Some simple word association. If I were to say something is "paranormal" in nature, what would be the first thing to come to your mind? It's not a stretch to imagine most people would relate the word to ghosts or hauntings. While you would certainly be on the right track, that response alone doesn't reveal the entire meaning of the word.        The term "paranormal" became a part of our modern vocabulary only about 80 years ago between the years 1915-1920 and was coined by psychical researcher J.B. Rhine. It is derived from the Latin word para meaning "outside" or "above" and the word normal, which means....normal.   par·a·nor·mal  adj.  Any event or object that defies scientific explanation or knowledge.        According to the Journal of Parapsychology the term describes:   "Any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed physically possible according to current scientific assumptions."        This suggests that paranormal is an all-encompassing term that is used to describe a number of unusual phenomena or anomalies. While this indeed includes ghosts and hauntings it can also refer to other phenomena such as Extrasensory Perception (ESP), Telekinesis, UFOs, and Unidentified Mysterious Animals (cryptozoology). This is different from the word occult which refers exclusively to spirits and spirituality.           The role of a serious paranormal investigator is to ascertain the true source of the phenomena. To do this we must explore any and all possibilities. While we look for possible environmental or psychological factors that may contribute to misidentification or even hallucination of certain events, we must also remain open to the extreme possibility of ghostly activity, spirit contact, extraterrestrials, or cryptozoological creatures.   Here's a hypothetical:        Let's say you're sitting at your computer desk reading this awe-inspiring article with your morning cup of coffee in front of you. As you read on, you would probably take the occasional sip and then place the cup back on the desk. You'd repeat this process until you finished the article or the cup ran dry. All of this on the surface would appear pretty routine and ordinary.              Now let's imagine while you are reading this article, your cup of coffee rises up off the desk, spins around and then pours itself out. Besides the obvious mess you'd have to clean up, (once you've finally returned to the room after bolting from your chair) you would have witnessed a true paranormal event. Congratulations.                       After calming down (to some degree) you would most likely wonder if you imagined the whole thing and attempt to come up with some rational explanation for why your coffee suddenly acquired the gift of flight. To make things more complicated, let's assume that your neighbor has decided to drop by unannounced while you're shaking the liquid out of your keyboard. Puzzled, they ask you, "What happened?"        You have now come to one of life's proverbial "forks in the road". Do you: a) decide to come clean and recount the entire incident to them - risking the probability of being laughed at, mocked or considered a nut, or; b) cover the whole thing up by devising a tale of your own clumsiness. Either way, after your neighbor has left chuckling to themselves, and you've checked for hidden wires, concealed cameras or the crew of 'Punk'd', you're going to be left with the inescapable fact that something unexplainable and perhaps a little frightening has just happened to you. Don't worry, people all over the world play this type of scene out every day.        It is at this point I guarantee you will entertain one possible explanation:    A ghost did it - maybe it was a coffee ghost (go ahead and laugh, it could happen).                   Coffee ghost caught on film (not really)         You may even become so unsettled by this event that you decide to contact someone (like us) to help you make sense of what happened. The first conversation we have would probably open with you saying, "You probably think I'm crazy, but....."          Fear not, we don't judge.....we listen. Keep in mind that we investigate the who are we to think you're crazy?          Arriving at your home, we would begin the feeling-out process by asking you why you believe your house may be haunted. You reply, "A ghost moved my coffee cup." We then counter that by asking you why you feel it was a ghost and your response probably would be along the lines of, "What else could it be?"                            You might be surprised by some of the things we suggest.        If no one actually saw a ghost move the cup, why arrive at that conclusion? Well...ghosts can be invisible, of course And how do we know that? Well, Hollywood and popular literature have conditioned us to think that way. Let's face it, we all have seen how spirits and specters are portrayed in horror movies, books and on television and a lot of folks take their cues from what they read and see. At no time since the Spiritualist Movement of the late 1800s has there been more interest and curiosity about the supernatural in our popular culture. There are a multitude of paranormal 'reality' shows on TV right now that make faithful viewers feel like "experts" on the subject. We see or hear about objects moving on their own or items left in one spot that wind up in another seemingly spirited along by some unknown and unseen force. Is this not proof of ghostly behavior?      Maybe....maybe not.        First off, there are really no "experts" in the field of paranormal investigation. The best investigators out there are seasoned, rational and experienced people that have done extensive, objective research and perhaps had personal experiences of their own. In the best cases, they have been able to document activity through some media form. They accept nothing at face value and do everything in their power to consider natural causes before declaring any place haunted or any event to be paranormal in nature. A serious paranormal investigator with intentions of helping people arrives at the truth by systematically examining extraordinary events without allowing themselves the luxury of belief.   Informal data would suggest that out of every 100 reported cases of activity only around 2 are deemed unexplainable. Is your floating coffee in that 2%?  On the surface, I admit your chances are pretty good, but first we have to eliminate everything from psychological trauma and electrical interference to diamagnetic levitation - which is expressed mathematically as:                                                                                                                                                                                      This is called the Meissner Effect, but I somehow doubt anything on your desktop doubles as a superconductor. So, barring a team of MIT or Cal Tech researchers descending on your house, we have to look at simpler explanations to explain why your java jumped before we look you in the eye and say "You got a ghost".  By the same token we can't go to such lengths to invalidate your claim that we end up blaming it on sonic whale sounds from the nearest ocean and then pat ourselves on the back for doing a great job. A balance must be struck between the two approaches.   Occam's Razor states: "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the best."        Most people indeed begin their ghost story by saying "You might think I'm crazy, but. . ." Well, don't give that a second thought because we apparently live on a paranormal planet. Based on the premise that belief in the paranormal "requires the belief that humans have more than the normal five senses", a 2005 Gallup Poll of 1,002 participants across all ages and genders revealed the following (warning: boring statistics to follow):   41% believe in ESP 37% believe in haunted houses 32% believe in ghosts 31% believe in telepathy 26% believe in clairvoyance 25% believe in astrology 21% believe in communication with the dead 21% believe in witches 20% believe in reincarnation 9% believe in spirit mediums    Three other categories were added outside this paranormal criteria:   55% believe in psychic healing 42% believe in demonic possession 24% believe extraterrestrials are visiting Earth       The data shows that 73%, or almost three quarters of the people who responded to the poll, believe in at least one of the ten items that were presented to them, down only very slightly from the 76% that was determined by an identical poll that was conducted four years earlier. Only 1% believe in all ten items, but as the number of items is reduced from ten, the cumulative percentage of believers rises dramatically. Data from similar polls going back to 1990 indicate a steady, if slow, rise in belief in a number of the items listed. There is, however, some difference between Christians and non-Christians: the former group scores a 75% likelihood of belief, while the latter scores 66%, still both in the majority. Only 27% of the respondents believe in none of the ten items listed. For those who are wondering, we can only imagine that percentage would no doubt significantly decrease in third-world countries where superstition and legends are more prevalent.     Our belief at RISEUP is that paranormal experiences fall into three distinct categories and it is important that we try to understand - if not actually label - the nature and possible cause of the event before rushing to judgment :        Psychological - Many times stress, grief, anger, sleep deprivation or any number of other factors can alter the limbic system of the brain, contributing to a sense of having unusual "encounters". These usually manifest themselves in the feeling that "you are not alone". It is also theorized that such strong feelings projected from an emotionally-charged state of mind may - in extremes - result in what are commonly known as poltergeist hauntings wherein physical objects move seemingly of their own accord. The individual responsible for this is called the "agent". Sometimes, the particular objects affected are somehow related to the cause of the problem. If a family member has passed away, a picture of that person might fall off the wall or a former possession of theirs may display movement as the emotion of a grieving survivor grows stronger. Your airborne coffee may quite possibly fall in that category depending on your particular state of mind at the time.        Much, but not all poltergeist (German for "noisy ghost") activity surrounds adolescent girls going through many physical and psychological changes. Long story short and in again in theory, a person's own psychokinetic energy may cause this type of activity to occur (yes, like Carrie at the prom). Perhaps then, the classic ghost isn't the cause of these events, but a physical manifestation of stress, anger and repressed emotion on a psychological level is. Maybe you are not an adolescent or have one residing in your home, but that doesn't necessarily limit the possibility of this rare phenomena. In such cases, one has to evaluate individual states of mind at the time these events occur before declaring them to be the work of a “third party” (ghost).      Mental illness should always be a serious consideration in terms of anyone’s state of mind during a paranormal event. People diagnosed as bi-polar or schizophrenic are often vulnerable to suggestion, paranoia and hallucination in their fragile state of mind. Medication for such affliction can also be problematic as people can sometimes over, under or cross medicate to their detriment. This is why claims of demon possession are particularly challenging and troublesome.        Environmental - There are forces around you, both naturally-occurring and man-made that can contribute to unusual phenomenon. Not the least of which are things like un-bracketed heating pipes, creaky floorboards, poorly-sealed windows, normal light reflections, air-movement, animals and a whole host of other residential and nature-related causes that can deceive anyone into thinking there is something more sinister afoot.        A hot-button topic of some debate amongst parapsychologists are the presence of EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) in the atmosphere. While controlled laboratory experiments have yielded positive results that people exposed to low-level EMF in a certain sequence for a prolonged period of time can experience feelings of paranoia, delusion or even hallucinations, there has been no definitive proof as yet that this is a reason for any widespread hallucinatory occurrences in the everyday world. While every home has the potential to emit potentially disruptive EMF to its occupants, the number of persons actually thought to display hypersensitivity to EMF are relatively small, perhaps 2 in 1,000. Some of the main household culprits are items like digital alarm clocks, microwave ovens and the omnipresent cell phone. Living under power lines is also a red flag for potential dangers, as are "leaks" in common household wiring. Balancing that theory is something called Galvanic Skin Response, a condition where the outside layer of our skin does its best to protect us from harmful radiation waves. Your GSR can be measured by submitting to an electroencephalogram (EEG). The higher the level (most people are at about 175), the less the risk of being affected. The lower - the more susceptible one can be. It then can be said that anyone affected by high levels of EMF are hypersensitive to them. The drawback here, admittedly, is that EEGs aren't exactly standard procedure come check-up time.        