What is Paranormal?
Events or phenomena that do not have a standard or typical scientific reasoning are often described as paranormal in popular culture and folk traditions. Anything that is not normal, beyond or contrary to the normal, is deemed to be paranormal. The existence of these phenomena itself is questionable.
Common paranormal or supernatural beliefs include spiritualism, extrasensory perception like telepathy, and pseudosciences like ghost hunting, ufology which involves investigating UFOs, and cryptozoology.
On the contrary, scientific hypotheses are based on empirical evidence and data obtained through a rigorous scientific method, the existence of paranormal phenomena is based on anecdotes, testimonies, or mere suspicions. Arguments supporting the paranormal are not based on any empirical data or analytical observations. The lack of legitimate data is why paranormal phenomena are often misinterpreted and not taken seriously.
The paranormal can be categorized as a subgroup of study within the subject of pseudoscience. Pseudoscience involves beliefs and practices that claim to be both factual and scientific, although they do not follow any scientific method. But paranormal phenomena do not claim scientific explanations.
The explanations for paranormal events are beyond science’s scope and are often expounded in terms of psychic forces or human energy fields, etc. Followers of the paranormal believe in the existence of ghosts, poltergeists, human auras, life after death, reincarnation, telekinesis, and many other such phenomena.
Popular Paranormal Beliefs Around The World
Spiritualism often has religious connotations and is generally seen as a new religious movement. Spiritualism is based on the belief in the existence of the spirits of the deceased and their ability to communicate with the living. Spiritualists believe that the spirit world or the afterlife is not a static place but is a dynamic space where the dead spirits can evolve.
The fact that they can develop into superior beings to humans and their ability to communicate with the living leads spiritualists to believe that spirits carry the potential to impart moral and ethical knowledge to humans and the nature of existence, the universe, and God. Individuals can have distinct spirit guides whom they can contact for some spiritual guidance.
Extrasensory perception is also popularly called the sixth sense. Extrasensory perception or ESP is the ability to perceive information sensed through the mind rather than the physical senses of smell, touch, etc. The psychologist J. B. Rhine was the first person to refer to psychic abilities like clairvoyance, telepathy, intuition, psychometry, etc.
As of now, no scientific evidence has been found that can explain ESP. A lot of skepticism surrounds it, mainly because the scientific community rejects ESP as a legitimate concept due to the lack of scientific reasoning backing it.
The study of paranormal psychic phenomena such as extrasensory perception is done within parapsychology. Parapsychology has generally been criticized due to a lack of convincing admissible evidence to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena.
Ghost hunting is one of the more popular paranormal activities often referenced in pop culture and cinema. Ghost hunting refers to the activity of finding locations that are allegedly haunted by ghosts.
Typically, a team of ghost hunters tries to gather some evidence to prove the existence of ghosts in that place or some other paranormal activity happening there. They use devices like thermographic and night vision cameras, EMF meters, night vision goggles, digital thermometers, audio recorders, etc., to collect and record evidence. They also conduct interviews in the neighborhood of the alleged haunted place or do some historical research on that specific region.
The activity of ghost hunting has generally been criticized due to the lack of a scientific method in their collection of evidence and an absence of any abundant evidence or explanation for paranormal phenomena.
Ghost hunting became popular in the 2000s mainly due to television shows like Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted. It influenced people to take up ghost hunting themselves. Small businesses emerged, offering equipment for ghost hunting.
Nowadays, podcasts and web series like BuzzFeed Unsolved have helped maintain interest in ghost hunting, but they are mostly seen as fun activities rather than serious research. Ghost hunters are also called paranormal investigators.
Some famous cases of paranormal investigators, such as those of the American paranormal investigator duo Ed and Lorraine Warren, have also influenced movies like The Conjuring and the Annabelle series.
Ufology refers to the investigation of UFOs (unidentified flying objects) by people who believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life. Although the possibility of extraterrestrial life forms is not by itself a paranormal idea, ufology is generally used in association with skeptics and believers of the paranormal and other pseudoscientific concepts.
Scientists are actively enquiring about the possibility of life forms other than that on Earth. But ufologists are, typically, individuals who do not have any scientific background and are primarily occult and paranormal enthusiasts. Ufology has also been associated with quasi-religious or esoteric movements such as Theosophists or spiritualists. In the present, the belief in ufology, particularly in the context of these mystical traditions, has integrated with the New Age spiritual movements.
Cryptozoology is a subculture within paranormal studies and pseudoscience that aims to prove the existence of fantastical beings from folklore and legends like Bigfoot, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, and Mokele-mbembe.
The field of cryptozoology emerged from the works of zoologists like Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson. Both Heuvelmans and Sanderson published landmark texts that influenced the study of such paranormal beings.
The term ‘cryptozoology’ comes from Ancient Greek and means the study of hidden animals. Cryptozoology is not a legitimate field of study within biology but exists primarily as a subculture of pseudoscience.
Cryptozoology is also associated with Young Earth creationism which rejects standard scientific theories of evolution in favor of Biblical interpretation. Young Earth creationists also believe in concepts such as living dinosaurs and dragons.
The concept tries to find cryptid entities like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, like ghost hunters, using motion-sensitive cameras, audio recorders, night vision cameras, goggles, etc.