Paranormal Terms And Definitions
There are many terms used to describe the paranormal and paranormal investigations. Some of the phrases and abbreviations can be very confusing to someone unfamiliar with ghosts and the paranormal. This list is provided by Long Island Paranormal Investigators to help you understand some of the more common terms, phrases, and acronyms commonly used to describe ghosts, spirits and paranormal activity.
If there is a term or phrase you think we should add to this list please contact us.
APPARITIONS: The supernatural appearance of a deceased person or animal. It is often too distant to be in the normal range of a persons view and is uncommon to see an appearance. A full bodied apparition shows the entire body of an animal or person. A partial bodied apparition are shown more often but only show part of a body such as; torso or arms. They often appear as white (or various shades of white/gray) or solid black. Usually apparitions can appear to hover in the air. It is rare that apparitions show their legs or feet.
AUTOMATIC WRITING: The ability to write intelligible messages without conscious control of what is being written. Often used in conjunction with trying to channel a spirit or entity into yourself. This can be a very dangerous method! As with all channeling methods (Ouija boards, crystals, etc.) you are opening a door way and have no control over who or what may come through, and no way to be sure to make it leave and “close the door”.
COLD SPOT: A small, defined area of intense cold (at least 10 degrees colder than the surrounding area) that can not readily be explained by other natural or mechanical causes (e.g. air conditioning, a drafty window, ice or snow). In paranormal research the prevailing theory is that when an entityis trying to manifest itself it draws on many sources of energy. One of those sources is the heat energy in the air. As the entity draws the heat out of the air the area in that specific immediate location becomes unusually cold. See our article on Paranormal Temperature Theory.
CLAIRAUDIENCE: The ability to hear things not audible within normal hearing ranges. This is an example of Extra sensory perception. (ESP) It includes the audible perception of ghosts, spirits, and those who are on the astral realm. Clairaudience is essentially the ability of hearing the paranormal as opposed to seeing it.
DEBUNK (DEBUNKING EVIDENCE or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY): Reported paranormal evidence or paranormal activity is said to be “debunked” when a simple, logical and non-paranormal explanation can account for the reported event(s). Even if the activity is genuinely paranormal, if a simple and reasonable explanation can also be applied, because of this ambiguity a prudent paranormal investigator has to side with the debunking explanation until further evidence of paranormal activity can be obtained. Care has to be used since it is easy to be skeptical of any report or evidence. Usually if the non-paranormal explanation is complex or requires many assumptions it may be over analyzing the situation. See our article on Occam’s Razor and the Paranormal Investigator.
DEMON: According to the Catholic faith demons are angels that were cast out of Heaven by G-d during the rebellion against G-d lead by Lucifer. There are several levels or hierarchies of demons, each with different powers. Other faiths may have different concepts of what demons are.
DEMONIC HAUNTING: A haunting by a nonhuman entity. Can be very dramatic, even violent. Demonic hauntings often start out with subtle and relatively simple paranormal activity, then quickly increase to stronger activity. Most often effects people or families that are already under great personal stress from conditions such as alcohol or drug use, psychological or emotional problems, family or marital problems, etc. It is believed the nonhuman entity takes advantage of people in such weaken psychological and emotional condition. Persons who believe they and/or their families are the subject of a demonic haunting should immediately seek both professional paranormal assistance and counseling help. Click Here to read more about demonic hauntings.
DEMONOLOGIST: A person who actively pursues demons and other nonhuman entitles both for study and to help people rid them from their lives. Usually demonologists are very religious people as they believe strongly that only faith has the power to combat a demon. They are also usually schooled and or experienced in the field of psychology and mental health. IMPORTANT: Active pursuit of demons and demonology is not something to be tried for fun or kicks. Serious injury – both physical and mental – can occur! Please read out article on Demonology 101.
DOWSING (aka DIVINING): The ability to use a pair of rods (often metal) held in the hands to locate objects, most commonly water. A Y-shaped tree branch can also be used fro finding water. In the paranormal investigation field Dowsing Rods are sometimes used to locate energy sources that could be paranormal in nature.
ECHOLALIA: A professional clinical word that means to repeat back what you hear. As applied to the paranormal field it means when a ghost or spirit repeats back something you have just said in order to show they are there and are trying to communicate with you. The words repeated back could be EVP questions or just casual conversation. It is not clear why an entity might repeat back your words rather than respond on their own. Perhaps it is easier/simply for an entity to repeat what it has heard rather than form new words.
