Ghost looking into crystal ball. While reading ghost hunting terms.

Terms Ghost-Hunters Use

Agent – (1) Person who attempts to communicate information to another in an ESP experiment. 

(2) The subject in a psychokinesis experiment. 

(3) Person who is the focus of poltergeist activity.

Alpha Rhythm – Electrical activity in the brain (about 10 cycles per second) associated with a state of mental relaxation.

Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) – A term used to refer to any state of consciousness that is different from “normal” states of waking or sleeping. ASCs include hypnosis, trance, ecstasy, psychedelic and meditative experiences. ASCs do not necessarily have paranormal features.

Apparition – The visual appearance of a person whose physical body is not present.

Apport / Asport – An apport is a solid object that seemingly appears from nowhere in the presence of a medium. Asport is any object the ‘spirits’ or medium makes disappear or teleports to another location.

Astral body – The body a person seems to occupy during an out-of-body experience.

Astral plane – A world some people believe exists above the physical world.

Astral projection – An out-of-body experience.

Astrology – A theory and practice which attempts to identify the ways in which astronomical events are correlated with events on earth.

Aura – A field that some psychics see surrounding the living body.

Automatic writing – Writing without being aware of the contents, as when a medium apparently transcribes written messages from disembodied spirits.

Automatism – Any unconscious and spontaneous muscular movement caused by ‘the spirits’. (Automatic writing).

Autoscopy – Seeing one’s ‘double’, or looking back at one’s own body from a position outside the body (OBE).

Bilocation – Being (or appearing to be) in two different places at the same time (similar to autoscopy).

Call – Response made by a subject in a card-guessing or other ESP test.

Card Guessing – An experimental test for ESP in which subjects guess the identity of a set of cards.

Case study – An in-depth investigation of an individual subject.

Cerebral Anoxia – Lack of oxygen to the brain, often causing sensory distortions and hallucinations. 

Sometimes used to explain features of the near-death experience.

Channeling – The process by which a medium apparently allows a spirit to communicate through his or her person.

Clairaudience – Auditory form of ESP (compare with Clairvoyance).

Clairsentience – Physical sensations (or smell) form of ESP. Sometimes used as a general term for clairvoyance and clairaudience.

Clairvoyance – A subset of ESP. The viewing of distant scenes not apparent to the eye, may appear externally – either replacing the normal visual scene (visions) or being incorporated into it (as could be the case with apparitions) – or internally, in the form of mental imagery and intuition.

Closed Deck – A set of cards used in a card-guessing test where each card appears a fixed number of times. Statistical analysis of research data using a closed deck differs from statistical analysis of data using an open-deck.

Cold reading – A technique using a series of general statements, questions, and answers that allows fake mediums, mind-readers, and magicians to obtain previously unknown information about a person. (Reader has no prior knowledge).

Collective apparition – An unusual type of ‘ghost’ sighting in which more than one person sees the same phenomenon.

Control – In experimental parapsychology a procedure undertaken in order to ensure that the experiment is conducted in a standard fashion and so that results are not unduly influenced by extraneous factors.

Control Group – A group of people whose performance is compared with that of experimental subjects.

Correlation – An association between two or more events or variables.

Correlation Coefficient – A mathematical index of the degree of association between two or more measures.

Crisis apparition – An apparition seen when the subject is at the point of death or is the victim of a serious illness or injury.

Cross-correspondences – Interrelated bits of information received from ‘the spirit world’ by different mediums at different times and locations. The communications must be joined together to form a complete message from ‘the spirit(s)’.

DAT – Decision Augmentation Theory. An attempt to reconceptualize PK as a precognition-based selection process rather than one of actual influence.

Decline Effect – A decrease in performance on a psi test when the test is repeated.

Déjà vu – The feeling of having experienced something before.

Dice Test – Experimental techniques for investigating psychokinesis, in which a subject attempts to influence the fall of dice.

Direct voice phenomenon (DVP) – A ‘spirit’ voice, spoken directly to sitters at a seance. The sound usually seems to come from a point near the medium, or through a spirit horn or trumpet, but not from the mouth of the medium.

Displacement – Responses on a psi test that correspond systematically to targets other than the intended one (those before or after).

Dissociation – Activity performed outside of normal conscious awareness, or mental processes that suggest the existence of separate centers of consciousness.

DMILS – Direct Mental Interaction with Living Systems. Used to denote instances where one person is attempting to influence a distant biological system, usually the physiology of another person. As it is unclear whether this represents an influence (PK), a case of ESP on the part of the influence, or an opportunistic selection process (see DAT), the term ‘interaction’ has been adopted.

Doppelganger – A mirror image or double of a person.

Double Blind – An experimental procedure in which neither the subject nor experimenter is aware of key features of the experiment.

Down Through Technique (DT) – An experimental test for clairvoyance in which the person guesses the order of a stacked series of target symbols (cards) from top to bottom. (opposite of up through technique).

Electrodermal response – A measure of skin conductance or resistance related to sympathetic nervous system arousal. This response can be elicited by external stimuli (a light, tone etc.), or by internal activity (e.g. emotions).

Electroencephalograph (EEG) – A device that monitors the electrical activity of the brain over time by means of recording electrodes attached to the surface of the scalp.

Electrooculograhph (EOG) – A device that records eye movement.

Empathy – Rarely used in modern parapsychology, the popular usage of this term refers to a low-level form of telepathy wherein the empath appears to be aware of the emotional state of a distant person. An empath may also be able to “broadcast” emotions to others.

Empiricism – The premise that knowledge should be acquired through observation.

ESP – Extrasensory perception. (receptive psychic) The ability to gain knowledge through means other than the five physical senses or logical inference.

Electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) – The capture of ‘spirit’ voices on magnetic tape as an audio recording. Many times, no sound is heard while the tape is recording. It’s only upon playback that the harsh, hushed voices can be heard.

Experiment – A test carried out under controlled conditions.

Experimental Group – A group of subjects who undergo a specific experimental procedure. Often results from this group are compared with those of a control group.

Experimental Parapsychology – Parapsychology research involving experimental methods rather than survey techniques or the investigation of spontaneous cases.

Experimenter – The person who conducts the experiment.

Experimenter Effect – Influence that the experimenter’s personality or behavior may have on the results of an experiment.

False Awakening – An experience in which a person believes he or she has woken up, but actually is still dreaming.

Forced choice experiment – An experiment in which the subject is forced to choose among an assortment of possible targets, such as the five ESP cards.

Free response experiment – An experiment in which the subject knows only the general nature of the target – for instance, that it is a picture – but not anything else.

Ganzfield experiment – An experiment where input from the outside world is reduced by placing halved ping-pong balls over the eyes and by masking external sounds (covering subject’s ears with headphones and playing white noise). A state of mild sensory deprivation.

General Extrasensory Perception (GESP) – ESP in which it is unclear whether the results are due to clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition or retrocognition.

Ghost – A form of apparition, usually the visual appearance of a deceased human’s ‘spirit soul’ or that of a crisis apparition.

Ghost hunt / Ghost investigation – A ghost hunt is an informal attempt to simply sight or record a ‘ghost’ in a location similar to others known to be haunted. A ghost investigation, on the other hand, is a carefully controlled research project, set up to record paranormal activity, usually at a location known, or presumed to be haunted.

Goat – A subject in an experiment who does not believe in the ability for which he or she is being tested.

Hallucination – Perception of sights, sounds, etc., that are not actually present. Ghosts, as we define them, are not hallucinations, because they have a real, external cause.

Haunting – Recurrent sounds of human activity, sightings of apparitions, and other psychic phenomena, in a location when no one is there physically.

Hit – A choice that proves correct.

Hot Reading – A reading given in which prior knowledge of the sitter has been obtained, often using devious or fraudulent means.

Hypnosis – State like sleep in which the subject acts only on external suggestion.

Illusion – A distorted perception of objects or events causing a discrepancy between what is perceived and what is reality. (sometimes confused with hallucination)

Incline Effect – An increase in performance on a psi test when the test is repeated.

Intuition – The non-paranormal ability to grasp the elements of a situation or to draw conclusions about complex events in ways that go beyond a purely rational or intellectual analysis.

Judge – Person who compares targets and responses in a psi experiment.

Kirlian Photography – A photographic method involving high frequency electric current, discovered by S.D. & V. Kirlian in the Soviet Union. Kirlian photographs often show colored halos or “auras” surrounding objects.

Laying on of hands – A process by which certain healers profess to be able to heal patients by touch.

Levitation – The lifting of physical objects by psychokinesis (PK).

Life Review – Flashback memories of the whole of a person’s life, often associated with the near-death experience.

Longbody – A web of living connections among people, places, and objects.

Lucid Dreaming – Dreaming in which the person is aware that the experience is a dream. Often associated with feelings of aliveness and freedom, and with the ability to control dream events.

Magnetometer (EMF detector, gaussmeter) – A device to measure the presence of a magnetic field as well as its strength, direction, and fluctuation. Paranormal researchers use the device in an attempt to detect a ghost’s magnetic or energy aura.

Mean Chance Expectation (MCE) – The most likely chance score in a psi test.

Medium – A person who professes to be able to communicate with spirits.

Medium (direct voice) – A trance medium who apparently acts as a transmitter for the voices of disembodied spirits.

Medium (materialization) – A medium who seems to be able to give physical form to the deceased from a substance called “ectoplasm”.

