Some simple word association. If I were to say something is "paranormal" in nature, what would be
the first thing to come to your mind? It's not a stretch to imagine most people would relate the word to
ghosts or hauntings. While you would certainly be on the right track, that response alone doesn't reveal
the entire meaning of the word.
The term "paranormal" became a part of our modern vocabulary only about 80 years ago between
the years 1915-1920 and was coined by psychical researcher J.B. Rhine. It is derived from the Latin
word para meaning "outside" or "above" and the word normal, which means....normal.
par·a·nor·mal adj. Any event or object that defies scientific explanation or knowledge.
According to the Journal of Parapsychology the term describes:
"Any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed physically possible
according to current scientific assumptions."
This suggests that paranormal is an all-encompassing term that is used to describe a number of
unusual phenomena or anomalies. While this indeed includes ghosts and hauntings it can also refer to
other phenomena such as Extrasensory Perception (ESP), Telekinesis, UFOs, and Unidentified
Mysterious Animals (cryptozoology). This is different from the word occult which refers exclusively to
spirits and spirituality.
The role of a serious paranormal investigator is to ascertain the true source of the phenomena. To do
this we must explore any and all possibilities. While we look for possible environmental or psychological
factors that may contribute to misidentification or even hallucination of certain events, we must also
remain open to the extreme possibility of ghostly activity, spirit contact, extraterrestrials, or
Here's a hypothetical:
Let's say you're sitting at your computer desk reading this awe-inspiring article with your morning cup
of coffee in front of you. As you read on, you would probably take the occasional sip and then place the
cup back on the desk. You'd repeat this process until you finished the article or the cup ran dry. All of this
on the surface would appear pretty routine and ordinary.
Now let's imagine while you are reading this article, your cup of coffee rises up off the desk, spins
around and then pours itself out. Besides the obvious mess you'd have to clean up, (once you've finally
returned to the room after bolting from your chair) you would have witnessed a true paranormal event.
After calming down (to some degree) you would most likely wonder if you imagined the whole thing
and attempt to come up with some rational explanation for why your coffee suddenly acquired the gift of
flight. To make things more complicated, let's assume that your neighbor has decided to drop by
unannounced while you're shaking the liquid out of your keyboard. Puzzled, they ask you, "What
You have now come to one of life's proverbial "forks in the road". Do you: a) decide to come clean
and recount the entire incident to them - risking the probability of being laughed at, mocked or
considered a nut, or; b) cover the whole thing up by devising a tale of your own clumsiness. Either way,
after your neighbor has left chuckling to themselves, and you've checked for hidden wires, concealed
cameras or the crew of 'Punk'd', you're going to be left with the inescapable fact that something
unexplainable and perhaps a little frightening has just happened to you. Don't worry, people all over the
world play this type of scene out every day.
It is at this point I guarantee you will entertain one possible explanation:
A ghost did it - maybe it was a coffee ghost (go ahead and laugh, it could happen).
Coffee ghost caught on film (not really)
You may even become so unsettled by this event that you decide to contact someone (like us) to
help you make sense of what happened. The first conversation we have would probably open with you
saying, "You probably think I'm crazy, but....."
Fear not, we don't judge.....we listen. Keep in mind that we investigate the paranormal......so who
are we to think you're crazy?
Arriving at your home, we would begin the feeling-out process by asking you why you believe your
house may be haunted. You reply, "A ghost moved my coffee cup." We then counter that by asking you
why you feel it was a ghost and your response probably would be along the lines of, "What else could it
You might be surprised by some of the things we suggest.
If no one actually saw a ghost move the cup, why arrive at that conclusion? Well...ghosts can be
invisible, of course And how do we know that? Well, Hollywood and popular literature have conditioned
us to think that way. Let's face it, we all have seen how spirits and specters are portrayed in horror
movies, books and on television and a lot of folks take their cues from what they read and see. At no
time since the Spiritualist Movement of the late 1800s has there been more interest and curiosity about
the supernatural in our popular culture. There are a multitude of paranormal 'reality' shows on TV right
now that make faithful viewers feel like "experts" on the subject. We see or hear about objects moving
on their own or items left in one spot that wind up in another seemingly spirited along by some unknown
and unseen force. Is this not proof of ghostly behavior?
