The Paranormal Dictionary: A-Z of "Things That Go Bump in the Night" & Fantasy Beings
A-Z Paranormal/Supernatural Terms & Definitions
Alien: (UFO, Martian, Extraterrestrial) a being from another planet or world other than Earth. Some are said to have large round heads, large eyes, and very thin fragile-looking bodies. Also said to arrive by way of a spaceship or unidentified flying object, usually depicted as being a "flying saucer" of sorts.
Angel: a being originating from the Christian Holy Bible. Thought to be God's helpers, capable of protecting humans, bringing God's messages to humans, and also fighting Satan's forces. Usually depicted as resembling a human but with gigantic wings and golden halos around their heads.
Avalon: a mysterious, mist-covered island once thought to be off the coast of England that has sank into the spiritual world. A setting within the story of King Arthur of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table.
Banshee: (Bean-sidhe, Washer at the Fords, Wailing Woman) a mythical being in Irish & Scottish mythology said to let out an ear-piercing wail in order to foretell or warn of the death of a family member within certain old families of Ireland & Scotland. Possibly a kind of Fay. Some have been said to be gorgeous women in white, while others have been said to be revolting hags in green.
Bermuda Triangle: a triangular area covering the Caribbean Islands and Floridian Coast that is said to have had numerous ships and airplane disappearances. Some people attribute these disappearances to alien abductions and other paranormal phenomenon.
Big Foot: (Sasquatch, Yeti, Skunk Ape) a hairy, large ape-man said to walk on two feet and to be larger than any human man. Sightings of Big foot have been documented across America and other countries around the world. Possibly the "missing link" in the Evolution theory.
Black Peter: a goat man that carries a black sack, a birch branch and a chain. While St. Nicholas gives gifts, Black Peter punishes bad children and carries those REALLY BAD KIDS in his sack.
Bloody Mary: ghost of a dead possibly murdered woman that is said to appear in a mirror when her name is repeated several times. Of course the ghost then seeks revenge for the summoning.
Bogeyman: (boogie man) a frightening creature or monster feared by children and supposedly lives under their beds or in their closets. The term used to be cruelly used by parents in order to scare mischievous children into behaving. No particular appearance, appearance varies by country and region.
Book of Shadows: a leather-bound book written and used by a witch in order to keep her most potent and dangerous spells secret.
Candyman: similar to the Bloody Mary legend, if a person says the name in a mirror a certain number of times, the Candyman will come; however, he usually seeks revenge for the wrongdoings in his life and takes his revenge out upon the caller. From the movie Candyman.
Centaur: a part human-part horse creature that is imagined as being wise and also fierce in battle. Centaurs were first found in Greek mythology and are now used by fantasy authors such as C.S. Lewis in his fantasy series "The Chronicles of Narnia".
Changeling: the offspring of a fairy or troll. In many European folk tales, fairies and trolls would steal unbaptized human babies and replace them with their own offspring.
Chupacabra: a vampire-like creature that is believed to live in the Southern United States and Mexico. It has been said that they look like a mix of a coyote and could be some form of werewolf and they have been documented to have sucked the blood out of farm animals, thereby killing these animals. Some people in recent times have believed to have found the chupacabra, but the animals found have been identified as coyotes with a bad case of mange.
Countess Bathory: a real historic person. A beautiful countess named Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary, who was known to have killed hundreds of young women and to drain them of their blood in order to keep herself young. Thought to be a "Queen of the Vampires".
Coven: a group of witches that convene on Sabbats and under full moons. Sometimes depicted as groups or families of vampires, such as in the movie Underworld.
Crystal Ball: a ball made of quartz crystal and used as a tool for divining or scrying. Witches and fortune tellers gaze into a crystal ball in order to see the future. When not in use, crystal balls must be covered with a cloth.
Cyclops: a giant that has only one large eye in the middle of his forehead. Rooted in Greek and Roman mythology and thought to have been a misconception of the skull of a dwarf elephant.
Davy Jones: once a sailor, now a fiend that presides over all of the undead spirits of the seas. Used as a fictional character in "Pirates of the Caribbean" but rooted in legend.
Demons: a being that is not considered human nor angel. Considered an "unclean spirit". In Christian belief said to be fallen angels that are followers of Lucifer or "Satan". They are said to do Lucifer's work on earth. Also rooted in Greek mythology under the word "daemon" or "daimon".
Devil: a belief in a supernatural being who is pure evil and the enemy of God and man. Some claim that the devil is actually the fallen angel "Lucifer" from the Bible. He is in control of hell and wishes nothing but to pull humans into Hell along with him and his legion of demons. Since the Middle Ages, the devil is portrayed as a red man with horns, a tail, and the bottom half of a goat. This image was actually taken from the Pagan gods Cernunnos and Pan in order to scare or convert more Pagans to Christianity.
Doppelganger: is a clone of a living person who is equivalent to an "evil twin". Considered bad luck and ill fortune. Some people claim to have seen their "doppelganger" in their peripheral vision, where there are no mirrors around in which to see their own reflection.
Dracula: a popular vampire character in modern pop culture, due to a book written by Bram Stoker. The actual historic person, Vlad Dracul, was known as Vlad the Impaler and was quite the warrior. He was rumored to have placed his enemies on sticks outside of his fortress in order to scare others away and show of his feats. Now, Count Dracula is depicted as a King of Vampires and is used as a character in many movies.
Dragons: a large winged creature that has similar features to prehistoric dinosaurs. Cultures and countries all around the world have their own legends of dragons, from Scotland to China. Some versions of dragons even blew fire out of their noses.
Dreamwalker: a spirit or embodiment that can walk through dreamworlds and in and out of others' dreamworlds.
Dryads: (tree spirits) some consider as a type of fairy. Spirits of the trees who were said to have given their knowledge to the Celtic Druids. Depicted as beautiful female spirits who live in the highest boughs of trees.
Dwarves: rooted in German folklore, is a short human-like creature that dwells and works in the Mountains and deep in the earth. They are usually associated with wisdom and mining and have made appearances in classic fantasy books such as "The Lord of the Rings" by JRR Tolkien.
Elementals: first showing up in documentation in the 1500's, written by an alchemical author named Paracelsus. Now elementals are used in some forms of Wicca or Witchcraft. There are four types of elementals, each representing one of the four main elements. Gnomes represent earth, undines (also known as nymphs) represent water, sylphs represent air, and salamanders represent fire.
Elves: a race of the fay rooted in Germanic folklore and now taking part in Christmas folklore. Some depict the elves as small fairies, while others depict the elves as of human size and beautiful appearance. JRR Tolkien used elves as an aspect of his story in "Lord of the Rings", using the human sized elves, while most stories of Santa Claus and his elves at the North Pole depict the elves as smaller dwarf-like creatures.
Evil Eye: rooted in Greek and Roman mythology and now spanning many cultures around the world, it was believed to be the envious or angry look from one to inflict harm upon another. In many places, charms are sold to "ward off" the evil eye.
Fairies: (the Fay, Faeries, Wee Folk) a race of creatures now living in the spiritual realm, sometimes winged sometimes not, that occupy numerous myths from all over the world but more famously in Europe. Pixies, sprites, will o' wisps, and brownies are just a few. It was once believed that fairies lived in our world, the mundane world, but have since moved underground or to another realm.
Familiar: a familiar is the shapeshifting friend or servant of a powerful witch. During the Burning Times, many believed that black cats were witches' familiars and were used to aid in carrying out these witches' evil plans.
Fauns: rooted in Roman mythology, a faun is a goat-man creature thought of as a rustic forest God, similar to the Greek god Pan and Greek satyrs. Fauns are used as characters in "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis.
Frankenstein: a fictional character first thought up in Mary Shelley's classic work "Frankenstein". In fact, the term Frankenstein actually refers to a doctor who created a monster using pieces and parts of corpses and science to bring the creature to life. In modern pop culture, the term Frankenstein is used to describe the popular zombie/robot-like creature. Usually shown as a tall, large green monster with bolts jutting out from his neck and scars running down his face.
Ghast: a very powerful ghoul, able to shapeshift often with pale white skin and a horrible stench.
Giants: humans or human-like creatures of great stature and size. Rooted in Greek and Roman mythology, and also mentioned more than once in the Christian Holy Bible. Goliath, Gog and Magog, and the Nephilim who were supposedly destroyed in the Great Flood (in Genesis).
Ghosts: lost or trapped spirits of the departed, or possibly just visions of the departed, that appear to the living in different forms and in various places throughout the world.
Ghoul: a creature of the Undead. Very similar to a Zombie, yet the ghoul has been said in folklore to haunt graveyards and feast upon human flesh. Possibly stemming from Arabic mythology.
Gnomes: an elemental of earth and also rooted in European mythology, thought to be small creatures who live underground and sometimes hoard/guard treasures.
Goatman: a rural legend of a faun-like creature, half man and half goat, that usually is said to occupy creepy bridges and usually cause chaos to neighboring towns and homes. There is a goatman legend in different places in Maryland and also one in North Carolina.
Goblins: a creature of similar size to a dwarf or brownie but said to be evil or mischievous and usually depicted as being uglier than a brownie or dwarf.
Gods/Goddesses: supreme beings rooted in every culture around the world. Christians and many monotheists believe in one God, who seems to be mainly of the male gender. Polytheists believe in multiple gods and goddesses, of both male and female gender. In Greek and Roman mythology, one can find gods and goddesses for different human qualities, such as Aphrodite, a goddess related to love.
Griffins: a being with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Rooted in Greek mythology but believed to be from India.
Halloween: (Samhain, All Hallows' Eve) celebrated on October 31st, is a holiday that is rooted in European Pagan tradition of the Samhain holiday. Samhain was considered New Years Eve and the night when the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest. Many people, especially in Ireland, believed that the dead would wander the earth, and in order to scare them away they would carve faces in gourds and turnips and light them with candles. The idea of dressing in costume is believed to have begun in hopes for people to blend in with the dead, so that the dead wouldn't be able to distinguish them as the living. These traditions are believed to have been brought to America by the Irish immigrants. It is one of the few holidays of the Pagan kind that has not been fully converted to a traditional Christian holiday.
Haunts: a ghost that manifests itself at a place regularly.
Haunting: an occurrence of a ghostly kind taking place in one particular spot. (i.e. the Haunting in Connecticut).
Hag: another term used for an old woman who is thought to be a witch. Usually depicted as a wrinkled-face, scraggly-haired old woman in shrouds.
Heaven: a place in Christian belief where one's soul goes to after passing. That soul has to be "saved" by God in order to go to Heaven. A beautiful spiritual realm with golden gates.
Hell: the opposite of Heaven, in the Christian faith. Hell is a place full of torture and flames, ruled by Satan and his demon dominion. A place where non-believers and evil-doers reside after death.
Hell Hound: supernatural dogs that are said to guard the places of the dead, such as graveyards and such. Seen as large black dogs with glowing red or yellow eyes and sometimes they can speak. Sometimes they even appear in mythology with multiple heads to a body.
Igor: the traditional, pop-culture, hunch-backed servant of horror villains such as Dracula or Doctor Frankenstein.
Incubus: a winged demon who is said to have sex with women while they are asleep. In some legends, they father children such as in the legend of Merlin.
Kelpies: a water horse of Celtic mythology that is said to be dangerous in that it can shift into a beautiful woman and lure men to their watery graves. In other legends, the kelpie would tempt children to ride on its back in order to drag them into the water and devour them. The belief in kelpies ranged from Ireland to Scotland to England and also in the Norse mythology. Some said that kelpies were black horses with a constantly dripping wet mane, while others said the kelpies had green bodies with wet black manes. Either way, contact isn't advised.
Lady of the Lake: (Viviane, Nimue, Nyneve) of the Merlin and King Arthur legend, said to be from Avalon and to have given King Arthur the sword Excalibur. Also said to have raised Lancelot after being left by his dead father.