Medium (physical) – A medium who is the center of moving objects and other physical incidents supposedly caused by spirits.

Mesmerism – The induction of a sleep or trance state, discovered during the work of Friedrich Anton 

Mesmer, from whose name the word is derived. Also known as hypnotism.

Miss – A choice that proves incorrect.

Mist – A photographed anomaly (not seen at time of photo) that appears as a ‘blanket’ of light. Theory suggests that this is the appearance of a ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit’ of the dead. As with other photographed anomalies there is environmental issues that are of concern to the validity of their existence (moisture, reflection, dirty lens, etc.).

There has been no substantial proof that these are, or are related in any way, to ‘ghosts’ or paranormal behavior.

Motor automatism – Bodily movement of an intelligent and purposeful kind of which the person is not aware, as with automatic writing.

Necromancy / necromancer – A form of prophecy, in which the seer or sorcerer / sorceress raises the ‘spirit’ (not corporal remains) of the dead in order to have the wraith foretell future events. It was thought that upon entering eternity, the ‘spirit’ would have full knowledge of the past, present, and future.

NDE – Near-death experience – the out-of-body and other experiences people report having when they are close to death. Events within NDE include: an OBE, life review, a tunnel experience (drifting in darkness), encounters with guides (or angels), seeing dead relatives or friends, a moment of decision (or being told) to turn back.

Noise-reduction model – The idea that psi information may be more accessible if normal sensory information is reduced to a minimum (reducing sensory ‘noise’ to make the psi ‘signal’ clearer) (see Ganzfield experiment).

OBE – Out-of-body experience – the experience that the self is in a different location than the physical body.

Objective apparitions – Apparitions or phenomena that appear independent of our minds, thoughts, or feelings.

Occam’s Razor – The principle that we should always prefer the simplest explanation of events.

Open Deck – A series of cards used in a card guessing test where each card is chosen randomly and independently. This enables each target to be selected any number of times. Statistical analysis of research data using an open deck differs from statistical analysis of data using a closed deck.

Open Matching (OM) – A card guessing procedure in which key cards are placed face up on the table. The subject then places the unseen target cards in piles in front of each key card, according to their guesses.

Orb – A photographed (not seen at time of photo) anomaly that, in theory, represents an ongoing ‘spirit’ of a deceased person. It appears as a ball of light and may occasionally seem to be moving.

This is a highly controversial subject since there are many reasonable circumstances that identify this as environmental (dust, rain, snow, dirty lens, insects, 

reflection, lens flare etc.).

There has been no substantial proof that the balls of light are associated with ‘ghosts’, the dead or any paranormal behavior.

Ouija Board – A board pre-printed with letters, numerals, and words used by mediums to receive spirit communications. Usually a planchatte (palm-sized triangular platform) is employed to spell out words or point out numbers or letters. A game version of the Ouija board was mass-marketed as

OUIJA by Parker Brothers in 1966 and is currently distributed by Hasbro.

Paranormal – Above or outside the natural order of things as presently understood.

Parapsychology – The branch of science that studies psychic phenomena. (term coined by J.B. Rhine)

Percipient – A person who sees (i.e., perceives) an apparition or ghost.

Phenomenology – An approach to research that aims to describe and clarify a person’s own experience and understanding of an event or phenomenon.

Poltergeist – A German word meaning ‘noisy or rowdy ghost’ (see also RSPK).

Probability – The likelihood that results in a test were due to chance.

Process Research – Research that aims to investigate factors affecting psi.

Proof Research – Research that aims to demonstrate the existence of psi.

Psychical Research – Term coined in the late 19th century to refer to the scientific study of the

paranormal. Now largely superseded by ‘parapsychology’.

PK – Psychokinesis – (expressive psychic) the power of the mind to affect matter without physical contact.

PK (bio) – Psychokinetic influence of biological systems e.g. changing the physiological activity of a living system (see DMILS).

PK (deliberate) – Psychokinesis that occurs as a result of conscious effort by the person causing it.

PK (macro) – The effect of psychokinesis on objects in general.

PK (micro) – The effect of psychokinesis on random events such as random event generators (REGs).

PK (spontaneous) – Psychokinesis that occurs without conscious effort by the person who causes it.

PK (time-displaced) – The concept of psychokinesis going backward in time to affect events that have already taken place.

Place memory – Information about past events that apparently is stored in the physical environment.

Precognition – The ability to predict things beyond present knowledge.

Psi – A letter in the Greek alphabet that denotes psychic phenomena.

Psi hitting – A test performance significantly higher than expected by chance.

Psi missing – A test performance significantly lower than expected by chance.

Psyche – The Greek word for “self”, “mind”, or “soul”.

