It’s a big, wide unexplained world where the dead refuse to go away, mysterious creatures stalk the land and inhuman visitors can’t get enough of our company. At least, that is what many believers think, and they have a lot of terminology to keep it all straight. So whether you are a skeptic who just wants to know what all the talk is about -- and know how to argue about it -- or you’re a believer who needs to know the name of that thing in your closet, here is a basic breakdown of some popular paranormal words.
Apocalypse: A Greek word translated approximately to mean “disclosure of things previously hidden,” it is a term most often applied to the end of the world, the dawn of a new world or the revelation before mankind’s final judgment.
Bolide: Informally defined as an exploding meteor that resembles a bright fireball.
Cryptozoology: The study and pursuit of cryptids, creatures traditionally considered mythical, folkloric or previously extinct. Example: Bigfoot, chupacabra, Loch Ness Monster.
Disembodied Voice: A voice or noise that lacks an explainable source.
Elemental: Supernatural nature spirits that include fairies, trolls and banshees.
EVP: The abbreviation for “electronic voice phenomena,” which refers to noises of a paranormal nature that cannot be heard with the human ear, but are recorded by electronic devices.
Ghost: Typically refers to the soul of a deceased human (or animal) that continues to exist in some form on an earthly plane without “crossing over.”
Inhuman Entity: A supernatural being -- such as a demon or jinn -- that did not begin its existence in human form.
Intelligent Haunting: Activity resulting from an aware ghost or spirit that interacts with its environment.
Mayan Long Count Calendar: The basis for the doomsday predictions, which is a nonrepeating calendar with “baktun” cycles of about 400 years -- with the 13th ending, and the 14th beginning, on December 21, 2012.
Orb: An often translucent, circular anomaly (or “ball of light”) seen in photography -- and sometimes with the naked eye -- that may be, depending on your theory, a bug, speck of dust, reflection, moisture or spirit energy.
Paranormal: Literally, “above normal,” it refers to anything outside or beyond current scientific explanation.
Paranormal Pop Culture: Term given to paranormal-themed movies, TV shows, comic books, video games, music and literature; also known as “entertainment of the unexplained.”
Paranormal Tourism: The niche within the travel industry where tourists attend paranormal-themed conventions and festivals, investigate famously haunted locations (or camp out to search for Bigfoot or UFOs), and join ghost tours or haunted pub crawls through cities.
Pareidolia: Also known as “matrixing,” it is the brain’s perception of a meaningful pattern within random sounds or images.
Possession: The state where an entity inhabits and exerts a level of control over a living thing or object.
Prepper: An apocalyptically-minded individual preparing themselves for survival during an imminent societal or global change and, likely, disaster.
Preternatural: Instead of being connected to the spiritual realm, like supernatural matters, the preternatural applies to things that are of the natural world but currently unexplained.
Residual Haunting: Repetitive paranormal activity resulting from the energy imprint of a person or event in time.
Shadow Person: A commonly-reported inky black humanoid entity that moves fast, it is often spotted out of the corner of the eye and has been interpreted to be anything from a ghost or demon, to alien, time traveler or inter-dimensional being.
Spirit: As opposed to a ghost (see above), a spirit is normally the soul of the deceased that has crossed over, and exists in a spiritual or metaphysical plane.
Supernatural: Typically referring to spiritual or religious matters, the laws of nature do not apply to this realm.
UFO: Abbreviation for “unidentified flying object” which does not necessarily apply to extraterrestrial or secret governmental crafts, but can be anything unknown spotted in the sky.
Zombie: The classic version is a mindless, frequently violent, product of supernatural magic or pharmacology while the modern incarnation is a reanimated human corpse infected with an unexplained contagion that is relentless and aggressive.