Leprechauns: small dwarf-life creatures of Irish mythology that are usually thought to guard a pot of gold situated at the end of a rainbow. In modern culture, horror movies have been made of the leprechaun, though they didn't used to be thought of as truly malicious beings, just protective of their treasure.
Leviathan: a gigantic sea serpent mentioned in the Bible. Thought to guard one of the circles of hell and is a prince of hell and a gatekeeper.
Lilith: thought to be the Mother of Vampires, and in some mythology was the first wife of Adam's. She did not like to be on the bottom and decided to leave Adam and mate with the fallen angels. From there, the race of the vampires was born. In Babylonian legend, Lillith was the mother of a race of female demons.
Loa: powerful spirits of the Voodoo or Voodoo religion. Some are beneficial to humans, while others are a bit more mischievous and sometimes malicious. Papa Ghede and Legba are two examples of the Loa.
Loch Ness Monster: a lake monster that has been said to occupy a loch in the Scottish Highlands. Many people have seen this monster and even refer to her as "Nessie".
Mermaids: (merpeople, mermen) people with the bottom half of a fish that reside in the depths of the ocean and seas. Rooted in mythology, the mermaid is said to be benevolent and sometimes malevolent towards humans. Some sailors believed that mermaids would sing and enchant men to their drowning deaths, while others believed that mermaids would try to rescue men and inadvertently squeeze them to death in the process. In modern culture, Disney has made a movie known as The Little Mermaid, based off of a tale by Hans Christian Anderson.
Minotaur: a creature based in Greek legends that is half man with the head of a bull. Guards the maze created by King Minos of Crete.
Monsters: a grotesque and abnormally formed creature, usually depicted as being evil and scaring or making off with children in the night.
Mummy: the undead mummified body of an Egyptian pharaoh or princess that has been brought back to life by some form of evil magic.
Necromancers: someone who believes that they can raise a person from the dead, either in body form or in spirit and use them to do their evil bidding.
Nymphs: possible people of the fay, but considered to be just underneath gods in mythology. Spirits that dwell and rule over particular parts of nature, such as water, trees, fire, etc.
Occult: means "knowledge of the hidden" and is mainly used to describe the knowledge of things paranormal or supernatural.
Ogres: a type of large troll or giant that is shown throughout mythology and folklore to have an appetite for human flesh. Usually of giant stature, with lots of curly hair and a large head.
Ouija Board: sold as a game by many toy stores; however, it is no game to mess around with. This is a flat board with letters, numbers, and a few greeting words (hello, goodbye) with a planchette. The planchette is used by placing one's fingers lightly on it and then asking the board or spirits to talk to you. Many paranormal experiences happen after people mess around with the ouija board. Demonic experiences have also been noted, particularly with a demon known as "Z" or "Zozo".
Omens: a deathly sign. A warning that something of harm or evil will occur.
Orc: a type of deformed humanoid creature, showing up in Fantasy novels and games. JRR Tolkien's uses the orc as one of the many enemies in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and he describes them as being a deformed and evil race of elves.
Ouija Board: a Milton Bradley game that should never really be used as a game. A board with letters, numbers, and Yes and No answers purchased for the use of humans to communicate with the otherworldly. Usually any experiences with ouija boards are negative and even frightening.
Parallel Universe: a universe or realm much like our own but considered an alternative reality. A place where everything is the same yet different. In the hit TV show Fringe, parallel universes are a mainstay in the plotline.
Pegasus: a beautiful white, winged horse of Greek mythology. Divine as he was sired by Poseidon and was considered to be god of the horses.
Phantom: possibly referring to a ghost, the physical manifestation of a dead person's spirit. The Phantom of the Opera is probably the most famous usage of the idea of a Phantom character.
Phoenix: a great firebird of mythology from Egypt, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
Phooka: (Puca) a mischievous, though harmless type of shape-shifting fairy of Celtic folklore. The shapes a phooka normally takes on include horse, dog, rabbit, or goblin. Usually in the horse form, the phooka is said to give a human rider a wild and exhilarating ride, though never harming the human. In all forms, it is almost always of a dark color.
