By Jim Morgan

What is the Paranormal?


The term 'paranormal' refers to a great many phenomena occurring in the natural world for which science does not yet have an accepted explanation for. Other terms for the paranormal include the supernatural and occult, although there terms have different, and usually negative, connotations.

Phenomena that fall under the heading of the paranormal include, but are not limited to: hauntings, esp, precognition, telekinesis, spontaneous human combustion, extraterrestrials, poltergeists, evp, cryptozoolgy, demonic possession etcetera.


The study of the paranormal, or parapsychology, began in the mid 1800s with the spiritualist movement. The spiritualist movement involved a new level of interest by the middle and upper classes in occult practices; telling the future, and especially, communing with the dead.

The 1800s saw the rise of mediumship. Arguably, the first mediums, and those who sparked the entire movement were the Fox sisters of New York. The young sisters claimed that the dead answered their questions with a series of ghostly rapping, or phantom knocks.

The spiritualist movement managed to become big business in the day, leading to the reintroduction of Tarot readings and the invention of the Ouija Board, among others. The movement never really died out, and eventually led to, in the 1970s the birth of the investigation of the paranormal as a serious scientific study.


Many people wonder at the reason for becoming involved with the paranormal. The answer varies from person to person, but in general I believe it is because the study of the paranormal can only lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.


Researchers employ a vast repertoire of tools and methods for contacting and studying the paranormal. They vary from the simple compass, still cameras, voice recorders, to camcorders, IR thermometers, thermal imaging monitors, computers, and sundry others. Some even use the non scientific items like Ouiia boards, divining rods, pendulums and meditation to compare the results with.


What is the Occult?


Like the paranormal, the occult deals with all those things not dealt with by current science. The difference between the two is that while the paranormal typically comes at the problem with the sensibilities of logic and science, the Occult deals with the same matters with mysticism and spirituality.

The term occult comes from the Latin word meaning ‘hidden' and the study of the Occult is then to be described as the study of hidden knowledge. People involved in the occult attempt to find those aspects of life which are hidden from the everyday population, most usually magic (or magick), communing with the dead, and with gods.


The Occult has been around for thousands of years. A good example would be the ‘mystery cults' of ancient Rome. These exclusive little religions had their own rules and paths to truth, many of them involving bizarre rituals, rites and sacrifices.

The Occult pushes back in time further than that though, to the shamans and witch doctors of ancient society. In fact, anyone claiming to be able to do magic is pretty much in the realm of the Occult, rather than the paranormal.


In more recent times the realm of the Occult has been dominated by figures labeled by society as  patently sinister. Due in large part to the Christian church the Occult in the modern era has largely been confused with and used as a synonym for Satanism.

Occultist leaders such as figures like Anton LaVey, Aleister Crowley and HP Lovecraft brought together large groups of people with their writings and beliefs, which still shape the face of occultism today.


As previously stated the Occult is the study of that which is hidden. Its practitioners search for the meanings and powers behind everyday life, many times coming up against explicitly opposing view points in mainstream society. And while it deals with many of the same subjects as the paranormal, it usually has a greatly attractive flair for drama that the paranormal may seem to be lacking. Occultism in fact bears, and to a certain extent enjoys, a great stigma in the mainstream, a fact which prods many of rebellious personalities to at least prod its outer circles.




Copyright 2005 – Ralph Esposito

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