Paranormal

Paranormal

Overview
Paranormal is a general term (coined ca. 1915–1920) that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience
Experience
Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event....

 or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure. Paranormal phenomena are distinct from certain hypothetical entities, such as dark matter
Dark matter
In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is matter that neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation, and so cannot be directly detected via optical or radio astronomy...

 and dark energy
Dark energy
In physical cosmology, astronomy and celestial mechanics, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted theory to explain recent observations that the universe appears to be expanding...

, only insofar as paranormal phenomena are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 observation coupled with scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

ology.

Thousands of stories relating to paranormal phenomena are found in popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

, folklore
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

, and the recollections of individual subjects
Subject (philosophy)
In philosophy, a subject is a being that has subjective experiences, subjective consciousness or a relationship with another entity . A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed...

.
Discussion
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Quotations

The whole art [of paranormal debate] thus consists of getting the charlatans to speak on the one hand and the distinguished scientists to speak on the other, provided the latter have nothing relevant to say on the subject.

On how news organizations avoid using professional magicians to shed light on deceptive paranormalist practices

If psychics were truly successful and if their results were not simply the consequence of trickery (at worse) or good interviewing skills (at best) — then why don't law enforcement agencies have psychic detective squads, a real X-files Unit, or other ways to integrate these paranormal investigative capabilites?

Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler; quoted in "Shoe leather, not sixth sense, breaks cases open", MSNBC.com, 30 March 2005
Encyclopedia
Paranormal is a general term (coined ca. 1915–1920) that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience
Experience
Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event....

 or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure. Paranormal phenomena are distinct from certain hypothetical entities, such as dark matter
Dark matter
In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is matter that neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation, and so cannot be directly detected via optical or radio astronomy...

 and dark energy
Dark energy
In physical cosmology, astronomy and celestial mechanics, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted theory to explain recent observations that the universe appears to be expanding...

, only insofar as paranormal phenomena are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 observation coupled with scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

ology.

Thousands of stories relating to paranormal phenomena are found in popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

, folklore
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

, and the recollections of individual subjects
Subject (philosophy)
In philosophy, a subject is a being that has subjective experiences, subjective consciousness or a relationship with another entity . A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed...

. In contrast, the scientific community
Scientific community
The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method...

, as referenced in statements made by organizations such as the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

, maintains that scientific evidence does not support a variety of beliefs that have been characterized as paranormal.

Etymology


“Paranormal” has been in the English language
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 since at least 1920. It consists of two parts: para
Para
Para may refer to:*Para Loga, one among the seven Logas in Ayyavazhi mythology*Para-quaternions, expression from algebra in mathematics*Paramedic is a first response ambulance crew member...

 and normal
Normality (behavior)
In behavior, normal refers to a lack of significant deviation from the average. The phrase "not normal" is often applied in a negative sense Abnormality varies greatly in how pleasant or unpleasant this is for other people.The Oxford English Dictionary defines "normal" as "conforming to a standard"...

. In most definitions of the word paranormal, it is described as anything that is beyond or contrary to what is deemed scientifically possible. The definition implies that the scientific explanation of the world around us is the 'normal' part of the word and 'para' makes up the above, beyond, beside, contrary, or against part of the meaning.

Para has a Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin origin. Its most common meaning (the Greek usage) is 'similar to' or 'near to', as in paragraph
Paragraph
A paragraph is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. A paragraph consists of one or more sentences. The start of a paragraph is indicated by beginning on a new line. Sometimes the first line is indented...

. In Latin, para means 'above,' 'against,' 'counter,' 'outside,' or 'beyond'. For example, parapluie in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 means 'counter-rain' – an umbrella
Umbrella
An umbrella or parasol is a canopy designed to protect against rain or sunlight. The term parasol usually refers to an item designed to protect from the sun; umbrella refers to a device more suited to protect from rain...

. It can be construed, then, that the term paranormal is derived from the Latin use of the prefix 'para
Para
Para may refer to:*Para Loga, one among the seven Logas in Ayyavazhi mythology*Para-quaternions, expression from algebra in mathematics*Paramedic is a first response ambulance crew member...

', meaning 'against, counter, outside or beyond the norm.'

