News / USA

Experts Say Belief in Paranormal Common in US

Tours of places thought by some to be haunted by ghosts are given in Jefferson, Texas
Tours of places thought by some to be haunted by ghosts are given in Jefferson, Texas

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Greg Flakus

Surveys show that more than two thirds of Americans accept the existence of ghosts, visitors from outer space, astrology and other paranormal phenomena.  While the more sophisticated might think of these people as crazy, social scientists take a different view.  

A horse-drawn carriage takes tourists through the streets of historic Jefferson, Texas as the sun begins to set. Many tourists come here to take part in ghosts walks in which guides tell the stories about various buildings and houses thought to be haunted.

A visitor from the nearby city of Shreveport, Louisiana named Jamie says ghosts could provide evidence of an afterlife she believes in. “I have always believed that there is something after, I do not know if we are stuck here on earth or if there is something more, but I do know there is something," she said.

Some people might regard belief in ghosts as loony. But it is not, according to psychologist Brian Cronk at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. “This is not abnormal in any way, shape or form," he said.

Cronk, who has guided students doing research on people who profess belief in the paranormal, says humans are driven to seek answers to profound questions. “One of the things the human brain does that, as far as we know, other animals do not do, is we are always trying to predict the future and explain why the past has happened and that leads us to always trying to come up with reasons for things," he said.

Another researcher taking a scientific look at paranormal belief is Sociology Professor Carson Mencken, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  He and his colleagues have found that those who believe in these phenomena are usually ordinary, solid citizens. “They hold normal jobs, they have families, they pay bills. They are otherwise upstanding people who have what we consider to be a deviant or odd hobby," he said.

Mencken and two colleagues at Baylor published a book last year called “Paranormal America” that examines data about people with various paranormal beliefs.

They found, for example, that men tend to believe in space aliens more than women do, but that women are more inclined to believe in fortune telling and spiritual encounters.

They found that those who dropped out of high school are more likely to believe in ghosts and psychics, but they also found that people with higher education levels were involved in other paranormal pursuits.

Mencken says those drawn to the paranormal are sometimes seeking discovery, such as evidence that UFOs or ghosts exist, but he says many others simply seek enlightenment. “They are looking for some revelation, a deeper understanding about how the universe works, about what happens to you after you die," he said.

Religion provides the answer to those questions for many people. Among churchgoers, Mencken says liberal, mainstream religions are more likely to tolerate members with paranormal beliefs than are Protestant evangelicals and others with a stricter interpretation of the Bible.

“They are likely to see the paranormal as one of two things, one is yes, it exists, but it is part of an evil plot by Satan or, you know, it is heresy," said Mencken.

Mencken says today, belief in the paranormal is fed by the many movies and television programs about ghosts and UFOs. “Look at how many paranormal shows there are. There are paranormal reality shows. There are television networks devoted only to the paranormal now, so it has become an interesting part of our culture," he said.

Mencken says the United States has drawn on other nations and cultures for much of its paranormal beliefs and that immigrants from Latin America, Asia and elsewhere are contributing their ghosts and spirits to the mix.

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid