Fascinating lists!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Dictionary of the Paranormal, the Supernatural, and the Otherworldly (G - I)

copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman

Note: Unless otherwise noted, definitions are courtesy of dictionary.die.net, an Internet dictionary in the public domain.


Gaia--the planet earth, personified, often as a mother (the author).

Geller, Uri--a supposed psychic with telekinetic powers; famous for bending spoons with nothing more, allegedly, than his mind (the author).

Ghost--a spirit of the dead which sometimes are said to haunt the living (the author).

Global warming--the doctrine that the earth’s climate is warming, partially as a result of human activities and pollutants (the author).

Goatsucker, Puerto Rico--a mysterious animal in Puerto Rico, also known as the chupacabra, said to bite the necks of goats (and other animals) and suck their blood (the author).


God--in Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and other faiths, the supreme being (the author).

Griffin--winged monster with an eagle-like head and body of a lion.

Gurdjieff, G. I.--a mystic; he established The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man (presumably, women aren’t included) in Russia), based on lessons he’d learned from other mystics while he was traveling in central Asia (the author).

Guillotining, and life after death--the theory that the brain remains conscious for one or more moments after it has been severed from the body by a falling guillotine blade (the author).


Hades--in Greek mythology, the underworld, home of the dead, ruled by Pluto (the author).

Hallucination--illusory perception; a common symptom of severe mental disorder.

Healing, faith--healing of blindness, deafness, disease, mental illness, demonic possession, and other physical, mental, and spiritual conditions by faith in God’s ability and desire to deliver or heal one from these conditions (the author).

Heaven--in Christianity, the abode of the souls redeemed by Christ (the author).

Hecate--the Greek goddess of witchcraft (the author).

Hel--in Norse mythology, the name of both the underworld to which those who were not selected as residents of Asgard lived after death and the name of the goddess who ruled it (the author).

Hell--in Christianity, the abode of the damned; named for the Norse underworld, Hel (the author).

Hill, Betty and Barney--a couple who, under hypnosis, claimed that they were abducted by extraterrestrial aliens and subjected to bizarre medical experiments and tests (the author).

Hoax--a fraud perpetuated upon the stupid, naïve, and desperate by charlatans, some of whom claim to possess paranormal or supernatural powers and abilities (the author).

Home, levitating

Home, Daniel--a Scottish spiritualist and medium who claimed to be able to levitate, to communicate with the dead, and to cause rapping sounds by the power of his mind alone; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was one of his many supporters (the author).

Homeopathy--a method of treating disease with small amounts of remedies that, in large amounts in healthy people, produce symptoms similar to those being treated.

Hot reading--fortune telling that involves the surreptitious solicitation of personal information related to the medium’s or psychic’s client or an audience which is included in the fortune subsequently told (the author).

Houris--Muslim virgins waiting to serve faithful male adherents of the faith, especially martyrs (the author).

Houses, haunted--residences (and, sometimes, commercial properties) that are said to be haunted by ghosts, demons, or other paranormal or supernatural entities or forces (the author).

Houston, Jean and the Mystery School--a New Age self-help program that fosters self-development and social progress (the author).

Howe, Linda Moulton--an investigative journalist who writes what crtics characterize as sensational articles and books and produces lurid documentaries, and films about UFO’s and related topics (the author).

Hubbard, L. Ron--science fiction author and founder of Scientology (the author).

Hundredth monkey phenomenon-”a sudden spontaneous and mysterious leap of consciousness achieved when an allegedly "critical mass" point is reached” (The Skeptic’s Dictionary).

Hybrids, alien program to breed--an alleged program by extraterrestrial aliens and/or the United States government to breed hybrid alien-humans, possibly to fill roles of authority within the world’s governments (the author).

Hypersensory perception (HSP)--intuition, such as may be displayed in interpreting body language (The Skeptic’s Dictionary).

Hypnagogic state--the “state between being awake and falling asleep. For some people, this is a time of visual and auditory hallucination” and may explain some accounts of ghosts, demons, UFO abductions, and the like (The Skeptic’s Dictionary).

