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Déjà Vu, Jamais Vu, and Presque Vu in Paranormal Investigations

During their lifetime most people have heard about and most likely experienced déjà vu at some point. Have you ever heard of or experienced jamais vu or presque vu? Presque vu is more common than déjà vu (and when I explain it you will agree it has happened to you countless times), however jamais vu is much less common than the other two. Today we will discuss what these three situations, whose names originated from the French language, what they are and how they can come into play during a science based paranormal investigation.

We will first start off with the most commonly recognized of the three which is déjà vu pronounced “day-ja-voo”. Translated from french déjà vu means “already seen”. Experiencing déjà vu is the feeling of uncanny situational repetition in the here and now, as if you had experienced the situation identically at a previous time. The list of possible permutations where this can occur are endless, however I will list a few examples of when déjà vu could be present.

  1. You are at a restaurant with a small group of friends. The conversation between everyone is fluidly moving from topic to topic. At one point one of your friends says something followed by another friend who speaks and you are struck with a feeling that you strongly remember the two of them speaking the exact words with the same inflection and tone of voice during some time in the past. You are convinced that it has happened before, however you can’t remotely recall when or where this had occurred. You experience an overwhelming sensation of repetition and familiarity. You rack your brain trying to remember where and when this occurred in the past, however you can’t remotely remember a previous time when the series of events had occurred.
  2. You take your dog out for a walk and the dog stops at their favorite tree to relieve themselves. You look up and see a homeowner across the street mowing their lawn and the lawn mower sputters to a stop and the homeowner speaks some curse words to themself. You have an adrenaline rush from déjà vu as you feel that you have lived this identical scenario in the past, however you can’t fathom when this had occurred. You wonder if it was a precognition event in a dream, as the homeowner is new to the house. Could a similar situation have happened with the previous owner of the house and your interpreting it as identical? Could it have happened in a movie or on a tv show that you saw once long ago and this happenstance triggered the feeling of repetition?
  3. You have recently become enamored with a new television show. One night you sit down with a bowl of popped popping corn and a drink to enjoy a new episode that hasn’t ever been shown before. During the episode there is a car chase. During this car chase there are a small series of turns and dialogue that triggers the feeling of déjà vu. You whole heartedly believe that you have seen these characters on the tv show complete the same series of events before, but it is impossible as it is a brand new episode. Why are you feeling a strong sense of familiar repetition when this is a brand new episode? Are you recalling a similar series of events in a different television show or movie that you once saw long ago? Did you have a dream where the series of events occurred? You are sure that this is something that you have seen before, and can’t figure out why because this is a new television episode that you couldn’t have possibly seen before.

Experiencing déjà vu can be unnerving as it can start a thought process for many people where they try to figure out where and when the situation has occurred before, but in most cases can’t come up with a possible scenario. This can lead to frustration in some people. In some cases people will become convinced that they have a gift of precognition clairvoyance. For other people they are able to write it off as perhaps the situation was something they once saw on television, or it was a similar situation with different participants and they are satisfied that they just can’t remember any specifics. Déjà vu can be both an enjoyable or a concerning feeling depending on how you interpret it.

In many paranormal cases during client interviews you will come across situations where client has experienced a form of déjà vu. They are convinced that they are seeing the future during dreams or waking visions. With others they may believe it is some sort of spirit communication. Some people may choose to believe that they are having past life memories. For other people, especially if it happens multiple times, they may choose to interpret the feeling as something paranormal in nature when it isn’t something paranormal at all. I remember I had a client case where someone had convinced themselves their place was haunted due to a few experiences of déjà vu in a short period of time. They were sure that there was a paranormal entity that was trying to communicate with them through the use of precognitive visions. After a lengthy client interview I felt that the person was going through a particular stressful time in their lives and was suffering from adrenal fatigue. I told them that I don’t believe they were experiencing paranormal activity and that their sustained level of high stress was causing issues with their biochemistry and that it may be best to seek out an endocrinologist to get an educated professional opinion. I can only guess that may have been the situation as I didn’t receive any further communications from the person to continue a paranormal investigation. Being a paranormal investigator isn’t just grabbing a few pieces of equipment and running to a location to see if it is haunted. It is imperative to have at least a basic understanding of a wide array of human behavior and possible medical causes so you are able to give the best possible advice to your client, and not lead them down the wrong path.