Psychic – A person with above average ESP abilities.

Psychic healing – A mode of healing affected by the psychic abilities of the healer.

Psychic surgery – The supposed ability to paranormally perform invasive surgery using no conventional medical tools.

Psychometry – ESP of events associated with inanimate objects.

Qualitative Method – A research method involving the collection of non-quantitative data (e.g., observations, interviews, subjective reports, case studies).

Quantitative Method – A research method involving the collection and statistical analysis of numerical data.

Radio voice phenomenon (RVP) – Receiving the voice of a deceased human being over a regular radio.

REG – Random event generator. A target selection machine that operates in a way that should be impossible to predict creating random events or random numbers. (same as Random Number Generator – RNG)

Remote viewing – (1)Another term for clairvoyance.(2)An ESP procedure in which a percipient attempts to become aware psychically of the experience of an agent who is at a distant, unknown target location.

REMs – Rapid eye movement during sleep that indicates dreaming.

Repressed psychokinetic energy – A theoretical psychic force produced, usually unconsciously, by an individual undergoing physical or mental trauma. When released, the power causes paranormal occurrences such as poltergeist activity.

Response – An action made by a subject in an experiment.

Response bias – Tendency of a subject to prefer particular responses.

Retroactive Psychokinesis – Paranormal influence that an agent can have on an experiment after it has been completed.

Retrocognition – A ‘time warp’ in which one finds themself in the past, seeing or experiencing events of which they had no prior knowledge.

RSPK – Recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis. A possible cause of apparent poltergeist activity.

Run – A set of trials in a psi test.

Sceptic (skeptic) – A person inclined to discount the reality of the paranormal and to be critical of parapsychological research. Generally seeks rational or scientific explanations for the phenomenon studied by parapsychologists.

Score – Number of hits in a psi test.

Scrying – A term used to cover a wide range of divination techniques which parapsychology would tend to classify as types of ESP. Most scrying techniques involve some degree of fixation on a

surface with a clear optical depth (crystal ball, a pool of ink or deep water) or on an area which shows

random patterns (flames in a fire, smoke), the idea being that subconscious information available to the scrying will be manifested in their interpretation of the imagery or random patterns they see.

Séance – A group of people who gather in an effort to communicate with the dead.

Series – A sequence of runs in a psi experiment.

Shaman – A ‘wizard’ in tribal societies who is an intermediary between the living, the dead, and the gods.

Sheep – A subject in an experiment who believes in the ability for which he or she is being tested.

Spirit photography – A spirit photograph captures the image of a ghost on film. Many of these are 

supposedly intended as a mere portrait of a living human being, but when the film is developed, an ethereal ghostly face or figure can be seen hovering near the subject. This may also incorporate orbs, vortexes, and mists to some degree.

Spirit theater – A term used by modern-day magicians to describe shows, acts, or tricks in which ghosts or other spirit activity are apparently produced.

Spiritualism – A belief system that ‘spirits’ of the dead can (and do) communicate with living humans in the material world. (Usually through a intermediary known as a medium).

Subjective apparitions – Apparitions or phenomena that are hallucinations created by our minds.

Supernatural – Something that exists or occurs through some means other than any known force in nature. As opposed to paranormal, the term ‘supernatural’ often connotes divine or demonic intervention.

Statistics – Mathematical techniques for analyzing and interpreting data.

Stigmata – Unexplained markings on a person’s body that correspond to the wounds of Christ.

Survey – A method of data collection that involves interviewing (or giving questionnaires to) a

representative and often large group of people.

Target object – In ESP, the object or event the subject attempts to perceive; in PK, the object or event the subject attempts to influence.

Telekinesis – Paranormal movement of objects.

Telepathy – The direct passing of information from one mind to another.

Teleportation – A kind of paranormal transportation in which an object is moved from one distinct location to another, often through a solid object such as a wall.

Temporal Lobe Activity – Electrical activity in the temporal lobes of the brain. Often associated with strange sensations, time distortions and hallucinations. Sometimes used as an explanation for seemingly paranormal experiences such as apparitions.

Thought form – An apparition produced by the power of the human mind.

Trance – A sleeplike state in which there is a change of consciousness.

Trial – In psi tests, a single attempt to demonstrate paranormal ability (e.g., one attempt to guess a card or one attempt to influence the fall of the dice).

Up Through Technique – An experimental test for clairvoyance in which the subject guesses the order of a stacked series of target symbols (cards) from bottom to top.

Vortex (vortice) – A photographed anomaly that appears as a funnel or rope-like image (sometimes creating a shadow) that is not seen at the time of the photograph that supposedly represents a ‘ghost’. Other theories include; a collection of orbs, a ‘gateway’ to where orbs originate or travel to or a wormhole in time-space.

