist are generally believed to be centred around a single individual. Usually that individual has been experiencing some form of emotional stress or trauma prior to manifestation.

Possession – The entry of a spirit into the body of a willing or unwilling host, in which the spirit takes control of the individual’s motor and cognitive functions.

Psychic – A person who is sensitive beyond the normal mean. May be able to see and hear things that are not available to most people.

Psychokinesis – To move something with the power’s of one’s mind. Usually associated with poltergeist activity.

Psychic Healing – A mode of healing affected by the psychic abilities of the healer.

Psychical Research – Term coined in the late 19th century to refer to the scientific study of the paranormal. Now largely superseded by ‘parapsychology’.

Psychic Surgery – The supposed ability to paranormally perform invasive surgery using no conventional medical tools.

Psychometry – Perception of events associated with inanimate objects.

Radio Voice Phenomenon (RVP) – Receiving the voice of a deceased human being over a regular radio.

Remote Viewing – (1) Another term for clairvoyance. (2) An ESP procedure in which a recipient attempts to become aware psychically of the experience of an agent who is at a distant, unknown target location.

Residual Haunting – A repeated haunting in which no intelligent entity or spirit is directly involved. This is the playback of a past event, trapped in a continuous loop. It is often associated with past events involving great trauma or tragedy.

Residual Energy – Many ghost hunters believe that emotionally charged events leave an imprint or energy residue on the physical objects nearby. What distinguishes residual energy from an active haunting is that the energy/impressions repeat consistently, as if on a loop. The energy levels may increase or decrease, but the content remains the same with each manifestation. By contrast, in what we term an active haunting, the ghost may respond to environmental stimuli and direct contact.

Sceptic (or 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 phenomenon studied by parapsychologists.


Scrying – A term used to cover a wide range of divination techniques which parapsychology would tend to classify as types of ESP. Most scrying techniques involve some degree of fixation on a surface with a clear optical depth (crystal ball, a pool of ink or deep water) or on an area which shows random patterns (flames in a fire, smoke), the idea being that subconscious information available to the scrying will be manifested in their interpretation of the imagery or random patterns they see.

Séance – A meeting of individuals in order to contact the spirit of a deceased loved one or other person (usually consisting of a medium, assistants, loved ones of the departed, or other interested individuals).

Sensitive – A person that is capable of sensing the presence of a Spirit/ Ghost, etc. information through extrasensory perception (ESP), of which is not sensed by the regular 5 senses.

Shadow Being – dark fleeting entity seen out of the corner of the eye.

Soul – a soul, in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions, is the corporeal essence of a person of living thing or object.


Spirit – the actual consciousness or soul of an individual that has passed on and continues to be observed in an area. An angel or demon.

Telekinesis – the ability to control one’s physical environment without using physical manipulation or force (also known as psychokinesis, TK, or PK). Usually associated with poltergeist activity.

Vortex – A rotation of cosmic energy around a central point or axis. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the word “vortex” has meant any whirling movement of energy or particles. Some people use this term to explain lines or narrow cylinders that appear highlighted in ghost photos.

White Noise – a sound, such as running water, which masks all speech sounds. Used in collection of EVP’s.

Wraith – an apparition of a living person that appears as a portent, just before that person’s death.