Hypnopompic state--“the transition state of semi-consciousness between sleeping and waking. For some people, this is a time of visual and auditory hallucination” and may explain some accounts of ghosts, demons, UFO abductions, and the like (The Skeptic’s Dictionary).

Hypnosis--a state that resembles sleep but that is induced by suggestion.

Hysteria--neurotic disorder characterized by violent emotional outbreaks and disturbances of sensory and motor functions.

Hysterio-epilepsy--“an alleged disease discovered by Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), one of the founders of modern neurology” (The Skeptic’s Dictionary).


I Ching

I Ching--a set of principles and symbols by the use of which people seek to balance opposite forces and find order in seemingly random incidents (the author).

Illuminati--literally, “enlightened ones”; a secret society often identified as participants in an international conspiracy to rule the world, openly or secretly (the author).

Incantation--a chant, sometimes in verse, by which sorcerers and witches sometimes cast spells (the author).

Incorruptibility of sacred bodies--bodies of saints that remain perfectly preserved, with no evidence of decay, for prolonged periods after their deaths and entombment or burial (the author).

Indian rope trick (levitation)--a magic trick in which an Indian fakir seems to climb a levitating rope (the author).

Indigo children--children of a higher degree of evolution than normal children and who are said to have paranormal powers, such as clairvoyance; they are identifiable by the indigo aura that surrounds them (the author).

Infrasound--sound below the threshold of human hearing (the author).

Intelligent design--the doctrine that the order and structure of the universe presupposes intelligent design; the basis of the argument from design, or the teleological argument (the author).

No comments:

Paranormal vs. Supernatural: What’s the Diff?

Copyright 2009 by Gary L. Pullman

Sometimes, in demonstrating how to brainstorm about an essay topic, selecting horror movies, I ask students to name the titles of as many such movies as spring to mind (seldom a difficult feat for them, as the genre remains quite popular among young adults). Then, I ask them to identify the monster, or threat--the antagonist, to use the proper terminology--that appears in each of the films they have named. Again, this is usually a quick and easy task. Finally, I ask them to group the films’ adversaries into one of three possible categories: natural, paranormal, or supernatural. This is where the fun begins.

It’s a simple enough matter, usually, to identify the threats which fall under the “natural” label, especially after I supply my students with the scientific definition of “nature”: everything that exists as either matter or energy (which are, of course, the same thing, in different forms--in other words, the universe itself. The supernatural is anything which falls outside, or is beyond, the universe: God, angels, demons, and the like, if they exist. Mad scientists, mutant cannibals (and just plain cannibals), serial killers, and such are examples of natural threats. So far, so simple.

What about borderline creatures, though? Are vampires, werewolves, and zombies, for example, natural or supernatural? And what about Freddy Krueger? In fact, what does the word “paranormal” mean, anyway? If the universe is nature and anything outside or beyond the universe is supernatural, where does the paranormal fit into the scheme of things?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “paranormal,” formed of the prefix “para,” meaning alongside, and “normal,” meaning “conforming to common standards, usual,” was coined in 1920. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “paranormal” to mean “beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation.” In other words, the paranormal is not supernatural--it is not outside or beyond the universe; it is natural, but, at the present, at least, inexplicable, which is to say that science cannot yet explain its nature. The same dictionary offers, as examples of paranormal phenomena, telepathy and “a medium’s paranormal powers.”

Wikipedia offers a few other examples of such phenomena or of paranormal sciences, including the percentages of the American population which, according to a Gallup poll, believes in each phenomenon, shown here in parentheses: psychic or spiritual healing (54), extrasensory perception (ESP) (50), ghosts (42), demons (41), extraterrestrials (33), clairvoyance and prophecy (32), communication with the dead (28), astrology (28), witchcraft (26), reincarnation (25), and channeling (15); 36 percent believe in telepathy.

