What is Paranormal?

Each week we have been posting stories about the unknown. Spiritual warfare, miracles, ghosts, or imprinted areas are all subjects that I am partial to. This got me thinking...what is paranormal activity? What are the theories about it? Why are so many people so fascinated by the unexplained? Why do some of us simply accept these extraterrestrial or spectral occurrences, while others want to explain everything away? What are the basics of paranormal activity?

The most basic starting point, obviously, is the definition of paranormal. I turned to my handy dandy dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary is my favorite, but I grabbed my Merriam Webster and Random House instead).

Merriam Webster uses this definition: 

para·nor·mal \ˌper-ə-ˈnȯr-məl, ˌpa-rə-; ˈper ə-ˌnȯr-, ˈpa-rə-\
 ”not scientifically explainable : supernatural”

Random House uses this definition:

“of or relating to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation, as psychokinesis, extrasensory perception, or other purportedly supernatural phenomena”

Merriam Webster claims that the first use of the word was from 1905 and Random House claims it was between 1915-1920. Considering the obsession with the paranormal world during the Victorian era, I would have expected the word "paranormal" would have been used much earlier!

And, since I have many Greek friends, I do know that many words have origins in Greek so what does "para" mean according to Random House?
"a prefix appearing in loanwords from Greek, most often attached to         verbs and verbal derivatives, with the meanings “at or to one side of, beside,side by side” (parabola; paragraph; parallel; paralysis), “beyond, past, by”(paradox; paragogue); by extension from these senses, this prefix came to designate objects or activities auxiliary to or derivative of that denoted by the base word (parody; paronomasia), and hence abnormal or defective (paranoia), a sense now common in modern scientific coinages (parageusia;paralexia)"

"By extension from these senses" stood out to me as I read. Most people who explain away ghosts, Bigfoots, or aliens say paranormal activity is simply the product of an overactive imagination. I can understand that. Who doesn't love sitting around a campfire, nestled away in the dark woods, being frightened by someone telling a spooky story? 

Humans love stories! Going far back in our history, it is well documented that oral traditions and story telling are coveted means of communication and connection. We would not be able to tell stories without our imaginations. Yet, can groups of people see or experience the same phenomenon and all have lost their minds to imagination? Myself, I always preferred understanding group phenomenon as explained by Jungian principles about a collective unconscious and archetypes. It is possible we are all tapping in at once. Or, the conspiracy theorists who talk of holographic projections may also be on to something.

Ghosts, extraterrestrials, unidentified flying objects, psychics, shadow people, cryptids, possession, angels, demons, spiritualism...sociologist Max Weber spoke about these as "disenchantment of the world". He was rational, wanting to explain away mysticism alongside other notables, like Darwin, at a time when the Spiritualist movement was performing seances and intellectualism was a means of pulling away from various religions. 

Many people still exist who are solid realists, only believing what they can see or touch. Some claim that the paranormal is a pseudoscience, basically all over exaggerated claims. Some think it is simply fashionable or chic to see a ghost. But, as millions more people begin investigating cases using sophisticated and sensitive technology and equipment, how can we not accept the mounting evidence that more exists around us than human may see before them? I personally know scientist who state that aliens and ghosts exist, all interested in proving their beliefs. 

Hype? Hysteria? Superstition? Maybe it is due to my INFJ personality, but I don't question the extrasensory perceptions. Whether I am standing in church sensing heaven and angels all around me, standing in a house and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, or questioning what lay beyond the stars or afterlife, I accept the experiences.  

Since we at Unknown Midwest seek to showcase folklore and supernatural, share your thoughts with us. Do you have personal encounters? Do you think it is all explainable? We love to hear your feedback!

Andrew Peterson