PARANORMAL GLOSSARY

  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



Anything abnormal or extraordinary, particularly in contrast to Baseline analysis, is an anomaly.  This does not automatically suggest something paranormal, but rather points out an experience, an observation, or an evidence artifact that stands out from its surroundings as unusual.  Some of the most commonly reported:  shadows; orbs; footsteps; taps and knocks; flashes of light; cold and warm spots; voices and whispers.


The scarcest of paranormal phenomena, the apparition is a full or partial materialization of “spirit energy” (though, there is nothing officially recognized or objectively measured as “spirit energy”.) An apparition may be anything that suddenly appears (i.e., becomes apparent).  As such, it ranges in form from an orb to a “full-body apparition,” the latter of which is synonymous with the popular conception of a ghost.  Apparitions can also vary in opacity, from solid to transparent.  Some apparitions are not merely forms, either; apparitions that manifest along with a “ghost room” (like a moment caught in a different time) are also said to occur rarely. (See  "Orb")



Investigators use a baseline measurement of environmental conditions to determine environmental anomalies during the investigation.  Measurements of temperature, radiation, electromagnetic fields, air density and pressure, and others are systematically recorded to determine what’s “normal” about the site; departures from those baselines, therefore, potentially suggest what could be abnormal or paranormal.  Many groups use weather, solar and geological data as well, in order to create a baseline for the region of the investigation. (See “EMF”)       


Cold Spots:

An environmental anomaly marked by a sudden and focused drop in temperature is commonly referred to as a “cold spot,” but warm spots are also recorded.  Paranormal enthusiasts theorize that “spirits” draw energy from the environment in order to manifest themselves, and that a drop in temperature is the “footprint” of a spirit trying to manifest.  Consequently, investigators use thermometers and thermal images to track the movement and, in some cases, the shape of these thermal anomalies in hopes that they are monitoring an entity. When using infra-red non-contact thermometers, a rapid temperature drop of 10 degrees or more could indicate spirit presence.


See "Determinations"  


Coupling is using other tools in conjunction with digital photographs or digital videos.  For example, the investigator uses an EMF Meter in conjunction with with the digital camera so that it can be noted that the meter spikes when you capture the anomaly on film.  PART frequently backs both audio and visual anomalies with another piece of equipment evidence which gives a more "concrete" way to present evidence.  The EMF Meter offers a scientific backing for your evidence.  The same would work with thermal probes or any of the paranormal adapted technology we use.



See "Explaining Paranormal Activity"


The conclusions that investigators draw concerning the paranormal status of a venue they have investigated are referred to as a “determination.”  Determinations are largely subjective, but they nonetheless rest in the objective use of equipment and analysis of the evidence.  Different paranormal investigation groups will use different systems to determine the “haunted” status of a venue, or may use different terminology for similar determinations.  The following are some of the most frequently used determinations: 

Enough evidence has been amassed to offer a rationale and ordinary explanation to the alleged paranormal experiences of the client; no follow-up investigation will be required;  
Insufficient evidence has been obtained to make a conclusion in denial of, or in support of, paranormal activity, though some degree of inexplicable activity might be conceded.
Sufficient evidence has been obtained, but analysis is inconclusive or disputed among the investigators; a conclusion, therefore, cannot be determined.
Paranormally Active
Evidence is deemed sufficient and persuasive enough to support the probable conclusion that the client's experiences are of a focused paranormal nature.

Ongoing                                                                                                        Evp's by themselves do not define a place as paranormally active. When we obtain specific intelligent responses to questions, then we feel there is some legitimate activity.  For us to fully label a place as paranormally active, we are looking for some form of visual anomaly or other persuasive evidence to also be present.  Ongoiong simply means there is some activity present, but that additional evidence would need to be obtained before we label it paranormally active. See "coupling"


Disembodied Voice:

A voice heard during an investigation, but a source could not be found.


EMF (Electromagnet Fields):