First off, there are really no "experts" in the field of paranormal investigation. The best investigators
out there are seasoned, rational and experienced people that have done extensive, objective research
and perhaps had personal experiences of their own. In the best cases, they have been able to
document activity through some media form. They accept nothing at face value and do everything in
their power to consider natural causes before declaring any place haunted or any event to be
paranormal in nature. A serious paranormal investigator with intentions of helping people arrives at the
truth by systematically examining extraordinary events without allowing themselves the luxury of belief.
Informal data would suggest that out of every 100 reported cases of activity only around 2 are deemed
unexplainable. Is your floating coffee in that 2%? On the surface, I admit your chances are pretty good,
but first we have to eliminate everything from psychological trauma and electrical interference to
diamagnetic levitation - which is expressed mathematically as:
This is called the Meissner Effect, but I somehow doubt anything on your desktop doubles as a
superconductor. So, barring a team of MIT or Cal Tech researchers descending on your house, we have
to look at simpler explanations to explain why your java jumped before we look you in the eye and say
"You got a ghost". By the same token we can't go to such lengths to invalidate your claim that we end
up blaming it on sonic whale sounds from the nearest ocean and then pat ourselves on the back for
doing a great job. A balance must be struck between the two approaches.
Occam's Razor: "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the best."
Most people indeed begin their ghost story by saying "You might think I'm crazy, but. . ." Well, don't
give that a second thought because we apparently live on a paranormal planet. Based on the premise
that belief in the paranormal "requires the belief that humans have more than the normal five senses", a
2005 Gallup Poll of 1,002 participants across all ages and genders revealed the following (warning:
boring statistics to follow):
41% believe in ESP
37% believe in haunted houses
32% believe in ghosts
31% believe in telepathy
26% believe in clairvoyance
25% believe in astrology
21% believe in communication with the dead
21% believe in witches
20% believe in reincarnation
9% believe in spirit mediums
Three other categories were added outside this paranormal criteria:
55% believe in psychic healing
42% believe in demonic possession
24% believe extraterrestrials are visiting Earth
The data shows that 73%, or almost three quarters of the people who responded to the poll, believe in
at least one of the ten items that were presented to them, down only very slightly from the 76% that was
determined by an identical poll that was conducted four years earlier. Only 1% believe in all ten items,
but as the number of items is reduced from ten, the cumulative percentage of believers rises
dramatically. Data from similar polls going back to 1990 indicate a steady, if slow, rise in belief in a
number of the items listed. There is, however, some difference between Christians and non-Christians:
the former group scores a 75% likelihood of belief, while the latter scores 66%, still both in the majority.
Only 27% of the respondents believe in none of the ten items listed. For those who are wondering, we
can only imagine that percentage would no doubt significantly decrease in third-world countries where
superstition and legends are more prevalent.
Our belief at RISEUP is that paranormal experiences fall into three distinct categories and it is
important that we try to understand - if not actually label - the nature and possible cause of the event
before rushing to judgment :
Psychological - Many times stress, grief, anger, sleep deprivation or any number of other factors can
alter the limbic system of the brain, contributing to a sense of having unusual "encounters". These
usually manifest themselves in the feeling that "you are not alone". It is also theorized that such strong
feelings projected from an emotionally-charged state of mind may - in extremes - result in what are
commonly known as poltergeist hauntings wherein physical objects move seemingly of their own
accord. The individual responsible for this is called the "agent". Sometimes, the particular objects
affected are somehow related to the cause of the problem. If a family member has passed away, a
picture of that person might fall off the wall or a former possession of theirs may display movement as
the emotion of a grieving survivor grows stronger. Your airborne coffee may quite possibly fall in that
category depending on your particular state of mind at the time.
