Welcome back to our series on magic, magicians, and the world of illusion!
Our next installment returns more to the realm of “magic” with regards to the supernatural, possibly a little scary, and unexplained phenomenon.
So grab your Ouija boards (or don’t?), and get ready to read a little bit about the world of paranormal magic.
What is paranormal magic? Paranormal magic is any kind of magic performance that can’t be explained by science, fact or logic. Typical examples of paranormal magic are Mentalism, Telepathy, Telekinesis, or Mind Reading.
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Paranormal Magic: a Little Bit About the Supernatural
There are a few different aspects of paranormal magic that come to mind when you invoke the name, but when it comes to paranormal activity and its magical subset, essentially paranormal magic is anything that involves supernatural activity, including the summoning of demons, ghosts, or communicating with those not currently on our mortal plane.
Another easy way to think about it is that paranormal magic is closely linked to the concepts of the Occult, which usually deals with magic and practices outside the realm of “accepted” practice and society.
In previous installments of this series, I have talked about occult magic and practices, most notably areas like Wicca, LaVeyan Satanism and the Church of Satan, and Black Magic.
In these practices, practitioners usually utilize summoning circles, rituals such as purification and invocations and evocations, and other practices to communicate with and, in many cases, summon beings from the “other realms” into ours for various reasons.
In previous articles, I’ve talked about how these reasons are often for the betterment of the person casting the spells in order to fulfill their destiny and achieve what they are meant to in this world, even if by doing so these spells harm others around them to diminish their ability to compete (hence why witchcraft and black magic have gotten a highly negative reputation over the years).
In some cases, like with psychics, tarot card readers, mentalists, and even people who plan and execute seances, people aim to summon ghosts or spirits because it brings them comfort to be able to “speak” to long-deceased relatives or to learn their future from a psychic or tarot reader.
It’s much the same as why some people believe in astrology and check their horoscope to make decisions about what to do in their lives; it’s not necessarily about the science behind it or even if it’s “real” or not, but it’s instead about the comfort it brings to people to know that there is a higher power driving their actions that have a “plan” for them.
If this sounds a bit like organized religion, well… let’s not forget that Wicca and the Church of Satan are organized religions as well.
But let’s dive into some more specific aspects of paranormal magic.
We’ll start with the performance aspect of paranormal magic, and if you think you know where I’m going with this, then… well, you just read my mind!
Mind Reading & Mentalism: The Bread and Butter of Paranormal Magic Performance
…ok, that was kind of a bad joke. But it’s a decent segue way into where we’re going next.
Paranormal activity or events are ones that, by definition, can’t be explained by science, facts, or logic.
And possibly the most prominent form of performance magic that relies on the magician seeming like he or she knows/can see or understand something that can’t be explained is mentalism, aka the mind reader or telepathic performer.
Take, for instance, this trick from the magician Spidey:
In it, he has two random audience members write a letter they are thinking of (“F” in this case) and the other member rolls a die into a cup and not look at the number that was rolled (a “2”).
Then, by asking a “magic bell” which letter and number were written/rolled, the bell correctly guessed both times.
From looking at the trick, Spidey certainly did not touch the ball, nor did he look the letter or under the cup; in that sense, this trick fits right into the realm of paranormal magic because, on the surface, it looks as though the bell is indeed “guessing” the information.
There is no immediate, logical explanation of the trick!
Now, obviously, given how mentalist performances like this work (as I’ve outlined in my previous pieces on mentalism and psychology of mentalist performances), it should be apparent by now that the bell doesn’t actually “know” the secrets lying beneath the cup or in the envelope, but the manner of the performance certainly makes it seem so (though admittedly, I couldn’t find an explanation of the trick, as most mentalists don’t reveal their secrets).
In so doing, the trick seems as though it cannot be explained; it is a true paranormal magic trick.
Another example of paranormal magic as performance is the Las Vegas show appropriately titled Paranormal, currently in residence at Bally’s.
Similarly, magician Frederic da Silva puts on memorable magic in the show in which – as noted in the site’s description – he can “read the minds” of his audience members to determine, for instance, what number they are thinking of and stop his watch at the corresponding time.