No substantial evidence has been found for any of these theories.

White noise – A hiss-like sound, formed by compiling all audible frequencies (used in Ganzfield experiments).

Zener Cards – Set of 25 cards (5 each of circle, square, Greek cross, five-pointed star, three wavy lines) designed by the perceptual psychologist Karl

Zener for use in card-guessing tests of ESP. (also known as ESP cards).

This by no means is a complete dictionary of terminology. This is meant to provide you with pertinent words to aid in the basic understanding of parapsychology and the ghost hunting world.

Information for this glossary taken from Michael Daniels, PhD., Psychic Connections: A Journey Into the Mysterious World of Psi by Lois Duncan and William Roll, PhD.(Bantam Doubleday Dell Books, 1995),

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings by Tom Ogden (Alpha Books 1999), Psychology Themes and Varia

This by no means is a complete dictionary of terminology. This is meant to provide youtions second edition Wayne Weiten (Brooks/Cole Publishing 1989)

Thank You  with pertinent words to aid in the basic understanding of parapsychology and the ghost hunting world.

Information for this glossary taken from Michael Daniels, PhD., Psychic Connections: A Journey Into the Mysterious World of Psi by Lois Duncan and William Roll, PhD.(Bantam Doubleday Dell Books, 1995),

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings by Tom Ogden (Alpha Books 1999), Psychology Themes and Variations second edition Wayne Weiten (Brooks/Cole Publishing 1989)

Cemetery Terms

Burial ground A cemetery containing the remains of Native Americans. Catacomb A Roman underground burial ground where Christians formerly indulged in symbolic cannibalism among the proscribed bodies of friends, relatives, and villagers. Now used to name any underground burial ground with walking space, including the basements of mausoleums and the sewers of Paris.Cemetery A burial ground containing the remains of non-Native Americans. The term is derived from the Greek koimeterion, literally a “sleeping place” or “dormitory.” Just like college housing directors, cemetery operators seek to cram as many bodies into as little space as they can.

Cemetery decorations and upkeep, however, are usually much superior to those of dormitories and seldom subjected to damage by the residents.

Cenotaph Literally “an empty tomb.” A memorial in honor of a deceased person who is interred elsewhere. Columbarium A columbarium was originally a dovecote. Modern morticians gave the name to a building with hundreds of little niches in the wall for urns holding cremated remains.

Contumulation The sharing of a grave or a tomb.

Crematorium A facility for reducing nonfunctional human bodies into carbon, steam, and assorted air pollutants.

Cremationists are people who advocate the practice. A cremator is an individual who actually loads the body into the furnace and scoops out the residue; it can also refer to the furnace Cromlech A Welsh dolmen. Literally and paradoxically, “a curved flat-rock.” 

Crypt A concrete enclosure for interment. Mausoleum crypts are generally above ground and in buildings.

Crypts in garden mausoleums also are usually above ground but are open to the outside rather than being in an enclosed building. Types of crypts are Mausoleum Crypt – interior; Garden Crypt – exterior; Lawn Crypt – below ground.

Dolmen Any Neolithic monument consisting of a large, flat stone supported by two or more rocks (like a table). It used to be believed that such monuments were altars for human sacrifice or cannibal feasts. With the advent of modern-day grave-robbing and archaeology, dolmen were discovered inside of burial mounds with the supposed meal underneath the table.

Science concluded that they formed a vault and supposed that exposed versions were incomplete tombs or windblown remains.

Cromlechs and dolmen are the same things, but since French is considered more chíc than Welsh, the scientific community prefers the latter term these days.

Epitaph Originally a funeral oration (in Latin, epitaphium) which, being a speech made by the living, was said: “over the tomb.” 

Footstone A stone marking the foot of a grave

Gravestone A stone that marks a grave Gravestone A stone that marks a grave

Headstone A memorial stone set at the head of a grave Inter To bury or put a dead body into a grave

Lawn crypt A pre-placed enclosed chamber, which is usually constructed of reinforced concrete, poured in place or precast unit installed in quantity, either side by side or multiple depths, and covered by earth or sod and may be known as a garden crypt.

Lich A quaint old term meaning “body,” either living or dead. Lich is a fine Old English term that inspired many hyphenated constructions like:

 lich-bell (a bell rung before the corpse), lich-gate (the covered entrance to a cemetery where mourners waited for the arrival of the clergyman who was to conduct the graveside service),

lich-house (a mortuary)

Lich-lay (a tax to provide for churchyards), lich-rest (a grave), and lich-stone (a stone upon which a body could be placed to give the pall-bearers a rest).

Old English law held that whatever way a lich passed became a lich-way or a public thoroughfare. This undoubtedly was a reason for survivors living at the end of private roads on secluded estates to feel contempt towards the deceased.