Localized electromagnetic fields are measured before and during an investigation, first as a means of determining a baseline of electromagnetic activity, and then as a means of measuring anomalies whose EMF measurements stray from that baseline.  The presence of increased anomalous EMF activity is thought to coincide with the manifestation of some paranormal phenomena. FLUCTUATIONS OF 2.0-7.0 USUALLY INDICATES SPIRIT PRESENCE. Fluctuations that are higher or lower usually have a natural source.  Instruments such as a K-II Meters are now routinely used as a crude method of communication that allows alleged spirit entities to manipulate EMF fields to light up buttons on the meter, generally as “Yes” and “No” answers.  It is also thought that some individuals may have a genetically predisposed sensitivity to EMFs that causes them to experience phenomena they understandably interpret as paranormal such as  paranoia, headaches, nausea, skin irritation, nightmares, visual and auditory hallucinations.  This is why detecting EMFs, especially high EMF readings--called "EMF hot spots"--is a routine part of modern paranormal investigative procedure.  It should be noted, however, that even though some countries (particularly in Europe) regulate wiring and appliances to protect consumers and employees against electromagnetic "poisoning," in the United States, protection against EMF poisoning has never been signed into law because the connection between high EMF and the above mentioned symptoms has never been persuasively argued by the medical community.  This is why, in the United States, EMF poisoning is sometimes treated as though it is fringe science.  Most paranormal investigators, however, remain quite open to the seriousness of it, making an EMF meter one of their most valuable tools.   (See  "K-II Meterand "Knocks and Taps")


Commonly referred to as a ghost or spirit; or in the case of a non-human spirit, then referred to as a demon, elemental, nature spirit or even an angel.


The word “evidence” is used loosely in paranormal investigating to refer to the unexamined, raw data, audio and video recorded during the investigation.  When the word is used to mean a specific artifact of paranormal evidence, it will be combined with a category of evidence, such as “EVP evidence” or “video evidence.”  However, until one or more specific anomalies have been found within it and singled out, it has no inherent significance other than as a general pool of raw data.  (See  "Anomaly")

Evidence Review (Analysis):

After an investigation has concluded, a period of time will be devoted to examining the gathered evidence for paranormal anomalies.  This activity is collectively referred to as “Evidence Review.” 


EVP stands for “Electronic Voice Phenomenon,” usually the imprint of anomalous voices on analog and digital audio recordings, or on the audio of video recordings.  Although a majority of EVP are, in fact, voices, the term is also used to describe any sound discovered in the recorded evidence that was not audible to investigators or other equipment at the time of the recording.  Reputable groups use a standard of classification for EVPs in order to separate the most convincing or compelling ones from those that have a higher probability of ordinary explanation.  Persuasive EVPs that seem to be direct communication to the questions, rather than random words or phrases, and which are clearly audible and unambiguous in content tend to be classified as Class A EVPs.  The vast majority of such evidence, however, falls into the category of Class C for its poor sound quality and high levels of white noise.  (See "Pareidolia" and "White Noise") 

Explaining Paranormal Activity:

Since PART strives to honor the scientific method and promote skeptical inquiry of paranormal phenomena, the term "explain" is preferred over the word "debunk."  While the term "debunking" is still frequently used, many conscientious paranormal groups are moving away from the term because it is does not dignify the motive of most clients who request investigations.  The term derives from bunkum, an insincere public display or statement, which suggests that debunking a paranormal phenomenon means to expose the trickery of duplicitous clients.  Such clients are an extreme rarity for investigation groups.  "Debunking," in fact, entered into the popular vernacular because of criminal investigators and scientists who, in the interest of protecting the unwitting public, apprehended charlatan spirit mediums, defrauded psychic flimflam, and exposed medical quackery.    The preferred term among paranormal investigators these days is "explaining," which is far more empathetic to the possibility that a client in paranormal distress may have misunderstood or overlooked a rational explanation for paranormal activity, rather than have conspired to dupe the public.



Fear Cage:

The term "fear cage" describes an area within a building that is demarcated by unusually high EMFs, creating effects that an individual might mistake for localized paranormal activity.  Many who report the sensation of being watched, feeling goose bumps, or experiencing uneasy feelings when entering a specific location in their own homes quite often are victims of this electromagnetic field phenomenon, especially if the fields are targeting the head.   Locations where a fear cage may occur typically include sources of high voltage electricity and the surfaces that can conduct them:  circuit breakers, 220 voltage outlets, stripped or exposed copper wires, and so on.  However, certain appliances (especially older ones) are also commonly responsible for creating fear cages.  The most frequent culprits are refrigerators, lighted electric clocks and clock radios, free-standing oscillating fans, bathroom ballasts and ceiling fans, and over-taxed extension cords and power strips. Fear cages caused by appliances are simple to test, since a rearrangement, replacement, or outright removal of the sources should dispel the effect. (See "EMF") 


See "Determinations


A universal feature of many a ghost tale, disembodied footsteps are frequently included in reports of paranormal activity:  a regular pattern of footfalls, often in another room or on a staircase, that sometimes causes witnesses to imagine intruders are in their homes.  Footsteps and other anomalous sounds such as Knocks and Taps rally skeptics who call into question the physics of such phenomena and blame matrixing as the common culprit.  Defenders of footsteps as a well and true paranormal phenomenon conjecture that it is an imprint of a residual haunting, or even that it is an indication of parallel dimensions.  (See "Anomaly" and "Haunting")



See "Entity” and “Haunting"



When a location exhibits a pattern and a personality of paranormal activity, it is said to be haunted.  Hauntings are generally classified as Intelligent or Residual.  An intelligent haunting implies that one or more spirit entities are “attached” to the premises and interact with it and its living occupants in a sentient way.  A residual haunting is defined by its rote characteristics:  paranormal phenomena, such as apparitions, occur frequently or repetitiously, but without being mindful or aware of the occupants.  A third classification, Poltergeist, remains controversial and, although it resembles a haunting, is thought to be, in fact, a manifestation of a living person giving off kinetic energy causing the activity being experienced; in consequence, it is more often categorized with such phenomena as possession, rather than with hauntings.  (See “Determinations”)


Infrared (IR) Illumination:

Digital video camcorders and cameras used by PART investigators are equipped with an ability to "see" in the dark using infrared light.  This feature is indispensable since virtually all investigations take place in the cover of darkness.  Anomalies such as shadows and moving objects that would otherwise be unseen by the naked eye are more likely to be detected using IR lights.  (See "Surveillance")


This controversial term describes a paranormal entity thought to be of non-human origin, which suggests a being native to the so-called “spirit realm.”  The classification includes demons, elementals, nature spirits, and even angels, though most inhumans are feared as feral and dangerous.  Although skeptical paranormal investigators keep an open mind to reports of an “inhuman,” the classification is largely the concern of Demonology and frequently is associated with religious philosophies.

Intelligent Haunting:

This type of haunting involves paranormal activity where a ghost or spirit will interact with living beings, trying to communicate with them in some way.                                                 



Seminally influential nineteenth century Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, founded analytical psychology, often referred to as Jungian psychology, and is frequently invoked by scholars of the paranormal for his interest in the human psyche as inherently mystical.  Of special interest to paranormal folklore enthusiasts, demonologists, and ghost trackers, alike, are his study of psychological archetypes and his theories on the collective unconscious of the human species, which, he argued, explained the coincidental similarities among the pantheons and spiritual rituals of so many disparate human cultures.  From dream analysis to tarot card readings, and art therapy to 12-Step patient treatment, Jungian psychology is frequently the favored approach.  In paranormal investigating, Jungian analysis takes an inevitable role in any alternative explanations of client accounts of paranormal activity that, interpreted as personal expressions of a common cultural folklore, often possess archetypal traits--e.g., the crone; the spirit girl; the tall man with the hat; and so on.  (See  "Inhuman")


K-II Meter:

The K-II meter was designed as a simple detector for laypersons to identify potentially hazardous electromagnetic fields in their homes or businesses. PART uses them as inexpensive broad spectrum EMF detectors during our investigations.  The K-II possesses a panel of five L.E.D. lights that light up cumulatively as the EMF increases or spikes.  Because these lights provide a visible confirmation of EMF activity in the darkness of a paranormal investigation, K-II's have come into popular use by the paranormal community as simple communication devices.  Working under the premise that unseen "spirits" create measurable electromagnetic fields, investigators invite entities to interact with the device and use the lights to answer questions in the style of "one knock for yes; two knocks for no."

Knocks and Taps:

A mainstay of paranormal investigating is the documenting of knocking sounds or taps, which are believed by many to be attempts at intelligent communication by unseen entities.   Taking inspiration from nineteenth century seance mediums who beckoned a spirit to knock as a sign of their arrival—more often than not, the medium’s cohort knuckling the underside of the table—paranormal investigators frequently attempt to initiate knocks and taps as a way for unseen entities to “make their presence known.”  However, a system of raps and taps are also encouraged to answer basic yes/no questions, much in the fashion that a K-II Meter is now being used.  Detractors and skeptics point out that, during the nighttime hours that most tapping and knocking phenomena are heard (and during which most paranormal investigations are staged), building infrastructure responds to drops in temperature and changes in barometric pressure and outdoor wind speed that create these sounds.  For this reason, responsible paranormal investigators give taps lower priority as evidence, or reject it altogether, unless 1) it seems strongly to suggest intelligent responses to questions, and 2) it coincides with other anomalies such as EMF spikes, Cold SpotsEVP, and so on.


Light Anomaly:

A true paranormal "orb" that is viewed with the naked eye.   There are believed to be energy that is tied to a spirit. True orbs emanate their own light source and seem to follow a path of “intelligence.”  The true source of the energy is unknown.                                                            

Lights Out:

For a variety of practical reasons, investigations are usually conducted in the dark.   Though not a hard and fast rule, “Lights Out” can be used to signal the official start time of a formal investigation, when protocols protecting the evidence gathering from light and sound contamination go into effect until the designated breaks or the end of the investigation.



See "Pareidolia"


A unit of measurement (mGs) for low-level electromagnetic fields recorded by EMF readers; 1 milligauss is the equivalent of 0.001 Gauss.



See "Infrared Illumination"



This spherical light anomaly is controversial in that it is frequently interpreted as an indicator of “spirit energy” in the vicinity.  Some even theorize that the orb's spherical form is a simple matter of evenly distributing energy in a three-dimensional space.  Orbs, however, have had their detractors, mostly in response to paranormal hobbyists who confused them with camera artifacts caused by dust, moisture and bugs caught in IR light.  True orbs, it is alleged, emanate their own light source and, as such, cast light onto nearby surfaces as well as incur shadows (just as light bulbs do).  Investigation groups serious about projecting a more scientific and credible view of themselves will usually omit orb evidence from their analysis altogether, unless they are sure that they have captured a “true orb” in their video evidence, or have seen one with their own eyes.



Pareidolia is a common psychological phenomenon in which random stimulus is organized by the brain into a recognizable pattern (e.g., seeing faces in wallpaper patterns, or hearing musical beats in the sound of heavy machinery).  Often used synonymously with the term "matrixing," pareidolia explains a large percentage of visual evidence mistakenly touted as definitive proof of the paranormal.  In photographic evidence, it occurs in the tendency to pick shapes out of the blurry background or the random contrasts of light and shade (the face in a window, for example, that's merely the window pane reflecting the trees).  In audio evidence, it occurs largely in the tendency to hear words and phrases in random sound; a good example of this is in Class C EVPs where words and phrases are discerned in the white noise, but without consensus as to what they are saying.  Critics of those who protest claims of pareidolia rightly point out the interpretive bias that often accompanies such evidence:  an apparition in the rust of an oil tanker may resemble a veil and a blank face, but, predisposed to a religious interpretation, the observer will fill in the missing details and identify it as the face of the Virgin Mary; or, fear of "evil spirits" or concern for "lost souls" will influence the listener to hear "Get out!" or "Help me!" in the white noise of poorly recorded digital audio.  Pareidolia can be a powerfully convincing experience and, as such, it is sometimes difficult to disabuse people of their assumptions once they take an emotional or psychological investment in them.  Consequently, pareidolia is a challenging problem for paranormal investigators who value objectivity in their analysis of the evidence.


A word meaning “unknown” or “beyond the normal” that has come to refer to events that are unexplainable.  Popularly used to mean anything supernatural, credible investigators use the word in its literal sense to describe any experience or artifact of evidence that cannot be explained through normal means.  The word, however, does not automatically signify evidence of the supernatural  such as a haunting.   Rather, it is used to suggest that, based upon the limitations of investigators’ knowledge, the evidence cannot be rationally explained.


Means "noisy ghost" in German.  This is a type of haunting that some believe is not a ghost or a spirit, but rather a living being giving off kinetic energy causing the activity being experienced.  This is typically short lived and a result of extreme emotional stress or turmoil by a living being in the home.


A location where spirits can enter the physical realm.  A multi-dimensional gateway which spirits of the dead may enter or exit from their world into ours. This may be accomplished via a vortex.


A preliminary questionnaire gathering basic information about the clients and their circumstances is the first stage of development in a PART case.  Prelims establish the general nature of the paranormal activity believed to be occurring at the site, and the severity of that activity.  (For example, a prelim will help us decide if a case has a degree of urgency that should persuade us to schedule an investigation sooner.)  Prelims also provide rudimentary background information that gives PART interviewers a starting point for asking further details and information necessary to the investigation.


Q & A (Questions and Answers):

See "Vigil"



A collection of data, evidence and experiences that are reviewed with the client, followed by a discussion of their ramifications.



A Case Report is a document representing the culmination of the Case, outlining various aspects of the investigation and showcasing selected evidence that was used to lead PART to its Determination.  A printed Case Report will usually accompany a Reveal; however, reports can also be delivered separately or offered on-line in lieu of a personal Reveal.  PART will sometimes record evidence on a CD. 

Residual Haunting: 

Trapped energy that has no awareness of its surroundings or you.  These can be noises or a vision of a spirit that replays over and over like a recording of a moment in time. 


Scientific Method:

Reputable paranormal research groups like PART rely on methodologies that are consistent with the investigative protocols of the science community.  These are collectively referred to as the "scientific method."  A scientific method collects data through observation and experimentation, and tests hypotheses with a willingness to revise them when subsequent observation and experimentation requires it.  The steps of these methodologies must be repeatable and predictive.  Furthermore, the process must be regulated to remove bias, especially in the interpretation of the results.  One other very basic but significant component of the scientific method is documentation and disclosure. 


A stage of the investigation involving the placement and adjustment of surveillance equipment is called the “Setup.”  However, setup can also include special projects and experiments (e.g., chalk lines around objects reported to move or placing blue tape to mark the position of trigger objects).  When an investigation is complete, teams will “break down” the setup by putting equipment back into storage. 

Shadow Phenomena:

When references are made to shadows, they are usually concerns of disembodied shadows, sometimes called “Shadow Persons”:  dark apparitions of human (or animal) form, sometimes opaque but often transparent, and quite often moving independently in the dark.  (See “Apparition”)


A discarnate being, or ghost that exists in an invisible realm.  (See “Entity” and "Apparition”)


Styles and techniques in paranormal investigating are wide ranging depending on the degree to which teams objectively collect data.  Subjective metaphysical approaches often see results in a more spontaneous and immediate manner, but approaches dependent upon data collection, analysis, and peer review take longer and require surveillance and recording equipment—not only for collecting data, but also for documenting investigations and cross-referencing evidence.  A multi-channel DVR surveillance system utilizing high-resolution infrared surveillance cameras permits real-time monitoring of multiple locations at the investigation site while it saves that footage for later review.



See "Knocks and Taps"


In order to limit the activity going on at any one time during an investigation, PART investigators will be grouped into small teams who conduct their vigils and their investigative experiments.  A careful record of teams and their participants allows us to put “controls” on the amount of noise and activity that might later be confused for paranormal phenomena on the recorded media.



See “Paranormal



Synonymous with “session,” this word is used generally to describe an organized activity in which investigators study one location in the venue for a period of time and observe the environment for signs of paranormal activity, usually while recording audio and video.  Some vigils are held in silence, but most involve the technique of Q & A to query the facts and motives of putative spirit occupants.  Methods of interrogation differ among groups, and even among individual investigators.  Provocation, for example, is a method of interrogation in which the vigil is made more confrontational in hopes that more aggressive evidence will be obtained.  It's alleged that simple and respectful querry, however, is the method creating the least risk of exacerbating the activity, especially if family occupants are concerned about the repercussions of bringing in outsiders to "make contact" with the resident entities.  Vigils should not be mistaken as religious; rather, they are merely sessions in which investigators are "vigilant” for unusual activity or experiences.


In the paranormal definition these are also subject to a lot of conjecture one theory is an area of high electromagnetic energy for some type of portal or doorway to another dimension that allows entities to travel back and forth from our dimension to theirs and still maintain their own energy fields.



Two kinds of walkthroughs occur during an investigation:  a preliminary walkthrough of the premises in which the clients are interviewed and decisions are made about equipment setup; and, investigative walkthroughs, in which investigators conduct their vigils and experiments, as well as gather readings and data, while they are moving through the venue.


White Noise:

White noise is a random, neutral sound with a flat power spectral density.  Most recording devices, analog or digital, generate a degree of white noise in their recordings, the sound of which is frequently compared to a rushing waterfall.  In fact, white noise generators are used as meditative and sleep aids for this very reason, since white noise creates a calming and constant "background" sound that drowns out peripheral noises.  Paranormal investigators fall into two camps of thought about its uses.  One sees it as a substantial liability--a result of poorer quality microphones or inadequate controls on the baseline sound of the environment.  Another, however, actively contrives it in the evidence with a belief that "spirits" harness white noise to facilitate EVP communication.  Anything from specially designed white noise generators, to oscillating fans and coffee percolators, have been used to produce white noise with the express intention of culling EVP evidence.  Critics of this technique, however, remain suspicious of the considerable opportunity for matrixing this creates--i.e., the human brain's tendency to impose ordered speech onto random sound.  They also point out that little evidence relying on white noise ever surpasses a Class C EVP.  This technique of generating white noise is by no means a new one, but it recently received a certain cache of credibility after the success of the film White Noise, which showcased electronic voice phenomena.   (See  "EVP" and "Pareidolia")



Awkwardly grouped in the paranormal with ghosts and doppelgangers, zombies are not so much a paranormal phenomenon as they are a cultural phenomenon.  The word "zombie" is speculated to have been derived from several possible West Indian and African terms, all with meanings having to do with the spirit of the dead or the soul of a living person.  One variation, the zombie astral, is purported to be a living human's soul commandeered by an evil sorcerer.  This kind of similarity between a zombie and a ghost's wandering soul is perhaps the only connection that justifies inclusion of zombies in the vernacular of modern paranormal investigating.