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I ofter read the term "Psychotronic". What exactly does this mean and where does this term come from? It seems to be related to the Sci-Fi and Horror genres.

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2 Answers 2

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It is just a different version of the word "parapsychology"

From the Dictionary:

of or relating to a genre of usually low-budget movies that includes horror, fantasy, science-fiction, and underground films.

From Wiktionary:

From psyche + electronics, coined during the Iron Curtain decades after French term psychotronique attributed to engineer Fernand Clerc, who proposed it in November 1954's number of journal ‘Vie des Métiers’ (translatable as "Life of profession"), defining it as "use of thought and will" [...]

In the late 1960s the term was popular among parapsychology researchers of the socialist bloc (particularly Zdeněk Rejdák, a prolific Czech scientist), and admittedly used to dub the term parapsychology to avoid its negative connotations, "to advance parapsychology as a science" (as stated in the Constitution of the Parapsychological Association in 1957) and because apparently, other than the desired scientific aptitude and status it lacked the concept of energy, which is found now in the desinence electronics. The term was then popularized in the western world during the second half of the Cold War by science fiction and fears of mind control.

The Parapsychology itself is:

Parapsychology is the study of alleged psychic phenomena (extrasensory perception, as in telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, a.k.a. telekinesis, and psychometry) and other paranormal claims, for example related to near-death experiences, synchronicity, apparitional experiences, etc. It is considered to be pseudoscience by a vast majority of mainstream scientists, in part because, in addition to a lack of replicable empirical evidence, parapsychological claims simply cannot be true "unless the rest of science isn't."

So the movie can be called "psychotronic" if its plot revolves around telepathy, clairvoyance, mind control etc.

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  • Iam pretty sure most series in this list (imdb.com/search/keyword/?keywords=psychotronic-series) has nothing to do with parapsychology.
    – codymanix
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 23:36
  • @codymanix Jedi Force powers, Supernatural possessions, zombies (mind-altered humans), vampires (again - altered humans able to live eternally), magic - that all counts (quite broadly) as parapsychology
    – Yasskier
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 23:58
  • The list contains Baywatch, Miami Vice, 21 Jump Stree, McGyver, Walker texas ranger - What is psychotronic on these? I guess psychotronic only mean "contains scenes which could not happen in real".
    – codymanix
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 0:23
  • If I remember correctly, both "Texas ranger" had some Native American magic in it and McGyver had some magic and SF elements. Besides that - this list has not been created by an ISO committee but by a bunch of fans. I've seen serious discussion where people were declaring "Alien (1979)" is a religious horror with Xenomorph as a modern description of Satan and Ripley as an angel.
    – Yasskier
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 0:54
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There is some debate but often it is said that it starts with the 1979 movie The Psychotronic Man, which did actually include Psychotronic powers (which the answer from Yasskier touched on) in it's story line. Supposedly the term just stuck for low budget and/or cult Sci-Fi, Horror and exploitation.

In 1989 Michael J. Weldon started a magazine called Psychotronic Video, which cemented the term. He has said he used the term from the movie because he just liked how it sounded, originally naming his magazine Psychotronic TV, then changing it to Psychotronic Video.

Weldon gave a few different definitions, which essentially boil down to "sci-fi and horror" that includes "violence, sex, noise, and often mindless escapism".

TL;DR: Psychotronic is a field of parapsychology involving non-physical interaction with matter using a metaphysical energy, which lead to a cult film called the Psychotronic Man, which lead to a magazine called Psychotronic Video, which popularized the term in cinema.


Some fun reads for more info:

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