The practice has been discontinued. Mausoleum Named for Mausolus, King of Caria, whose wife, Artemisia, built one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

A chamber or structure used or intended to be used for entombment. A building that houses crypts for burial.

A community mausoleum is for many families, and a private mausoleum is generally sold for the use of a single-family.

Megalith A “big rock.” Most famous megaliths are not sepulchral. Memorial – Cenotaph.

The physical identification of interment space. Generally has at least the name, date of birth, and date of death of the deceased and may include an epitaph or commemoration of the deceased person’s life, deeds, or career.

Memorial park A cemetery which has adopted a park-like style and abolished the use of upright memorials. As envisioned by Hubert Eaton, who coined the term, a memorial park has “sweeping lawns” and must also be inspirational, “

Memorial service A ceremony commemorating the deceased without the remains present. Monument An upright memorial, including what used to be called a tombstone, also includes large structures like obelisks, usually made from granite.

Niche A space within a columbarium used or intended to be used for the inurnment of cremated remains.

Obelisk Though the name is derived from the Greek obelisks, meaning “a small spit,” Ossuary is The elegant way to say “bone-pit” or “charnel house.”

Outer burial container A container that is designed for placement in the grave space around the casket including, but not limited to, containers commonly known as burial vaults, grave boxes, and grave liners.

Placophobia Fear of tombstones. Other notable cemetery dreads include taphephobia (fear of being buried alive) and necrophobia (fear of dead things).

Plat/plot A small piece of ground Polyandrium A cemetery. Originally a cemetery for the victims of great battles. See also taphophile.

Potter’s fields A cemetery for paupers. The term came from Matthew 27:7 when the chief priests determined what to do with the thirty pieces of silver returned by Judas: “So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.”

Pyre A ceremonial construction made of wood and fire, designed to reduce a corpse to ashes.

Reliquary, a container for the preservation of relics of a saint.

Sarcophagus Early sarcophagi were made of limestone, a flesh-eating stone which, when carved in the shape of a coffin, quickly disposed of the corpse so that the monument could be used for another family member.

Modern sarcophagi are made of granite or other fasting stone Sepulchre The Latin sepulcrum meant only “a burial place.”

Taphophile One who loves cemeteries and funerals. Taphophiles show an interest in the trappings of death:

See also phagophobia. Tomb, The Greeks, called the swollen ground or mound, which marked gravesites a tumulus.

Tombs take many forms, and the word is now synonymous with the grave. Vault Cemetery vaults are underground tombs.

The word comes from the Latin uoluere, which suggests a turning, referring in the case of vaults to the curving roof of the structure.

Vivisepulture Burial alive. By implication, an enforced fast unto death.

Wake The Irish practice of watching over the body by candlelight the night before the funeral and the often wild feasting which follows. This may have developed simply because mistakes sometimes happened.

The purpose of the wake, therefore, was to ensure that the deceased was truly dead.

Will A legal document allows its creator a limited afterlife during which it may choose to placate, amuse, gratify, or anger the survivors.

TYPES OF GRANITE HEADSTONES There are basic types and styles which we would like to share with you.

1. Grave Markers…Also called Flush or Grass Markers. 

2. Bevel Markers- These markers are similar to flush markers, only they are slightly slanted up towards the back anywhere from 2″-4 ” higher. 

3. 2 Piece Die and Base – Also called Upright Headstones. These are 2 separate pieces a vertical tablet and a granite base it sits atop. They are not bolted together. Instead, the tablet sits on the base and is sometimes caulked or epoxied. 

4. Slant Markers – These come in 2 general types: A western-style where the face of the slant is polished all the way down to the bottom of the marker, and Slants with Nosing -the bottom of the polished face of the marker is cut perpendicular for the bottom few inches.

5. Family Plot Monuments- These are upright headstones that are generally very large intended to be for entire families.

Sometimes only the Family Name is Engraved in the Monument, with footstones placed for each family member.

DESIGN STYLES Laser Etch Headstones – This is the process where either an artist by hand or a computerized etcher takes a diamond pointed tip and etches into the granite piercing the polished surface.

This allows much more detail than sandblasting and, in some cases, can even duplicate pictures to photo quality. These designs are almost always better done on darker granite headstones since where the contrast of etching and polished granite is more pronounced and more detail is shown.

Sandblast Design Headstones – this is where a stencil is cut and taped to the headstone, where the design and letters are sandblasted into the granite. This is the more traditional type of design technique used on lighter granite, and when the design and lettering are best cut deeper into the granite.

Hand-carved Design Headstones – This is done by an artisan who, by hand and chisel, carves out deep designs such as religious figures or roses for a 3-dimensional look of beauty.

