Paranormal Glossary

Definitions of terms used in paranormal research

About this Glossary

All definitions in this Glossary have been composed by Michael Daniels PhD.

For more detailed coverage and analysis, we recommend Michael A. Thalbourne's Glossary of Terms Used in Parapsychology (Second Edition, 2003).



Absent Healing
Healing that takes place when the healer is not in direct contact with the person to be healed.
Absent Sitter
A person, not present during a sitting, on whose behalf readings are given. See also Proxy Sitting.
Traditional Chinese medical practice that involves sticking needles into specific locations on the body. See also healing.
(a) Person who attempts to communicate information to another in an ESP experiment. Cf. percipient.
(b) The subject in a psychokinesis experiment.
(c) Person who is the focus of poltergeist activity.
Akashic Records
"Memories" of all experiences since the beginning of time, believed by some mystical doctrines to be stored permanently in a spiritual substance (Akasha).
Alien Abduction Experience
Reported experiences of being abducted by alien creatures, often into spacecraft. Abductees often experience lost time and suffer loss of memory. When memories are recovered, often using hypnotic regression, abductees may report that surgical operations were performed on them. See also temporal lobe activity.
Alpha Rhythm
Electrical activity in the brain (about 10 cycles per second) associated with a state of mental relaxation. See also EEG.
Altered State of Consciousness (ASC)
A term used to refer to any state of consciousness that is different from "normal" states of waking or sleeping. ASCs include hypnosis, trance, ecstasy, psychedelic and meditative experience. ASCs do not necessarily have paranormal features.
Ancestor Worship
Religious practices involving the veneration of dead ancestors.
Benevolent spiritual beings who help people in need. See also guardian angel.
Animal Magnetism
A term coined by F.A. Mesmer to refer to a putative force or fluid capable of being transmitted from one person to another, producing healing effects. See also Mesmerism.
Animal Mutilation
Refers to cases in which animal corpses (often cattle) have been found with bizarre injuries that do not seem to have a normal explanation in terms of illness, accident or action of predators. Cuts and injuries often appear to have been carried out with surgical precision. Typically the corpse is drained of blood. Certain body parts may be absent (e.g., genitals).
Animal Psi
Paranormal abilities exhibited by animals. Also known as "Anpsi".
Religious practices based on the belief that all living things and natural objects have their individual spiritual essence or soul.
Announcing Dream
A dream believed to announce an individual's rebirth. See also reincarnation.
Anomalous Experience
A general term referring to unusual experiences that cannot be explained in terms of current scientific knowledge. Cf. psi.
Anomalous Phenomena
Natural phenomena that cannot be explained in terms of current scientific knowledge. See also Fortean phenomena.
See cerebral anoxia.
See Animal Psi
A visual appearance (cf. hallucination), often of a person or scene, generally experienced in a waking or hypnagogic / hypnopompic state. See also crisis apparition, ghost, haunting.
A physical object which appears in a way that cannot be explained (seeming to come from nowhere). Apports are often associated with the seance room and physical mediumship. Cf. deport. See also materialization, teleportation.
In parapsychology, false evidence of paranormal phenomena, due to some extraneous normal influence.
See altered state of consciousness.
Astral Body
A term used by occultists, spiritualists and theosophists to refer to a supposed "double" of the person's physical body. The astral body is believed to be separable from the physical body during astral projection (out of body experience) and at death. See also Ka.
Astral Projection
A term used by occultists, spiritualists and theosophists for the out of body experience. It is believed to result when the astral body separates from the physical body.
A theory and practice which attempts to identify the ways in which astronomical events are correlated with events on earth (e.g., with an individual's personality and biography, or with social and political trends).
Re-emergence of ancestral characteristics; a genetic throwback.
A field of energy believed by some to surround living creatures. Certain clairvoyants claim to be able to see the aura (generally as a luminous, coloured halo). See also Kirlian photography.
Automatic Art
See automatism.
Automatic Writing
The ability to write intelligible messages without conscious control or knowledge of what is being written. See also automatism, dissociation.
Physical activites (e.g., arm movements, writing, drawing, musical performance) that occur without the automatist's conscious control or knowledge. Also known as motor automatism. See also automatic writing, dissociation.
(a) Seeing one's "double". See also astral body.
(b) Looking back at one's own body from a position outside of the body. See also out of body experience.


Ancient Egyptian concept of a person's essence, believed to be be immortal. Cf. Ka. See also Soul.
In Gaelic belief, a female entity who heralds a death by groaning and screaming.
In Tibetan Buddhism, an intermediate state of existence, usually referring to the state between life and rebirth.
Basic Technique
Term used in card-guessing tests of clairvoyance, in which the top card of the deck is placed to one side after each guess.
Billet Reading
Procedure in which a question is secretly written on a piece of paper which is folded or sealed in an envelope, and handed to the psychic who attempts to answer the question. Various trickery can be employed by fraudulent psychics and mentalists.
Being (or appearing to be) in two different places at the same time. See also autoscopy.
A general term for techniques that involve giving a person information about their current physiological state (e.g., heart rate, EEG). Biofeedback is used to enable people to control consciously their physiological processes.
Psychokinetic effects on biological processes. See also DMILS.
Black Art
Conjuring technique of concealing objects using black covers against a black background. Also used by fraudulent mediums.
Black Magic
Magical spells or rituals practiced with the intention of harming others. Cf. white magic .
An experimental control in which subjects are not informed of certain key features of the experiment. Also used to refer to a procedure where a judge is asked to compare targets and responses without knowing which responses were made to which targets. See also double blind.
Blind Matching (BM)
An identical procedure to open matching, except that the key cards are unseen by the subject.
Book Test
(a) A communication in which the sitter is asked to look at a specific book and page in order to receive a significant message.
(b) An effect in which the psychic or mentalist divines the words written on a particular page of a book.


