Dissecting our Fascination with the Supernatural
Ghost hunting has become more prevalent in recent years, spreading to mainstream television and public walking tours. Increased interest in the supernatural isn’t surprising as people have always been curious. Many of us wonder if there is a spiritual world and think about the unexplained. Living in a culture where the ordinary and extraordinary are often combined without people noticing is the norm.
We often love to indulge in a good horror film or documentary for entertainment as well as genuine interest. You only have to look at the sheer number of these films and shows on television and streaming platforms to see how popular they are in today’s society.
Taking a deeper look into the rising popularity may provide greater insight into why more individuals are thinking about the supernatural.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, phantasmagoria became popular throughout Europe. Originating in France, it was a form of theater focusing on supernatural elements. Setting the stage for today’s horror films, people would gather together in a small theater to watch images of demons, skeletons and ghostlike creatures appear and disappear via the use of lantern lights. Combined with spooky sound effects, spectators would become convinced they were seeing the real thing. These magic lantern shows indicate how people had a desire to look for unusual experiences even back then.
Having a fascination with the unknown and paranormal matters isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s fair to say several individuals think about the supernatural. However, now it can be easily seen in several places that are mainstream. Going to the supermarket and looking in the magazine section will often reveal publications creating content related to psychic experiences or similar supernatural events. Combining the area where food staples, such as bread, eggs and milk are sold, with the paranormal shows how subconsciously engaged society has become with ghosts and other types of spirits.
Moments of Crisis Increase Beliefs in Ghosts
Critical periods in a society where a crisis is occurring can also increase interest in paranormal events. Experiencing economic unrest, a war or religious ambiguity creates uncertainty for the population. Business Week magazine projected a significant increase in supernatural beliefs during the 2011 financial crisis, and they were correct. The British paranormal reality TV show, Most Haunted, increased viewership. There was also a rise in paranormal beliefs after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. People start wondering if a person’s spirit goes to another realm or stays behind on earth for a while in the form of a ghostly presence.
The Never-Ending Spiral of Uncertainty
Tapping into supernatural occurrences can also be an easy sell due to the never-ending spiral of uncertainty. The paranormal experiences people witness typically can’t be proved. Yet, this element doesn’t stop individuals from continuing to show interest in this phenomenon. It’s the type of consumer product where the entire experience is never realized. Individuals have to keep coming back repeatedly to look for more evidence of supernatural beings. Magicians, mediums and other professionals sell an ambiguous experience shrouded by indistinctness and obscurity. Yet, people continue to come back for more.
Has Skepticism Decreased?
Spirit photography can be traced back to the 1850s and 60s. One of the most famous photographs depicts the image of Abraham Lincoln’s spirit directly behind his widow, Mary Todd Lincoln. Soon after this photograph from William Mumler appeared, experts had difficulty proving it was fake. For a while, it became a lucrative business for Mumler to sell spirit photographs to families of American Civil War veterans who had been killed in action. PT Barnum was skeptical of spirit photographs and proved they were being faked. Regardless, as technology improved for photography equipment, several other amateur photographers started selling spirit photographs. People wanted to believe in the supernatural, even though Barnum had disproved it.
This form of skepticism hasn’t changed much since then. People might be somewhat skeptical of psychics who claim they can communicate with spirits. Yet, they will continue to get readings done and satisfy their curiosity. Going on ghost hunts is similar. Participants likely have some form of skepticism but want to believe at the same time. This aspect can be seen with the show “America’s Most Haunted.” The producer of the show, Richard Wolf, calls his audience “armchair ghost hunters.” These individuals are similar to the people from the 19th century who were looking at spirit photographs. Some of them probably felt like these photographs were faked. However, the same people would then go on to talk about the supernatural experience they had. The same belief occurs today with audiences of ghost hunting shows. They watch the show and might not necessarily believe it, but they still feel like there must be something out there.
Ghost Walks Create More Interaction
Participating in ghost walks takes the experience one step further. Walking with like-minded individuals who believe there might be supernatural spirits gets the group engaged in the same quest: to come in contact with ghosts or other ghostly spirits. In all likelihood, catching a glimpse of a ghost is never completed. Yet, many people continue to keep an openness associated with the subject. They may enjoy the search process as it provides something unique to their daily life and lets them mentally escape for a while. Working in an office during the day and adventuring out on a ghost walk on a weekend night makes life more exciting and enjoyable!
Seeing an actual ghost would be exciting and frightening simultaneously! Until that moment occurs and can be proved without a doubt, it’s likely people will still keep believing in the supernatural, and the popularity in doing so will continue to grow.
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