Die – The main part of the Headstone Base is the bottom part of a 2 piece Headstone, which sits under the die.

Marker, Grave Marker, Grass Marker, Flat Marker – A headstone that lies flat on the ground usually made of granite or bronze.

 Monolith – A single headstone without a base. Polished – A high glass finish, when followed by a number 1,2,3, or 5, refers to the number of polished sides.

Varied Tops of Dies Serpentine – A raised curved surface in the top of the Headstone  Flat top – Top of the Headstone is flat Two-way cut – The two sides of the top of the Headstone peak at the center.

Gothic – A convex top that rounds up to a peak on the centerline.

Oval Top – A half curve top of the Headstone Apex – The top of a die sloping upwards to a point from the four sides.

 Roof Top or Ridge Top – Slopes up from front and back and peaks at the center top Axed – a surface dressed with a bush hammer.

 Frosted Panel – The removal of the high polish by sand-blasting, usually to make lettering boxes.

Polished – A high glass finish, when followed by a number 1,2, 3, or 5, refers to the number of polished sides of the headstone.

Steeled – A smooth but not highly polished surface on the Base.

Sawn Edges – Edges of usually Grave Markers or Bases that are straight cut and not rough rocked cuts.

 Ledger or Slab – A flat memorial placed full length on the ground, usually covering the whole grave.

Western Slant Marker – The front face of the Slant Marker goes straight to down the entire face of the marker.

Front Nosing Slant Marker – The perpendicular facing on the front bottom of the marker. 

Headstone Symbols

Anchor is one of many cemetery terms

Early Christians used the anchor as a disguised cross and as a marker to guide the way to secret meeting places. A Christian symbol of hope is found as funerary symbolism in the art of the catacombs. Often set amongst rocks. It can also be an occupational symbol in sea-faring areas or Saint Nicholas’ attribute, patron saint of seamen, symbolized hope and steadfastness. An anchor with a broken chain stands for the cessation of life. Angels 

The agent of God, often pointing towards heaven; guardians of the dead, symbolizing spirituality. 

Angels are shown in all types of poses with different symbolism. Two angels can be named and are identified by the objects they carry: Michael, who bears a sword, and Gabriel, who is depicted with a horn. 


Books remind us that tombstones are documents bearing vital statistics and epitaphs concerning the deceased. Books may be open, possibly to signify that the stone is a kind of biography, or closed in recognition that the story of the dead is over. The book on a tombstone may be The Book or 

The Bible. Arabic characters identify the book like the Koran. This identification can be clinched by the presence of a citation (e.g., John 19:14) or an actual line of scripture. 


The soul. It is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ. The meaning is derived from the three stages of the butterfly’s life, the chrysalis, and the butterfly. The three stages are symbols of life, death, and resurrection. 


Candles stand for the spirit or the soul. In Christian contexts, candles can symbolize Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Catholics often leave candles on the grave to show that prayers have been said for the deceased. 


Medieval thinkers sometimes held that a golden chain bound the soul to the body. Broken links on a headstone can mean the severance and subsequent release of the spirit from the body. This association can be clinched by observing the letters IOOF or FLT (Friendship, Love, Truth) either inside or near the chain. Chains are also the insignia of the International Order of Odd Fellows because of their dedication to giving the poor decent burials. 


The chalice often appears in association with a white circle representing the consecrated Eucharist. The two items combine to signify the Catholic rite of Holy Communion. The headstones of priests often bear these objects. 


Christianity. Usually mounted on three steps, signifying ‘faith, hope, and charity. The most potent symbol of the Christian faith is the cross used for religious and ornamental purposes. The Aztecs symbolized the God of rain, the Scandinavians set them up as boundary markers, and they found two buns marked with a cross at the ancient Egyptian site of Herculaneum. 


The innocence of a child, Jesus the Infant, youth, the Son of righteousness, gentleness, purity of thought. 


Dogs often appear at medieval women’s feet, signifying loyalty and inferior place in the chivalric order. Modern dogs only imply that the master was worth loving. 


Christianity, divine sacrifice, the triumph of eternal life, resurrection. 


The little bird appears in both Christian (usually Catholic) and Jewish cemeteries, representing some of the same and some different things in each. Catholics usually see the dove (which makes its first Biblical appearance in Genesis carrying an olive branch for Noah). Jews interpret the dove as a peace symbol. The biblical allusion to the dove also suggests a connectedness with the earth and its color, white, representing Europeans, purity, and spirituality. 


For the Chinese, the dragon is an emblem of Imperial Power, which has brought the Universe into its thrall. It also stands for the Universe itself, a chaotic force that none of us can truly master. 


When the body lay in state in the parlor, it was the custom to cover everything in black. 