A box or curtained enclosure in which a physical medium is secured and from which various phenomena may manifest (e.g., lights, objects moving, instruments played). Certain stage magicians can simulate this procedure with great effect.
Response made by a subject in a card-guessing or other ESP test.
A Brazilian spiritist religion. See also Umbanda, Voodoo.
Card Guessing
An experimental test for ESP in which subjects guess the identity of a set of cards (e.g., playing cards or Zener cards).
Fortune telling using cards. See also tarot.
Cerebral Anoxia
Lack of oxygen to the brain, often causing sensory distortions and hallucinations. Sometimes used to explain features of the near-death experience.
Random, unpredictable influences on events.
Receiving messages and inspiration from discarnate entities. See also medium.
A spell or object possessing magic power.
Christian Science
A religious healing movement founded by Mary Baker Eddy. Rejects orthodox medical practice.
Cipher Test
A coded message left by a person who intends to communicate the cipher after death.
A group of people who hold seances. See also mediumship.
The paranormal obtaining of information by hearing sounds or voices. See also clairvoyance, clairsentience.
An archaic term that refers to the paranormal obtaining of information using faculties other than vision or hearing. Cf. clairaudience, clairvoyance, empathy, intuition.
A general term that refers to the paranormal obtaining of information about an object or event. In modern usage, this does not necessarily refer to obtaining information visually. Cf. clairaudience, clairsentience, ESP, psi.
See clairvoyant medium.
Clairvoyant Medium
Or clairvoyant. A person who obtains information paranormally (often by spirit communication) without the need to enter into a trance state. Cf. trance medium.
Closed Deck
A set of cards used in a card-guessing test where each card appears a fixed number of times. Statistical analysis of research data using a closed deck differs from statistical analysis of data using an open deck.
The occurrence, within a short space of time, of two or more meaningfully related events and without any apparent causal connection between them. Coincidences are sometimes bizarre and extraordinarily improbable. See also synchronicity.
Cold Reading
A reading given with no prior knowledge of the sitter. Often a mixture of very general statements which could apply to anyone, together with inferences made from cues presented by the sitter (e.g., physical appearance, clothes, tone of voice, statements made). Cf. hot reading.
Collective Apparition
An apparition seen simultaneously by more than one person.
Collective Unconscious
Concept put forward by C.G. Jung to refer to a level of unconscious thought and experience shared collectively by humans.
In mediumship, a message purported to be from a discarnate entity.
A discarnate entity from whom the medium receives messages. See also drop-in communicator.
A person who secretly provides information to a fraudulent psychic or mentalist.
Using trickery to simulate paranormal effects, generally for the purpose of entertainment.
Contact Mind Reading
A technique simulating telepathy, in which the "mind reader" (who generally holds a hand or arm) responds to slight muscle movements produced unconsciously by the person whose mind is apparently being read. Also known as muscle reading, Cumberlandism or Hellstromism.
(a) In experimental parapsychology a procedure undertaken in order to ensure that the experiment is conducted in a standard fashion and so that results are not unduly influenced by extraneous factors. See also control group, artefact.
(b) In spiritualism, a discarnate entity who communicates with a trance medium and who generally controls the trance state.
Control Group
A group of people whose performance is compared with that of experimental subjects. Cf. experimental group.
Corn Circle
Circular (or more elaborate) formations found in growing crops, most commonly in Southern Britain. Sometimes they are associated with UFO sightings. Many formations appear to have been intelligently created and to have some symbolic meaning. Despite several "confessions" made by various individuals and groups, the crop circle mystery remains unsolved.
An association between two or more events or variables.
Correlation Coefficient
A mathematical index of the degree of association between two or more measures.
Cosmic Consciousness
A blissful experience in which the person becomes aware of the whole universe as a living being. See also altered state of consciousness, mystical experience.
A group of witches
Crisis Apparition
An apparition in which a person is seen within a few hours of an important crisis such as death, accident or sudden illness.
(a) Separate items of information, received independently by two or more mediums, which make sense only when pieced together.
(b) THE cross-correspondences is a classic case of highly complex cross-correspondences which continued from 1901 to 1932 among a group of automatists associated with the Society for Psychical Research.
Knowledge (acquired in normal ways) that may be revealed without the person remembering its source. Such memories may falsely appear to be paranormal revelations. Sometimes cryptomnesia is used as an explanation for apparently paranormal experiences such as xenoglossy or past-life memories.
Crystal Gazing
Staring into a reflecting surface (e.g., mirror, glass, crystal, liquid) in order to obtain paranormal information. Also known as scrying. See also divination.
See contact mind reading.
Words spoken or written in order to influence others paranormally, causing them harm. See also spell, hex.