As can be seen from this list, which includes demons, ghosts, and witches along with psychics and extraterrestrials, there is a confusion as to which phenomena and which individuals belong to the paranormal and which belong to the supernatural categories. This confusion, I believe, results from the scientism of our age, which makes it fashionable for people who fancy themselves intelligent and educated to dismiss whatever cannot be explained scientifically or, if such phenomena cannot be entirely rejected, to classify them as as-yet inexplicable natural phenomena. That way, the existence of a supernatural realm need not be admitted or even entertained. Scientists tend to be materialists, believing that the real consists only of the twofold unity of matter and energy, not dualists who believe that there is both the material (matter and energy) and the spiritual, or supernatural. If so, everything that was once regarded as having been supernatural will be regarded (if it cannot be dismissed) as paranormal and, maybe, if and when it is explained by science, as natural. Indeed, Sigmund Freud sought to explain even God as but a natural--and in Freud’s opinion, an obsolete--phenomenon.

Meanwhile, among skeptics, there is an ongoing campaign to eliminate the paranormal by explaining them as products of ignorance, misunderstanding, or deceit. Ridicule is also a tactic that skeptics sometimes employ in this campaign. For example, The Skeptics’ Dictionary contends that the perception of some “events” as being of a paranormal nature may be attributed to “ignorance or magical thinking.” The dictionary is equally suspicious of each individual phenomenon or “paranormal science” as well. Concerning psychics’ alleged ability to discern future events, for example, The Skeptic’s Dictionary quotes Jay Leno (“How come you never see a headline like 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?”), following with a number of similar observations:

Psychics don't rely on psychics to warn them of impending disasters. Psychics don't predict their own deaths or diseases. They go to the dentist like the rest of us. They're as surprised and disturbed as the rest of us when they have to call a plumber or an electrician to fix some defect at home. Their planes are delayed without their being able to anticipate the delays. If they want to know something about Abraham Lincoln, they go to the library; they don't try to talk to Abe's spirit. In short, psychics live by the known laws of nature except when they are playing the psychic game with people.
In An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, James Randi, a magician who exercises a skeptical attitude toward all things alleged to be paranormal or supernatural, takes issue with the notion of such phenomena as well, often employing the same arguments and rhetorical strategies as The Skeptic’s Dictionary.

In short, the difference between the paranormal and the supernatural lies in whether one is a materialist, believing in only the existence of matter and energy, or a dualist, believing in the existence of both matter and energy and spirit. If one maintains a belief in the reality of the spiritual, he or she will classify such entities as angels, demons, ghosts, gods, vampires, and other threats of a spiritual nature as supernatural, rather than paranormal, phenomena. He or she may also include witches (because, although they are human, they are empowered by the devil, who is himself a supernatural entity) and other natural threats that are energized, so to speak, by a power that transcends nature and is, as such, outside or beyond the universe. Otherwise, one is likely to reject the supernatural as a category altogether, identifying every inexplicable phenomenon as paranormal, whether it is dark matter or a teenage werewolf. Indeed, some scientists dedicate at least part of their time to debunking allegedly paranormal phenomena, explaining what natural conditions or processes may explain them, as the author of The Serpent and the Rainbow explains the creation of zombies by voodoo priests.

Based upon my recent reading of Tzvetan Todorov's The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to the Fantastic, I add the following addendum to this essay.

According to Todorov:

The fantastic. . . lasts only as long as a certain hesitation [in deciding] whether or not what they [the reader and the protagonist] perceive derives from "reality" as it exists in the common opinion. . . . If he [the reader] decides that the laws of reality remain intact and permit an explanation of the phenomena described, we can say that the work belongs to the another genre [than the fantastic]: the uncanny. If, on the contrary, he decides that new laws of nature must be entertained to account for the phenomena, we enter the genre of the marvelous (The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, 41).
Todorov further differentiates these two categories by characterizing the uncanny as “the supernatural explained” and the marvelous as “the supernatural accepted” (41-42).

Interestingly, the prejudice against even the possibility of the supernatural’s existence which is implicit in the designation of natural versus paranormal phenomena, which excludes any consideration of the supernatural, suggests that there are no marvelous phenomena; instead, there can be only the uncanny. Consequently, for those who subscribe to this view, the fantastic itself no longer exists in this scheme, for the fantastic depends, as Todorov points out, upon the tension of indecision concerning to which category an incident belongs, the natural or the supernatural. The paranormal is understood, by those who posit it, in lieu of the supernatural, as the natural as yet unexplained.

And now, back to a fate worse than death: grading students’ papers.