Draperies, with their fancy frills and tassels, are more elaborate than a simple shroud. They allow the expression of mourning to linger long after the body has been taken out the front door and the accouterments have been stowed for the next death in the family. Curtains can also set the stage. 

Parted, they reveal a telling excerpt. What is important in such displays is the main actor or central object of the stone. 


Stylized hearts stand for the affection of the living for the dead. Two joined hearts on a stone mark a marriage. 


People used to believe that holly bushes protected tombs and other monuments from lightning strikes. 


Ivy springs up naturally to cover English tombs, but Americans who transplanted it to their graveyards decided that it meant friendship and, like most cemetery plants, also immortality. 


The lamb always stands for innocence. It usually marks the grave of a child. Christians go a little further and associate it with the Lamb of God, meaning Jesus. 


Like other guardians, the lion’s watch is as eternal as the stone it is depicted. It symbolizes the power of God and guards the tomb against evil spirits. The lion also recalls the courage and determination of the souls, which they guard; they manifest the departed spirit. Usually marks the grave of a child. The lamb always stands for innocence. Christians go a little further and associate it with the Lamb of God, meaning Jesus. 


Chastity, innocence, and purity. A favored funeral flower of the Victorians. Joseph is often depicted holding a lily branch to indicate that his wife Mary was a virgin. The first lily sprang forth from Eve’s repentant tears as she went forth from Paradise in tradition. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death. 


A large variety, called cempasuchitl, enjoys a special association with Mexico’s Day of the Dead, mostly because of its availability in that season. 

Marigolds decorate the graves in the form of crosses and arches and form trails to lead the souls of the dead to a home altar set with their favorite foods, photos, and other pleasantries hard to obtain in the afterlife. 


This parasite’s marvelous ability to sustain itself far above the ground lent to the Druidic belief that it was a sacred plant and an ingredient of immortality. They also used the “golden bough” in animal sacrifices. The Norse God Balder lost his immortality when a mistletoe-tipped spear pierced him. 


The Oak Tree stands for hospitality, stability, strength, honor, eternity, endurance, liberty. It is believed to have been the tree from which Jesus Christ’s cross was made. In smaller pioneer cemeteries, it is common to place children’s graves near oak trees. The oak, oak leaves, and acorn can stand for power, authority, and victory. They are often seen on military tombs. 


Spiritual victory, success, eternal peace, a symbol of Christ’s victory of death as associated with Easter. 


Intimations of immortality ooze from the very sap of the pine tree. The cone, for example, ensures the perpetuity of life’s renewal. However, pine boxes were used as coffins in the Wild West simply because the wood was so plentiful. 


Love, beauty, hope, and unfailing love are associated with the Virgin Mary, the “rose without thorns.” A red rose symbolizes martyrdom and a white rose symbolizes purity and virginity. Whether the rose is a bud, flower, or somewhere between indicates how old the person was at the time of death: Just a bud – normally a child 12 or under Partial bloom – normally a teenager Full bloom – normally in early/mid-twenties. The deceased died in the prime of life Rosebud, broken – a life cut short, usually found with a young person’s grave. 

Sacred Heart of Jesus

An image unique to Catholics. The Sacred Heart is shown containing wounds to which Crist points and a crown of thorns surrounds it. The heart represents the suffering of Jesus for our sins. Prayers to the 

Sacred Hearts are said to be efficacious for the release of souls from Purgatory. 


A symbol of life and time. A scroll of uncertain length and the past and future are hidden and often held by a hand representing life being recorded by angels. Both ends rolled up to indicate an unfolding life. It can also suggest honor and commemoration. 

Star of David 

Six-pointed star or Star of David, also known as Magen David (Hebrew for the shield of 

David), it is typically used as a symbol of Judaism. The star is actually made of two triangles. It signifies divine protection as epitomized by the alchemist signs for fire and water, upward and downward apexed triangles. The star is a very ancient symbol used by several Asia Minor cultures and some Greek city-states. For Judaism, the Star of David came into widespread use at the beginning of the 20th century. Theodore Hertzel, a Jewish activist, adopted the symbol in his writings, promoting Palestine as a Jewish homeland. 


Until the church banned such things, most people were buried at night. Torches furnished the light, allowing the gravediggers to see and the bearers to scare off evil spirits and nocturnal scavengers. Lit, the torch signifies life — even eternal life. Extinguished, it stands for death. It can also stand for living memory and eternal life (e.g., an eternal flame). 

Wheat, like barley, was associated with the Egyptian cult of Osiris. After a period of stillness, the death of a grain crop is followed by the re-sowing and germination of the seeds. 

Though no corpses have produced new people, tombstone carvers still employ the ear of wheat as a symbol of rebirth. Convent bakers use wheat flour to make communion wafers, making it a holy plant of sorts, fit to grace the tombstone of a priest.