Ambient Thermometer—a device which measures the temperature of cold spots (see separate entry), while also measuring the temperature of the surrounding air.
Angel—in certain theologies, a benevolent being of an order higher than a human, but lower than a deity. Often seen as a source of comfort, though occasionally of fear. See also: Demon.
Anomaly—something out of place or seemingly unrelated to its surroundings. In terms of the paranormal, this could include seeing something such the image of an old house in the middle of a busy road, possibly indicating where a house once stood. An auditory example might be the sound of running water in a bedroom, or a grandfather clock chiming in a house where no such instrument currently exists. Such sights or sounds could give clues to the earlier history of a building or the land on which it sits.
Automatic Writing—a method of communication with the spirit world in which a medium, while in a trance state, writes down messages allegedly received from a spirit.
Banshee—a crying or screaming spirit, most often described as female, whose terrifying cry is said to presage the death of a family member. In some cases, the banshee always cries for the same type of victim, such as the family matriarch, regardless of who hears it; in others, it is believed the cry is heard only by the intended victim.
Battery Drain—the phenomenon of fully-charged batteries unexpectedly and spontaneously draining of all power in an allegedly haunted location. It is based on the popular theory that ghosts require energy to manifest, and find batteries a ready source.
Channeling—a form of spirit communication in which a medium allows a spirit to take control of his or her body in order to speak through the medium.
Cold Spot—a free-floating patch of cold air, with no logical explanation. It is commonly believed that ghosts require energy from external sources (people, electronics, etc.) in order to manifest themselves. In such a case, a considerable drop in temperature may be felt by those around the spirit at the time, while the surrounding air remains noticeably warmer.
Death—in the simplest terms, the moment when all brain activity ceases. It is possible to keep body parts alive for short periods of time using artificial methods, but to most people, this cannot be considered “life.” Naturally, perhaps the biggest question dealt with by scientists, religious leaders, and philosophers is, “What happens when we die?” To date, no one has come up with concrete evidence either way. Some believe that death is final. The body shuts down and decays with no more said. Some believe death to be a passage between the physical plain and the spiritual plain. Some people believe in an afterlife in which the soul lingers in eternal paradise (Heaven), or is condemned to everlasting torture (Hell), depending on how the deceased conducted himself in the physical body. Others believe in a purgatory, or half-way stage, during which the soul is judged and subsequently assigned a place in Heaven or Hell. Still others believe that souls can be reincarnated into new bodies; conversely, some souls may remain earth-bound as ghosts. As to why a ghost may remain is as wide open to speculation as the question of what happens after death, and is beyond the scope of this entry.
Debunk—to disprove a claim of paranormal activity through measurable, demonstrable, scientific proof.
Demon—in many theological systems, a malevolent being of an order higher than humans, but lower than a deity; usually seen as a source of evil or suffering, sometimes as a source of empowerment, or even a source of benefit. See also: Angel.
Disembodied—no longer having a physical body; usually attributed to voices from unseen entities, or occasionally to apparitions themselves.
Dissipate—to fade away gradually, as attributed to some apparitions.
Divination—determining the future by a variety of means, such as reading Tarot cards or scrying (see separate entries). See also: ESP, Medium, Necromancy, Ouija Board, Spiritualism, Table Tapping.
Divining Rod—a forked stick used to locate underground water, buried treasure, etc. The two branches are held one in each hand, while the longer trunk is used to pick up waves of energy given off by the object being sought. According to those who use them, divining rods can be programmed to seek a certain type of energy (water, metal, etc.) See also: Dowsing Rods.
Dowsing Rods—a pair of L-shaped metal rods held one in each hand, used for detecting the presence of paranormal (see separate entry) energy. The rods are initially held parallel to each other. As an energy field grows in intensity, the rods cross, indicating the possible presence of an entity (see separate entry). See also: Divining Rod.
Ectoplasm—a substance, variously described as gauzy, milky, or waxy, alleged to emanate from the mouths, eyes, etc., of certain mediums during spirit contact. As of yet, no definitive proof of what ectoplasm is, or even of its genuine existence, has been found. In many proven fraud cases, ectoplasm has been detected as a man-made substance intended to fool or dazzle an audience (often a paying audience) into beliving genuine spiritual contact has been made. See also: Spiritualism.
EMF—a measurable electromagnetic field. All electrical objects emit EMFs in various degrees. Unshielded power sources, such as wires or fuse boxes, may produce abnormally high EMFs, which can cause a variety of side effects (see Hypersensitivity for a more detailed explanation). One popular belief is that spirits will give off a high EMF because they consist mainly of energy, and require large amounts of ambient energy in order to manifest themselves. EMFs can be measured using appropriate gauges, but are not necessarily definitive proof of paranormal activity.
