By Karen Frazier

Paranormal research falls under the broader category of parapsychological research, which is a subset of the social sciences (psychology, anthropology, sociology and others). Also called psychical research, parapsychology examines paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, hauntings, psi (psychic energy), reincarnation, and near-death experiences. 
Cultures throughout history have maintained a rich mythology surrounding death, spirits, unexplained phenomena, and the afterlife. It wasn’t until the 1800s, however, that scientists grew serious about studying these unusual phenomena.

History of Psychical Research

In 1882, a group of scholars and scientists in London formed the Society for Psychical Research with the goal of scientifically and systematically examining paranormal phenomena. This study has continued unabated since then, and today a handful of parapsychologists continue the work of their predecessors under controlled scientific conditions.
Using scientific studies, parapsychologists (who typically have post-graduate degrees in one of the social sciences) have identified a number of classifications of paranormal phenomena.
Paranormal InvestigationParapsychological Classifications of Spiritual Phenomena

While psychical research focuses on all types of paranormal phenomena, as paranormal researchers and investigators we typically deal with just a few of these: specifically ghosts, hauntings, and poltergeist phenomena.

While we attempt to utilize critical thinking and employ the knowledge gleaned by parapsychological researchers, most paranormal investigation and research teams are not engaging in scientific method. We may use equipment to take readings; however, much of what we do is built on untested and unproven protocols conducted under uncontrolled conditions.

That doesn’t mean we can’t help you get to the bottom of the phenomena you experience, but we never want to mislead you into believing we are conducting purely scientific research in a controlled situation using the scientific method. We aren’t. Instead, we work mostly in the realm of untested hypotheses using knowledge gleaned from the true scientists of the industry – parapsychological and psychical researchers.

While you may hear terms from other paranormal teams, parapsychological research has identified several phenomena:

Haunting: Many paranormal investigators use the term haunting to describe any anomalous activity that can’t be explained in any logical way. For instance, we might conclude a building has a ghost and is therefore haunted. However, in parapsychological research, the term haunting refers to a very specific type of phenomenon. If you watch any of the ghost shows on television, you’ve probably heard the term “residual haunt.” This is the specific phenomenon parapsychologists mean when they refer to a haunting: it’s like a recording of energy that replays itself over and over again. Hauntings lack any consciousness or intelligent interaction. Instead, it is a repeatable phenomenon that recurs as if on a loop.

Apparition: This is what we paranormal investigators refer to as a ghost. In parapsychological terms, an apparition is a seemingly intelligent and conscious disincarnate spirit that interacts with the physically incarnated. Interestingly, apparitions don’t have to be the spirits of the dead. According to parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, an apparition can also be the spirit of a currently living person having an intentional or unintentional out of body experience.   

Apparitions interact with people via psychic communication. For example, because they don’t have vocal cords to cause vibrations that interact with our eardrums, when we hear a disembodied voice we are actually experiencing it via clairaudience (psychic hearing), and if we “see” a ghost we are actually psychically seeing it via clairvoyance. This could explain why in a group of people, some people see or hear an apparition while others in the group don’t.

When apparitions interact with electronic media (such as creating an EVP or appearing in a photograph), they do so psychokinetically. Psychokinesis is the ability to affect physical objects mentally, and it is the only way apparitions are able to manipulate matter. Any physical event involving an apparition (flying objects, battery drain, lights turning on and off, EVPs, photos) occurs because the apparition psychokinetically affects matter.

Poltergeist:  The poltergeist phenomenon is the psychokinetic manipulation of the physical. While apparitions may engage in psychokinetic manipulation, a great deal of poltergeist phenomena is related to the living. In many cases, the person perpetuating the phenomenon is unaware they are doing so. Parapsychologists theorize that emotional stress and tension in the human agent erupts in an uncontrolled psychokinetic event. It is a misconception that only female teens can cause poltergeist events. People perpetuating poltergeist phenomena have come from all age groups and both sexes.

Demons: Parapsychology does not concern itself with demons. According to Auerbach, demons are strictly religious or mythology-based constructs, and as such, can not be studied scientifically.

Where to Learn More

Want to know more? You can read for yourself over a century of parapsychological research.·