Some scientific evidence has shown that up to 70% of people have experienced déjà vu at some point during their lives. While experts in the medical field haven’t pinpointed a cause of this sensation, as it is very difficult to study, there are some theories that are prevalent.

Firstly, there is something called split perception. You may have seen something in the past in your peripheral vision and only subconsciously processed it. Now when you see something right in front of you that triggers déjà vu you feel a strong sense of repetition, but can’t remotely remember the previous situation as it was something remembered subconsciously. 

Secondly, it is simply a situation of the inability to recall a memory whether identical or similar in nature. Every day we experience more things than we could ever possibly remember in their entirety and over the course of a lifetime you are bound to experience similar situations at some point which trigger a feeling of familiarity without your ability or recall the original situation,

Thirdly, there is the possibility of very minor malfunctions in your normal brain activity where you have what could be synonymously yet unscientifically referred to as a brain glitch. This could be a situation where both your memory center and current recognition work in concert at the same time leading to the feeling of déjà vu. Basically your brain misinterprets something new as something that you may have experienced once before.

Fourthly, some people who suffer from epilepsy will have a sense of déjà vu just before a seizure.

The more paranormal explanations I already discussed earlier on in this blog post.

Now lets discuss jamais vu, pronounced “juh-may-vu” which is the counterpart to déjà vu. When experiencing jamais vu you are in a situation that you repeat quite often, however one time it feels very foreign to you. Translated from French jamais vu means “never seen”. Here are some examples of jamais vu.

  1. Let’s suppose that every morning you follow the same routine. Your alarm sounds at 7:30am and after allowing for a few minutes for the brain fog to lift you get up and use the restroom. You then brush your teeth and immediately check on your children, and then your pets. You typically then check your phone for text messages and email while you drink a cup of coffee that automatically brews at 715am so it is ready for you when you get out of bed. You follow this routine 7 days a week and have done so for years. One day out of the blue you have a strong feeling of jamais vu, the feeling that the routine isn’t familiar when you know it is something that you have done countless times before. It feels as if it is the first time that you have done the routine, knowing you have done it countless times before. It is an uneasy feeling as it feels foreign to you even though it should feel very familiar.
  2. You work at a factory and your responsibilities on an assembly line are very repetitious. You perform the same task for eight hours a day, five days a week, and have done so for a few years. One day you have been at work for several hours and just as you begin your routine on an item on the assembly line as you have done thousands of times before you sense a strong feeling of jamais vu, and what you are doing seems like something that you are doing for the first time, even though it is an action that you have performed countless times before. The feeling is very distracting and you may make mistakes in your procedures that you have engaged in more times than you can count.
  3. You are in the middle of an hour long drive that you make once or twice a month to visit a close friend. You have made this drive a hundred times before. Metaphorically speaking you make the trip with your eyes closed. You know every turn, the timing of every traffic light, the location of every stop sign, and recognize dozens of landmarks along the way. You are excited to see your friend on one of your routine drives. You pass very familiar landmarks and are struck with the feeling of jamais vu. You know that you are very familiar with the area, but interpret a strong feeling as one of the area being alien to you. This feeling throws you off your routine and you make a wrong turn which further increases your anxiety as you aren’t familiar with what you are seeing.

So what causes jamais vu? In most cases jamais vu is simply brain fatigue from repetition and is harmless, yet very unnerving. Here is an example of how you may easily trigger that feeling. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Repetitiously write the same word over and over again dozens of times, at some point you have a better than 60% chance of feeling jamais vu where you start questioning whether you are spelling the word correctly as it begins to seem incorrect even though you are spelling the word properly. Medically, just like déjà vu, it is something that can be experienced by those who suffer from epilepsy.

