SHADY SIDE -- To some people, the word parapsychology might conjure up images of Ouija boards, tarot cards and gaunt-eyed psychics bending forks with mind power.
But to the Rev. William Theodore Swager and his wife, Lois, founders of the Spiritual Research and Development Institute in Shady Side, it's much more serious than that.
"Psychic phenomenon have a power that can swallow you up. . . . When you start telling your unconscious you're willing to listen, it might send you information to shake you out of your shoes," he said.
Mr. Swager defines parapsychology as the "study, evaluation and application of the psychic energy within every human being -- related alongside the study of psychology."
They started the institute in July after he retired from the United Methodist Church. The Swagers travel to private homes for gatherings, but are looking for a permanent meeting place.
"We want a place where larger groups can come out for retreats, and psychologists and experts can teach and lecture on the subject," he said.
The institute is dedicated to studying how religion, psychology and parapsychology relate to spiritual experiences and existence, Mr. Swager said.
"We want to help people derive out of that research process a developmental process that helps them become more whole and spiritual," he said.
Through the institute, Mr. Swager said he wants to help people find the spiritual meanings of their dreams and paranormal experiences, as part of a self-healing and personal growth process.
"It's so that people don't get swallowed up in the psychic phenomenon, and keep traveling that spiritual path toward a relation with the divine," he said.