ECTOPLASM: The substance left behind when an entity tries to manifest itself. Although still largely theoretical (none has yet been collected for chemical analysis) it has been photographed on many occasions. Ectoplasm often appears in photographs as a thick white mist or smoke in nearly straight lines. Vapor and humidity is often mistaken for ectoplasm. It is rarely seen with the naked eye. It can, however, be felt as a dense area of cobweb-like strands.
EMF – Electro Magnetic Field: In it’s natural form it is the natural electric field (sometimes thought of an an aurora) that is generated by all living things and many inanimate objects such as metals and certain minerals. EMF is also generated by man-made electric sources such as lights, radios and wires. In paranormal investigations the theory is that entities are largely composed of energy which may be electrically based. By trying to detect EMF it may be possible to locate an otherwise unseen entity. The stronger the EMF detected the potential greater the paranormal phenomena. See our article on EMF Theory.
EMPATHS – EMPATHIC ABILITIES: Some people are sensitive to the typically stronger feelings a paranormal entity gives off. They may also be able to see people and events that have occurred years in the past at a given locations. While feelings are hard to confirm or deny, when recorded along with other paranormal evidence that can be documented, empathic ability can be a helpful investigation tool.
ENTITY: A generic all-encompassing term used to describe a paranormal object/being that is presumed to be a ghost or spirit. Since no one is yet 100% sure what paranormal objects really are the term “entity” is used as a pronoun to include any and all possible things such as ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, non-human spirits etc.
EVP – Electronic Voice Phenomena: The hearing of unexplainable voices during the playback of a recording made on a electronic recoding device. The voices can not be readily identified as persons speaking or events (mechanical sounds, background noise etc) that took place while the record was being performed. Can be encountered on both tape and digital recorders. Sometimes also found on video recorders (not film however). See our articles on EVP theory and classification.
FEAR CAGE: A term used to describe a confined area such as a walk in closet, hallway or basement with very high EMF readings. The combination of being close and confined with in an area of strong EMF often brings out extremely great feelings of uneasiness, anxiety, paranoia and/or uncontrollable fear. When this occurs the best thing is to quickly and calmly leave the area and go to a more open area with lower EMF.
GHOST: A spirit or shade of a dead person believed to haunt people or previous habitats/locations. The spirit remains of a living being, strongly attached to the living realm by some form of emotional force. Often ghosts do not realize that they are in fact dead. Others live out the routine of the day they died, and continue this in a cycle. Other ghosts interact with everyday life of the living.
HALF REAL OBJECTIVE: When you perceive nothing subjectively but obtain objective documentation.
HALF REAL SUBJECTIVE: When you subjectively perceive something that was not documented via objective means.
IMPRINT (IMPRINTING): It is theorized that events and strong feelings/emotions can leave a copy or record of themselves on places (tunnels, rooms, fields etc) and objects (furniture, buildings, personal affects etc). Most notably this occurs when a sudden and violent death occurs such as a powerful accident, a murder or other crime, a war or battle area etc. The energy that is left can result in a non-intelligent haunting, usually a residual haunting. In these cases people often report seeing and hearing the same thing over and over like a tape playing, rewinding and playing again. Sometimes the event seems to be recorded on the specific location rather than a building, room or object. There have been cases reported where an imprint haunting has occurred in a building, the building is later totally demolished and a new one built (or the area just left vacant) but the haunting still continues. In the situation of imprinting on an object the haunting can follow the object through several owners. This is often reported with items purchased at a yard sale or flea market.
IR (INFRARED): Infrared light is light from the lower end (long wave length/low frequency) of the electromagnetic spectrum (between the visible light spectrum and microwaves). IR light is not visible to the naked human eye without the use of special equipment. IR is not to be confused with thermal imaging. While IR and thermal energy are both on the short end of the electromagnetic spectrum they are not the same thing. There is evidence that ghosts/spirits and other paranormal entities may be more susceptible to being viewed (including video and image photography) using the IR light spectrum. IR sensors are also often used for measuring temperature and detecting movement. Click here to read our article about using alternate light spectrums for paranormal investigations.
KINETIC ENERGY: Energy needed to force an object at rest into motion. Objects in motion have kinetic energy. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. As the kinetic energy diminishes it changes into potential energy.
LEY LINES (aka LEY): The theoretical lines that can be drawn to connect ancient (and some modern) sites across a country, even around the world. The term “Ley Line” (“Ley” being a Saxon word meaning meadow or cleared strip of ground) was first coined by Alfred Watkins in the early 1920’s. He noticed that many ancient and prehistoric structures (e.g. mounds, stone circles, temples, river crossings, ceremonial hilltops, etc.) could be connected by straight lines. Often these lines exactly fit compass directions, and sometimes at certain times of the year match up with star alignments. He also noticed that many of these lines intersect and where they intersect are significant other structures such as churches, temples, and burial grounds. Some people believe Ley Lines also follow the natural magnetic forces of the Earth and therefore are very powerful for spiritual and mystic activity. Ley lines are also known as corpse ways, church paths, church lines, and coffin lines.
“LIGHTS OUT” INVESTIGATION: A paranormal investigation, usually conducted indoors and at night, where all the light sources and other electronic devices in the building have been turned off. The equipment used for paranormal investigations is typically more sensitive at night and in the dark. Having lights off reduces the possibility of false or misleading evidence caused by reflections and glares.
LIVING GHOST: The manifestation of a ghost or entity, usually a living close family member or friend, that appears a long distance (sometimes hundreds or event thousands of miles away!). This event usually coincides when the other person (the one manifesting) is facing an immediate great stress or life-threatening danger. Examples include a aircraft pilot or crew flying through a storm, a soldier on the battle field, an automobile driver or passenger during a sever accident, etc. Some believe this is related to astral projection and out-of-the-body experiences. This phenomena is related to the moment of mortality manifestation.
LOST TIME: With paranormal ghost/spirit activity it is possible that a small concentrated area of high paranormal activity may briefly alter the physical environment (see Warp) such that time slows down or stops altogether. For example, a person in such an effected area may be in the area for 20 minutes as measured by a clock outside the area. But the person’s watch only shows them in the area for 15 minutes. What happened to the 5 minutes difference? This phenomena is similar to what sometimes in reported UFO cases.
MANIFEST or MANIFESTATION: The act of an entity trying to make it self appear in our world. Entities are believed to exist mainly as energy with no physical form. When an entity is trying to make itself appear or make it’s presence known in our world it is said to be manifesting itself; trying to make itself into some form of physical state.
MIST: An energy field that looks like a cloud or haze but has a paranormal ectoplasm substance. There may or may not be any particular shape, color (typically white or light colored), thickness, or consistency.
MOMENT OF MORTALITY: A ghostly manifestation that occurs when someone is at the exact moment of their death. A ghost, spirit or other apparition appears to a close friend or family member. Can happen over great distances (hundreds, even thousands, of miles away). This phenomena is similar to the living ghost and Death Bed Visions phenomena.
NECROMANCY (NECROMANCE): The attempt to conjure, summon or raise the dead in order to learn secrets and insights from the spirits. Usually intended to gain personal advantage or fortune over others. The person who is trying to perform the necromancy process is called a Necromancer. This deals heavily into the unsavory realm of magic, spells, and dark/forbidden witchcraft rituals. Can also be attempted with Tarot cards and Ouija boards. Regardless of the process used, necromancy is highly dangerous from the point of view that you are opening a doorway and have no idea what thing may come through and into your life!
NIGHT SHOT: A setting common on hand held video cameras. Originally it was a term used to describe the night vision (total darkness) recording capability of the Sony Handicam series of camcorders. This term has since become synonymous with meaning any night vision/total darkness video camera or recording device regardless of the manufacturer. The night shot feature uses a built-in IR (infra red) illumination source. An external IR illuminator can often be attached for additional viewing range. Click Here to read our discussion of using alternate light spectrums for paranormal investigations.
NONHUMAN or INHUMAN SPIRIT: An entity (ghost or spirit) that is not the result of a human person that once lived on Earth. This category also includes angels, demons, devils etc. It is not known exactly where these kinds of entities come from but it is reasonably well accepted by the paranormal community these spirits are not from people who had lived on Earth and have since died. Encounters with non-human spirits is rare and usually dramatic. Extra care should always be used if dealing with a potential inhuman spirit!
ORB: Orbs appear to be a form of energy of an unknown origin. An orb can take different shapes. They can also be seen by the naked eye, but most of the time you only get orb sightings in photographs, and on video tape (VHS). They seem to defy gravity and change directions quickly. They seem to also twinkle. The presence of people make them react. They appear both indoors and outdoors. False orbs tend to be transparent and pale white, or blue. Real genuine orbs tend to appear dense or brighter on film. To increase the probability of you getting a photograph of a genuine orb, it is good to take the photograph at the same time as other unusual phenomenon are experienced, such as sharp changes in temperature, and increases in electromagnetic energy. In a genuine orb there is a nucleus. It has concentric circles or bands within. It can be active in visible realm, but more active in infrared. They appear abundantly in supposed haunted locations. Drops of rain, specks of dust, insects, reflections, as well as many other things can be mistaken for orbs. Read our discussion of False Evidence.
PARANORMAL: Events above the normal or everyday experiences. Events that can not be readily explained by known conventional reasons and/or commonly accepted science. Not to be confused with Supernatural that implies a deity explanation.
POLTERGEIST: Term is German for “noisy ghost”. It can be dependant on a certain individual or group of individuals. They usual make the biggest impact on physical objects. They tend to be temporary. In some instances a poltergeist can appear as the psychic extension of a person, usually most common in adolescent females. Tend to be mischievous and like to play pranks. More recently developed theories move away from ghost activity to the realm of spontaneous and unconscious (unintended) telekinesis.
RESIDUAL HAUNTING: Non conscious and unintelligent (no thought or purposely actions), usually appear as person but can sometimes be a group of people, and animal or any non living thing. An example is the famous “Flying Dutchman” legend. There are no interactions with observers. They stay in same location replaying the same event over and over usually on some rhythmic cycle or pattern (though what the pattern is can be hard to determine). Sometimes causing electrical environment interference to occur. Often compared to a video recording that automatically plays itself over and over.
SHADOWS: (Shadow Beings, Shadow Entities) Shadows refer to the possible paranormal apparition which appears as a dark human-formmanifestation. We say “possible” paranormal apparition since the true nature of this type of paranormal event is still unknown and the subject of much research. Click Here for more information about shadows.
STREAK: An unusual line of light, often comet-like, that appears on photographs taken in potential paranormal activity areas. Happens with both35mm film and digital cameras. Occasionally seen on video cameras and DVR units as well. Can often be the result of a shaky camera especially when using a digital camera.
TELEKINESIS: (Telekinetic power) The ability to manipulate physical objects using the body’s static electrical charges. Chi is the Asian term for telekinesis. Psychic extension of the person transported through the electrical field surrounding the individual. More commonly known as a persons’ ability to move object with just their mind and thoughts.
TOUCHED: The act of experiencing physical contact from a ghost, spirit or other paranormal entity. Can be as simple as a tug in your shirt or pressure on a part of your body to scratches, burns or being pushed/shoved. However, serious physical injury is very rare.
ULTRAVIOLET (UV): Ultraviolet light is light from the upper end (long wave length/low frequency) of the electromagnetic spectrum. As with Infrared light, UV light is normally not visible to the naked human eye without the use of special viewing or photography equipment. Some paranormal investigators have experimented with using UV light to take video of ghosts and other paranormal entities. The results have been indeterminate. Other paranormal investigators have claimed UV light is an effective barrier to block demonic entities. Click here to read our article about using alternate light spectrums for paranormal investigations.
VORTEX – Vortices, Vortexes: A concentrated yet brief area of high electromagnetic energy often found in photographs taken at paranormally active locations. The often appear as sold (opaque) white or silver tubes, rods, or elongated ovals. They can also appear to be braided like a rope or chain (care has to be take to ensure it is not a rope, chain, camera strap etc). A vortex is not an entity. However, some paranormal researchers believe a vortex is a momentary doorway or portal to another realm that allows entities and other paranormal phenomena to come into our world. Some researchers also believe vortexes are linked to the Earth’s own electromagnetic field which at least in part help determine when these portals open/close. It is also believed that some locations are more prone to having active vortices due to the alignment of the Earth’s magnetic field and local geological structure.
- Areas where conventional laws of physics can break down, linear time may not always apply. They can be locations infested with entities, imprints, and barrage of other paranormal activities. They may be unpredictable areas that can twist perceptions beyond the understanding of logic.
- Areas of paranormal activity so intense that time itself changes. Time may speed up, slow down (Lost Time) or briefly stop altogether. The area effected is very small and of short duration.
WHITE NOISE: White noise is the random non-descript static sound produced by various electronic devices. The sound covers and combines all wavelengths and frequencies. In this way it is like the color white which is really a combination of all colors. Hence the name white noise – the combination of all sounds. Examples of common white noise sources are the radio or television static when set to an empty channel, the hum of an electric fan motor and the babbling sound of a fast moving stream or brook. Click here for our article that discuss using white noise for paranormal investigations.
WHOLE REAL: When you are able to document an experience both objectively and subjectively. There are three different types of whole real:
- Type I: When the subjective and the objective appear at the same time.
- Type II: When the subjective and the objective appear at different times.
- Type III: A combination of types I and II when the subjective and objective match but additional information is documented on either side.