Have you ever seen a ghost? Been abducted by aliens? Had a run-in with Bigfoot? If you have, then you're not alone. Billions of people believe in the existence of some type of paranormal creature and millions have reported actually experiencing them. Are you one of them? With so many types of paranormal creatures, it seems more likely than not that at some point in your life, you could experience the supernatural.
Ghosts, Spirits, and Spectres
Paranormal television shows have created burgeoning interest in ghostly type creatures. What many people may not realize is that scientific research into these creatures has been ongoing since the 19th century, and scientifically minded associations like the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) maintain large databases of evidence and research into ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, psychic phenomena, and more.
American parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach points out what people report as "ghosts" take three forms: apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists. Apparitions are those ghost sightings believed to be sentient beings. In other words, these, commonly believed to be the souls or spirits of the deceased, interact intelligently and deliberately with the living. It is a common misconception a ghost may appear to be a translucent human being. In fact, Auerbach points out ghosts often appear just as solid as a living person, and the individual encountering them only realizes they've experienced something odd when the apparition disappears.
Ghost stories are rampant across cultures. It seems virtually every society has ghost sightings where spirits of the dead interact with those still alive. In the Western world, apparition sightings are so common it has given birth to a cottage industry with groups of paranormal investigators trying to capture evidence of the phenomena.
Auerbach notes hauntings are more like recordings. While they may still involve ghostly activity, such as doors opening and closing, mysterious sounds, or the appearance of a "ghost," these are not interactive or sentient. Rather, they are energetic events somehow recorded in a specific location that replay over and over in exactly the same manner.
While many people believe poltergeists are "noisy spirits," research suggests they are something different altogether. It is commonly accepted in parapsychological research that poltergeists are manifestations of psychokinetic energy caused by a living human. In other words, someone who is alive and well is--usually without their knowledge--emitting spontaneous bursts of energy that cause objects to move, doors to slam, and mysterious globs of moisture to fall from the ceiling. These manifestations of psychokinetic energy often occur when the person is under some type of emotional stress, and they frequently resolve when the person either become aware they are causing the incidents or after they've found healthy tools for managing the stress.
Paranormal Creatures of Lore
Creatures of lore are storied creatures displaying supernatural characteristics (that is, their characteristics or abilities are outside of what is scientifically known as "normal" behavior in how it interacts with the known properties of the physical universe). These include the undead, as well creatures currently believed to be urban legends because no evidence or proof exists they are real.
One of the most recent--and terrifying--creatures of lore is the black-eyed kid. For the past few decades, some people have reported frightening encounters with children or teens whose eyes are completely black. Appearing otherwise like normal children except for their black eyes, these creatures invoke a deep sensation of terror in all whom they encounter. Often, the children appear in pairs in unexpected places, and they claim to be in distress. They then ask to be let into cars for rides, homes to use the telephone, or similar scenarios. However, the people they are asking are filled with a deep dread, so they don't let the children inside. Nobody knows what happens if someone complies with a black-eyed child's request because there is no one around to tell the tale.
Vampires are mythical creatures said to survive on the blood of their victims, which they suck after biting the unsuspecting soul…usually in the neck. Fans of the Twilight series may believe many of these creatures are benign, but legend and lore suggest they are creatures to be feared and avoided.
Perhaps the most well-known vampire of all is Count Dracula, who Bram Stoker described in his novel from 1897 novel, Dracula. Stoker modeled his main character on Vlad the Impaler, a 15th Century Eastern European prince known for brutality and cruelty who often impaled the heads of his victims on spikes.
Interestingly, there are human beings who self-identify as vampires in the real world, claiming they have special powers and need blood or energy of the living to survive. However, medical science has not uncovered any physiological reason why any human would need to feed on the blood of the living to survive. Still, several vampire temples exist throughout the United States with humans who self-identify as vampires.
Werewolves are said to roam the streets and countryside at night after they've transformed from a human into a beast. Supposedly, the only way to kill a werewolf is to shoot it with a silver bullet.
Werewolf lore can be traced back to ancient Greece, where people believed eating the meat of a wolf mixed with a human caused one to turn into a werewolf. Later additions to the lore suggested other things could create werewolves, as well, such as being cursed or being touched by a wolf. Ultimately, the combination of centuries of legends melded to arrive at the current belief about lycanthropy, or the human propensity to shape-shift into a wolf under a full moon.
Of course, there is also a psychiatric condition called clinical lycanthropy characterized by the belief that one is truly being transformed into an animal.
You can't throw a rock right now without hitting a zombie. Or at least without hitting a television show, movie, or book about a zombie. These creatures are believed to be walking dead; reanimated, rotting corpses with a taste for human flesh.
The legend of the zombie has its roots in Haitian culture, starting with African slaves in the 17th and 18th century in the French-ruled Saint-Domingue. The slaves believed after their death, they would return to Africa, where they would be free. However, if the slave took his or her own life, this return wouldn't happen. Instead, they would remain in Saint-Domingue trapped inside undead bodies to roam for eternity.
Along with numerous pop-culture references to flesh-eating zombies in recent history, such as the television show The Walking Dead, new fears of a zombie apocalypse have risen with the discovery of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a parasitic infection that infects ants in which the parasites take over the ant's brains and basically turn them into little zombie ants. For many, this discovery has sparked fears the parasite could move into animal and human populations, basically bringing about the zombie apocalypse.
