Psychic house
Psychic house: Nick Douglas via Flickr

Clairalience is a term for what many believe is a genuine paranormal phenomenon (psi), usually described as a type of clairsentience.

Normally clairalience involves the smelling of odors and scents beyond the usual range of human perception.

Reports of clairalience could be grouped into three main types¹:

  • Smelling a familiar odor or scent associated with a loved one who’s passed

This usually happens sometime soon before, during or not too long after the loved one has passed.

Parapsychologists hypothesize that this type of clairalience takes place to warn, prepare or possibly reassure friends and family that their departed loved ones are still alive, possibly see them on Earth, but are mostly in another world.

  • Smelling a hellish, rancorous odor such as burning sulphur, or heavenly scent such as roses

Parapsychologists hypothesize that this type of clairalience warns of the dangers of hell and, conversely, reassures of the joys of heaven.

  • Smelling another living person or thing at a distance beyond the range of the normal senses. This may be further differentiated into distance smelling (a) a physical body or conventional environment or (b) a spiritual body, essence or subtle environment
Psychic Spell Breaker by Metrix X
Psychic Spell Breaker by Metrix X via Flickr

Parapsychologists hypothesize that type three takes place to teach us that all of creation is connected in some fundamental way, with the implication that we should strive to behave responsibly toward others, our planet and beyond.

As for the mysterious connecting principle implied by the idea of clairalience, tentative explanations arguably depend on the worldview of the theorist.

For instance, a Catholic might talk of The Holy Spirit (in the positive sense of, say, smelling roses while praying to the Virgin Mary) or Satan (in the negative, deceptive sense) whereas a sub-atomic physicist or futurist might invoke concepts like wormholes, quantum non-locality and quantum interconnectedness.

Meanwhile, a psychiatrist would likely want to check for physiological factors contributing to potential olfactory hallucinations (phantosmia) before considering the possibility of clairalience. And many individuals with a strong materialist bias might entirely dismiss the idea of psi and prefer to explain clairalience using a neuropsychological model.

To this Art Garza adds:

What sort of smells occur in your type three clairalience? And would the smells be all different or occur all at once? And as far as purpose goes, is there any purposed idea on what the individual smells mean? What are they smelling? the souls, essence, psyche… i know they are all related in some way but certainly there is a name which works best… personality? » See in context

Michael Clark replies:

I think you are pointing toward a distinction that could be made in type 3 between smelling at a distance (a) a living person’s spiritual essence or environment and (b) their physical body or environment. » See in context

¹ This observation is, in part, based on my volunteer work at


  1. What sort of smells occur in your type three clairalience? And would the smells be all different or occur all at once? And as far as purpose goes, is there any purposed idea on what the individual smells mean? What are they smelling? the souls, essence, psyche… i know they are all related in some way but certainly there is a name which works best… personality?


  2. Excellent comment. I think you are pointing toward a distinction that could be made in type 3 between smelling at a distance (a) a living person’s spiritual essence or environment and (b) their physical body or environment. I’ll have to work that in ASAP.

    Thank you!


  3. I have had many “episodes”, for lack of a better description, where I have experienced scents / smells that obviously were not coming from anywhere around me.

    Examples include the “not-so-pleasant” rotten eggs, a field of decaying flowers, as well as much more pleasant (and familial) scents.

    Do you know of anywhere that I can do more research about this? By the way, I have had the “brain scans” to check for epilepsy since that is what it was first thought to be. No epilepsy here…just “smells”.


  4. Well, I guess the question one should ask is whether or not it’s an “olfactory hallucination” (phantosmia) as some psychiatrists might put it.

    When you look at the above page I strongly suggest that you don’t jump the gun and instantly assume the worst.

    Often medical sites on the web alarm people when there is no reason to be alarmed. If you read the whole blurb from the above link, it says that what you’re experiencing could be caused by a variety of factors.

    But I would consult a good doctor, in any case, just to be sure.

    Now, if all the relevant tests prove that there’s nothing wrong with you physiologically, then you would probably be interested to look into the whole area of mysticism, do some reading, and see if you can make sense of what’s happening.

    This page should be a good launch pad for that:

    I hope this helps.


  5. It’s good to see I’m not the only one that’s had this happen to them, I only realised that this “freakish strong sense of smell” that I encounter from time to time isn’t just in my head and actuallly has a “word” given to it!

    I learned of the term from my sister who is a Medium when I experienced the most rancorous smell that one could not even imagine but could only be described as a pit of dead, rotting decaying bodies would smell like. I nearly drove myself insane running around the house trying to isolate it – it overpowered anything and everything – it just appeared out of the blue and then disappeared within about half to an hour later – out of the blue! I phoned my sister a few days later (who lives in another country) cause it just seemed so “unexplainable” only 2 options I thought, supernatural/spiritual OR insanity, and when I asked her about it, she validated it etc but getting pretty anxious cause after probing me to pinpointing the time & date, she “freaked out” realising that the smell would have been a “warning” to me so to speak about a loved one, cause at that time she was in huge danger from an obsessed fan (she is well-known) who actually practiced voodoo and black magic who had, at that time “taken over her body” while she was sleeping – the weirdo had tried various ways previously all with “hexes, curses and whatever” to get to her but prior it had only spooked and annoyed her, this one really really scared her, can’t imagine what that would feel like but I KNOW would terrify the hell out of me – but I was unbeknown to any of this. This would probably sound completly far fetched to most of you I’m sure, but it is true, I seriously would not be wasting my time – just thought if you have had this happen to you then you may find it interesting, hope it was.