Entity—in terms of the paranormal (see separate entry), a ghost, demon (see separate entries), or other such creature, whether seen or unseen.
ESP—extrasensory perception: the ability to read minds, see ghosts, communicate with spirits, etc. See also: Divination, Medium, Séance.
EVP—Electronic Voice Phenomenon: a sound, such as a voice, bump, or music, which is caught on an electronic recorder, such as an MP3 player or tape recorder, but which cannot be heard with the human ear. See also: Voice Phenomenon.
Exorcism—a religious ceremony intended to drive evil spirits (see also: Demon) from a human body where they have taken up residence against the will of the afflicted person. A person who performs such a rite is commonly referred to as an exorcist.
Fear Cage—a man-made environment of high electromagnetic fields (see EMF), usually caused by unshielded fuseboxes or wires which surround a small room or recess, causing various symptoms of paranoia or eeriness.
Funhouse Effect—a dizzying effect caused by crooked walls or floors, or even intricate parquet floor designs or patterned carpets. Disproportionately large or small furniture can also create a funhouse effect. To give yourself an idea, imagine stepping onto a stopped escalator. Your mind expects it to move with your feet. The unsteady effect that results is a common example of a funhouse effect.
Geophone—a portable device, akin to a seismograph, for measuring minute vibrations in floors or other surfaces.
Ghost—commonly believed to be the energetic manifestation of a person who has died. There is no single theory as to exactly what a ghost is, or why or how they come to exist—or if they even exist at all. Such things are usually determined by the individual based on their upbringing, religious teachings, and personal experiences. One of the most popular theories among parapsychologists (see separate entry) is that a ghost is the disembodied spirit of a deceased individual. Some ghosts are believed to exist for a single purpose—to communicate; others are believed to exist without apparent purpose. Some people believe it is possible to banish a ghost from its accustomed haunt, or to help the disembodied spirit move on to another plain of existence. Again, such determinations must be made by the individual. As of yet, there is no solid scientific evidence as to the existence of ghosts, but the field as a genuinely-accepted science is growing rapidly as human technology continues to leap forward. Countless books have been written about ghosts, dating back to the earliest days of recorded history. Subsequently, a full discourse on the subject is far beyond the purview of this glossary. See also: Haunting, Intelligent; Haunting, Residual; Poltergeist; Wraith.
Haunting, Intelligent—a spirit with the ability to communicate and interact with the living; often for the purpose of conveying a specific message, such as details of its untimely death or perhaps unfinished business in the mundane world. Such hauntings seem perfectly aware of their surroundings and the people attempting to communicate with them. In many cases, once a crucial piece of information has been successfully conveyed to a living person, the haunting ceases permanently, the spirit having achieved its goal. In some cases, intelligent hauntings have demonstrated an awareness of the passage of time. There have even been reported cases of ghosts who can smoke, drink, or have sex, activities they presumably enjoyed (or were denied) during their lifetime. See also: Angel, Demon, Incubus, Succubus.
Haunting, Residual—a spirit or paranormal (see separate entries) which do not appear to be aware of their surroundings. Residual haunts do not interact with the living, and are unaware of the passage of time. They merely play themselves out time after time, whether a living person is there to observe or not. A ghost which is regularly seen walking a certain corridor or engaged in a specific activity, but in no other circumstances, would be an example of a residual haunting. Knocks, screams, or other noises which are heard at the same time each evening, or only on a specific day of the year, are further examples. The classic example of a residual haunting would be an apparition that disappears into a solid wall, presumably at a spot where a door used to be.
Hypersensitivity—an acute reaction to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Common side effects include headache, nausea, skin irritation, paranoia, eeriness, and a sense of being watched. Hypersensitivity can be minimized or eliminated by shielding or removing the source of a naural or man-made electromagnetic field. See also: EMF.
Incubus—a sexually-aggressive male entity, usually considered demonic, which is commonly believed to seduce women in their sleep. Sexual dreams are often attributed to incubi and their female counterparts, the succubi. See also: Succubus.
Infestation—the state of being occupied and controlled by a demon or demons; used specifically of buildings. See also: Possession.
Infrared Camera—from the Latin infra, meaning “below,” and red: a camera which allows humans to see into the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, 0.7 to 300 micrometers (millionths of a meter), too dark for the naked eye to see.
KII (K2) Meter—a device which measures electromagnetic fields, the intensity of which are indicated by a series of different-colored lights.