Cryptids and Other Creepy Critters
There is some argument over whether cryptids are, indeed, paranormal creatures, or if they are just species of animals that have not yet been discovered. This may not be as far-fetched as it sounds: most believed the okapi and the platypus were cryptids until someone brought forth physical evidence they existed.
The abominable snowman is said to live in the Himalayan mountain range. This creature is reportedly similar to Bigfoot, and is often referred to as a Yeti. Most descriptions suggest the beast as seven to eight feet tall, completely white and hairy. It walks like a man and vaguely resembles an ape. Scientists are still seeking credible evidence the Yeti is another unclassified animal species. For now, it remains in the realm of the paranormal.
Also known as Sasquatch, Bigfoot is perhaps one of the most well-known and widely-studied cryptids. Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University has studied Bigfoot and analyzed potential footprints for decades, and he believes articulations shown in the anatomy of the footprints suggest Bigfoot exists. However, Dr. Meldrum hypothesizes there is nothing paranormal about Bigfoot, rather it is an animal species that has not yet been documented scientifically enough to classify as a species. Others suggest Bigfoot is an interdimensional creature, planting it firmly in the realm of the paranormal.
Sightings of this fearsome creature are common in Texas, Mexico, and throughout Latin America. According to legend, the chupacabra is a blood sucking creature with an appearance similar to a dog or a lizard man (depending on the report), but much scarier and more dangerous. Reported sightings of chupacabra continue to this day throughout North and South America.
If you've ever watched the film The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere, you are familiar with Mothman. Supposedly, a winged creature that seemed half human was sighted numerous times around West Virginia during 1966. This being was reportedly connected to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant. There were those who swore the creature did exist, while others believed it to be a hoax. You decide!
Sea monster sightings are common in many of the large, deep bodies of water around the world. One of the most well-known commonly reported sea monster sighting is Nessie, or the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie is said to reside in the waters of Loch Ness. People who've reported sightings of the creature have said it is 40 or 50 feet long, although only partial sightings have been reported, such as a long back, head, or tail. Researchers have explored the possibility it is a type of aquatic dinosaur called a plesiosaur.
Elementals and Nature Sprites
Elementals are mythic beings that many believe truly exist interdimensionally and interact with the physical world on Earth. These are also often referred to as nature spirits or sprites, and the list encompasses a host of paranormal creatures.
A Banshee is a type of fairy from Irish folklore. If you lived in Ireland, you'd be quite familiar with it, but Western culture may not understand exactly what this creature is. While many disagree as to the form the Banshee takes, everyone who believes in its existence seems to know its purpose as a harbinger of death. The term "screamed like a Banshee" is taken from the creature's shrieking wail that is said to be heard from one town to the next. The Banshee's appearance usually comes in one of three forms: an ugly hag, a distinguished lady, or a young woman. No matter which form, the Banshee typically wears the same attire: a gray, hooded cape. It is said whoever it appears to will soon die.
Also known as the Fae, fairies are one of the most commonly recognized elementals. Storybook characters like Tinkerbell have captured the hearts of children for decades, and the love affair with fairies continues today. Are they real? They've existed for centuries through folklore, and writers like Shakespeare have featured them in plays and stories. While most people think fondly of fairies, few know some fairies aren't so loveable. In fact, fairies have been blamed for inhabiting the souls of children. What do you believe?
Even if you aren't Irish, you've probably heard the legend of the leprechaun. Many people are surprised to learn leprechauns are a type of fairy, and they are well-known tricksters. If you catch this little guy, he is supposed to be compelled to tell you where his pot of gold is hidden. In some cases, people blame items that have become lost or unexplainable events in the house on the mischievous behavior of a leprechaun as well.
Many people believe as humanity evolves, it is moving in a more spiritual direction. This is especially true in the discussion of two types of children many believe are currently being born.
Crystal children are human children with unique characteristics. Many believe crystal children started being born on Earth in the early 1990s, and they have traits uncommon to humans that came before them. Some of the traits include having spiritual healing powers and psychic abilities. These children tend to be empathic and sensitive, as well, far more so than any previous generations. It is believed they are here to help bring about the next stage of human evolution.
Author Lee Carroll has written several books about Indigo children, a group of human babies being born starting in the mid-1960s with unique traits. Many people believe indigo children are a new stage in human evolution - coming before crystal children, which are the next stage. Characteristics of indigo children include a strong sense of self-worth, non-conformity with society, high levels of empathy and curiosity, and a large degree of intuition.
More and more, "creatures" from various religious beliefs are also popping up as a field of paranormal research. Many researchers into the paranormal will tell you these fall outside of the realm of paranormal research as they are religious constructs. However, many people still consider them paranormal in nature.
Many religions have some type of an angelic creature. These supernatural beings are considered to be God's intermediaries on earth, and they are believed to step in and help humanity when it is needed. These are benevolent spiritual entities, and they are found in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, as well as in other religious traditions.
If you watch any paranormal television shows, you probably hear the word demon bandied about quite a bit. This term is usually used to describe any type of dark or evil spirit, and an entire branch of paranormal research has grown up around this belief, known as demonology. Many believe demons can possess people, causing them to behave in horrifying ways. The belief in demons comes from religious practices, and the Catholic church even has priests that specialize in exorcism, or removing demons from human hosts.
Are These Creatures Paranormal or Natural?
While paranormal creatures exist outside of the ability to measure and understand them, it may just be humans currently lack an understanding of the universe sufficient to explain their existence. Still, many reports around the world suggest there is something going on beyond current human understanding, so it's difficult to know whether these creatures are mythical, natural, or paranormal in nature.