Olde City Paranormal

Philadelphia's Hometown Paranormal Research Team

The Paranormal Dictionary

Terms and definitions in alphabetical order

The Paranormal Dictionary is a collection of paranormal terms used frequently in the paranormal field by paranormal investigators. You may hear these terms used by Olde City Paranormal's investigators while investigating at your location.


Agent: A living person who is the focus of poltergeist activity.
Amulet: An object that is thought to bring good luck or have the power to protect one from ghosts or spirits and ward off evil. Also known as "charm", "talisman".
Anomaly: An irregular or unusual event that does not follow a standard rule or law or that cannot be explained by currently accepted scientific theories.
Apparition: A spectral image of a person that materializes even though a physical body is not present; experienced in a wakeful state.
Apport: A physical object that can materialize and appear at will in the presence of a medium.
Artefact: A term used to describe the slight noises or residual images produced by the internal mechanisms of equipment which could be misinterpreted as paranormal sounds or images.
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, interdimensionally or extradimensionally.
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 interpreting 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 electromagnetic energy that surrounds a person or thing; often thought to reflect a person’s personality, health or emotional state; can be viewed by Kirlian Photography in color frequencies as with light.
Aurora Borealis: A natural occurring phenomena that takes place in the north pole. The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights were named by the French scientist, Pierre Gassendi, in 1621. They were named "Aurora" for the goddess of the dawn according to the Romans (known as Eos and usually described as "rosy-fingered" by the Greeks) and for the god of the north wind, which in Latin is "Boreas".
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").

Banshee: A wailing spirit or (See "death omen"). that will appear to be in two different places at the same time.
Benevolent: Characterized by or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings; Desiring to help others; charitable; Intended for benefits rather than profit.
Black Shuck: (See "Hellhound").

Case Study: An in-depth investigation of an individual subject or location.
Channeling: In this 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(s).
Clairalience: The ability to perceive or experience odor outside the range of normal olfactory sense. (See ESP).
Clairaudience: An auditory form of ESP; Paranormal information is received outside the range of normal perception through voices, whispers and auditory impressions. (See ESP).
Clairgustance: The ability to perceive or experience taste without putting anything in the mouth. (See ESP).
Clairsentience: The ability to perceive or experience the emotions of others without the use of the normal five physical senses. A general term for clairvoyance and clairaudience. (See ESP).
Clairvoyance: An acute insight or perceptiveness that enables one to see objects or events that cannot be perceived by the senses; comes in the form of mental imagery and intuition. (See ESP).
Control: A procedure in paranormal psychology which ensures that the experiment is conducted in a standard fashion so that results will not be influenced by any extraneous factors.
Control Group: A group of outside subjects whose performance or abilities are compared with the experimental subjects.
Contact Session: The period of time in which paranormal investigators attempt to establish communication with an entity.
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.

Death Omen: (See "Banshee").
Dematerialization: A term used to describe a spirit or specter losing apparent physical substance.
Déjà Vu: An impression or dull familiarity of having seen or experienced something before.
Demon: An inferior deity recognized by all religions but known by differing names and physical descriptions; often spoken of in religious text as pure evil; capable of human possession, possessed of inhuman strength, malevolent and destructive. Documented cases of demons are extremely rare.
Direct Voice Phenomenon (DVP): An auditory "spirit" voice that is spoken directly to the sitters at a séance.
Disembodied: Lacking a body or freed from the body; incorporeal. Lacking in substance, solidity, or any firm relation to reality.
Doppelgänger: An exact spirit double or mirror image of a person which is considered to be very negative.
Dowsing Rod: A simple tool of metal or wood used to locate water, lost objects, energy fields or in spirit communication. Established use has been known for centuries but carries little or no weight within current scientific arenas.

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 in this physical plane.
Ectoplasm: An immaterial or ethereal substance associated with spirit manifestations. Often photographed as fog-like mist, white masses or vortexes.
Electromagnetic Field (EMF): An energy field surrounding all things, both natural and man-made.
Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Detector: (See "Magnetometer")
Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP): Voices and sounds from beyond that are captured and recorded on magnetic tape or digitally. Controversial in that many believe the sounds are misinterpretations of natural phenomena or equipment artefacts.
Elementals: A term commonly referring to natural spirits. Also known as "earth spirits".
Entity: Any thing that has a separate, distinct existence, though not necessarily material in nature.
Extra Sensory Perception (ESP): Communication or perception by means other than the normal five physical senses. Also known as "sixth sense".
Exorcism: The banishment of an entity or entities (spirits, ghosts, demons) that are 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 be present.