Paranormal subjects


Notable paranormal beliefs include those that pertain to ghost
Ghost
In traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to...

s, extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 and unidentified flying object
Unidentified flying object
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object...

s, and cryptid
Cryptid
In cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany, a cryptid is a creature or plant whose existence has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus and often regarded as highly unlikely. Famous examples include the Yeti in the Himalayas and the Loch Ness Monster in...

s.

Ghosts and other spiritual entities


A ghost
Ghost
In traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to...

 is a manifestation of the spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

 or soul of a person. Alternative theories expand on that idea and include belief in the ghosts of deceased animals. Sometimes the term "ghost" is used synonymously with any spirit or demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

, however in popular usage the term typically refers to a deceased person's spirit.

The belief in ghosts as souls of the departed is closely tied to the concept of animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

, an ancient belief which attributed souls to everything in nature. As the 19th-century anthropologist James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

 explained in his classic work, The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer . It first was published in two volumes in 1890; the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes...

, souls were seen as the creature within that animated the body. Although the human soul was sometimes symbolically or literally depicted in ancient cultures as a bird or other animal, it was widely held that the soul was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, even down to clothing the person wore. This is depicted in artwork from various ancient cultures, including such works as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which shows deceased people in the afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style of dress.

A widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 speculate that this may also stem from early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person, most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of "breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 spiritus
Spiritus
Spiritus , may refer to:*Spiritus lenis, the "soft breathing" in Byzantine Greek orthography*Spiritus asper, the "hard breathing" in Byzantine Greek orthography...

and the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 pneuma
Pneuma
Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for "breath," and in a religious context for "spirit" or "soul." It has various technical meanings for medical writers and philosophers of classical antiquity, particularly in regard to physiology, and is also used in Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and in...

, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 is depicted as animating Adam with a breath.

Numerous theories have been proposed by scientists to provide normal explanations for ghost sightings. Although the evidence for ghosts is largely anecdotal, the belief in ghosts throughout history has remained widespread and persistent.

Extraterrestrial life and UFOs



The possibility of extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 is not, by itself, a paranormal subject. Many scientists are actively engaged in the search for unicellular life within the solar system
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

, carrying out studies on the surface of Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 and examining meteors that have fallen to Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. Projects such as SETI
SETI
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Some of the most well known projects are run by the SETI Institute. SETI projects use scientific methods to search for intelligent life...

 are conducting an astronomical search for radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 activity that would show evidence of intelligent life outside the solar system. Scientific theories
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 of how life developed on Earth allow for the possibility that life developed on other planets as well. The paranormal aspect of extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 centers largely around the belief in unidentified flying objects and the phenomena said to be associated with them.

Early in the history of UFO culture, believers divided themselves into two camps. The first held a rather conservative view of the phenomena, interpreting them as unexplained occurrences that merited serious study. They began calling themselves "ufologists
Ufology
Ufology is a neologism coined to describe the collective efforts of those who study reports and associated evidence of unidentified flying objects . UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists...

" in the 1950s and felt that logical analysis of sighting reports would validate the notion of extraterrestrial visitation.

The second camp consisted of individuals who coupled ideas of extraterrestrial visitation with beliefs from existing quasi-religious movements. These individuals typically were enthusiasts of occultism and the paranormal. Many had backgrounds as active Theosophists, Spiritualists, or were followers of other esoteric doctrines. In contemporary times, many of these beliefs have coalesced into New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

 spiritual movements.

Both secular and spiritual believers describe UFOs as having abilities beyond what are considered possible according to known aerodynamic constraints and physical laws. The transitory events surrounding many UFO sightings also limits the opportunity for repeat testing required by the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. Acceptance of UFO theories by the larger scientific community
Scientific community
The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method...

 is further hindered by the many possible hoaxes associated with UFO culture.

Cryptids


A cryptid
Cryptid
In cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany, a cryptid is a creature or plant whose existence has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus and often regarded as highly unlikely. Famous examples include the Yeti in the Himalayas and the Loch Ness Monster in...

 is an animal whose existence is not confirmed by science. The study of these creatures is known as cryptozoology
Cryptozoology
Cryptozoology refers to the search for animals whose existence has not been proven...

