Psychics and Mediums—Part 3: Perceiving and Contacting “Ghosts”

In Part 1 of this series, I gave a brief summary of the occult, the paranormal, divination, psychics, trance states, and mediums. In Part 2, I discussed spiritism, channeling, and so-called spirit guides. In this final and concluding article in the series, I will briefly discuss séances, clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, psychometry, crystal balls, automatic handwriting, out-of-body experiences, levitation, ghosts, poltergeists, telekinesis, materializations, transfigurations, ectoplasm, and spirit photography.


A séance typically involves a gathering of people, often seated around a table, under the guidance of a medium. Its purpose is to establish a connection with the spirit realm or with the souls of people who have died. Usually, participants try to contact recently deceased people during these sessions. Mediums often use a spirit guide and a Ouija board.

During the séance, participants hold hands at a table while the medium enters a trance-like state. The goal is for a spirit or spirit guide to take control of the medium’s faculties and deliver messages through his or her voice. In some cases, spirits communicate by directing the medium’s hand to write messages (“automatic handwriting”). There are cases in which objects in the room appear to move. Psychics claim that on rare occasions a spirit entity might manifest itself in a vaporous, sometimes gauzelike form, known as ectoplasm.


Clairvoyance, literally “clear vision,” involves the mental perception of distant physical objects or events by psychic means. It can extend to the perception of things beyond the physical realm and often occurs as sudden insights. Some use the term to describe the psychic ability to predict future events. Of course, the track record of psychic predictions is dismal compared to that of the biblical prophets. 


Clairaudience, or “clear hearing,” is the ability to hear sounds, names, voices, and music that vibrate at a higher frequency, similar to how dogs hear sounds beyond human hearing. It refers to the perception of auditory phenomena from the spiritual realm—the alleged realm of ghosts.


Clairsentience, or “clear feeling,” refers to a medium’s ability to experience projected emotions from nearby or other dimensions and to feel them in their physical body. “A true clairsentient will usually feel the spirit personality coming through his entire being.”[1]


Psychometry is the ability to perceive the history of an object or the characteristics of its owner, living or deceased, by holding it and interpreting the energy emanating from it.  

Crystal Balls

Crystal ball gazing is a form of divination in which one enters a trance-like state to see future events through mental images or words reflected in the crystal. To clarify, many people have the misconception that when a psychic gazes into a crystal ball, he or she sees something in the ball itself. In reality, the crystal ball merely allows the medium to focus. By gazing into it, images or words arise in the medium’s mind and are simultaneously reflected in the crystal ball. The gazing itself can help to induce an altered state of consciousness that subsequently produces a psychic vision.

Automatic Handwriting

Automatic handwriting is a spiritualistic phenomenon in which a medium produces written words without conscious involvement. It is attributed to the influence of the spirit of a deceased person or a paranormal entity from another dimension. Throughout the process, the medium is usually unaware of the content being conveyed.

Out-of-Body Experiences

Out-of-body experiences, also known as astral projection, involve the body remaining still while one’s soul or spirit allegedly departs and travels to various places, whether nearby (such as a neighbor’s house) or even far away, such as outer space. Some psychics describe astral travel as the liberation of their spirits from their earthly bodies, allowing them to explore the universe as they wish. Some even claim that their astral journeys have ventured into the realm of God.


Telekinesis is the ability to manipulate an object at a distance solely by thought or psychic energy, an ability often claimed by mediums.

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)

Occultists claim that spirits are inventive in their attempts to communicate with the living. They are said to influence radio static, imprint images on television screens, and impress voices on magnetic tape.


Levitation, derived from the Latin word for “lifting,” refers to the alleged suspension of an object in mid-air without any visible means of support. An illustration of this phenomenon is observed in séances, where a table is allegedly lifted off the ground, suggesting the presence of spiritual or paranormal entities.


A ghost is said to be a non-material manifestation of a deceased person or, in some cases, an animal. It is often considered to be the lingering spirit or soul of a person who has not gone to the “Other Side” but remains on the earth after death. Ghosts are said to appear transparent or shadowy; occultists refer to their misty appearance as ectoplasm. Ghosts sometimes do not show themselves directly, but instead make their presence known by moving objects, making sounds such as footsteps, or activating light switches.

Psychics say that most spirits move toward a tunnel of white light at the moment of death. By passing through this tunnel, they cross over to the Other Side. However, some spirits choose to remain on earth. These spirits are called “ghosts.”


Polter is the German word for “noisy” or “rumbling.” Geist is the German word for “ghost” or “spirit.” Hence, the word “poltergeist” refers to a “noisy ghost” or “noisy spirit.” Psychics believe that a poltergeist is an unseen, intrusive entity that disrupts its surroundings by making noises, such as ringing bells, and manipulating inanimate objects, such as furniture. It can also manifest itself through unpleasant odors, cold rooms, and apparitions. It is considered a mischievous spirit that enjoys playing pranks on the living.


A materialization is a rare phenomenon where a ghost or spirit seeks to assume a physical form through the use of ectoplasm. As psychic James Van Praagh puts it, “A gauzelike, colorless and odorless substance known as ectoplasm will emerge from the ears, nose, mouth, or solar plexus area of the medium and form into ‘physical’ matter.”[2] This substance can allegedly give form to either a fragment of the spirit (such as partial limbs, face, head, or torso) or the entirety of it. Some believe that even animal spirits can manifest through this process.


A spirit from the Other Side can allegedly impose its face on the medium’s face, a phenomenon referred to as transfiguration. For instance, a young female medium might take on the facial features of an older man. Animal spirits are also believed to be able of materializing through transfiguration.


Ectoplasm is typically described by psychics as the visible substance through which the forces of the supernatural realm materialize. Some attribute the origin of this substance to the body of the psychic medium, while others speculate that it may be a manifestation of the “ethereal essence” of a spirit. Some psychics claim that ectoplasm can be molded into a voice box, allowing a spirit to communicate in a manner that closely resembles the voice of a living person.

Spirit Photography

Psychics claim that cameras have the ability to capture and document phenomena that are imperceptible to the human eye. This includes the alleged ability of cameras to register the energy fields of spirits, which are typically invisible to humans. As a result, courses in spirit photography are often offered at weekend psychic gatherings. Psychics often say that if you see a fleck of light on a photograph, that fleck of light may indicate the presence of a spirit.


In this three-part series we have surveyed the “big picture” of occultism, paranormal phenomena, and the work of psychic-mediums. We are now ready to get more specific. I invite you now to consult the additional, more detailed articles I’ve written on this topic that are posted at the John Ankerberg Show website.  

I especially invite you to consult my article, “A Christian Assessment of Psychics and Ghosts,” posted here at the John Ankerberg Show website.

  1. James Van Praagh, Talking to Heaven (New York: Signet, 1997), p. 50.
  2. James Van Praagh, Heaven and Earth (New York: Pocket Books, 2001), p. 100.

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