It’s an unexplained world where the spirts roam. Whether you are a skeptic who just wants to know what all the talk is about -- and know how to argue about it -- or you’re a believer who needs to know the name of that thing in your closet, here is a basic breakdown of some popular paranormal words, and they have a lot of terminology to keep it all straight.

Agent: A living person who is the focus of poltergeist activity.

Apparition: A supernatural appearance of a person or thing, esp. a ghost; a specter or phantom.

Apport: A physical object that can materialize and appear at will in the presence of a medium.

Asport: A physical object that a spirit teleports to another location or makes disappear.

Astral Body: The body that a person occupies during an out-of-body experience.

Astral Plane: A world that is believed to exist above our physical world.

Astral Projection: The intentional act of having the spirit leave the body, whereas an out-of-body experience will happen involuntarily. (See out of body experience).

Astrology: The theory and practice of the positions and aspects of celestial bodies in the belief that they have an influence on the course of natural earthly occurrences and human affairs.

Aura: An invisible emanation of light that seems to surround a person or thing which is often thought to reflect a person’s personality.

Automatic Writing: This method of obtaining information from disembodied spirits is used by mediums in which the spirit takes control over the medium causing them to translate unconscious information on paper without being aware of the contents.
Automatism – An unconscious or involuntary muscular movement caused by spirits. (See automatic writing)

Autoscopy: The visual hallucination or image of one’s body looking back at themselves from a position outside the body. (See out of body experience).

Ball Lightning: A rare form of lightning in the shape of a glowing red ball that can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Typically associated with Thunderstorms, these spheres are thought to consist of ionized gas.

Banshee: A wailing spirit or “death omen” that will appear to be in two different places at the same time.

Call: A call is the response that is made by a subject during a card-guessing test or during any other type of ESP test.

Card Guessing: Card guessing is used as an experimental test for ESP in which a subject tries to guess the identity of a set of cards.

Case Study: An in-depth investigation of an individual subject.


Cat Balls: On an investigation these pet toys are placed on the floor or a flat surface in the hopes that a spirit may interact with it causing it to light up.

Channeling: In this modern day method of spirit communication, a spirit will pass information directly to a medium or channeler who will then relay the information on to the listener.

Cold Reading: This is a technique commonly used by fake mind readers, mediums and magicians which allows them to obtain previously unknown information about a person by asking a general series of statements, questions and answers.

Collective Apparition: A rare type of sighting in which more than one person sees the same apparition or phenomena.

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


Dematerialization: This word is used to describe a spirit or specter meaning to deprive of or lose apparent physical substance or in simpler terms, without flesh.

Déjà vu:  An impression or dull familiarity of having seen or experienced something before.

Demon:  An inferior deity often spoken of in religious text as pure evil.

Direct Voice Phenomenon (DVP): An auditory “spirit” voice that is spoken directly to the sitters at a séance.

Dice Test: An experimental test in which a subject attempts to influence the fall of dice. This study is used for the investigation of psychokinesis.

Doppelganger: An exact spirit double or mirror image of a person which is considered to be very negative.

Earthbound: A term referring to a ghost or spirit that was unable to cross over to the other side at the time of death and is therefore stuck on earth.

Ectoplasm: An immaterial or ethereal substance associated with spirit manifestations.

Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP): Voices and sounds from beyond that are captured and recorded on magnetic tape.

Elementals: Spiritualists commonly refer to this term to describe mean or angry spirits sometimes also called “Earth Spirits”.

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.


Empath: One who is an empath feels other people's emotions more intensely than the average person.

Extra Sensory Perception (ESP): Communication or perception by means other than the physical senses.

Exorcism: The banishment of an entity or entities i.e. spirits, ghosts and demons that is thought to possess or haunt a location or human being or animal. The ritual, which can be religious in nature, is conducted by an exorcist who will call upon a Higher Power to cast away any evil forces that may reside there.

False Awakening: The event in which a person believes they are awake but are actually dreaming.

Ghost: A generic term referring to a form of apparition or supernatural entity which is typically the visual appearance of a deceased human’s spirit soul.

Ghost Hunting: A carefully controlled research project in which various methods and equipment are used to investigate reports of ghosts and hauntings.

Goat: An experiment in which the subject does not believe in the ability for which they are being tested.

Ghoul: Demonic or parasitic entity that feeds upon human remains.

Hallucination: The perception of sights and sounds that are not actually present.

Haunting: Reoccurring ghostly phenomena that returns to a location where no one is physically present. Ghosts generally haunt places and not people.

Hot Reading: A devious or fraudulent reading in which the reader has been given prior knowledge of the sitter.

Hypnosis: A technique that induces a sleep like state in which the subject acts only on external suggestion.

Illusion: A delusional perception between what is perceived and what is reality.

Intuition: Non-paranormal knowledge that is gained through a perceptive insight.

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

Life Review: A flashback of a person’s life that is typically associated with near-death experiences.


Lucid Dreaming: A dream state in which one is conscious enough to recognize that one is in the dream state and is then able to control dream events.

Marian Apparitions: The event in which the Virgin Mary is seen.

Materialization: The act of forming something solid from the air. One of the most difficult and impressive materializations is when part or all of a ghost or spirit can be seen, especially if the face is recognizable.