Much, but not all poltergeist (which is German for "noisy ghost") activity surrounds adolescent girls
going through many physical and psychological changes. Long story short and in again in theory, a
person's own psychokinetic energy may cause this type of activity to occur (yes, like Carrie at the prom).
Perhaps then, a ghost isn't the cause of these events, but just a manifestation of the event itself. Maybe
you are not an adolescent or have one residing in your home, but that doesn't necessarily limit the
possibility of this rare phenomena. In such cases, one has to evaluate their own individual state of mind
at the time these events occur before declaring them paranormal .
People experiencing great turmoil in their life - the loss of a loved one, financial issues, family
dysfunction to name but a few - may begin to attribute a string of misfortune to otherworldly intervention.
Ex: “Ever since we moved into this house, we’ve had nothing but bad luck.” Quite often it’s easier to
blame a ghost or demon for your lot in life than take acceptance accountability for your situation and
take the steps to make corrections.
Occasionally we might encounter an individual who is experiencing some form of psychosis like
bipolarism, schizophrenia and so forth. These individuals are often open to extreme suggestion and
influence, so in some cases are susceptible to attributing their mental issues to outside sources, some
of which fall into the realm of the supernatural. Most disturbing are those instances where the demonic
is brought into the equation. One has to be extremely careful not to empower anyone who might think
they are not in control of their own actions due to Satanic intervention. These cases are not for
paranormal teams to entertain, but require psychological professionals.
Environmental - There are forces around you, both naturally-occurring and man-made that can
contribute to unusual phenomenon. Not the least of which are things like un-bracketed heating pipes,
creaky floorboards, poorly-sealed windows, normal light reflections, air-movement, animals and a whole
host of other residential and nature-related causes that can deceive anyone into thinking there is
something more sinister afoot.
A hot-button topic of some debate amongst parapsychologists are the presence of EMFs
(electromagnetic frequencies) in the atmosphere. While controlled laboratory experiments have yielded
positive results that people exposed to low-level EMFs in a certain sequence for a prolonged period of
time can experience feelings of paranoia, delusion or even hallucinations, there has been no definitive
proof as yet that this is a reason for any widespread hallucinatory occurrences in the everyday world.
While every home has the potential to emit potentially disruptive EMFs to its occupants, the number of
persons actually proven to display adverse effects of such are relatively small, perhaps 2 in 1,000.
Some of the main culprits are items like digital alarm clocks, microwave ovens and the omnipresent cell
phone. Living under power lines is also a red flag for potential dangers, as are "leaks" in common
household wiring. Balancing that theory is something called Galvanic Skin Response, a condition where
the outside layer of our skin does its best to protect us from harmful radiation waves. Your GSR can be
detected by submitting to an electroencephalogram (EEG). The higher the level (most people are at
about 175), the less the risk of being affected. The lower - the more susceptible one can be. It then can
be said that anyone affected by high levels of EMFs are hypersensitive to them. The drawback here,
admittedly, is that EEGs aren't exactly standard procedure come check-up time.
The Earth itself emits natural geomagnetic waves that can also affect an individual's state of mind. As
a result of all this, we strongly feel your susceptibility - as well as your level of exposure - to these
conditions has to be taken into consideration before declaring EMFs to be anything more than a
possible cause of a paranormal experience. Using EMF exposure as a blanket theory for unusual
occurrences (as some are prone to do) discounts any likelihood of an actual supernatural event.
Spiritual - This are the most controversial and as a result, the most fascinating explanation for
paranormal experiences. This is what you are left with when all other reasonable causes are
systematically eliminated. But taking a step back for a second, we need to determine what a ghost is
before declaring you are sharing your space with one. This is tricky at best as there really are nothing
more than theories with regard to this. Ghosts (or, spirits if you prefer) are best summed up as some
element of the human persona that remains behind after death. Now this energy might present itself in
various ways: in a full torso, smells or sounds (including voices). I agree with those who believe that if
spirits exist, they would project themselves to living humans as they once saw or perceived themselves.
