Paranormal Terminology *

Basic Definitions 


Unexplained Activity: – Cannot be explained by any known means.


An event about which we do not have enough information or knowledge to sufficiently explain 



Paranormal Activity: – Does not follow normal laws.

An event that cannot be attributed to any known cause based upon known information.


When the information available does not support the likely causes, the event is said 

to be paranormal. The amount of information that is known about the event and the number of possible causes that are explored will determine the degree of 

paranormal uncertainty. 


Psychical: – Related to the human psyche. 

The theory that the mind functions at a level beyond physical perception and can experience paranormal event.


Supernatural: – From an existence beyond the natural world. 

The theory that there are intelligent influences outside our physical perception that can influence us and cause a paranormal event. 



Investigative terms 



Having one or more people who have witnessed an event. To determine corroboration, statements should be taken from each witness separately so that one person’s story cannot influence another person’s story. 


Agency Detection Device: 

The basic ability of the mind to recognize and assign an agency to an observed pattern. Agency refers to the intelligent intention, motivation, or reason behind an event or action. Agency recognition is a basic survival mechanism that allows us to subconsciously determine if an observed behavior pattern is a threat or benefit to us. A person with an active agency detection device will more likely to assign human reason and intent to non-human patterns, and will tend to favor supernatural explanations when confronted with random or unexplained phenomenon.



When looking at an image, Matrixing or Pareidolia is the tendency for the mind to fill in missing information, thus seeing a recognizable pattern. E.G. a person can see recognizable images of things when looking at the clouds, or at stars. In paranormal investigation, people often have a tendency to identify images such as faces or figures when looking at patterns in a photo.


Hypnagogic/Hypnopompic Hallucinations: 

These are hallucinations that are experienced at the lowered brain wave frequencies when a person is just starting to fall asleep (hypnagogic) or just beginning to wake up (hypnopompic). These hallucinations overlap with the waking conscious so that they are often thought to be really happening.


Ideomotor Response:

This is a subconscious response that allows pendulums, dousing rods, automatic writing, and Ouija boards to work. The subconscious mind will cause small muscular reactions that allow it to control a communication device to give information that is not always apparent to the person. In many cases, Ideomotor response can sometimes be influenced through the use of subconscious suggestion or by the distraction of a person’s attention.


False Positive:

A result that indicates that a given condition is present when it is not. In paranormal investigation, this refers to common anomalies that are typically mistaken for paranormal activity. 


Some common causes of false positives include: 



A phenomenon that occurs when recording or playing back digital images or audio. It is typically distortion caused by limitations in resolutions and sampling rate of a recorder. Frequencies outside the working range of the device can influence related frequencies within the range, causing distortion and background noise known as an artifact. It is also the artifact (distortion) caused by the differences between the sampled sound and the playback capabilities of the recorder. In EVP work, aliasing causes different sounds become indistinguishable when sampled, or noise in the background that can be mistaken for voices.


Retro-refraction and Lens Flare:

Retro-refraction is a common occurrence when taking flash photos where the flash is reflected back off an object and obliquely toward the camera lens, causing an orb-like refraction. CPC or close proximity contamination (Orbs) are a common type of retro-refraction caused by dust that occurs when the flash is located close to the lens and the flash photo is taken in complete darkness. A similar effect can be caused by an external light source at an oblique to the lens, cause a refracted spot to appear.


Echo and Reverb: 

Environmental influences on audible sounds that may cause unexpected and unintended sounds to be recorded during an investigation. These effects are more common in large or empty rooms, where sound is not easily absorbed. 

They can often be mistaken for Electronic Voice Phenomenon when reviewing audio recordings.



Popular Terminology 



These are low level paranormal events that are experienced in places that contain strong residual imprints. Often considered to be related to a person's latent ESP ability, these can also be termed Random Psychical Manifestation. Infestations are difficult to investigate because of their seemingly random occurrence, but may occasionally become a full haunting if amplified and directed by an intelligent agent.



While the term is often used to describe the general presence of paranormal activity, the classic or intelligent haunting refers to activity directed at a focus from an intelligent agent. To 'Haunt' means to frequent a place, or a person, and in either case it suggests that the same activity must be recurrent over a period of time. The focus of a haunting is typically one or more persons, though occasionally an object or a location can also be a focus ( it depends upon the intent). The agent of a haunting is usually not aware that they are causing the activity, and in rare cases the agent may be an inhuman entity of a supernatural origin.



Meaning “noisy ghost” often refers to the phenomenon of recurring spontaneous psycho-kinesis (RSPK). A poltergeist is essentially a psychic temper tantrum. Recurring spontaneous psycho-kinesis is caused by an individual’s latent psychic ability to influence and cause objects to move as well as cause other paranormal phenomenon - banging, electrical problems, and in some cases fires (pyro-kinesis). RSPK activity may take on the attributes of residual imprints in the area, giving it the look and feel of a traditional haunting. RSPK may be directed or random in nature. Poltergeists activity may be random, or directed toward a specific person or group of people. The primary cause of RSPK generally a person, often a troubled teenager, and the paranormal activity is created subconsciously, often connected to feelings of anger, anxiety, and stress.



The overwhelming influence of a repressed or external influence that causes an individual to develop uncontrolled, obsessive, and sometimes immoral behavior. The pattern is so unlike normal behavior that the person appears to be controlled by an entity that is not themselves, and often inhuman in nature. The behavior on which a person obsesses is generally subjective in nature and is usually related to a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs. In some cases, the possession is an intentional and controlled practice used to allow a specific supernatural intelligence to visit and communicate with people.


Focus and Agent: 

The focus refers to the person or people who are affected by the paranormal activity. It is commonly believed that paranormal activity requires an agent in order to manifest. The agent is a person, or other entity, that causes or allows the paranormal event to manifest.



The appearance of something that is not really what or where it appears to be, or an influence that remains after the source is gone. Many people believe that ghosts are earthbound or visiting spirits. 


Shadow People: 

A shadow, often seen quickly in the peripheral range of vision that is usually in the form of a person that does not seem to be cast by a physical source. Shadow people are often connected with feelings of fear, paranoia, distrust, or apathy. 



This refers to any event or experience that has a physical influence, but not always a physical form. This includes hot/cold spots, physical manipulation, or electromagnetic influences.



A type of manifestation that has a physically form, in such a way that it can be photographed, recorded, or directly sensed by one or more people. Apparitions may appear in detail, as a vague misty form, smells or fragrances, or even audible voice phenomenon.


EVP/AVP: Electronic or Audible Voice Phenomenon: A type of manifestation where a stray voice can be heard either aloud (AVP) or when playing back an electronic audio recording (EVP). 



A paranormal orb is a free floating ball of light that can be seen by the human eye or photographed by more than one camera at the same time.  Most photographic orbs are caused by lens flare or dust and other particulates in the air in front of the flash. 




*  Terms and Definitions listed here are borrowed with permission from Sunset Paranormal Research and Development