A new book looks at paranormal beliefs in the United States and why Americans are so fascinated with Ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot and more in both its culture and religion.
Today, more Americans than ever are fascinated with and/or have embraced some portion of phenomena we refer to as paranormal. There are more paranormal television shows and movies than ever before. People seemingly can’t get enough. Over two-thirds of Americans accept the reality of at least one paranormal subject, according to the Washington Post.
But why are people so fascinated with the paranormal? Who are these people?
That’s what three sociologists wanted to know. Christopher Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker all collaborated to answer the two preceding questions as the principal driving factor behind their new book, “Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sighting, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture.”
Paranormal vs. supernatural
Before we dig into the subject, a quick definition and clarification are in order. Supernatural refers to things that are above nature, or outside of nature. Something that exists beyond the visible and observable universe, as well as, of things of a religious nature relating to an invisible agent such as a God or gods, demigod, spirit(s), devil or demons.
By this very definition alone, it puts them within a realm that makes an observation and study difficult, since science tends to study the things of nature. Because these things can exist in another realm or possibly another dimension, definitively recording and verifying such phenomena might be impossible.
The definition of paranormal, on the other hand, is phenomena that are beyond the ability of science to explain. Testing can be done, and the results can be notated and quantified – but how and why it works may not be possible to explain. Extrasensory perception (ESP) or Psi would fall into this category.
Studying Paranormal America
In the course of their examination of Paranormal America, the authors sought out those Americans who are fascinated with both the paranormal and the supernatural.
People are going to UFO or New Age gatherings in droves. Hordes of people visit tourist-targeted haunted houses or ghost walks. People are hunting Bigfoot. Mediums and psychics are all the rage on television and in mini-mall shops. Television psychics fill arenas in numbers rivaling rock concerts.
Keep in mind, this book is not about the paranormal per se – it’s about the people who believe in the paranormal. With that in mind, the authors indulge in all the aforementioned activities and more, putting themselves in the midst of those who fervently follow the paranormal. The authors interview these people in an effort to understand what motivates them and what they believe.
One of the more interesting moments occurs when one of the book’s authors goes into a haunted house accompanied by people who firmly believe it is haunted. Afterward, the people emerge from the hounded home with the belief that they barely escaped the encounter alive.
Conversely, the author who took it all in with an accepting and open-minded view, walks away with a different experience, wondering why he didn’t observe, detect or feel anything unusual. The only unusual part of the experience for him was why the others had a completely different experience in their shared moment.
The Supernatural Worldview
Another fine book that is recommended reading alongside Paranormal America is “The Supernatural Worldview: Examining Paranormal, Psi, and the Apocalyptic,” by the late Cris Putnam.
While Paranormal America, mainly looks at the people who are drawn toward the paranormal and why, The Supernatural Worldview examines the phenomena itself, listing some of the preeminent case studies that provide veridical proof for the existence of such occurrences.
These studies do not explain how or why it happens since science cannot explain that yet. However, the case studies mentioned definitely provide reliable and professional scientific proof that such phenomena do occur.
Therefore, reading both books mentioned above will give one a better insight and perspective on all sides of the paranormal and supernatural.