False Awakening: An event in which a person believes they are awake but are actually dreaming.
Frank's Box: A controversial invention which some believe allows real-time communication with entities; works by continuously scanning AM and FM radio frequencies from which broadcast syllables or words are used by an entity to speak. Also known as a "Ghost Box".

Ghost: A generic term referring to a form of apparition or supernatural entity; typically the visual appearance of a deceased human spirit.
Ghost Box: (See "Frank's Box").
Ghost Hunt: A carefully controlled research project in which various methods and equipment are used to investigate reports of ghosts and hauntings. Differs from an investigation in that no intervention of the research team has been requested.
Ghoul: A demonic or parasitic entity that feeds upon human remains.
Gut Feeling: (See "Intuition").

Hallucination: A vivid perception of sights and/or sounds that are not physically present. Usually associated with an altered state of consciousness induced by alcohol, drugs, illness or psychological instability.
Haunting: A reoccurring ghostly phenomena that returns to a location where no one is physically present. Ghosts generally haunt places and not people. (See "Intelligent Haunting" and "Residual Haunting").
Hellhound: A spectral death omen in the form of a ghostly dog. Also known as a "Black Shuck".
Hot Reading: A devious or fraudulent reading in which the reader has been given prior knowledge of the sitter. (See "Reading").
Hypnosis: A technique that induces a sleep-like state in which the subject acts only on external suggestion.

Ignis fatuus: Phosphorescent or spectral light that that is alleged to be an indication of death. This phenomena is thought to be caused by spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by rotting organic matter. Popular in cultural and regional folklore. Also known as a "Coffin Light" "Corpse Candle", "Corpse Light", "Death Light".
Illusion: A perception between what is perceived and what is reality.
Infrared Camera (IR Camera): A camera with incorporated infrared technology that allows photography or filming in low light conditions. Also known as a "Night Vision Camera".
Infrared Non-Contact Thermometer (IR Thermometer): An instrument with incorporated infrared technology that allows the measurement of both ambient and surface temperatures without physically being in contact. Extreme and rapid temperature change is believed to be an indicator of paranormal activity.
Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC): A term used to describe the many ways unexpected "spirit" voices can be collected through modern technological methods. Includes EVP, white noise, video frequency feedback.
Intelligent Haunting: A case in which there is interaction on the physical plane as in communication or object movement.
Intuition: Non-paranormal knowledge that is gained through perceptive insight. Also known as "Gut Feeling".
Investigation: A carefully controlled research project in which various methods and equipment are used to seek confirmation of reports of ghosts or hauntings. Differs from a "Ghost Hunt" in that the research team was requested to intervene.

K-2 Meter: (See "Magnetometer").
Kirlian Photography: A photographic process that supposedly records electrical discharges naturally emanating from living objects, producing an auralike glow surrounding the object on a photographic plate or film with which the object is in direct contact. Named after Semyon D. Kirlian and Valentina K. Kirlian (1970-1975) Russian technicians who developed the process.

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.

Magnetometer (EMF Meter, Gaussmeter): An instrument for measuring the magnitude and direction of a magnetic field; typically used by paranormal researchers to detect a ghost's magnetic energy.
Malevolent: Wishing evil or harm to another or others; showing ill will; ill-disposed; malicious; Evil; harmful; injurious; Evil or malign in influence.
Marian Apparition: An 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.
Mesmerism: A hypnotic induction of a sleep or trance state (See "Hypnosis").
Mist: A photographed anomaly that appears as a blanket of light. There is no substantial proof that these are related to paranormal phenomena.
Motor Automatism: A bodily movement or functions that are accompanied but not controlled by consciousness (See "Automatic Writing").

Near Death Experience (NDE): An event that is reported by people who clinically die, or come close to actual death and are revived. These often include encounters with spirit guides, seeing dead relatives or friends, life review, Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE's), 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 by immense fear (See "Sleep Paralysis").
Orb: A most commonly photographed anomaly that theoretically represents the "spirit" of a deceased person. Often appears as a ball of light on film though in some cases they are not seen at the time of the photo. Differing characteristics include size, color, density, shape, motion and flexibility. Since there are many reasonable causes for their origin (dust, moisture, insects, lens reflection, etc.) orbs remain highly controversial.
Orb Color Theory (OCT): An experimental concept that allows interpretation of an orb's "emotional" state or meaning by its primary color characteristics.
Ouija Board: A pre-printed board with letters, numerals, and words used to receive spirit communications. Typically a planchette, a triangular or heart-shaped pointer, is employed to spell out words or messages and point out numbers or letters. Many believe the controversial board is a gateway allowing negative entities into the physical plane while others believe it no more harmful than any other board game. Also known as a "Spirit Board", "Talking Board". The board's name is derived from the French and German words for 'yes'.
Out-of-body experience (OBE or OOBE): A sensation or experience in which one's self or spirit travels to a different location other than their physical body (See "Astral Projection" and "Near Death Experience").