Daemon (Daimon)
A guardian spirit who communicates inspiration and advice. See also guardian angel.
Generally understood to be the extinction of an organism's life. Many doctrines assert some form of mental or spiritual survival of physical death. See also deathbed experience, haunting, mediumship, near-death experience, reincarnation.
Deathbed Experience
A dying person's awareness of the presence of dead friends or relatives. See also near-death experience.
Decline Effect
A decrease in performance on a psi test when the test is repeated. Cf. incline effect.
Deja Experience
See deja vu.
Deja Vu
A person's feeling that current events have been experienced before.
A term used to refer to any kind of anomalous experience.
The paranormal fading or disappearance of a physical object. See also deport.
Demonic Possession
Possession by evil spirits. See also exorcism.
The paranormal movement of objects out of a secure enclosed space. Cf. apport. See also dematerialization, teleportation.
Dice Test
Experimental techniques for investigating psychokinesis, in which a subject attempts to influence the fall of dice.
Direct Voice
A voice heard in a seance which does not seem to emanate from any person. The voice may seem to come out of thin air, or from a trumpet used specifically for this purpose. Cf. indirect voice.
Discarnate Entity
A spirit or non-material entity. Often used to refer to the personality of a deceased individual. See also channeling, communication, mediumship, possession, survival.
Responses on a psi test that correspond systematically to targets other than the intended one (e.g., those before or after).
Activity performed outside of normal conscious awareness, or mental processes that suggest the existence of separate centres of consciousness.
Practices involving the interpretation of signs or symbols that seek to obtain oracular knowledge of events. Examples of divinatory practices are geomancy, tarot, I Ching, sortilege, and reading tea leaves.
Divining Rod
A forked rod (or sometimes a pair of L-shaped rods) used in dowsing.
"Direct Mental Interaction with Living Systems". Psychokinetic influences on physiological processes. See also Bio-PK.
A mirror image or double of a person. See also astral body.
A duplicate of one's own body. See also astral body
Double Blind
An experimental procedure in which neither the subject nor experimenter is aware of key features of the experiment.
Down Through Technique (DT)
An experimental test for clairvoyance in which the person guesses the order of a stacked series of target symbols (e.g., cards) from top to bottom. Cf. up through technique.
The paranormal detection of underground water or mineral deposits (or lost persons and objects) using a divining rod or pendulum.
See paranormal dream.
Drop-in Communicator
An uninvited communicator who 'drops in' at a sitting.


Earthquake Effect
A phenomenon produced by the physical medium D.D. Home, involving the room shaking as if there was an earthquake.
An altered state of consciousness in which the person experiences great rapture and loss of self-control. Cf. trance.
A semi-fluid substance exuded by a physical medium from which materializations may form.
EEG (Electro-encephalography)
A method of recording variations of electrical activity in the cortex of the brain.
Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)
See Raudive voices.
Elemental Spirit
A spirit associated with one of the classical four elements (fire, earth, air and water). See also animism.
Paranormal extension of the physical body, reported in some mystics and physical mediums.
Someone who shows considerable empathy, especially of the apparently psychic type.
The ability to understand the experience or emotional state of another person or animal. Often used to refer to an apparently psychic ability to experience another person's sensations, pain or emotions. Cf. clairsentience, intuition.
See discarnate entity.
See Extrasensory Perception.
ESP Cards
See Zener Cards.
Etheric Body
Similar to astral body.
Evil Eye
Alleged ability of some people to harm others by looking at them.
Electronic Voice Phenomena. See Raudive voices.
The summoning of (often evil) spirits using a magical incantation or ritual. Cf. invocation.
A religious or quasi-religious rite to drive out evil spirits. See also possession.
A test carried out under controlled conditions.
Experimental Group
A group of subjects who undergo a specific experimental procedure. Often results from this group are compared with those of a control group.
Experimental Parapsychology
Parapsychological research involving experimental methods rather than survey techniques or the investigation of spontaneous cases.
The person who conducts the experiment.
Experimenter Effect
Influence that the experimenter's personality or behaviour may have on the results of an experiment.
Originating outside our normal space-time reality. Cf. extraterrestrial.
Extrasensory Perception (ESP)
Paranormal acquisition of information. Includes clairvoyance, telepathy and precognition. See also psi.
Originating beyond planet Earth. Not normally considered to be extradimensional.


Small, human-like mythical being. May be benevolent or malevolent.
Faith Healing
Healing that is associated with prayer or belief in Divine power.
False Awakening
An experience in which a person believes he or she has woken up, but actually is still dreaming.
Faraday Cage
A wire mesh enclosure that provides a shield to radio waves.
The giving of information to subjects about their performance on a test. See also biofeedback.
Fire Walking
Walking on red-hot coals, without pain or damage to the feet.
Flying Saucer
A term, coined in 1947, to refer to unknown disk-like aerial objects, often believed to be extraterrestrial spacecraft. The term has now been largely superseded by "UFO".
Focal Person
Person who is at the centre of poltergeist activity.
Forced-Choice Test
An ESP test in which the subject guesses from a predetermined list of alternative targets.
Fortean Phenomena
Strange phenomena, especially those which challenge conventional scientific knowledge. Named after the American researcher and writer Charles Fort. Fortean phenomena include those generally considered paranormal, but also bizarre non-paranormal events such as monsters and prodigies, extraordinary coincidences, and unusual rains.
Fortune Telling
Various practices which aim to divine future events. See also divination.
The deliberate faking of paranormal phenomenena, generally for the purpose of financial gain, psychological manipulation, or notoriety. Faking for the purpose of entertainment (e.g., by stage magicians and mentalists) is not normally classed as fraud.
Free-Response Test
An ESP test in which the subject responds freely (does not choose from a fixed list of targets). For example, the subject may write down or draw their impressions, or may talk freely into a tape recorder. In order to assess the accuracy of the responses, they are compared with various targets (including the actual target) by a judge. See also preferential matching.


