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

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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs