Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


History and Resources Related to Parapsychology (Special Collections)


In the field of Parapsychology opinions vary widely when it comes to the scope of their work. Is it all paranormal experiences, is cryptozoology included, or is it strictly defined to spirit communication? To facilitate a more consistent and universal understanding below are a list of terms often used within the study.

  • Paranormal/ Supernatural: Paranormal in the literal sense is beyond a normal realm of logical explanation. It is often described in popular culture, folk, and cultural other non-scientific bodies of knowledge.

  • Parapsychology/Psychical Research: Parapsychology or Psychical Research is the study of alleged psychic phenomena. It is the scientific and scholarly study of unusual events which are associated with human experience.

  • Phenomena: A fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question.

  • Electronic Voice Phenomena ( EVP): EVP's are sounds found on electronic recordings that are interpreted as spirit voices that have been either unintentionally recorded or intentionally requested and recorded.

  • Extrasensory Perception (ESP): Is a perception that occurs independently of the known sensory processes. Usually included in this category of phenomena are telepathy, or thought transference between persons; clairvoyance, or supernormal awareness of objects or events not necessarily known to others; and precognition, or knowledge of the future.

  • Spiritualism: Spiritualism is a 1850s religious movement based on the belief that living beings may be able to communicate or with the deceased. Spiritualism is often sees a pattern of rising popularity in the wake of tragic and sudden losses. It became popular in the aftermath of the Civil War then had nearly ebbed out of fashion before reemerging as the First World War carried on. There is also debate that this timeline ignores the true peak which some claim occurred in the 1890s.

  • Mediumship: Is the practice of mediating communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings.

  • Divination: The practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural  or religious means.


Inventions and tools have been used to either capture, amplify or debunk paranormal experiences since ancient times and has grown accordingly to match our modern world.

Traditional Tools

Objects like tarot cards and crystal balls were all used to focus spiritual energy in the past, because of this reason these objects often overlap into the occult. Despite this they should still be recognized as tools created to better understand paranormal experiences.

  • Tarot Cards: These cards were often used alongside divination and clairvoyance with the belief that they can predict the future or give insight into certain aspects of life, such as relationships.

  • Crystal Balls: It was believed that some items could assist or concentrate a persons inherent psychic abilities. The most common example of this has traditionally been a Crystal ball.

  • Pendulums: Defined as an object attached at the end of a string or metal chain, when suspended from a stationary position, a pendulum will swing back and forth or in a circular motion. Some believe this can be used to communicate or receive answers from spirits.

  • Ouja Board: The Ouja Board is a a board printed with letters, numbers, and other signs, to which a planchette moves in order to indicate answers from a paranormal source. It is by far the most popular means of attempting communication with the unknown.

Modern Tools

For example while a Medium may be able to detect a spiritual presence or even channel it using some of the tools above, technology is able to record the experience in order to preserve the moment of evidence. Below are tools and their purposes.

  • Photographic/Video evidence: It is believed that photography and video are capable of picking up psychical or paranormal energy. This can manifest itself in various ways such as, orbs, shadows and apparitions.

  • Zener Cards: Cards used to test a person on various psychic ESP abilities.

  • Motion Sensors: Motion sensors are used to perceive movement unseeable to the human eye. 

  • Temperature Reader: Paranormal activity my be expressed as sudden and unexplainable temperature changes.

  • Geiger Counter: Because spiritual energy is a form of energy it is believed by some to interact with radiation. "Researchers have found that ambient radiation seems to be drained or increased in the presents [sic] of ghosts." 

  • Spirit Box: The Spirit Box sweeps radio frequencies in the hopes of capturing words or phrases of the supernatural. There is the belief that paranormal activity may interact with radio and static.