Medium: Someone who professes to be able communicate with spirits on behalf of another living being, acting as a midway point halfway between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Mist: A Photographed anomaly that appears as a blanket of light. There is no substantial proof that these are related to paranormal phenomenon.
Motor Automatism – Bodily movement or functions that are accompanied but not controlled by consciousness (See automatic writing).


Near Death Experience (NDE): An experience that is reported by people who clinically die, or come close to actual death and are revived. These events often include encounters with spirit guides, seeing dead relatives or friends, life review, out-of-body Experiences (OBE), or a moment of decision where they are able to decide or are told to turn back.

Old Hag Syndrome: A nocturnal phenomena that involves a feeling of immobilization, suffocation, odd smells and feelings and is sometimes accompanied my immense fear (See Sleep Paralysis).

Orb: A photographed anomaly that theoretically represents the “spirit” of a deceased person. It will appear as a ball of light on film though is some cases; they are not seen at the time of the photo. Since there are many reasonable circumstances (dust, snow, rain, insects, reflection, lens flare, etc.) orbs still remain a highly controversial subject.


Out-of-body experience (OBE): A sensation or experience in which ones self or spirit travels to a different location than their physical body (See Astral Projection).

Paranormal: Referring to something that is beyond the range of normal human experience or scientific explanation.

Parapsychology: The study of the evidence for psychological phenomena that are inexplicable by science.

Percipient: A person who sees (i.e., perceives) an apparition.

Phantom: Something that is seen, heard, or sensed, but has no physical reality (See Ghost).

Poltergeist: a non-human spirit entity which literally means “noisy ghost” but is usually more malicious and destructive than ghosts of dead human beings. Traditional poltergeists activities are thumping and banging, levitating or the moving of objects, stone throwing and starting fires. 

Precognition: The ability to predict or have knowledge of something in advance of its occurrence, especially by extrasensory perception (See Clairvoyance).

Psi: A letter in the Greek alphabet that denotes psychic phenomena.

Psychic: A person who is responsive to psychic forces with above average ESP abilities.


Psychic Abilities: The Seven Psychic Abilities a human can possess: 

  • Clairvoyance - Clear seeing: The ability to see or have visions: Clairvoyant mediums have the ability to “see” things presented to them in the Mind’s eye or the Third eye. examples can include pictures of people, scenes, places, objects, spirit, symbols and colors.

  •  Clairaudience - Clear Hearing: The ability to “hear” messages from the spirit realm. Messages are being transmitted directly into your mind. At times you may hear a voice call your name or a mix of voices like listening to a radio.

  •  Clairsentience - Sensing feeling: This is commonly described as ‘gut feeling’ or intuition. You have the ability to sense and feel emotions from spirit both positive and negative. These feelings are being transmitted by your guides and are clearly different from your own feelings.

  • Clairalience - Clear Smelling: This is being able to smell odors that don't have any kind of physical source. Instances of this could include smelling the perfume or the cigarette smoke of a deceased relative, used as a sign of their presence around us.

  • Clairgustance - Clear tasting: This is the ability to taste something that isn't actually there. This experience oftentimes comes from out of the blue when a deceased loved one is attempting to communicate a memory or association we have with a particular food or beverage that reminds us of them.

  • Claircognizance - Clear knowing: This is when we have knowledge of people or events that we would not normally have knowledge about. Spirit impresses us with truths that simply pop into our minds from out of nowhere.

Psychokinesis (PK): The power of the mind to affect matter without physical contact, especially in inanimate and remote objects by the exercise of psychic powers.

Psychometry: The ability or art of divining information about people or events associated with an object solely by touching or being near to it.


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

Reciprocal Apparition:  An extremely rare type of spirit phenomenon in which both the agent and percipient are able to see and respond to each other.

Retrocognition: An experience in which a person finds themselves in the past and is able to see and experience events in which they had no prior knowledge.

Séance:  A meeting or gathering of people, usually lead by a medium to receive spiritualistic messages, manifestations or communication with the dead.

Shaman:  A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events.

Sheep: An experiment in which the subject believes in the ability in which they are being tested.

Specter: A ghostly apparition; a phantom (See Ghost).

Spiritualism: The belief system that the dead are able to communicate with the living, through an intermediary or medium.

Subjective Apparitions: Hallucinations of apparitions or other phenomena that are created by our own minds.

Supernatural: Of or relating to existence outside the natural world. As opposed to paranormal, the term “supernatural” often connotes divine or demonic intervention.

Tarot Cards: A set of (usually 72) cards that include 22 cards representing virtues and vices, death and fortune etc. used by fortunetellers to help predict future events.

Telekinesis: The paranormal movement of objects by scientifically inexplicable means.

Telepathy: Communication from one mind to another through means other than the senses.

Teleportation: A method of transportation in which matter or information is dematerialized, usually instantaneously, at one point and recreated at another.

Thought Form: An apparition produced solely by the power of the human mind.

Trance: A hypnotic, cataleptic, or ecstatic state in which one becomes detached from their physical surroundings.

Vortex: An anomaly that appears as a funnel or rope-like image in photographs. These images are sometimes thought to represent ghosts, collections of orbs or gateways which travel to a wormhole in time-space.


White Noise:  An Acoustical or electrical noise of which the intensity is the same at all frequencies within a given band.