My Cup of Blood

Anyone who becomes an aficionado of anything tends, eventually, to develop criteria for elements or features of the person, place, or thing of whom or which he or she has become enamored. Horror fiction--admittedly not everyone’s cuppa blood--is no different (okay, maybe it’s a little different): it, too, appeals to different fans, each for reasons of his or her own. Of course, in general, book reviews, the flyleaves of novels, and movie trailers suggest what many, maybe even most, readers of a particular type of fiction enjoy, but, right here, right now, I’m talking more specifically--one might say, even more eccentrically. In other words, I’m talking what I happen to like, without assuming (assuming makes an “ass” of “u” and “me”) that you also like the same. It’s entirely possible that you will; on the other hand, it’s entirely likely that you won’t.

Anyway, this is what I happen to like in horror fiction:

Small-town settings in which I get to know the townspeople, both the good, the bad, and the ugly. For this reason alone, I’m a sucker for most of Stephen King’s novels. Most of them, from 'Salem's Lot to Under the Dome, are set in small towns that are peopled by the good, the bad, and the ugly. Part of the appeal here, granted, is the sense of community that such settings entail.

Isolated settings, such as caves, desert wastelands, islands, mountaintops, space, swamps, where characters are cut off from civilization and culture and must survive and thrive or die on their own, without assistance, by their wits and other personal resources. Many are the examples of such novels and screenplays, but Alien, The Shining, The Descent, Desperation, and The Island of Dr. Moreau, are some of the ones that come readily to mind.

Total institutions as settings. Camps, hospitals, military installations, nursing homes, prisons, resorts, spaceships, and other worlds unto themselves are examples of such settings, and Sleepaway Camp, Coma, The Green Mile, and Aliens are some of the novels or films that take place in such settings.

Anecdotal scenes--in other words, short scenes that showcase a character--usually, an unusual, even eccentric, character. Both Dean Koontz and the dynamic duo, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, excel at this, so I keep reading their series (although Koontz’s canine companions frequently--indeed, almost always--annoy, as does his relentless optimism).

Atmosphere, mood, and tone. Here, King is king, but so is Bentley Little. In the use of description to terrorize and horrify, both are masters of the craft.

A bit of erotica (okay, okay, sex--are you satisfied?), often of the unusual variety. Sex sells, and, yes, sex whets my reader’s appetite. Bentley Little is the go-to guy for this spicy ingredient, although Koontz has done a bit of seasoning with this spice, too, in such novels as Lightning and Demon Seed (and, some say, Hung).

Believable characters. Stephen King, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and Dan Simmons are great at creating characters that stick to readers’ ribs.

Innovation. Bram Stoker demonstrates it, especially in his short story “Dracula’s Guest,” as does H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and a host of other, mostly classical, horror novelists and short story writers. For an example, check out my post on Stoker’s story, which is a real stoker, to be sure. Stephen King shows innovation, too, in ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, It, and other novels. One might even argue that Dean Koontz’s something-for-everyone, cross-genre writing is innovative; he seems to have been one of the first, if not the first, to pen such tales.

Technique. Check out Frank Peretti’s use of maps and his allusions to the senses in Monster; my post on this very topic is worth a look, if I do say so myself, which, of course, I do. Opening chapters that accomplish a multitude of narrative purposes (not usually all at once, but successively) are attractive, too, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are as good as anyone, and better than many, at this art.

A connective universe--a mythos, if you will, such as both H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, and, to a lesser extent, Dean Koontz, Bentley Little, and even Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have created through the use of recurring settings, characters, themes, and other elements of fiction.

A lack of pretentiousness. Dean Koontz has it, as do Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Bentley Little, and (to some extent, although he has become condescending and self-indulgent of late, Stephen King); unfortunately, both Dan Simmons and Robert McCammon have become too self-important in their later works, Simmons almost to the point of becoming unreadable. Come on, people, you’re writing about monsters--you should be humble.

Longevity. Writers who have been around for a while usually get better, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and Robert McCammon excepted.

Pacing. Neither too fast nor too slow. Dean Koontz is good, maybe the best, here, of contemporary horror writers.

Popular Posts