A technique for investigating ESP in which the person experiences an absence of patterned stimulation. This generally involves the subject wearing halved table-tennis balls over the eyes while listening to hiss (white noise) through headphones.
General Extrasensory Perception (GESP)
ESP in which it is unclear whether the results are due to clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition or retrocognition.
A system of divination involving the interpretation of lines or figures.
See general extrasensory perception
Popular term for an experience believed to indicate the presence of the spirit of a deceased person. See also apparition, haunting, poltergeist.
In conjuring, any small concealed apparatus that is used to produce a magical effect. Also used by fraudulent mediums.
Unintelligible speech generally uttered in a dissociated or trance state. Also known as "speaking in tongues". See also xenoglossy.
Name given to a subject in a psi test who does not believe in the phenomenon. See also "sheep", sheep-goat effect.
Guardian Angel
An angel believed to protect the individual. See also guide.
A spirit who is believed to assist a person's spiritual journey. See also angel, guardian angel


A sensory experience that does not correspond to physical reality. See also apparition.
Paranormal phenomena such as apparitions, unexplained sounds, smells or other sensations that are associated over a lengthy period of time with a specific location. Cf. poltergeist.
Someone who claims the power of healing.
Generally indicates cures that cannot be explained in terms of accepted medical principles. See also faith healing, psychic healing, spirit cures.
See contact mind reading.
(a) An evil spell or magical curse.
(b) To practice witchcraft.
A response that accurately matches the target. Cf. miss.
Hot Reading
A reading given in which prior knowledge of the sitter has been obtained, often using devious or fraudulent means. Cf. cold reading.
An Hawaiian religious practice involving clairvoyance, precognition, healing, miracles and magic.
See hyperaesthesia.
Exceptionally acute sensory awareness.
Hypnagogic Imagery
Imagery occurring in the hypnagogic state (occuring while dropping off to sleep).
Hypnopompic Imagery
Imagery occurring in the hypnopompic state (occurring while waking up).
An ASC involving a heightened degree of suggestibility. See also Mesmerism.
See hypnosis.


I Ching
Ancient Chinese "Book of Changes". It describes 64 hexagrams (patterns of 6 broken and unbroken lines) which are used in a divinatory practice involving the throwing of yarrow stalks or coins.
(a) An appearance that leads the person to draw mistaken conclusions.
(b) In conjuring, a perceptual trick.
The ability to perceive images in the mind. These may be visual, auditory, tactile, etc.
Various beliefs based on the assumption that some aspect of personal existence survives death.
Incline Effect
An increase in performance on a psi test when the test is repeated. Cf. decline effect.
Inexplicable lack of decay in a corpse.
Indirect Voice
Mediumistic phenomenon in which the discarnate entity appears to speak using the vocal apparatus of the medium. Often the voice will sound very different from the medium's normal voice. Cf. direct voice.
Instrumental Transcommunication
Use of recording equipment to produce evidence interpreted as communication from deceased persons or other entitites. See also. Raudive voices, pareidolia.
The non-paranormal ability to grasp the elements of a situation or to draw conclusions about complex events in ways that go beyond a purely rational or intellectual analysis. Cf. clairsentience, empathy.
Summoning benevolent spiritual beings. Cf. evocation.
See instrumental transcommunication.


Person who compares targets and responses in an psi experiment.


Ancient Egyptian term for the double or astral body. See also Ba.
Hindu and Buddhist ethical doctrine of "as one sows, so shall one reap". See also reincarnation.
Key Cards
Reference cards used to indicate each target alternative in a card-guessing test.
Kirlian Photography
A photographic method involving high frequency electric current, discovered by S.D. & V. Kirlian in the Soviet Union. Kirlian photographs often show coloured halos or "auras" surrounding objects.
In Yogic belief, a source of tremendous vital energy that may be stimulated by various practices. Kundalini, or the "Serpent Power", is believed to provide energy for paranormal phenomena.


Laying on of Hands
A healing practice, in which the healer's hands are placed on or near the body of the sick person.
The paranormal raising or suspension of an object or person.
Life after Death
See survival.
Life Review
Flashback memories of the whole of a person's life, often associated with the near-death experience.
Lucid Dreaming
Dreaming in which the person is aware that the experience is a dream. Often associated with feelings of aliveness and freedom, and with the ability to control dream events.
(a) An early term for clairvoyance.
(b) Lucid dreaming.
Luminous Phenomena
The experience of strange lights or glows, often around objects or people. See also aura.
The supposed magical transformation of a person into the form of a wolf. See also shape-shifting, therianthropy, werewolf.