The Earth itself emits natural geomagnetic waves that can also affect an individual's state of mind. As a result of all this, we strongly feel your susceptibility - as well as your level of exposure - to these conditions has to be taken into consideration before declaring EMF to be anything more than a possible cause of a paranormal experience. Using EMF exposure as a blanket theory for unusual occurrences (as some are prone to do) discounts any likelihood of an actual supernatural event. Things like temperature, barometric pressure and relative humidity can also affect humans in some odd ways and should always be a subject of consideration.                                Spiritual - This are the most controversial and as a result, the most fascinating explanation for paranormal experiences. This is what you are left with when all other reasonable causes are systematically eliminated. But taking a step back for a second, we need to determine what a ghost is before declaring you are sharing your space with one. This is tricky at best as there really are nothing more than theories with regard to this. Ghosts (or, spirits if you prefer) are generally summed up as some element of the human persona that remains behind after death. Now this energy might present itself in various ways: in a full torso or smells and sounds (including voices). I agree with those who believe that if spirits exist, they would project themselves to living humans as they once saw or perceived themselves. Why else would they wear period clothing when they appear or present themselves at a younger age? How we can actually witness them is another story. Personally, I believe that the presence of a spirit's energy can somehow affect our five senses, allowing the mind to perceive or "see" them as it processes what the senses tell it to. As our individual senses may differ in varying degrees from someone else's, it might explain why there aren't more mass sightings of similar images.       There are instances where a spirit may attempt visual or audible contact with a living being. For the most part, this type of encounter is often termed "intelligent" because there is some conscious interaction between the spirit and the human object of its attention. The floating coffee cup might be an example of this as the spirit seeks to gain your attention (although there are probably tidier and less horrifying ways of doing so).       These are not true "hauntings" though, until they display a certain level of frequency. A true haunting is of a persistent nature and may also fall under the category of "residual" haunts. Residual hauntings have to do with the imprint of human energy on the surrounding material or environment. It has been theorized that a home, building or even land can somehow record or “absorb” physical activities that have occurred in that space. It is speculated that in instances of great emotional or physical duress, tragedy or sudden trauma from loss of life, that our residual energy releases into the atmosphere and remains there. There can be no communication or interaction in these instances because you are not really perceiving an individual entity, but watching a type of "imprint" that repeats itself over and over. The "entity" really isn't an entity nor has any conscious awareness of itself or of your presence and in sum total, does not exist beyond these brief encounters. Trying to interact with such a form would be the same as talking to characters on your television and expecting them to respond to you.       Likewise, we must also recognize the possibility that these residual activities may not always signal the presence of a beleaguered spirit. Any exertion of human life force may cause an imprint in the environment. The "tormented ghost" you see climbing the stairs may have lived a very long and happy life, but because they used those stairs so frequently in their lifetime, their expended energy remains imprinted in that location. There have also been reported cases of images of a person appearing in a particular location while the subject is still quite alive and well and living a great distance away.       (Take a short break here to clear your mind of the inevitable confusion I have brought forth. Hey, at least we're saving parallel dimensions for another article)        At the end of the day, people from all walks of life - every religion, gender, nationality and race - experience things that are seemingly unrelated to the physical world they know and live in and the beliefs that have become instilled in them. At some point, opening the mind to extreme possibilities can be more of a burden on the individual than simply dismissing them as absurdity. Whether we want to admit it or even care to, there are forces on this planet and in our subconscious minds that we have yet to come to terms with and truly understand. Scientists oftentimes rush to discount paranormal experiences because they don't fall into what their discipline has taught them - that if a result cannot be duplicated, you are forced to conclude that it is invalid.        The fly in that ointment concerns the human element being introduced into the equation. Humans are by nature unpredictable creatures with an annoying habit of analyzing, rather than reacting. Behavioral patterns are often dictated by emotions and therefore, not consistent. If a human spirit's energy remains behind after death, is it not at least feasible to wonder if it may retain some of these imperfect characteristics and much of the personality traits its physical vehicle had in life? It does not show itself on demand and it comes and goes as it pleases. It has a mischievous nature, a loving nature, an evil nature or some combination of all three depending on its mood and how it is being affected by outside forces. This mirrors the gamut of human emotion. Many skeptics are quick to dismiss claims of hauntings because they simply don't believe they exist and no amount of contrary evidence short of the delivery of a ghost in a box will sway them. Fine...we need skeptics and claims should be approached with a skeptical eye. But to dismiss the number and types of experiences people are having out of hand without examination flies directly in the face of all that science is about.       Applied science is based in some part on introducing fresh ideas into a field of study. How can that be done when the field becomes stagnant because of disinterest or ridicule? People are seeing things outside the realm of the natural order. Or is it actually a part of the natural order we have yet to understand?                          Enjoy your stay on the Paranormal Planet. Don't fear it, for you are not alone.