.
Those that study the existence of cryptids are called cryptozoologists. Cryptids have been sighted and documented for centuries. There are hundreds of creatures thought to be in existence today. Some of the more popular cryptids include Bigfoot
Bigfoot
Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, is an ape-like cryptid that purportedly inhabits forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid...

, the Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster is a cryptid that is reputed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is similar to other supposed lake monsters in Scotland and elsewhere, though its description varies from one account to the next....

, Mothman
Mothman
Mothman is a legendary creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia from 15 November 1966 to 15 December 1967. The first newspaper report was published in the Point Pleasant Register dated 16 November 1966, entitled "Couples See Man-Sized Bird...Creature...Something"...

, the Jersey Devil
Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature or cryptid said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, United States. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many variations...

, and werewolves
Werewolf
A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope , is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse...

.

Paranormal research


Approaching the paranormal from a research perspective is often difficult because of the lack of acceptable physical evidence from most of the purported phenomena. By definition, the paranormal does not conform to conventional expectations of nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

. Therefore, a phenomenon cannot be confirmed as paranormal using the scientific method because, if it could be, it would no longer fit the definition. (However, confirmation would result in the phenomenon being reclassified as part of science.) Despite this problem, studies on the paranormal are periodically conducted by researchers from various disciplines. Some researchers simply study the beliefs in the paranormal regardless of whether the phenomena are considered to objectively exist. This section deals with various approaches to the paranormal: anecdotal, experiment
Experiment
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results...

al, and participant-observer approaches and the skeptical investigation
Scientific skepticism
Scientific skepticism is the practice of questioning the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence or reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". For example, Robert K...

 approach.

Anecdotal approach


An anecdotal approach to the paranormal involves the collection of stories
Anecdotal evidence
The expression anecdotal evidence refers to evidence from anecdotes. Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be true but unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise unrepresentative of typical cases....

 told about the paranormal.

Charles Fort
Charles Fort
Charles Hoy Fort was an American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena. Today, the terms Fortean and Forteana are used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort's books sold well and are still in print today.-Biography:Charles Hoy Fort was born in 1874 in Albany, New York, of Dutch...

 (1874–1932) is perhaps the best known collector of paranormal anecdotes. Fort is said to have compiled as many as 40,000 notes on unexplained paranormal experiences, though there were no doubt many more than these. These notes came from what he called "the orthodox conventionality of Science", which were odd events originally reported in magazines and newspapers such as The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 and scientific journal
Scientific journal
In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. There are thousands of scientific journals in publication, and many more have been published at various points in the past...

s such as Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

, Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

and Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

".
From this research Fort wrote seven books, though only four survive. These are: The Book of the Damned
The Book of the Damned
The Book of the Damned was the first published nonfiction work of the author Charles Fort . Dealing with various types of anomalous phenomena including UFOs, strange falls of both organic and inorganic materials from the sky, odd weather patterns, the possible existence of creatures generally held...

(1919), New Lands
New Lands
New Lands was the second nonfiction book of the author Charles Fort, written in 1925. It deals primarily with astronomical anomalies.Fort expands in this book on his theory about the Super-Sargasso Sea - a place where earthly things supposedly materialize in order to rain down on Earth - as well...

(1923), Lo!
Lo!
Lo! was the third published nonfiction work of the author Charles Fort . In it he details a wide range of unusual phenomena. In the final chapter of the book he proposes a new cosmology that the earth is stationary in space and surrounded by a solid shell which is "....

(1931) and Wild Talents
Wild Talents
Wild Talents is the fourth and final nonfiction book written by paranormal author Charles Fort, published in 1932.-Overview:Like Fort's previous works, this book deals largely with a number of anomalous phenomena, as well as his ongoing attack on scientific dogma...

(1932); one book was written between New Lands and Lo! but it was abandoned and absorbed into Lo!.

Reported events that he collected include teleportation (a term Fort is generally credited with coining); poltergeist
Poltergeist
A poltergeist is a paranormal phenomenon which consists of events alluding to the manifestation of an imperceptible entity. Such manifestation typically includes inanimate objects moving or being thrown about, sentient noises and, on some occasions, physical attacks on those witnessing the...

 events, falls of frogs, fishes, inorganic materials of an amazing range; crop circles; unaccountable noises and explosions; spontaneous fires
Spontaneous combustion
Spontaneous combustion is the self-ignition of a mass, for example, a pile of oily rags. Allegedly, humans can also ignite and burn without an obvious cause; this phenomenon is known as spontaneous human combustion....

; levitation; ball lightning
Ball lightning
Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several metres in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a...

 (a term explicitly used by Fort); unidentified flying object
Unidentified flying object
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object...

s; mysterious appearances and disappearances; giant wheels of light in the oceans; and animals found outside their normal ranges (see phantom cat
Phantom cat
Phantom cats, also known as Alien Big Cats , are large felines, such as jaguars or cougars, which have been purported to appear in regions outside their indigenous range...

). He offered many reports of OOPArts, abbreviation for "out of place" artifacts: strange items found in unlikely locations. He also is perhaps the first person to explain strange human appearances and disappearances by the hypothesis of alien abduction, and was an early proponent of the extraterrestrial hypothesis
Extraterrestrial hypothesis
The extraterrestrial hypothesis is the hypothesis that some unidentified flying objects are best explained as being extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets occupying physical spacecraft visiting Earth.-Etymology:...

.

Fort is considered by many as the father of modern paranormalism, which is the study of the paranormal.

The magazine Fortean Times
Fortean Times
Fortean Times is a British monthly magazine devoted to the anomalous phenomena popularised by Charles Fort. Previously published by John Brown Publishing and then I Feel Good Publishing , it is now published by Dennis Publishing Ltd. As of December 2010, its circulation was approximately 18,000...

continues Charles Fort's approach, regularly reporting anecdotal accounts of the paranormal.

Such anecdotal collections, lacking the reproducibility
Reproducibility
Reproducibility is the ability of an experiment or study to be accurately reproduced, or replicated, by someone else working independently...

 of empirical evidence
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

, are not amenable to scientific investigation
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. The anecdotal approach is not a scientific approach to the paranormal because it leaves verification dependent on the credibility of the party presenting the evidence. Nevertheless, it is a common approach to paranormal phenomena.

Parapsychology



Experimental investigation of the paranormal has been conducted by parapsychologists
Parapsychology
The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir, and originates from para meaning "alongside", and psychology. The term was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research...

. Although parapsychology has its roots in earlier research, it began using the experimental approach in the 1930s under the direction of J. B. Rhine (1895–1980). Rhine popularized the now famous methodology of using card-guessing and dice-rolling experiments in a laboratory in the hopes of finding a statistical validation of extra-sensory perception
Extra-sensory perception
Extrasensory perception involves reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind. The term was coined by Frederic Myers, and adopted by Duke University psychologist J. B. Rhine to denote psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairaudience, and...

.

In 1957, the Parapsychological Association was formed as the preeminent society for parapsychologists. In 1969, they became affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...

. That affiliation, along with a general openness to psychic and occult phenomena in the 1970s, led to a decade of increased parapsychological research. During this time, other notable organizations were also formed, including the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine (1970), the Institute of Parascience (1971), the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research, the Institute for Noetic Sciences (1973), and the International Kirlian Research Association (1975). Each of these groups performed experiments on paranormal subjects to varying degrees. Parapsychological work was also conducted at the Stanford Research Institute during this time.

With the increase in parapsychological investigation, there came an increase in opposition to both the findings of parapsychologists and the granting of any formal recognition of the field. Criticisms of the field were focused in the founding of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (1976), now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and its periodical, Skeptical Inquirer. Eventually, more mainstream scientists became critical of parapsychology as an endeavor, and statements by the National Academies of Science and the National Science Foundation cast a pall on the claims of evidence for parapsychology. Today, many cite parapsychology as an example of a pseudoscience
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

.

Though there are still some parapsychologists active today, interest and activity has waned considerably since the 1970s. To date there have been no experimental results that have gained wide acceptance in the scientific community as valid evidence of the paranormal.

Participant-observer approach


While parapsychologists look for quantitative
Quantitative research
In the social sciences, quantitative research refers to the systematic empirical investigation of social phenomena via statistical, mathematical or computational techniques. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to...

 evidence of the paranormal in laboratories, a great number of people immerse themselves in qualitative research
Qualitative research
Qualitative research is a method of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts. Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such...

 through participant-observer approaches to the paranormal. Participant-observer methodologies have overlaps with other essentially qualitative approaches as well, including phenomenological
Phenomenology (psychology)
Phenomenology is an approach to psychological subject matter that has its roots in the philosophical work of Edmund Husserl. Early phenomenologists such as Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty conducted their own psychological investigations in the early 20th century...

 research that seeks largely to describe subjects as they are experienced, rather than to explain them.

Participant-observation suggests that by immersing oneself in the subject being studied, a researcher is presumed to gain understanding of the subject. Criticisms of participant-observation as a data-gathering technique are similar to criticisms of other approaches to the paranormal, but also include an increased threat to the objectivity
Objectivity (science)
Objectivity in science is a value that informs how science is practiced and how scientific truths are created. It is the idea that scientists, in attempting to uncover truths about the natural world, must aspire to eliminate personal biases, a priori commitments, emotional involvement, etc...

 of the researcher, unsystematic gathering of data, reliance on subjective
Subjectivity
Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

 measurement, and possible observer effects (observation may distort the observed behavior). Specific data gathering methods, such as recording EMF
Electromagnetic field
An electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by moving electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction...

 readings at haunted locations have their own criticisms beyond those attributed to the participant-observation approach itself.

The participant-observer approach to the paranormal has gained increased visibility and popularity through reality television
Reality television
Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded...

 programs like Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters is an American paranormal reality television series that premiered on October 6, 2004, on Syfy . The program features paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson who investigate places that are reported to be haunted. The two originally worked as plumbers for Roto-Rooter as...

, and the formation of independent ghost hunting
Ghost hunting
Ghost Hunting is the process of investigating locations that are reported to be haunted by ghosts.Typically, a ghost hunting team will attempt to collect evidence claimed to be supportive of paranormal activity...

 groups that advocate immersive research at alleged paranormal locations. One popular website for ghost hunting enthusiasts lists over 300 of these organizations throughout the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Skeptical scientific investigation


Scientific skeptics
Scientific skepticism
Scientific skepticism is the practice of questioning the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence or reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". For example, Robert K...

 advocate critical investigation of claims of paranormal phenomena: applying the scientific method to reach a rational, scientific explanation of the phenomena to account for the paranormal claims, taking into account that alleged paranormal abilities and occurrences are sometimes hoaxes or misinterpretations of natural phenomena. A way of summarizing this method is by the application of Occam's razor
Occam's razor
Occam's razor, also known as Ockham's razor, and sometimes expressed in Latin as lex parsimoniae , is a principle that generally recommends from among competing hypotheses selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions.-Overview:The principle is often summarized as "simpler explanations...

, which suggests that the simplest solution is usually the correct one. The standard scientific models
Scientific modelling
Scientific modelling is the process of generating abstract, conceptual, graphical and/or mathematical models. Science offers a growing collection of methods, techniques and theory about all kinds of specialized scientific modelling...

 gives an explanation for what appears to be paranormal phenomena is usually a misinterpretation, misunderstanding, or anomalous variation of natural phenomena
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

, rather than an actual paranormal phenomenon.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), is an organisation that aims to publicise the scientific, skeptical approach. It carries out investigations aimed at understanding paranormal reports in terms of scientific understanding, and publishes its results in its journal, the Skeptical Inquirer
Skeptical Inquirer
The Skeptical Inquirer is a bimonthly American magazine published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry with the subtitle: The magazine for science and reason....

.

Former stage magician James Randi
James Randi
James Randi is a Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic best known as a challenger of paranormal claims and pseudoscience. Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation...

 is a well-known investigator of paranormal claims. As an investigator with a background in illusion
Magic (illusion)
Magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means...

, Randi feels that the simplest explanation for those claiming paranormal abilities is often trickery, illustrated by demonstrating that the spoon bending
Spoon bending
Spoon bending is the apparent deformation of objects, especially metal cutlery, either without physical force, or with less force than normally necessary...

 abilities of psychic Uri Geller
Uri Geller
Uri Geller is a self-proclaimed psychic known for his trademark television performances of spoon bending and other supposed psychic effects. Throughout the years, Geller has been accused of using simple conjuring tricks to achieve the effects of psychokinesis and telepathy...

 can easily be duplicated by trained stage magicians. He is also the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation
James Randi Educational Foundation
The James Randi Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 by magician and skeptic James Randi. The JREF's mission includes educating the public and the media on the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support research into paranormal claims in controlled...

 and its million dollar challenge offering a prize of US $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 or occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

 power or event, under test conditions agreed to by both parties.

Anomalistics


Anomalistics works on the premise that paranormal phenomena may be hoaxes, understood within current scientific models, or else be rationalized using an as yet unexplored avenue of science.

Belief polls


While the validity
Validity
In logic, argument is valid if and only if its conclusion is entailed by its premises, a formula is valid if and only if it is true under every interpretation, and an argument form is valid if and only if every argument of that logical form is valid....

 of the existence of paranormal phenomena is controversial and debated passionately by both proponents of the paranormal and by skeptics, surveys are useful in determining the beliefs of people in regards to paranormal phenomena. These opinions, while not constituting scientific evidence for or against, may give an indication of the mindset of a certain portion of the population (at least among those who answered the polls).

One survey of the beliefs of the general United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 population regarding paranormal topics was conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2005. The survey found that 73 percent of those polled believed in at least one of the ten paranormal items presented in the survey. The ten items included in the survey were: extrasensory perception (41% held this belief), haunted house
Haunted house
A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

s (37%), ghosts (32%), telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

 (31%), clairvoyance
Clairvoyance
The term clairvoyance is used to refer to the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses, a form of extra-sensory perception...

 (26%), astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 (25%), communication with the dead (21%), witches (21%), reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

 (20%), and channeling spiritual entities (9%). These items were selected as they "require the belief that humans have more than the 'normal' five senses." Only one percent of respondents believed in all ten items.

Another survey conducted in 2006 by researchers from Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

's Monash University
Monash University
Monash University is a public university based in Melbourne, Victoria. It was founded in 1958 and is the second oldest university in the state. Monash is a member of Australia's Group of Eight and the ASAIHL....

 sought to determine what types of phenomena that people claim to have experienced and the effects these experiences have had on their lives. The study was conducted as an online survey with over 2,000 respondents from around the world participating. The results revealed that around 70% of the respondents believe to have had an unexplained paranormal event that changed their life, mostly in a positive way. About 70% also claimed to have seen, heard, or been touched by an animal or person that they knew was not there; 80% have reported having a premonition
Precognition
In parapsychology, precognition , also called future sight, and second sight, is a type of extrasensory perception that would involve the acquisition or effect of future information that cannot be deduced from presently available and normally acquired sense-based information or laws of physics...

, and almost 50% stated they recalled a previous life.

Polls were conducted by Bryan Farha at Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City University, often referred to as OCU, is a coeducational, urban, private university historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church...

 and Gary Steward of the University of Central Oklahoma
University of Central Oklahoma
The University of Central Oklahoma, often referred to as UCO, is a coeducational public university located in Edmond, Oklahoma. The university is the third largest in Oklahoma, with almost 18,000 students and approximately 434 full-time and 400 adjunct faculty...

 in 2006, and compared to the results of a Gallup poll in 2001. They found fairly consistent results.
Percentage of US citizens polled
belief not sure belief not sure
Farha-Steward Gallup
psychic
Psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...

/spiritual healing
Faith healing
Faith healing is healing through spiritual means. The healing of a person is brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward correcting disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or...

56 26 54 19
ESP
Extra-sensory perception
Extrasensory perception involves reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind. The term was coined by Frederic Myers, and adopted by Duke University psychologist J. B. Rhine to denote psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairaudience, and...

28 39 50 20
haunted house
Haunted house
A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

s
40 25 42 16
demonic possession
Demonic possession
Demonic possession is held by many belief systems to be the control of an individual by a malevolent supernatural being. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying...