Much like Spidey and other magicians, the key to this kind of mentalism is to make it seem like there is no way that the trick could be done without “real” magic being involved (even though it’s not).
There are countless other magicians that operate this way, and while some magicians will never reveal their secrets, others such as Penn and Teller and Mark Edward are more than willing to help analyze these tricks for the general strategies behind how the tricks work (if you can watch that video I just linked to, the piece about the gumballs was especially interesting in how Oz Pearlman uses the sleight-of-hand and misdirection techniques to make his trick work).
However, there is the other aspect to paranormal magic that is arguably even more famous.
I’m talking, of course, about the ghost worlds and the spirit communications, the ones that horror movies are made of.
While there are many different elements of paranormal magic out there, there is one that has had a historical tendency to stand out among the rest…
The Ouija Board: What We Talk About When We Talk About Paranormal Magic
When we first started this article on paranormal magic and talked a little bit about summoning and the spirit world and unexplained phenomena, I’m willing to bet that a good number of you reading this had a similar thought: oh, you mean like the Ouija board?
Well, you may have also thought about the Ouija board because I made a reference to it early on and planted that suggestion in your head… you know, like a true mentalist would.
The Ouija board has long been the main staple of paranormal magic and the occult.
There have been many instances of “automatic writing” throughout history, but the specific Ouija board took shape in the late 1800’s and, in its early stages, was utilized by spiritualists looking to communicate with spirits and other occult beings.
However, when the Ouija board as we know it today was ultimately trademarked by Hasbro, it was only intended to be an innocent board game or parlor game; despite its potential intentions, it wasn’t supposed to be a “demonic” tool when it was first invented and patented.
But as we know, that’s not exactly the direction that the Ouija board took as time went on.
As more and more people began to utilize the Ouija board, the fact that two people could hold on to the planchette and, after being asked a question, the piece would begin to move almost by itself/with a mind of its own, it began to take on a more mystical, paranormal reputation of being able to communicate with the “other side.”
However, the Ouija board doesn’t really communicate with spirits; it operates by what is called the “ideomotor effect,” in which people make movements without even really thinking about them based on a primitive, basic-level brain function.
However, people have come to associate these subconscious movements and unconscious brain functions as a way to communicate with loved ones that you may have lost.
As noted in the Smithsonian article at the beginning of this section, we cannot forget that back when the Ouija board first became broadly used by the public (the late 1800’s), the average lifespan was quite a bit lower than it is today, so it would be a normal occurrence for a loved one to die young.
When that happened, naturally the deceased’s family and friends would want to try and communicate with him or her via a séance or, in this case, using an Ouija board.
Whether it really worked or not, it was still comforting to those who were grieving.
Paranormal Activity & Summoning (Demonology)
Of course, there are other elements to paranormal magic like the purported use of the Ouija board, and most of them have to do with communicating with those who have passed or possibly even summoning ghosts or spirits (or, in some cases, demons).
One of the most common ways that people attempt to communicate with the other side is through Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP.
In EVP, people use recording equipment to capture what is purported to be the voices of the deceased, often after being asked questions in a séance or similar ceremony.
Obviously, EVP is not considered to be a true form of science and its authenticity has always been in doubt, but it is once again a way for people to investigate paranormal activity and events in a way that is helpful or soothing to those who participate.
If you are missing a loved one and you believe a recording captures their voice, and this makes you happy, who is it hurting to believe that it is actually them?
Of course, we can’t talk about paranormal magic and the existence of spirits without briefly touching on demonology.
Demonology is, naturally, the study of demons in their many forms, and one of the many practices of Wicca, black magic, and similar religions is the practice of summoning demons to aid your personal causes.
People who believe in demon summoning, of course, have to be careful when doing so; like with many black magic-type practices, summoning a demon to your side is meant to help you achieve your goals, but demons are tricky and can potentially overpower you if you summon the wrong ones and don’t know how to control them.
I hoped you enjoyed our discussion of paranormal magic and the occult.
As always, thanks for reading!