Parapsychology is a relatively modern science that studies psychic ability and paranormal phenomena. The Victorians were fascinated with séances, where a "Spiritual Medium" could supposedly talk to deceased friends or relatives, levitate objects and manifest "ectoplasm" as proof of contact. Most, however, were exposed as fraudulent mediums, who were eager to cash in on the rapidly growing trend. One could actually say that parapsychology was born out of that era in a continuous effort to expose the Spiritual Mediums as frauds.
Parapsychology has a serious application, however, through experimental and investigative means. Not only is its aim to determine psychic (or "psi") ability, but also to understand how
it works. Brain activity is carefully studied to determine which parts of the brain are affected when psi levels are high, during sleep or when awake. Oneirology
(the scientific study of dreams) and the research that some parapsychologists have done have contributed towards diagnosing the mechanisms in the brain partially responsible for certain mental illnesses.
Government agencies - such as the CIA, the KGB, MI6, and others around the world - have been aware of psychics for decades, conducting rigorous and extensive tests through the use of "sensory deprivation", mind-altering drugs, mental enhancement, etc. to determine psychic "power". Their particular areas of interest are remote viewing, telepathy, psychokinesis and ESP, and there are documented cases of psychics being used as "psi spies" or "psionic weapons".