40 28 41 16
ghost
Ghost
In traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to...

s/spirits of the dead
39 27 38 17
telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

24 34 36 26
extraterrestrials visited Earth in the past
Ancient astronauts
Some writers have proposed that intelligent extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth in antiquity or prehistory and made contact with humans. Such visitors are called ancient astronauts or ancient aliens. Proponents suggest that this contact influenced the development of human cultures,...

17 34 33 27
clairvoyance
Clairvoyance
The term clairvoyance is used to refer to the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses, a form of extra-sensory perception...

 and prophecy
Prophecy
Prophecy is a process in which one or more messages that have been communicated to a prophet are then communicated to others. Such messages typically involve divine inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of conditioned events to come as well as testimonies or repeated revelations that the...

24 33 32 23
communication with the dead 16 29 28 26
astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

17 26 28 18
witches
Witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

26 19 26 15
reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

15 28 25 20
channeling
Channelling (mediumistic)
In spirituality, channelling or channeling is the belief that communication of information occurs by or through a person , from a deity, spirit or other paranormal entity outside the mind of the channel...

10 29 15 21


Other surveys by different organizations at different times have found very similar results. A 2001 Gallup Poll found that the general public embraced the following: 54% of people believed in psychic
Psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...

/spiritual healing, 42% believed in haunted houses, 41% believed in satanic possession
Demonic possession
Demonic possession is held by many belief systems to be the control of an individual by a malevolent supernatural being. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying...

, 36% in telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

, 25% in reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

, and 15% in channeling. A survey by Jeffrey S. Levin, associate professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk found that over 2/3 of the U.S. population reported having at least one mystical experience.

A 1996 Gallup poll estimated that 71% of the people in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 believed that the government was covering up information about UFOs. A 2002 Roper poll conducted for the Sci Fi channel
Syfy
Syfy , formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel and SCI FI, is an American cable television channel featuring science fiction, supernatural, fantasy, reality, paranormal, wrestling, and horror programming. Launched on September 24, 1992, it is part of the entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal, a...

 reported that 56% thought UFOs were real craft and 48% that aliens
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 had visited the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

.

A 2001 National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 survey found that 9 percent of people polled thought astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 was very scientific, and 31 percent thought it was somewhat scientific. About 32% of Americans surveyed stated that some numbers were lucky, while 46% of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

ans agreed with that claim. About 60% of all people polled believed in some form of Extra-sensory perception
Extra-sensory perception
Extrasensory perception involves reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind. The term was coined by Frederic Myers, and adopted by Duke University psychologist J. B. Rhine to denote psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairaudience, and...

 and 30% thought that "some of the unidentified flying objects that have been reported are really space vehicles from other civilizations."

Paranormal challenges


In 1922, Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

offered two US $2,500 offers: (1) for the first authentic spirit photograph made under test conditions, and (2) for the first psychic to produce a "visible psychic
Psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...

 manifestation." Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer noted for his sensational escape acts...

 was a member of the investigating committee. The first medium
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

 to be tested was George Valiantine, who claimed that in his presence spirits would speak through a trumpet that floated around a darkened room. For the test, Valiantine was placed in a room, the lights were extinguished, but unbeknownst to him his chair had been rigged to light a signal in an adjoining room if he ever left his seat. Because the light signals were tripped during his performance, Valiantine did not collect the award. The last to be examined by Scientific American was Mina Crandon
Mina Crandon
Mina "Margery" Crandon was the wife of a wealthy Boston surgeon and socialite, Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon. She became well known as a medium who claimed that she channeled her dead brother, Walter Stinson.-Biography:...

 in 1924.

Since then, many individuals and groups have offered similar monetary awards for proof of the paranormal in an observed setting. These prizes have a combined value of over $2.4 million dollars.

The James Randi Educational Foundation
James Randi Educational Foundation
The James Randi Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 by magician and skeptic James Randi. The JREF's mission includes educating the public and the media on the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support research into paranormal claims in controlled...

 offers a prize of a million dollars to a person who can prove that they have supernatural or paranormal abilities under appropriate test conditions. No famous psychic has gone through with taking the challenge.

See also


Paranormal
Authors
Skepticism

External links



http://www.paranormalinvestigators.org