Manifestation—the visible appearance of an apparition, also referred to as a materialization.
Matrixing—the tendency of the human mind to “fill in” the missing details of something perceived, often causing a person to imagine they are seeing something they are not. For example, three spots arranged in a triangle on the wall of a dark room may appear to be the manifestation (see separate entry) of a human face—two eyes and a mouth. Matrixing is often brought on by fear or the desire to see a ghost.
Medium—a person endowed with extrasensory perception (see: ESP). Some mediums use a spirit guide (see separate entry) to bridge the gap between the mundane and the supernatural. Others, called full-trance mediums, allow a spirit to take control of their bodies in order to speak. Many paranormal investigation teams utilize mediums to make contact with disembodied spirits, though their use is often considered unscientific or unreliable. See also: Channeling, Divination, ESP, Necromancy, Ouija Board, Psychometry, Scrying, Spirit Guide, Spiritualism, Table Tapping/Tipping, Tarot.
Necromancy—the practice of communicating with the dead in order to divine the future. See also: Divination, ESP, Medium, Séance, Spiritualism.
Occult—from the Latin occultus, meaning “hidden”: a term which deals with anything of a secretive spiritual nature, such as witchcraft, divination, Satanism, shamanism, or magic (Magick). Practitioners of these arts are commonly referred to as occultists.
Orb—a spherical mass of visible energy, most often captured only in digital photography or videotape; occasionally seen by the naked eye or on 35-mm film. The subject of orbs is hotly debated among parapsychologists (see Parapsychology). Some believe orbs to be the beginning of a ghostly manifestation (see separate entry), while others believe them to be nothing more than a form of collected energy. Quite often, “orbs” seen in digital photos can be dismissed as dust particles or insects illuminated by the camera’s flash.
Ouija Board—a board game, commercially manufactured by the Parker Brothers toy company, used to contact alleged spirits. The name supposedly derives from oui and ja, the French and German words, respectively, for “yes,” and has come to be used generically for any board used to communicate with spirits. The board consists of 26 letters of the English alphabet, the numerals 0-9, and the words “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye.” A device, called a planchette, is allegedly moved by a spirit in order to spell out messages in answer to questions posed by those using the board. The use of the Ouija board is hotly contested by parapsychologists (see Parapsychology). Some believe it can be highly dangerous, opening a portal through which demons (see separate entry) or other evil beings may possess (see Possession) a user. Others dismiss the Ouija board as nothing more than a toy based on the fact that the planchette can easily be manipulated by one of the users, thereby giving erroneous or invented responses. For this reason, parapsychologists usually strongly discourage the use of the Ouija board on investigations. See also: Divination, Medium, Séance, Spiritualism.
Paranormal—a term meaning “above normal,” used to describe any occurrence which seemingly defies logical explanation, such as ghostly manifestations, feelings of being touched by unseen hands, or disembodied (see separate entry) voices. Paranormal activity does not necessarily mean that a haunting is occurring, merely that something out of the ordinary and as-of-yet unexplainable is taking place.
Parapsychology—the study of paranormal (see separate entry) phenomena, such as ghosts, ESP, or divination (see separate entries). One who studies these fields is referred to as a parapsychologist. The field of parapsychology is relatively new, though people have been experimenting with methods of communicating with the dead for centuries. At the time of his death in 1931, for instance, American inventor Thomas Edison was working on a device with which to speak to the dead. Subsequent construction based on his blueprints proved that the machine did not work. Despite, this, in recent decades the field of parapsychology has gained increasing stature as a valid science. Several universities around the world now offer courses in parapsychology.
Personal Experience—an occurrence, such as the feeling of being touched, which is not captured on film or audio.
Poltergeist—a term, whose name comes from the German for “noisy ghost,” used to describe a destructive or mischievous spirit. Poltergeist activity is most often experienced in the presence of an adolescent, usually a girl, and almost always in locations built on ground consisting of large deposits of certain rocks and minerals such as quartz, granite, or limestone (see Rock for a more detailed explanation). A common belief is that the activity is caused, not by a spirit, but by the telekinetic energy (see Telekinesis) of the adolescent’s own mind. Common poltergeist activity includes throwing stones or other objects, starting fires, the physical abuse of the adolescent in question, the misplacement of objects and their subsequent discovery in bizarre locations, and tampering with food. Unearthly voices may also emanate from the adolescent being tormented. Cases of poltergeist activity usually commence abruptly and unexpectedly, and often end just as suddenly, particularly if the adolescent is removed from the home or his/her emotional needs are satisfied, thereby relieving his/her mind of stress. Because the activity often centers around a young adult, many cases of poltergeist activity are proved to be hoaxes brought on by children seeking attention, though many remain unexplained. Naturally, some parapsychologists (see Parapsychology) believe that poltergeists are genuine hauntings.
