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Paranormal America

Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture

Christopher Bader, F. Mencken, Joseph Baker

Publication Year: 2010

A significant number of Americans spend their weekends at UFO conventions hearing whispers of government cover-ups, at New Age gatherings learning the keys to enlightenment, or ambling around historical downtowns learning about resident ghosts in tourist-targeted “ghost walks”. They have been fed a steady diet of fictional shows with paranormal themes such as The X-Files, Supernatural, and Medium, shows that may seek to simply entertain, but also serve to disseminate paranormal beliefs. The public hunger for the paranormal seems insatiable.

Paranormal America provides the definitive portrait of Americans who believe in or have experienced such phenomena as ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs, psychic phenomena, astrology, and the power of mediums. However, unlike many books on the paranormal, this volume does not focus on proving or disproving the paranormal, but rather on understanding the people who believe and how those beliefs shape their lives.

Drawing on the Baylor Religion Survey—a multi-year national random sample of American religious values, practices, and behaviors—as well as extensive fieldwork including joining hunts for Bigfoot and spending the night in a haunted house, authors Christopher Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker shed light on what the various types of paranormal experiences, beliefs, and activities claimed by Americans are; whether holding an unconventional belief, such as believing in Bigfoot, means that one is unconventional in other attitudes and behaviors; who has such experiences and beliefs and how they differ from other Americans; and if we can expect major religions to emerge from the paranormal.

Brimming with engaging personal stories and provocative findings, Paranormal America is an entertaining yet authoritative look at a growing segment of American religious culture.

Published by: NYU Press

Paranormal America

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

"We have so many people to thank for their help in this endeavor that we fear the attempt. Someone will certainly be forgotten. The quantitative data presented in this book are based upon the Baylor Religion Survey, Waves 1 and 2, collected in 2005 and 2007. The development and collection of these data involved the efforts of many people. The Baylor Religion Survey project was financially supported by a generous ..."

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1 The House of 150 Ghosts

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pp. 1-19

"Situated on Big Cypress Bayou in the piney woods of northeast Texas lies the city of Jefferson, a haven for ghost hunters. Before the railroads moved into the northern part of the state, Texans were dependent upon boat traffic to receive goods and supplies. Jefferson was founded in 1840 at the perfect location for a port. Boats traveled up the Mississippi..."

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2 The Truth Is Within

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pp. 20-45

"Sometimes it is easier to recognize a phenomenon than it is to define it. So it is with the loose association of beliefs, ideas, phenomena, and experiences variously labeled 'new age,' 'paranormal,' 'the supernatural,' 'occult,' 'unexplained phenomena,' 'metaphysics,' 'pseudoscience,' 'mysticism,' and a host of other terms. Depending upon one’s personal definition, crystal balls, Bigfoot, ghosts, and palm reading are..."

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3 The Truth Is Out There

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pp. 46-75

"People have seen strange objects in the sky seemingly for as long as we have had records. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel reported the sighting of a 'whirlwind from the north.' UFO books and Web sites claim that Christopher Columbus reported a 'light glimmering at a great ..."

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4 Round Trip to Hell in a Flying Saucer?

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pp. 76-99

"Americans are a remarkably religious people. More than 80 percent fall within the Judeo-Christian lineage, while just over 5 percent claim a faith outside this heritage. Half attend church or temple at least once a month. Nearly another third maintain some contact with a religious group by attending at least once a year.2 Whether they attend..."

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5 Paranormal Subcultures

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pp. 100-128

"In their pioneering research, the sociologists Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark noticed that two people can identify themselves as 'very religious,' yet mean very different things by it.1 There are five primary ways that people manifest their personal religiosity, they argue. For some, (1) being religious is most importantly about belief; one must believe..."

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6 Paranormal People

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pp. 129-157

"As we have discussed throughout this book, there are several popular and academic ideas regarding people who believe in the paranormal. Sociologists and social commentators such as Karl Marx have argued that religious and paranormal beliefs will be the province of the downtrodden, searching for supernatural solutions to earthly troubles."

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7 Darkness and Light

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pp. 158-188

"As we have echoed, some might say bemoaned, throughout this book, the paranormal is a messy subject in many ways. The subjects themselves are elusive. Bigfoot is hard if not impossible to catch. Ghosts fade away, UFOs fly away before cameras are at the ready, and psychic powers rarely perform upon demand."

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8 Out on a Limb

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pp. 189-202

"More than twenty years ago Christopher found himself in the passenger seat of a decrepit, rusted van as it hurtled through the woods near the town of Carson in Washington State. The driver did his best to avoid trees, boulders, ditches, and other obstacles as he navigated toward a small hunting cabin deep in the woods. Wiping mud from my eyes,..."

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pp. 203-214

"For readers concerned about methodological issues this appendix provides details on the sources of our data — extensive fieldwork and two waves of the Baylor Religion Survey, and the statistical analyses that lie behind our presentation."


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pp. 215-236


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pp. 237-254


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pp. 255-263

About the Authors

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pp. 264

E-ISBN-13: 9780814789827
E-ISBN-10: 081478982X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814791349
Print-ISBN-10: 0814791344

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010