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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs