Paranormal is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of reported anomalous phenomena. According to the Journal of Parapsychology (Parapsychological Association), the term paranormal describes "any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed physically possible according to current scientific assumptions."  The term is derived from the Latin use of the prefix "para", meaning "against, counter, outside or beyond the norm."
Many see the word paranormal as a term that describes subjects studied under parapsychology, which deals with psychical phenomena like telepathy, ESP, and survival studies like ghosts and reincarnation. However, the paranormal sometimes describes subjects outside the scope of parapsychology, including anomalous aspects of UFOs, some creatures that fall under the scope of cryptozoology, purported phenomena surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, and many other non-psychical subjects.
Belief in the Paranormal
The validity of the existence of paranormal phenomena is controversial and debated passionately by both proponents of the paranormal and by skeptics. Validity issues aside, however, a survey of the beliefs of the general United States population in regards to paranormal topics was conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2005. The survey found that 73 percent of those polled believed in at least one of the ten paranormal items presented in the survey.
Items included in the survey were as follows (the percentage of respondents who indicated that they believed in the phenomenon is in parenthesis): Extrasensory perception (41%), haunted houses (37%), ghosts (32%), telepathy (31%), clairvoyance (26%), astrology (25%), communication with the dead (21%), witches (21%), reincarnation (20%), and channeling spiritual entities (9%).
Only one percent of those surveyed believed in all ten items.
The items selected for the survey were chosen because they "require the belief that humans have more than the 'normal' five senses."
Relation to Perinormal
Perinormal phenomena is a term that has been suggested to describe previously unknown forces which at first appeared to be paranormal and were later verified scientifically. The name is derived from the Greek "peri", meaning "in the vicinity of". While paranormal phenomena remains scientifically questionable ("beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation"), perinormal phenomena can eventually be shown to be "skeptic-approved".
One significant modern example of a perinormal phenomenon is electromagnetic fields (EMF). At one time EMF was debatable from a scientific perspective but later was proven to be real and is currently accepted by scientific and medical communities.
Smaller examples of perinormal phenomena include medical oddities which at first may baffle medical professionals, and later turn out to have a mundane cause. An excellent example of a perinormal medical oddity would be the "Pregnant Man" from Nagpur, India. When doctors went to remove what they thought was a tumor causing the man to look pregnant, they instead found a human being inside the man's abdominal region. What could have been misconstrued as the paranormal case of a pregnant man, was actually the perinormal case of fetus in fetu -- the man's twin brother had been growing inside his abdomen for 36 years.
Although this isn't a complete list, the following are some subjects considered to fall under the term paranormal:
- Applied kinesiology
- Chiropractic healing (beyond back/joint problems)
- Communicating with the dead and/or "channeling"
- Extra-sensory perception (ESP)
- Faith healing
- Psychic surgery
- Psychokinesis (PK)
- Pyramid power
- Remote viewing
- Spontaneous Human Combustion
- Therapeutic touch
- Violations of Newton's laws of motion (perpetual motion devices)
- Anomalous phenomena
- Glossary, The Journal of Parapsychology, Parapsychological Association, accessed August 05, 2006
- What is PSI? What Isn't?, Parapsychological Association, accessed August 01, 2006
- Gallup poll shows that Americans' belief in the paranormal persists, Skeptical Inquirer, accessed October 28, 2006 (dead link)
- Richard Dawkins this Week in Las Vegas Said he Believes in the Perinormal, eSocialScienceNews, accessed August 29, 2006(dead link)
- A Pregnant Man?, ABC News, accessed October 17, 2006
- The JREF Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge "FAQ", James Randi Educational Foundation, accessed August 20, 2006