Why else would they wear period clothing when they appear or present themselves at a younger age?
How we can actually witness them is another story. Personally, I believe that the presence of a spirit's
energy will somehow affect one or more of our five senses, allowing the mind to perceive or "see" them
as it processes what the senses tell it to do. As our individual senses may differ in varying degrees from
someone else's, it might explain why there aren't more mass sightings of similar images.
There are instances where a spirit may attempt visual or audible contact with a living being. For the
most part, this type of encounter is often termed "intelligent" because there is some conscious
interaction between the spirit and the human object of its attention. The floating coffee cup might be an
example of this as the spirit seeks to gain your attention (although there are tidier ways of doing so).
These are not true "hauntings" though, until they display a certain level of frequency. A true haunting
is of a persistent nature and (to further complicate things) may also fall under the category of "residual"
haunts. Residual hauntings have to do with the imprint of human energy on the surrounding material or
environment. It has been theorized that a home, building or even land can somehow record activities
that have occurred in that space. It is further speculated that in instances of great emotional or physical
duress, tragedy or sudden trauma from loss of life, that our tortured emotional energy releases into the
atmosphere and remains there. There can be no communication or interaction in these instances
because you are not really perceiving an individual entity, but watching a type of "video" that repeats
itself over and over. The "entity" really isn't interactive nor has any conscious awareness of itself or of
your presence and in sum total, does not exist beyond these brief encounters. Trying to interact with
such a form would be the same as talking to characters on your television and expecting them to
respond to you.
Likewise, we must also recognize the possibility that these residual activities may not always signal
the presence of a beleaguered spirit. Any exertion of human life force may cause an imprint in the
environment. The "tormented ghost" you see climbing the stairs may have lived a very long and happy
life, but because they used those stairs so frequently in their lifetime, their expended energy remains
imprinted in that location. There have also been reported cases of ghostly images of a person appearing
in a particular location while the subject is still quite alive and well and living a great distance away.
(Take a short break here to clear your mind of the inevitable confusion I have brought forth. Hey, at
least we're saving parallel dimensions for another article)
At the end of the day, people from all walks of life - every religion, gender, nationality and race -
experience things that are seemingly unrelated to the physical world they know and live in and the
beliefs that have become instilled in them. At some point, opening the mind to extreme possibilities can
be more of a burden on the individual than simply dismissing them as absurdity. Whether we want to
admit it or even care to, there are forces on this planet and in our subconscious minds that we have yet
to come to terms with and truly understand. Scientists oftentimes rush to discount paranormal
experiences because they don't fall into what their discipline has taught them - that if a result cannot be
duplicated, you are forced to conclude that it is invalid.
The fly in that ointment concerns the human element being introduced into the equation. Humans are
by nature unpredictable creatures with an annoying habit of analyzing, rather than reacting. Behavioral
patterns are often dictated by emotions and therefore, not consistent. If a human spirit's energy remains
behind after death, is it not at least feasible to wonder if it may retain some of these imperfect
characteristics and much of the personality traits its physical vehicle had in life? It does not show itself
on demand and it comes and goes as it pleases. It has a mischievous nature, a loving nature, an evil
nature or some combination of all three depending on its mood and how it is being affected by outside
forces. This mirrors the gamut of human emotion. Many skeptics are quick to dismiss claims of
hauntings because they simply don't believe they exist and no amount of contrary evidence short of the
delivery of a ghost in a box will sway them. Fine...we need skeptics and claims should be approached
with a skeptical eye. But to dismiss the number and types of experiences people are having out of hand
without examination flies directly in the face of all that science is about.
Applied science is based on introducing fresh ideas into a field of study. How can that be done when
the field becomes stagnant because of disinterest or ridicule? People are seeing things outside the
realm of the natural order. Or is it actually a part of the natural order we have yet to understand?
Enjoy your stay on the Paranormal Planet. Don't fear it, for you are not alone.