What is the paranormal? The paranormal is the unknown, what has been traditionally believed to be outside of the normal natural laws of nature. The term “paranormal” refers to anything that is not currently known to science and which cannot be explained by current scientific theories or knowledge. The existence of paranormal activities is often disputed and there is no conclusive evidence that they exist. Cases of paranormal activities could consist of ghosts, strange creatures, demons, UFOs, psychic phenomena, and anything else that cannot be explained by logical arguments.

Paranormal research is the scientific and scholarly investigation into paranormal phenomena. Paranormal researchers study ghosts, UFOs, psychic abilities, cryptids, and other phenomena to determine if they exist. Paranormal research is sometimes called fringe science or pseudoscience because it does not fit or conform with the currently known facts of science. The term “paranormal” was coined by psychologist Julian Jule Buck in the late 1800s to refer to those cases that are outside of normal scientific explanation. The word stems from “para” meaning beyond, outside of, or beside, combined with “normal.”

ParanormalParanormal research is the scientific study of these events for evidence that they are caused by some other natural or supernatural force to explain them scientifically. This is opposed to a purely psychological approach to understanding such phenomena which is common in popular culture where explanations tend to focus on mental processes such as imagination or suggestion. Some paranormal phenomena may be caused by physical powers that we do not yet understand but scientists are constantly researching new phenomena in the field of “New Physics”. Still, others reject the possibility of any paranormal phenomena. 

Several religions and cultures believe in the paranormal and it is a popular subject for movies and books. Many of these beliefs are based on second-hand accounts, there is little to no scientific evidence that supports many of the claims, causing these to be dismissed as unproven or hoaxes. Scientific explanations for these occurrences range from misidentification of common objects, natural phenomena, illusion, manipulation of what people think they see by others through psychological means, to human deception.

Paranormal or supernatural?
It all started when science became mainstream thought. It was a time where the world was ruled by the unknown and unexplained phenomena could be explained with superstition and miracles. Many people then looked upon science as an evil force, because it was threatening their way of life. It started with the idea of religion being questioned. Science made us question why we should believe in a superior power when we can do things on our own without faith or prayer. But this brought about the paranormal, something that could not be explained by our scientific knowledge at the time.

Science explains many things in our lives that we used to attribute to supernatural beings, like Zeus and Poseidon for thunder and lightning. Yet modern science has still had trouble explaining some phenomena that occur in everyday life, like telepathy and psychokinesis (the ability for your mind to move small objects without touching them). With the modern scientific explanation for these phenomena coming up short, they are considered paranormal. And as knowledge has increased over the ages, many of these things have been explained away.

Many people associate paranormal activities with ghosts, but there are many other types of paranormal events that can occur in people’s lives such as UFOs, Bigfoot sightings, psychic experiences, and more. Parapsychology is a field that studies the paranormal. Also known as psychic science or parapsychology, it is the scientific study of the paranormal including both psychic phenomena and psychical research. Parapsychologists are interested in the observation and investigation of non-physical living entities, such as ghosts, apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists.

An unidentified flying object (UFO) is an object observed in the sky that is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. The term is frequently used for claimed observations of extraterrestrial spacecraft but has also been applied to other unexplained aerial phenomena, including balls of light and natural atmospheric optical phenomena. The term is often also used to refer to secret government programs dealing with the study of UFOs.

“Spirit photography” is a paranormal phenomenon in which still or video images of allegedly ghostly, spirit-like or ghost-like beings sometimes appear on photographs, film or video. Ghosts that appear on photographs are often described as transparent, white, and ethereal. The term “spirit photography” may be used to describe the intentional use of such images as a religious tool by clergymen and believers in the paranormal for purported spiritual purposes. It is also used to describe any photograph that cannot be explained by natural means.

Poltergeist is a German word meaning “noisy ghost” and is used to describe the movement of objects that can be heard by a witness (polter meaning noisy, geist meaning ghost). It is thought to be caused by spirits or ghosts, who may haunt a location and cause disturbances at night. A poltergeist can move objects, create noises, and cause physical damage in the home of its victim. Victims often report feeling unseen forces tugging on their bedclothes or pushing them in their sleep.

The resurrection of the dead is a paranormal concept. People with this belief believe that a person can be brought back to life once they have died. They claim to be able to “bring back people from the dead” using different methods such as necromancy, spiritual healing, and psychic healing or mentalism. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a commonly held religious belief in Christianity.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "paranormal" as follows: 
para·nor·mal (pə-nôr’ə-lăl) 1. beyond or deviating from the normal or ordinary; abnormal—usu. used with “of”: paranormal powers; paranormal activity 2. unexplained 3. intr. adj. 4. [latin] of or pertaining to the gods 5. [latin] (originally from Gk.), unfamiliar, foreign, strange

In science fiction and popular culture, the term “paranormal” may be used to refer to any phenomenon that is not explained by known laws of nature, including physical and mental abilities that are apparently supernatural (such as telekinesis, psychokinesis (PK), precognition and telepathy.) In reality, paranormal events are very real. There are thousands of reported cases every year. People really do experience encounters with ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, and other strange phenomena that cannot be explained by normal science or logic according to believers.

Objective vs subjective
There are two different ways that can determine whether something is paranormal or not: the objective approach and the subjective approach. The objective approach involves using scientific methods to study an object or event without considering any personal opinions about it. This approach can be used on both paranormal events and natural objects and events. The subjective approach is when a person only accepts evidence that supports their belief in the paranormal, discarding the evidence that does not.

This debate comes into play when trying to study the existence of events and objects which rely on personal experiences to prove them valid. Because these events are said to occur outside of what we know as normal science, there is no way to completely study them without creating a bias toward them either way.

The subjective approach is used most often in the case of ghosts, spirits, and hauntings. People who experience things and claim to have seen ghosts or experienced hauntings feel that their beliefs are just as valid as someone who believes that there is no such thing. They would not accept someone’s opinion on the matter no matter what they claimed. It is a personal experience to them, so it cannot be explained by logic or reasoning.

Skeptical or believer?
The way people view paranormal claims can be very different depending on the person’s knowledge and understanding of science, logic, and critical thinking. Two people with opposing views may both be correct in their own way, but can also both be wrong in their own ways too. A skeptic is a person who believes everything can be explained logically. A skeptic will not accept that something has happened unless there is strong evidence to support it. They will look through all of the information and test subjects to see if any facts support the claim or show that someone is lying. A believer will believe something without any evidence or proof, if there is no explanation for why something happened they will accept it as paranormal.

The two approaches
A believer vs a skeptic can use one of two approaches when trying to understand whether something is paranormal or not: scientific proof or metaphysical proof. The scientific proof uses natural explanations for things, observing how things happen, and seeing the results of experiments. This is the more logical route and can be a long way to go but it also brings more reliable evidence. The metaphysical proof is more like faith in the paranormal and cannot be proven by science, but relies on what people believe to be true.

There are many different views on whether things are paranormal or not, and it’s hard to know which side is right. It becomes even harder to determine whether something is paranormal when someone believes that their opinion alone is enough to prove that something did or didn’t happen when in fact it isn’t enough at all!


  • The word “paranormal” derives from French “para-“, meaning “beside”, and Latin nōrma (“law”). Hence, the word “paranormal” means “beside the laws of nature”.
  • The definition has been highly influenced by popular culture and the mass media during recent times.
  • Psychic abilities are often called paranormal because they cannot be explained by science. Most of the people claiming to have these abilities have never been tested or proven.
  • Many scientists believe that there may be some degree of truth in many paranormal claims.
  • Belief in alien abduction is widely held among believers in the paranormal and pseudoscience.

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