Poltergeists: a "loud" or "noisy" spirit. Traditionally a poltergeist is thought to be a ghost or a demon that moves objects around in homes and causes anxiety among a home's human occupants. They've also been known to inflict physical harm upon their victims in severe cases of poltergeist hauntings.
Possession: to become "possessed" or controlled by a spirit outside of one's own. Typically "possession" has been documented by the Catholic church as having to do with a demon entering a human's body. In some verified cases, an "exorcism" can be performed by a priest (or priests) of the Catholic church.
Potion: in Hollywood, depicted as a liquid concoction of unidentifiable or disgusting ingredients, such as eye of newt, and concocted by a witch in order to poison, entrance, or even snare a victim upon consumption.
Psychic: a person with extrasensory powers in which they can see or tell the future, speak to the dead, or feel exactly what another person is feeling. A popular psychic in today's culture is Sylvia Brown.
Rougarou: (loup-garou) A french legend of a man with head of a wolf. A blood sucker of whom contracted a disease and which is transferred from carrier to victim. The victim transforms at night for 101 days into a wolf headed man.
Sacrifice: in the some ancient Pagan cultures, a giving up of one precious thing in order to gain something else. Even in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Jewish would sacrifice a lamb in order to have their wrongdoings forgiven by God. Some people believe that Satanists still perform sacrificial rituals, such as with animals or even humans in extremely twisted cases.
Sasquatch: See Big Foot.
Sea Serpent: a large, mythological sea monster with the appearance of a large snake or serpent. Mentioned a lot in old Norse mythology and in sailor legends. Sightings seen as recent as the late 1800's off the coast of New England.
Seer: someone who can predict the future. See also psychic.
Selkies: (silkies, selchies) Scottish, Irish, and Icelandic mythological sea creatures that are shapeshifters. Take the shape of a seal when in the water but when on land can transform into human form. In some legends, a female selkie has been captured by a human and made to be a housewife. The legend says that the selkie always longs to be in the sea and eventually makes its way back to the sea, transforming into seal form and leaving their families behind.
Shadow People: ghostly apparitions that appear as shadows, sometimes with the shape of a human man and other times as purely dark mist. Some believe to be demons or ghosts, while others believe to be observers from another dimension. Seen sometimes with glowing red eyes and have been attributed to the phenomenon of sleep paralysis.
Shape-shifter: a cryptid rooted in various cultures' mythology that can change form at will. Werewolves are examples of shapeshifters, but shapeshifters can also take the form of other animals and even humans in some cases. True Blood, an HBO show, has a main character that is a shape-shifter and has the ability to shift into any type of animal.
Skin-walker: a powerful witch thought to have the ability to shape-shift into wolves, coyotes, bears, and more. They use their abilities to attack and take what they want from other individuals. This is a particularly popular legend among the Navajo and Dineh Native tribes.
Sirens: immersed in Greek mythology, sirens were once demi-gods who were denounced their divine privileges and sentenced to remain on an island in the Mediterranean for eternity. Their original form was that of a lady and a bird and they would lure sailors to their deaths on jagged rocks around their island by simply playing an enchanting tune. Over the years, sirens have slowly taken the shape of mermaids in opposition to their original lady-bird form. Documented in Homer's "Odyssey" and other Greek texts.
Slayer: a person with wits and strength that are sent on missions to kill or "slay" paranormal beasts and monsters such as vampires or werewolves. In modern pop culture, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an example.
Slender Man: an internet-made, paranormal creature who is somewhat of a ghost and somewhat of a monster. His supposed presence "told" two young girls to murder their young friend in 2014. They are both in jail. There's been a film made about the incident, released in 2016.
Sorcerer/Sorceress: (magician, wizard, witch) a person who practices sorcery or magic.
Spell: the force that alters things by knowledge of the occult or paranormal. Witches use spells in which to manifest a certain thought or energy into reality.
Succubus: the female counterpart to an Incubus. A demon who mates with humans in their sleep.