Portent—something which presages an event, such as a death. A classic example is the famous “crashing chandeliers” of Hampton Court, near Baltimore, Maryland. The sound of the great crystal lamps falling to the floor is heard throughout the house, and is regarded as announcing the impending death of the current mistress of Hampton. Upon investigation, however, the chandeliers are always found in place, and no physical evidence of a disturbance can be traced. See also: Banshee.
Possession—the state of having one’s body taken over by an entity, usually involuntarily. In many theological systems, this condition can only be defeated through the performance of an exorcism (see separate entry).
Provoke—to coax a spirit into communicating through the use of abusive or derogatory language and/or behavior.
Psychometry—the ability to divine the history of an object through touching it. See also: Medium.
Rock—in terms of paranormal activity, one possible method by which psychic phenomena may be recorded. A common belief among parapsychologists is that certain types of rocks or minerals, such as quartz, limestone, or granite, actually retain psychic energy which can be “replayed” periodically. Most poltergeist (see separate entry) cases have been found to occur in the presence of such minerals, either on heavy deposits or in buildings constructed of such materials.
Séance—a gathering of individuals, including a medium, for the purpose of communicating with the spirit world. See also: Divination, Medium, Necromancy, Ouija Board, Spirit Guide, Spiritualism, Table Tapping, Tarot.
Shadow Figure—an indistinct human shape allegedly seen in haunted locations. See also: Ghost.
Spirit Guide—a spirit utilized by a medium in order to facilitate communication between the mundane world and the spirit world, without requiring the medium to go into a trance. See also: Channeling, Medium.
Spirit Photography—the process of producing photographs depicting a person with the alleged ghost of a deceased, often famous, person. While it is certainly possible to capture the image of a ghost on film, most such photographs were easily proved to be fraudulent. See also: Spiritualism.
Spiritualism—a movement which gained popularity in the 19th century, in which literally hundreds of people around the world claimed to be able to communicate with the spirit world—usually for a fee. Self-professed mediums would often gather large groups of people together at private parties or full lecture halls, and would profess to produce a number of vivid effects, often with the aid of an unseen assistant and a generous foreknowledge of the clients’ histories and emotional needs. Among the most commonly produced effects were ectoplasm, table tapping and tipping, messages from the deceased, and spirit photographs (see separate entries), many of which depicted the bereaved with the “ghost” of a famous person—and almost all of them faked. So many were the people who claimed to have the gift of ESP (see separate entry), and so frequently were their skills proven to be false, that Spiritualism fell into complete disrepute by the First World War, and most of the self-proclaimed mediums were never heard from again. See also: Channeling, Divination, Medium, Séance.
Succubus—a sexually-aggressive female entity, usually considered demonic, which is commonly believed to seduce men in their sleep. Sexual dreams are often attributed to succubi and their male counterparts, the incubi. See also: Incubus.
Table Tapping/Tipping—the practice of communicating with a spirit through the sounds of knocks or the tilting of a table in accordance with a pre-determined code, such as one knock for “yes,” two for “no.” See also: Channeling, Divination, Medium, Séance, Spiritualism.
Tarot—an ancient form of Divination (see separate entry) in which the future is told through the placement of cards in a tableau. See also: Medium, Séance.
Telekinesis—the ability to move objects using the power of the mind. See also: ESP.
Thermal Imaging Camera—a camera that registers temperature variations and displays them on a screen as a graduated series of colors. In paranormal investigation, thermal imaging cameras can often detect visually the presence of an otherwise-invisible spirit entity.
Voice Phenomenon—unexplainable sounds which are audible to the human ear.
Vortex—a swirling, undulating column of energy, which can often indicate the presence of a spirit.
Water—an excellent source for conducting energy. There are actually conflicting opinions as to the role water plays in a haunting. Some view moving water as an excellent conductor, allowing a spirit to draw from it in order to manifest in one form or another. Others view water as a barrier, believing that ghosts are unable to cross a body of water, moving or still.
Weather—often considered a principle ingredient in a haunting. Some parapsychologists believe that stormy weather is ideal for conducting energy, as the super-charged atmosphere provides a spirit with ample energy on which to draw in order to manifest.
Zero-Lux Camera—a camera which functions in total or near-total darkness.