    By the way does taste come under a similar category? Lke eating something that would normally be “YUM” but taste absolutely disgusting and revolts you – and just like the “smell”, is so completely “not of this world” that it’s made you stop and wonder, second guess and then come to the conclusion that it’s unexplainable, supernatural or insanity? Please if anyone can shed some light or maybe just a thought – thanks.


  6. Interesting account, thanks. In my view, people who practice the so-called dark arts probably try to capitalize on fear.

    I think evil loves fear, tries to generate and probably thrives on it. So the trick is, no matter how bad things may get from time to time, to just try to stay centered and not panic. I believe that’s one of the best ways to keep evil at bay. Also prayer can help because a person is relating to his or her creator, one far more powerful than any half-baked witch doctor, etc.

    While many spiritualists pooh pooh psychiatry, I believe it can be of assistance provided the doctor is competent. By this I mean it’s possible that unresolved complexes attract or present vulnerabilities for spiritual abuse. But inappropriate medicating by incompetent doctors, in my humble opinion, can just open the door for more spiritual abuse (we don’t need to look too far to think of a tragic example here).

    As for a specific term for the paranormal sense of taste, that’s a new one for me. I just found this:

    Means clear tasting – a psychic ability which enables someone experience a sense of taste associated with a spirit.

    And two more generalized definitions:

    The act or faculty of knowing or sensing something without the use of normal senses (e.g., sight, taste, feeling, smell, or hearing).

    sixth sense
    A power of perception independent of the five senses (touch, smell, sight, feeling, taste).



  7. Im having a hard time understanding some of the stuff on this site! im on this site looking for some kind of help i experience nasty rank smells and the latest is the smell of rotting flesh kinda like a dead animal, i will smell it strong and then its gone in seconds! also another one i experience is the smell of feces and again its there and its gone in seconds has anyone out there had this experience and if so what does it mean?


  8. Thank goodness I found this site; I thought I was going off my head. I have been getting this strange smell for about 2 months and its a smell I can’t pin point, a very strange smell that is no where around the house at all and nobody else can smell it. I am frequently woken up in the night by its over powering smell. I think its some sort of medical smell of an embrocation rub type stuff though I dont really know what it is. I keep thinking its my deceased dad trying to tell me I am not long for this world and they are waiting for me. Ive asked family to sniff round but none of them can smell what I do.


    • Thanks for your comment. My only suggestion is that you keep an open mind. Even if it is an extraordinary phenomenon, it might mean anything. I think a lot of people interpret these things according to their current outlook. Maybe sometimes they get it right and are not interpreting. But most of the time, I think that interpretation comes into play.


  9. I haven’t been able to find any similar experiences on the web to the one I’ve just encountered so I just thought I’d post it here and see if anyone else has something to add. My cat, Charlie, died three days ago after a long illness. She stopped bathing last November so for the last month she smelt pretty pungent – musty but distinctly Charlie-esque. I had rescued her from the pound 16 years ago and, as I work from home, I had been with her virtually every day since and had nursed her to the end. Naturally, I have been quite upset for the last few days. Yesterday, while washing dishes I was overcome by an intense Charlie smell. (she used to sit in the kitchen with me while I did the dishes). My first thought was, “it’s Charlie”, my second thought was “No, it can’t be, it must be the garbage,” so I took the garbage out and while doing so I recalled that after my grandmother died I kept getting wafts of her scent (even though I live in Hong Kong and she lived in the UK and had never visited my home here). Then today, while I was sitting at my desk I got the distinct Charlie odour again. It lasted about 40-60 seconds and then the air was fresh again. I washed her bedding after she died and I can’t say that there is any general cat or Charlie odour in the house. It’s just these very distinct and very brief occurrences.


  10. So….what I am wondering is this….I am clairavoyence…..I met a guy at work who is as well. When we got into the deep conversations he said I had a smell that was intoxicating and it wasn’t the perfume, it was my smell. He said he had noticed that he had been doing that lately and wanted to explore what it could mean. So, when people do these sorts of things with living people what do you think it could mean? Like for instance the scent he got from me was intoxicating, what if he got a scent from someone else that was stinky. I’m just curious as to what it means when someone smells the scent, what it means about that person.


  11. I know someone who stinks! I can’t even explain what the smell is but it’s really awful. It only started happening in July/August. It’s just this person and I can’t handle them being anywhere near me. I really believe I’m smelling a black soul. Any other suggestions?


    • I think this is such a mysterious and uncharted area for most of us that anything we say about it must be very tentative.

      Having said that, it’s possible that some souls are deep in sin or base materialism and thus “stink” spiritually to those with the ability to perceive that stink. But I think it’s also possible that some souls are just growing and developing. Think of a plant that needs manure to grow. The same may be true in the spiritual world. In some cases a soul might need a stinky spiritual environment to grow.

      I think “environment” is a good word to use here because it’s non-judgmental. Even if a person’s spiritual environment stinks (again, to those who believe they can perceive this), it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person associated with the stink is bad or evil. Think of, for instance, a public sanitation worker. He or she carries other people’s trash and does a vital public service every weekday. He or she probably stinks after work. But s/he isn’t the trash s/he lifts and carries all day. And so it could be with some folks on the spiritual level. They may carry (and perhaps somehow help to process) other people’s spiritual waste but, themselves, be very decent, loving people.

      Just some thoughts. Again, this is all very tentative, the topic representing a largely “undiscovered country.”


  12. uhm, what am I thinking – I’m thinking your page just clued me in – I’m on the Autism Spectrum, and thought I’d finally figured out my describing “smelling” things as clairalience – nope. Synesthesia – see, I can smell when people are lying, where they’ve been – yeah. I’m fucked… great. Well, keep on googlin’, cher moi-même, sure t’get discovered by some big bro frienz…


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