Tarot: cards used to tell the future or fate of a person. Fortune tellers and seers use Tarot cards, as well as witches.
Telekinesis: the supernatural ability to move objects with one's mind.
Time Travel/Time Traveler: the ability to move between times. A time traveler is considered someone who knows how to travel back or forwards in time.
Titans: powerful race of deities in Greek mythology, said to be offspring of Uranus and Gaia that ruled over Greece and Earth in the Golden Age.
Treants: (Ents for short) live moving trees also called shepherds of the forests. Legend has it that they were created to help manage the forests by trimming the trees, removing dead or sick trees. An example of an ent is Treebeard from JRR Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Trolls: ugly creatures of folklore that are said to live under bridges and eat animals and human passersby. Think of the story of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff". Or even the Grumpy Old Troll (though tamer) in the children's TV show Dora the Explorer.
Tulpa: a thoughtform; a spirit created from the belief of multiple people believing in the spirit. Because the group thinks it is real it manifests itself in reality
Undead: zombies, vampires, and ghouls are considered types of the undead. To put it simply, creatures that were once living but now have bodies kept alive by supernatural forces or reasons.
Unicorns: a horse of mythology that is usually brilliant white and possesses a single horn that juts out from the middle of its head. Not to be confused with the legendary Pegasus.
Vampires: a once human, undead being that lives off of sucking the blood of mortals. In modern times, people claim to be vampires that suck the "energy" from other people around them. Still others claim that they drink blood and need it for survival. The stories and legends of vampires have been around for thousands of years, possibly beginning with the belief in demons that sucked blood or fed off of human flesh and then morphing into the idea that people could come back from the dead and live off of other human beings' blood. In modern pop culture, vampires are now romanticized and many people are obsessed with the idea of vampires.
Voodoo Doll: steeped in Voodoo stereotype, Voodoo dolls are dolls composed of everyday materials plus hair or nail clippings of a victim in which a voodoo magician or witch can use for harmful purposes against the victim. Needles and candlewax are usually the typical tools to use on a Voodoo doll.
Wand: a phallic tool used by witches, sorcerers, and magicians in order to project a certain energy or spell in a particular direction.
Warlocks: a derogatory term used to describe a male witch. A term used by Christians and in the movies to describe a male witch. In fact, a male witch is called a witch by the Pagan & Wiccan communities.
Wendigo: a carnivorous and lightning fast spirit predator of the forest. Algonquin Wendigos were always hungry and never satisfied. An old Indian legend says that Wendigos are created by a human that has turned cannibal and they are usually ashen white and appear emaciated.
Werecat: a shapeshifter that takes the form of some sort of cat, be it panther, leopard, tiger, mountain lion, lynx, or even a common housecat. Much of the werecat folklore is rooted in the Middle East and India.
Werewolf: the belief in werewolves goes back to at least the Middle Ages, if not further back in history. During the "Burning Times", witches in the Northern European countries were also accused of being werewolves or using werewolves to do their bidding. One of the most famous werewolves to be executed was known as Hans the Werewolf, as he admitted to being a werewolf and joining other werewolves on "the hunt". Werewolves are essentially a type of shapeshifter, usually said to only shift during Full Moons.
Witch: original translation meant "wise woman", but through years the term is given to women who seem to practice black magic or "witchcraft". The image of the witch has been distorted through time, since the Catholic church went on their witch hunts in the dark ages and colonial times. A typical witch is depicted as being ugly, old, and covered in warts, with a pointed hat and riding on a broomstick.
Wizard: a magician, of male gender, who has learned and practices magic. Merlin of the King Arthurian legend is a well-known figure in historical folklore known as a wizard.
Yeti: see Big Foot.
Zombies: a term first used in voodoo to describe a dead corpse that has been brought back to life using some form of black magic and is used to do a black magician's bidding. In modern times, zombies are used in horror movies to portray human beings who are infected with an apocalyptic disease and of whom enjoy feasting on healthy humans' flesh.
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© 2011 Nicole Canfield