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
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?
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
5 These Lovers Are Out of This World: Sex, Consent, and the Rhetoric of Conversion in Abductee Narratives
6 The Mystery of Everything Out There: Bigfoot and Religion in the Twenty-First Century
7 The Haunters and the Hunters: Popular Ghost Hunting and the Pursuit of Paranormal Experience
Part II: The Spell of Occulture
8 Religions of the Red Planet: Fin de Siècle Martian Romances
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
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
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
19 When Did Fairies Get Wings?
20 A Contactee Canon: Gray Barker’s Saucerian Books
John W. Morehead