The Paranormal and Popular Culture: A Postmodern Religious Landscape, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Paranormal and Popular Culture

A Postmodern Religious Landscape, 1st Edition

Edited by Darryl Caterine, John W. Morehead


300 pages

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pub: 2019-02-21
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Interest in preternatural and supernatural themes has revitalized the Gothic tale, renewed explorations of psychic powers and given rise to a host of social and religious movements based upon claims of the fantastical. And yet, in spite of this widespread enthusiasm, the academic world has been slow to study this development. This volume rectifies this gap in current scholarship by serving as an interdisciplinary overview of the relationship of the paranormal to the artefacts of mass media (e.g. novels, comic books, and films) as well as the cultural practices they inspire.

After an introduction analyzing the paranormal’s relationship to religion and entertainment, the book presents essays exploring its spiritual significance in a postmodern society; its (post)modern representation in literature and film; and its embodiment in a number of contemporary cultural practices. Contributors from a number of discplines and cultural contexts address issues such as the shamanistic aspects of Batman and lesbianism in vampire mythology.

Covering many aspects of the paranormal and its effect on popular culture, this book is an important statement in the field. As such, it will be of utmost interest to scholars of religious studies as well as media, communication, and cultural studies.


‘Few who have studied popular culture would question that it is haunted by a fascination with the paranormal. Furthermore, that this haunting has an impact on the everyday lives of many of our contemporaries is beyond question. This is why this book matters. Understanding the occultural context in which we live our lives is enormously important for those seeking an accurate grasp of late-modernity. The thoughtful and engaging studies in this timely volume, not only make it difficult to put down, but also increase our knowledge of the nature of occulture and open up new areas of inquiry. It deserves to be widely read.’ – Christopher Partridge, Lancaster University, UK

‘I am often asked by people, usually those with slightly raised eyebrows, why I am so interested in things paranormal. I answer: "Why, of course, because these things mess every other thing up." I am hardly just joking. This collection of essays on the postmodern paranormal demonstrates in playful detail, historical nuance, and just plain weirdness how these things do this messing up and why it is so historically important, so spiritually contemporary, and so intellectually liberating. For some, at least. For others, it is all a closed book, or a non-existent book. That uncertainty, that freeing nonsense, that hesitation, it turns out, is at the very heart of the postmodern paranormal and this book, which really does exist.’ – Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University, TX, USA

‘In our postmodern age, traditional religions appear to be losing status globally, while its ideals and beliefs are increasingly appropriated by occulture, the folk and popular culture devoted to the paranormal. Caterine and Morehead have enlisted a team of both skeptics and sympathetic observers to explore the complexity of this modern scene. It takes readers on fascinating journey through the wide realm of high weirdness, ranging from Brazilian UFO lore to the quests of amateur ghost hunters, discussing supernatural tales by classic authors and by the directors of exploitation films, finding deep religious meaning in the lore of zombies and of Bigfoot. This volume is an alluring incentive to further study of this rich and constantly growing phenomenon.’ – Bill Ellis, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University, USA

Table of Contents


Darryl Caterine


Part I: The Return of the Sacred

1 What Can the Paranormal in Popular Culture Tell Us About Our Relationship with the Sacred in Contemporary Society?

Madeleine Castro

2 Paranormal Medicine

Charles F. Emmons

3 The Right to a Narrative: Metamodernism, Paranormal Horror, and Agency in The Cabin in the Woods

Linda C. Ceriello and Greg Dember

4 The Dark Knight Rises: Shamanic Transformations in Gotham City

Jack Hunter

5 These Lovers Are Out of This World: Sex, Consent, and the Rhetoric of Conversion in Abductee Narratives

Elizabeth Lowry

6 The Mystery of Everything Out There: Bigfoot and Religion in the Twenty-First Century

Joshua Paddison

7 The Haunters and the Hunters: Popular Ghost Hunting and the Pursuit of Paranormal Experience

Leo Ruickbie


Part II: The Spell of Occulture

8 Religions of the Red Planet: Fin de Siècle Martian Romances

Christa Shusko

9 Paranormal Women: the "Sexual Revolution" and Female Sexuality in Hammer Studios’ Karnstein Trilogy

Jay Daniel Thompson

10 "We’re Ready to Believe You!" Spiritualism and the Interpretation of Paranormal Experience in Ghostbusters (1984)

Matthew N. Anderson and Collin L. Brown

11 Jesus and The Undead: Resurrected Bodies in Scripture and the Zombie Apocalypse

Kelly J. Murphy

12 Haunting the Ghost of Mark Twain

Ann M. Ryan

13 Accounts of High Strangeness: A Brazilian Perspective on the Paranormal and Popular Culture

Leonardo Martins

14 How the Necronomicon Became Real: The Ecology of a Legend

Joseph P. Laycock

15 Miranda Barbour and the Construction of a "Satanic Cult" Murder

Daniel Linford

16 "What Would You Do When…?": Ostensive Play in the Zombie Apocalypse Narrative

Brent C. Augustus

17 Paranormal Beliefs, New Religious Movements and the New Age Spiritual Milieu

James R. Lewis and Sverre Andreas Fekjan

18 Cryptofiction! Science-Fiction and the Rise of Cryptozoology

Justin Mullis

19 When Did Fairies Get Wings?

Simon Young

20 A Contactee Canon: Gray Barker’s Saucerian Books

Gabriel McKee



John W. Morehead

About the Editors

Darryl Caterine is a professor of religious studies at Le Moyne College, USA. He is the author of Haunted Ground: Journeys through a Paranormal America (2011), and a number of articles and chapters on the paranormal, including essays in The Brill Handbook of Spiritualism and Channeling, Nova Religio: The Journal of Emergent and Alternative Religions, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

John W. Morehead is an academic researcher and writer specializing in new religious movements as well as religion and popular culture. His writing includes a chapter on Matrixism for The Brill Handbook of Hyper-real Religions; entries on Paganism for The Handbook of Religion; and the co-editing and editing of volumes on religion and pop culture including The Undead and Theology, Joss Whedon and Religion, The Supernatural Cinema of Guillermo del Toro, and Fantastic Fan Cultures and the Sacred. He blogs at

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Religion

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Christianity / Literature & the Arts
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Folklore & Mythology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture