• Aura a subtle, luminous glow that surrounds a person or object. Usually related to spiritual practices, but may manifest as part of a haunting or an otherwise inexplicable event.
  • Ectoplasm – from the Greek “ektos” (outside) and “plasma” (something formed). A gauze-like substance excreted by mediums during a trance, generally accepted to be a hoax.
  • EVP – “electronic voice phenomena”, sounds found on electronic devices that can be interpreted as the voices of spirits or other entities.
  • EMF – “electromagnetic field”, usually measured with an EMF meter. Fluctuations in the electromagnetic field may suggest some form of paranormal activity.
  • ESP – “extrasensory perception”, sometimes called a “sixth sense”. The reception of information using the mind rather than any of the physical senses. It is often an umbrella term for “clairvoyance” (the ability to “see” people, objects or events that are not currently occurring), “clairaudience” (the ability to “hear” something no-one else can) and “telepathy” (the ability to transfer/receive information to/from other people using the mind).
  • Mandela Effect a situation in which a large number of people share the same memories of an event which differ from the recognised evidence/reports of that event. The term derives from an example: according to paranormal investigator Fiona Broome, many people claim to remember that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s, rather than in 2013 from an illness. The scientific term for distorted or disturbed memories is confabulation.
  • Temporal distortions the time-space continuum is briefly warped, so that a living person finds themself in another time period or witnesses a manifestation of people or places from another time period. This is not a supernatural manifestation or phenomenon; however, it is distinctly out of the ordinary!
  • UFO an “unidentified flying object”. The term “flying saucer” became popular in the 1930s, but the term UFO, as used by the United States Air Force, is generally considered a more appropriate description.
  • USO an “unidentified submerged object”. Similar to a UFO, a USO is found in or emerges from large bodies of water.


  • Cryptida creature that is believed to exist purely due to anecdotal evidence. Often called “mystery animals”. This may include an animal believed to be extinct, a creature referred to in mythology and folklore, or animals outside their natural range (i.e. big cat sightings in the UK).
  • Fearsome Critter a creature that originates from North American lumberjack folklore. Said to roam the frontier wilderness, these creatures were an integral part of early 20th-century oral traditions and explained strange noises or disappearances in the woods. May have some overlap with cryptids, but generally accepted as simply folklore.
  • Extra-terrestrial a being or creature that does not originate from Earth. Synonym of alien.


  • Apparition a translucent representation of how a person looked in life. May also be an animal, an inanimate object (such as a house or a ship), or a non-human entity.
  • Doppelgänger – from German “doppel” (double) and “gänger” (walker). The appearance of a “double” of a living person. They are usually associated with impending tragedy or bad luck.
  • Ghost – the most common type of entity. A person or animal who has passed on and returned for a purpose (or perhaps never moved on in the first place).
  • Orb a glowing ball of light, believed to be an alternative way for a spirit to manifest. Often captured on camera but, equally often, accepted to be particles of dust, the result of the camera flash or reflective materials in the room.
  • Out-of-body experience – sometimes abbreviated to “OBE”. An individual seemingly occupies two places at once. According to some reports, they may physically manifest in that second location.
  • Poltergeist – from German “poltern” (to make a sound/to rumble) and “Geist” (ghost/spirit), meaning “noisy ghost”. A ghost or supernatural entity characterised by physical disturbances, such as moving/breaking objects and loud noises. Reputed to have the ability to harm humans by tripping, hitting, biting or pinching.
  • Residual haunting a type of haunting in which a traumatic event (such as a murder, suicide or fatal natural disaster) is “replayed” by its environment with some degree of regularity. The spirits or events involved will not interact with or affect the living, although a living person may witness some or all of the repeat phenomena.
  • Rod – visually similar to an orb or vortex, may appear to emit a glow or seem like mist. However, rods are normally interpreted as being alien/extra-terrestrial in nature rather than spiritual.
  • Shadow People shadows or dark figures that appear to move very quickly in your peripheral vision. Little is known about them, but they are often interpreted as ill-intentioned.
  • Tulpa an apparition manifested through sheer force of will by a living person, which may take or appear to take on a mind of its own. Sometimes referred to as a “thoughtform” or a “servitor”, especially by practitioners of chaos magick.
  • Vortex a spiralling, mist-like phenomena that, like an orb, generally appears in photographs. Sometimes called a “funnel”.


* = Commonly regarded as a pseudoscience.

  • Cryptozoology – literally “the study of hidden animals”, with the intention of identifying mythological/folkloric creatures (called cryptids) that have been sighted by multiple contemporary witnesses.*
  • Parapsychology the study of paranormal and psychic phenomena, ranging from apparitions and hauntings to telepathy and telekinesis.*
  • UFOlogy/Ufology the study of reports, sightings, photographs and other anecdotal evidence of UFOs (unidentified flying objects).*
  • Folkloristics – sometimes called “folklore studies”. The study of the expressive culture of an ethnic group, which can include oral traditions (fairy-tales, etc.), jokes, proverbs and songs. In our modern internet era, folkloristics has broadened to encompass urban legends and Internet-based storytelling.