Psychokinetic effects that can be directly observed rather than only inferred from statistical analysis. Cf. micro-PK.
(a) Practices that aim to use paranormal or spiritual means to influence events. See also white magic, black magic.
(b) The art of conjuring.
A person who practices magic.
Majority Vote Technique
An ESP procedure in which several subjects guess a target (or one subject makes several guesses). The most frequent guess is used as the response.
A sacred sound or sacred syllables used in meditation. See also transcendental meditation.
An alternative term for hit.
See preferential matching, matching tests.
Matching Tests
Card guessing tests in which the subject uses key cards when making guesses. See also blind matching, open matching, screen touch matching.
The formation of a visible and tangible object or human shape during a seance. Cf. apport.
Mean Chance Expectation (MCE)
The most likely chance score in a psi test.
Medicine Man / Medicine Woman
A witchdoctor or shaman.
Mental or physical-mental techniques which aim to produce spiritually desirable states of consciousness. See also ASC, Yoga.
A person believed to act as an intermediary between discarnate entities and the living. See also clairvoyant medium, trance medium, mental mediumship, physical mediumship.
Activity of a medium.
A branch of conjuring involving the simulation of psi.
Mental Mediumship
The paranormal obtaining of information by a medium. Cf. physical mediumship.
A system of healing developed by F.A. Mesmer, involving the induction of trance states and the supposed transfer of animal magnetism. People in Mesmeric trance often showed paranormal abilities such as clairvoyance.
See communication.
Metal Bending
Psychokinetic ability to bend metal objects. A phenomenon popularised by Uri Geller.
See shape-shifting.
Another term for reincarnation.
Psychokinetic effects that cannot be directly observed, but only inferred from the statistical analysis of data. Cf. macro-PK.
Mind Reading
See telepathy.
A beneficial event attributed to supernatural or divine intervention.
Techniques used by conjurers and mentalists to distract a person's attention or confuse their thinking.
A mismatch between the target and response. Cf. hit.
A person who has learned techniques that enable extraordinary feats of memory.
Morphic Resonance
A term coined by Rupert Sheldrake to refer to the way in which the "morphogenetic field" (underlying form) of an object or organism may influence distant fields.
Motor Automatism
See Automatism
Multiple Personality
A psychiatric condition in which the person manifests two or more distinct and separate personalities at different times. Cf. possession.
Muscle Reading
See contact mind reading.
(a) A person who has mystical experiences.
(b) Used loosely to refer to psychics, mediums or romantics.
Mystical Experience
ASCs involving experiences of ecstasy, unity, timelessness, loss of self, divine revelation, etc.
Religious or spiritual doctrines which argue that the human mind or soul can directly experience the divine. See also mystical experience, transpersonal psychology.


See near-death experience.
Near-Death Experience (NDE)
Experiences of people after they have been pronounced clinically dead, or been very close to death. Typical features of the NDE are an OBE, life review, a tunnel experience, light, coming to a boundary (marking death), seeing dead friends and relatives, experiencing a loving or divine presence, and making a choice (or being told) to return. Occasionally NDEs can be frightening and distressing. NDEs often have profound effects on the person's later life. See also cerebral anoxia, survival.
Black magic practices involving communicating with the dead.
Newspaper Test
(a) A communication in which the spirit forecasts an item in a future day's newspaper.
(b) An conjuring effect in which a magician or mentalist predicts a future newspaper item.
Null hypothesis
The hypothesis that experimental results are due to chance.
A system of divination involving the interpretation of numbers.


See out of body experience.
Object Reading
See psychometry.
Occam's Razor
The principle that we should always prefer the simplest explanation of events.
Esoteric systems of belief and practice that assume the existence of mysterious forces and entities.
A sign that foretells events.
One-Ahead Principle
In mentalism, a procedure for sequentially revealing information where the revealing of one item gives the mentalist the next answer. Also used by fraudulent clairvoyants.
See out of body experience.
Open Deck
A series of cards used in a card guessing test where each card is chosen randomly and independently. This enables each target to be selected any number of times. Statistical analysis of research data using an open deck differs from statistical analysis of data using a closed deck.
Open Matching (OM)
A card guessing procedure in which key cards are placed face up on the table. The subject then places the unseen target cards in piles in front of each key card, according to their guesses. See also blind matching.
(a) An answer to a question, believed to come from the gods.
(b) a shrine at which these answers are given.
Orgone Energy
A term used by Wilhelm Reich to refer to a universal life force, associated with sexuality.
Ouija Board
A board with letters and numbers on which messages are spelled out by unconsciously moving (with the fingers) a glass or planchette. See also automatism.
In conjuring and mentalism, a convincing explanation for an apparent failure, or a convincing alternative ending to an effect that has not worked as planned. Also used by fraudulent clairvoyants and mediums.
Out of Body Experience (OBE, OOBE)
A fully conscious experience in which the person's centre of awareness appears to be outside of the physical body. See also autoscopy, near-death experience.


The art of assessing a person's character and forecasting life events by examining features of the hand. See also divination.
Beside or beyond the normal. Inexplicable in terms of our ordinary understanding or current scientific knowledge.
Paranormal Dream
Dreams in which the dream imagery provides paranormal knowledge (e.g., ESP or precognition). See also announcing dream, lucid dreaming.
Term coined by J.B. Rhine to refer to the experimental and quantitative study of paranormal phenomena. Now generally used instead of "psychical research" to refer to all scientific investigation of the paranormal. Cf. transpersonal psychology.
Psychological tendency to interpret a random stimulus (especially a sound or visual pattern) as meaningful. See also. instrumental transcommunication, Raudive voices.
Past-Life Memories
Mental images that are believed to be memories of previous lives. See also reincarnation, past-life regression.
Past-Life Regression
A technique of hypnosis involving regressing people to supposed previous lives. See also reincarnation.
An object suspended by a thread. Movements of a pendulum are often used by dowsers to locate objects or answer questions.
Person who receives impressions in an ESP test. See also agent, subject.
An apparition.
An approach to research that aims to describe and clarify a person's own experience and understanding of an event or phenomenon.
The reading of character and mental ability from the shape of a person's skull.
Physical Mediumship
The production of paranormal physical phenomena (lights, sounds, materialization, elongation, levitation, etc.) by a medium. Physical mediumship often (but not always) involves a state of trance. See also mental mediumship.
Picture Drawing
A free-response ESP test in which the subject attempts to draw impressions of the target.
Pilot Study
A preliminary study, generally of modest scale.
See psychokinesis
An inactive treatment often given to a control group.
Placement Test
A test for PK in which the subject attempts to influence the place in which dice or other objects land. See also dice test.
A small platform on casters generally used with a ouija board. Sometimes used with an attached pencil to produce automatic writing.
Plant Psi
ESP exhibited by plants.
See psi-mediated instrumental response.
A Jamaican spiritist religion. See also Voodoo.
German word meaning "noisy or troublesome spirit". Poltergeist activity may include unexplained noises, movements of objects, outbreaks of fire, floods, pricks or scratches to a person's body. Unlike hauntings, which are associated with specific locations, poltergeists typically focus on a person (the focal person or poltergeist agent) who is often a young child or adolescent. Many physical mediums experienced poltergeist activity in their childhood.
Refers to cases in which a person's body is apparently taken over by another personality or entity. Cf. multiple personality. See also demonic possession, discarnate entity.
A sincere attempt to communicate with a spiritual being or power.
The paranormal awareness of future events. See also prediction, premonition, prophecy.
A statement that claims to foretell future events. Cf. premonition, precognition, prophecy.
Belief that the personality or soul exists prior to birth. Cf. survival. See also reincarnation.
Preferential Matching
Technique in which a judge ranks a subject's free responses in terms of their similarity to various possible targets.
An experience believed to foretell future events. See also prediction, precognition, prophecy.
A subjective feeling that a person, animal or discarnate entity is present.
The likelihood that results in a test were due to chance. See also significance.
Process research
Research that aims to investigate factors affecting psi. Cf. proof research.
Proof research
Research that aims to demonstrate the existence of psi. Cf. process research.
(a) A prediction, usually resulting from a sense of spiritual revelation.
(b) The ability to receive prophetic revelations.
Proxy Sitting
A seance in which another person sits in on behalf of the person receiving a communication.
Pseudo-Random Numbers
Numbers generated by an electronic calculator or computer using a complex mathematical algorithm that simulates a random process. Although the numbers generated are essentially unpredictable, they are not strictly random. See also random numbers, random event generator.
A term used to encompass all paranormal abilities. Includes both ESP and PK abilities.
Significantly better than chance performance on a psi test.
Psi-Mediated Instrumental Response (PMIR)
Theory put forward by Rex Stanford that psi activity is used to serve an organism's needs.
Significantly worse than chance performance on a psi test. Psi-missing is also evidence for psi, because a target can only be missed consistently if the person "knows" what it is.
Generally refers to the mind.
Literally "revealing mind". A class of plants and drugs (e.g., peyote, psilocybin, LSD) that can produce florid ASCs.
A person who exhibits psi ability (also used as an adjective).
Psychical Research
Term coined in the late 19th century to refer to the scientific study of the paranormal. Now largely superseded by "parapsychology".
Psychic Healing
Forms of healing using psychic powers. See also laying on of hands, psychic surgery.
Psychic Photography
General term used to refer to paranormal photographic images. See also Kirlian photography, spirit photography, thoughtography.
Psychic Surgery
Actual or simulated surgical procedures carried out by healers.
Psychokinesis (PK)
The paranormal influence of the mind on physical events and processes.
Obtaining paranormal knowledge using a physical object as a focus. Also known as object reading.
Pyramid Power
Belief that pyramid shapes can produce paranormal effects.


Qualitative Method
A research method involving the collection of non-quantitative data (e.g., observations, interviews, subjective reports, case studies). Cf. quantitative method.
Quantitative Method
A research method involving the collection and statistical analysis of numerical data. Cf. qualitative method.


Theories based on the assumption that living organisms emit some kind of radiation or emanation that is capable of being detected using instruments or by dowsing. See also aura, radionics.
Use of instruments to detect radiation from living organisms. See also radiesthesia.
Refers to events that are, in principle, haphazard and unpredictable. See also chance.
Random Event Generator (REG)
An electronic device which uses a random physical process (e.g., radioactive decay) to generate random events or random numbers.
Random Number Generator (RNG)
See random event generator.
Random Numbers
Numbers generated in an unpredictable, haphazard sequence.
Random Number Tables
A printed table of random numbers, usually made up of several rows and columns of computer-generated numbers. To use the table a starting value is chosen by randomly selecting a row and column (e.g., by throwing a dice). Successive numbers are then chosen by working through the table using any previously chosen systematic rule. Suitable rules might be (1) moving horizontally to the right, skipping alternate numbers, or (2) moving vertically down, selecting every fifth number. The selected random numbers may then be used, for example, to determine target sequences.
The name given to unexplained knocking sounds associated with physical mediumship and poltergeist activity.
Raudive Voices
Intelligible voices recorded on magnetic tape under conditions of silence or white noise which are heard only when the tape is played. A phenomenon discovered by Konstantin Raudive. See also. instrumental transcommunication, pareidolia.
Information given by a psychic or medium to a sitter. See also cold reading, hot reading.
In Buddhism, the belief that there is some continuty of mind from one life to the next. Buddhism, however, does not accept the existence of the individual soul and therefore does not view rebirth as the soul's literal re-incarnation. Cf. reincarnation. See also bardo.
See percipient.
Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK)
A technical term for poltergeist activity.
(a) a statistical technique that enables predictions to be made from a set of data.
(b) a technique used in hypnosis, involving suggesting to hypnotized persons that they are returning to an earlier time. Sometimes the regression occurs spontaneously, without suggestion. See also past-life regression.
The belief that some aspect of a person's being (e.g., consciousness, personality, or soul) survives death and can be reborn in a new body at some future date. Reincarnation is often seen as a repeating cycle of death and rebirth in which future lives are influenced by past and present actions through the law of karma. Cf. rebirth.
Remote Viewing (RV)
An ESP procedure in which a percipient attempts to become aware psychically of the experience of an agent who is at a distant, unknown target location.
An action made by a subject in an experiment.
Response Bias
Tendency of a subject to prefer particular responses.
Retroactive Psychokinesis
Paranormal influence that an agent can have on an experiment after it has been completed.
Paranormal knowledge of past events.
Ritual Magic
Magical activity involving rites and ceremonies.
See recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis.
A set of trials in a psi test.


A Cuban spiritist religion. See also Voodoo.
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 phenomena studied by parapsychologists.
Number of hits obtained by a subject in a psi test.
The process of determining a subject's score.
Screen Touch Matching (STM)
A card-guessing procedure in which the subject and experimenter sit on opposite sides of a screen which has a small gap at the bottom. Key cards are hung on the screen in front of the subject (the faces may be seen or unseen). Underneath each key card is a blank card that can be seen by both subject and experimenter. The experimenter holds the target cards and the subject indicates the guess on each trial by pointing to the corresponding blank card. The experimenter then places the card in a pile on his or her side of the screen in a position corresponding to that of the indicated blank card. See also blind matching, open matching.
See crystal gazing.
A mediumistic session.
Second Sight
Another name for clairvoyance.
Another name for agent.
Another name for a psychic.
Sensory deprivation
Conditions of greatly restricted sensory input. See also ganzfeld.
A sequence of runs in a psi experiment.
Serpent Power
See Kundalini.
A witchdoctor or medicine (wo)man who communicates with spirits while in trance and who has the power of healing. May also show other paranormal abilities.
Paranormal ability to assume the form of another person, an animal or other entity. See also lycanthropy, therianthropy, werewolf.
Name given to a subject in a psi test who believes in the phenomenon. See also "goat", sheep-goat effect.
Sheep-Goat Effect
Effect, discovered by the parapsychologist Gertrude Schmeidler, in which "sheep" score higher than mean chance expectation (MCE) on psi tests, while "goats" score lower than MCE.
Name given to paranormal powers associated with the practice of Yoga.
Results of an experiment are said to be statistically significant when they are very unlikely to be due to chance (and hence, in a psi test, are more likely to be due to psi). The chance probability is reported as the "significance level". To be considered significant, the chance probability must generally be less than 1 in 20 (5%, or 0.05).
Simultaneous Dream
A dream whose elements correspond closely with those in the dream of another person.
A person who has a session with a medium.
A seance.
Sixth sense
Popular term for ESP.
See sceptic.
Writing that appears on a slate during a seance. Often produced by fraudulent mediums and mentalists.
Sleep Paralysis
An (often frightening) state of seeming to being awake but unable to move. See also false awakening.
(a) a person who performs physical activity while asleep (e.g., sleep-walking).
(b) a person in a deep hypnotic state.
Black magic
Divination by lots.
The spiritual element of a person, generally believed to be immortal. See also Ba, spirit, survival.
Space Brothers
Extraterrestrial entities, channeled by some mediums. See also discarnate entity.
Speaking in Tongues
See glossolalia
See subjective paranormal experience.
A ghost or apparition.
Written or spoken words believed to have magical power.
(a) a discarnate entity.
(b) soul
(c) Divine essence.
Spirit Communication
See communication.
Spirit Cure
Healing that is believed to result from the intervention of spirits.
See spiritualism.
Spirit Photography
Photographs of figures or faces, believed by some to be those of deceased persons. These photographs are generally revealed as fraudulent.
Spiritualism (Spiritism)
Religious doctrines that advocate communication betwen the living and the spirits of the dead using a medium as intermediary.
Spontaneous Cases
Paranormal phenomena that occur in everyday life, unsought and unexpected.
Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)
Refers to cases in which a badly burned human body has been discovered in circumstances suggesting that the fire originated spontaneously in or on the body of the victim.
Mathematical techniques for analysing and interpreting numerical data.
Unexplained markings on a person's body that correspond to the wounds of Christ.
See target.
A person whose psi ability is being investigated.
Subjective Paranormal Experience (SPE)
Or Subjective Psi Experience. An experience that the person who has it believes to be paranormal.
Subjective Psi Experience (SPE)
See subjective paranormal experience.
Subliminal Perception
Perceiving without conscious awareness.
Super-ESP Hypothesis
The suggestion that people are capable of unlimited ESP. The super-ESP hypothesis is often presented as an alternative to the survival hypothesis in explaining mediumistic phenomena (the medium is believed to obtain information using super-ESP powers and not directly from the spirit of a deceased person).
A method of data collection that involves interviewing (or giving questionnaires to) a representative and often large group of people.
The belief that some aspect of the person (e.g., consciousness, mind, personality, soul) lives on after death of the body.
A term used by C.G. Jung to refer to coincidental events that are meaningfully but not causally connected.