While not as often occurring as déjà vu, you will occasionally hear clients speak of unfamiliarity with situations in their life even though they are repetitious. Often times people will misinterpret that it is something paranormal in nature whether due to indirect paranormal influence or believing that a paranormal entity has entered their body and what they are feeling is something that is unfamiliar to a paranormal entity that has connected with them. Again, in most cases jamais vu is harmless and is caused by repetition and not something external or medical, except in the cases where someone has epilepsy or a medical condition that effects the brain such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

This brings us to the most commonly experienced of the three which is presque vu pronounced “pah-rescue-voo”. Translated from French presque vu means “almost seen”. Virtually everyone experiences this phenomenon and does so many times every year. Have you ever been in a discussion and had a word on the tip of your tongue, but just can’t come out with it. How often have you heard someone else say “it’s on the tip of my tongue”? How many times have you said it in your lifetime? Like most people it is probably many times. This is one of the two primary interpretations of presque vu. The other interpretation is when you feel that you are on the verge of an epiphany, but it is just beyond your grasp. Here are four simple examples of presque vu.

  1. At your full time job you and coworker are discussing one of your most valuable clients. This client often speaks of their pet who they adore. You are trying to remember the name of this pet who is spoken of often, including spoken of by you, and suddenly you experience presque vu. For the first time you can’t recall the dog’s name. After your coworker reminds you of the name you can’t fathom how you couldn’t easily remember the dog’s name that you have spoken of so many times before.
  2. You have had the same best friend since childhood. You have spent countless hours in each other’s company and have experienced everything that life has to offer together. You two are what is often considered as “soul mates” and couldn’t fathom life without each other in it. One day you are speaking to your spouse about upcoming plans that you have with your best friend, as you have done more times than you can count. Out of no where you experience presque vu and cannot remember your best friends name even though it is on the tip of your tongue. You ask yourself how could you possibly forget your best friend’s name after decades of a very close friendship?
  3. Most people have their happy place. It is a place that they go to when they are sad, stressed, or just to have a quiet day to themselves. They know when they go there they can expect to have a great time and not have to worry about anything else in their life. A location like this can be spoken of metaphorically as a location where you for all intents and purposes feel like you are temporarily stepping out of the realities of life. For many people this may be a quiet section of a park, taking a cruise, a treehouse, the beach, or a friends house just to name a few of the countless locations that could be someone’s happy place. Let’s suppose that your happy place is a bench in front of a large outdoor floral display at a local botanical garden. One day you are having a discussion with a new friend and the topic of happy places come up. It is your turn to discuss your happy place and even though you have been there hundreds of times before, in the moment you experience presque vu and can’t remember the name of the botanical garden.
  4. You have been working on a conundrum for your employer at work. There has been an ongoing issue that has plagued a piece of equipment for many months. It doesn’t keep anyone from using the piece of equipment, but it just slightly changes the method on which you have to use the equipment. Nobody can seem to figure out what is causing the problem with the device. One night you are laying in bed and are thinking about the problem with the machine. Suddenly you have a feeling of presque vu, that subconsciously you have an idea that could be the cause, but your conscious mind can’t pull it out of your subconscious mind. You feel that you are on the verge of a minor epiphany, but just can’t pull that thought out of your subconscious as if it were there and then disappeared. You lay awake for a while trying to retrace your thoughts in the hope of pulling that idea back out, but you are unable to.

While presque vu can be a symptom of someone with epilepsy, or someone who begins to suffer memory loss with age or if it is someone with a mental illness, in most cases it is simply a very brief memory lapse or a misinterpreted emotional state that we all experience many times in our lifetime. While typically harmless for most people I have seen it come up in paranormal investigations, where some people will interpret it as either the influence of a paranormal entity trying to keep them from thinking of or speaking something, or someone on the verge of a minor epiphany pertaining to something in their life and being unfamiliar with the feeling coupled with already believing their house is haunted they will misinterpret the emotion as one of paranormal origin.

Throughout your paranormal investigation career you will surely see signs of déjà vu, jamais vu, and presque vu. While in a few cases it may have a medical origination, in the vast majority of the situations it will be something of normal human behavior and a form of a brief memory lapse or a misinterpretation of a current situation or memory. It is beneficial to understand the three situations I discussed today to be able to not misinterpret the situations as paranormal activity so you are able to provide the most accurate information to your client.

Posted on November 22, 2021 in Human Behavior by Eric Extreme
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