Paranormal: A term 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.
Pareidolia: A psychological phenomena whereby random and vague stimuli are perceived as being significant. Common examples include finding images of animals or faces in clouds, the "man in the moon" or hearing "hidden messages" in reversed audio recordings. Also known as "Matrixing". (See "Simulacra").
Percipient: A person who sees (perceives) an apparition.
Phantom: Something that is seen, heard and/or sensed, but has no physical reality (See "Ghost").
Phenomena: A fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable; Something that is impressive or extraordinary; A remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder; An appearance or immediate object of awareness in experience.
Poltergeist: A non-human spirit entity which literally means "noisy ghost" but is usually more malicious and destructive than ghosts of deceased humans. Traditional poltergeist activities are thumping and banging, levitation or movement of objects, stone throwing and starting fires. It is thought that poltergeist activity in some instances may be brought on subconsciously by an adolescent agent, females under the age of 25 or by individuals under extreme emotional duress. Documented cases of poltergeists are relatively low.
Possession: The state of being possessed; Ownership of one's body; Actual holding or occupancy, either with or without rights of ownership.
Precognition: The ability to predict or have knowledge of an event in advance of its occurrence, especially by extrasensory perception (See "Clairvoyance").
Psi: The twenty-third letter in the Greek alphabet use to denote psychic phenomena.
Psychic: A term used to describe a person who has above average ESP abilities or paranormal powers; term used to describe forces of a paranormal nature.
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.
Pyrokinesis: The ability to unconsciously control and sometimes in rare cases produce fire with their mind only.

Radio Voice Phenomenon (RVP): Receiving the voice of a deceased human being through a regular radio.
Reading: A session during which a medium or psychic reveals information to a sitter through various means such as astrology, palmistry or tarot cards.
Reciprocal Apparition: Extremely rare type of spirit phenomena in which both the agent and percipient are able to see and respond to each other.
Remote Viewing: Used by some psychics, a procedure in which the percipient or psychic attempts to become physically aware of the experience of an agent who is at a distant, unknown location through ESP.
Residual Haunting: A case in which an event or scene is re-enacted and is not affected by any external influences.
Retrocognition: An experience in which a person finds themselves in the past and is able to see and experience events of which they had no prior knowledge.

Séance: A meeting or gathering of people, usually lead by a medium, to receive spiritualistic messages, manifestations of and/or communication with the dead.
Sensitive: A term referring to persons who possesses extrasensory talents.
Shadow People: Shadow-like entities most often seen in one's peripheral vision. Differs from ghosts in that recognizable characteristics like facial features or clothing are lacking. Very frequently sightings are accompanied by feelings of dread, menace or threat. Also known as "Shadow Beings", "Shadow Folk", "Shadow Ghosts".
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.
Simulacra: A term used to describe the faces, figures and images in ordinary, everyday object such as clouds, rocks, foliage, etc. Also known as "Matrixing". (See "Pareidolia").
Sleep Paralysis: A form of paralysis often striking as a person falls asleep, awakens or moves into or out of the Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. (See "Old Hag Syndrome").
Specter: A ghostly apparition; a phantom (See "Ghost").
Spirit: The principle of conscious life; The vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul; conscious, incorporeal being, as opposed to matter; A supernatural, incorporeal being, especially one inhabiting a place, object, etc., or having a particular character. (See "Ghost").
Spirit Board: See ("Ouija Board").
Spirit Guide: An entity which provides spiritual guidance through channeling or a medium.
Spiritualism: The belief system that the dead are able to communicate with the living, most often through an intermediary or medium.
Stigmata: Unexplained bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain corresponding in location to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.
Subjective Apparition: An hallucination of apparitions or other phenomenon 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.

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.

Voodoo: Also, vodun. A polytheistic religion practiced chiefly by West Indians, deriving principally from African cult worship and containing elements borrowed from the Catholic religion; black magic; sorcery
Vortex: An anomaly that appears as a funnel or rope-like image in photographs. Sometimes thought to represent ghosts, collections of orbs or gateways which travel to a wormhole in time-space, there is no substantial scientific evidence to support any of these theories.

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