Mysterious movements of a table, usually occurring in a seance when a group of people place their hands on the surface of the table. Often the movements are interpreted as spirit communications. Also known as table-turning or table-tipping.
See table-tilting.
The object or event which the subject attempts to perceive (ESP tests) or influence (PK tests).
A special deck of cards (usually 78) used in fortune telling.
Paranormal movement of objects.
Paranormal awareness of another person's experience (thoughts, feelings, etc.). In practice it is difficult to distinguish between telepathy and clairvoyance. See also ESP.
Paranormal transportation of objects to a distant place. See also apport, deport.
Temporal Lobe Activity
Electrical activity in the temporal lobes of the brain. Often associated with strange sensations, time distortions and hallucinations. Sometimes used as an explanation for seemingly paranormal experiences such as apparitions and alien abduction experiences.
Quasi-religious and philosophical system of the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Madame Blavatsky. Its paranormal claims were controversially and damningly reported upon by the Society for Psychical Research in 1885.
The supposed ability to change from human to animal form and back. See also lycanthropy, shape-shifting, werewolf.
Magical practices which aim to contact and communicate with the gods.
Paranormal ability to produce images on photographic film (e.g., by concentrating on a mental image). Most famously demonstrated by Ted Serios. See also psychic photography.
Thought Transference
See telepathy
A dissociated state of consciousness, generally involving reduced awareness of surroundings and external events.
Trance Medium
A person who enters a state of trance in order to produce mediumistic phenomena.
Transcendental Meditation
A technique of meditation taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, involving the repetition of a sound (mantra).
Transmigration of Souls
See reincarnation.
Transpersonal Psychology
The study of experiences, beliefs and practices that suggest that the sense of self can extend beyond our personal or individual reality. The subject matter of transpersonal psychology overlaps to some extent with parapsychology, but the two disciplines tend to have different approaches and emphases. Parapsychology is primarily concerned to investigate evidence for and against the reality of paranormal phenomena. Transpersonal psychology, on the other hand, is more interested in investigating the transpersonal significance of such phenomena (i.e., the ways in which they may give people a sense of connectedness with a larger, more universal or spiritual reality). See also mysticism.
Travelling Clairvoyance
(a) An early term for the out of body experience.
(b) Clairvoyance exhibited when a subject travels in imagination to another location.
In psi tests, a single attempt to demonstrate paranormal ability (e.g., one attempt to guess a card or one attempt to influence the fall of the dice).
A conical tube (often luminous) used in seances to produce direct voice communication.


The study of UFOs.
A Brazilian spiritist religion. See also Candomble, Voodoo.
Unidentified Flying Object (UFO)
Unexplained sightings of lights or objects in the sky, often taken to be evidence of extraterrestrial visitations.
Up Through Technique
An experimental test for clairvoyance in which the subject guesses the order of a stacked series of target symbols (e.g., cards) from bottom to top. Cf. down through technique.


Information or experience that is confirmed by facts and events.
Veridical Dream
A dream that corresponds to real events (past, present or future) that are unknown to the dreamer.
Video ITC
See instrumental transcommunication.
A religious apparition.
A spiritist and ancestor religion, originating in Africa, and now found predominantly in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba. Magical rites, trance states and possession all play a major role in Voodoo. See also Candomble, Pocomania, Santeria, Umbanda, zombie.


A person who has been magically transformed into a wolf or other dangerous beast. See also lycanthropy, therianthropy, shape-shifting.
White Magic
Magical spells or rituals to produce beneficial effects. Cf. black magic.
White Noise
A hiss-like sound, formed by combining all audible frequencies. See also ganzfeld.
System of witchcraft, especially as practiced today in western countries.
Someone who practices witchcraft.
Folk magic. See also wicca.
A medicine wo(man) or shaman.


The ability to speak or write in a language that has not been learned. See also glossolalia.


Religious philosophy originating in India. It advocates the use of physical and psycho-spiritual techniques to lead the person to higher consciousness. See also meditation, siddhis.


Zener Cards
Set of 25 cards (5 each of circle, square, Greek cross, five-pointed star, three wavy lines) designed by the perceptual psychologist Karl Zener for use in card-guessing tests of ESP. Also known as ESP cards.
A corpse that has been partly brought back to (soul-less) life by magic. See also Voodoo.