Millions watch popular television shows like “The X-Files,” “Medium,” and “The Mentalist” and hit movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Sixth Sense, and Phenomenon. Why do Americans continue to have such a keen interest in the paranormal?
Religious studies professor Darryl Caterine has written Haunted Ground: Journeys through a Paranormal America to answer these questions. Visiting Lily Dale, New York – a thriving Spiritualist community established well over a century ago; Roswell, New Mexico – home of the Roswell UFO Festival that attracts nearly 30,000 attendees annually; and Killington, Vermont for the American Society of Dowsers conference; Caterine leads a fascinating and insightful tour through present-day meetings of Spiritualists, ufologists, and dowsers that illuminates our obsession with the paranormal and challenges the misunderstanding of the paranormal as a marginal or inconsequential feature of America’s religious landscape.
According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans believe in some form of paranormal activity. The United States has had a collective fascination with the paranormal since the mid-1800s, and it remains an integral part of our culture. Haunted Ground: Journeys through a Paranormal America examines three of the most vibrant paranormal gatherings in the United States—Lily Dale, a Spiritualist summer camp; the Roswell UFO Festival; and the American Society of Dowsers’ annual convention of “water witches”—to explore and explain the reasons for our obsession with the paranormal.
Both academically informed and thoroughly entertaining, Haunted Ground takes readers on a road trip through our nation, guided by professor of American religion Darryl Caterine, PhD. The author interprets seemingly unrelated case studies of phantasmagoria collectively as an integral part of the modern discourse about “nature” as ultimate reality. Along the way, Dr. Caterine reveals how Americans’ interest in the paranormal is rooted in their anxieties about cultural, political, and economic instability—and in a historic sense of alienation and homelessness.
Haunted Ground features chronologies focusing on the main developments in Spiritualist, ufological, and dowsing history; photographs of materials, culture, and events at Lily Dale, Roswell UFO Festival, and American Society of Dowsers conventions taken by the author; and a bibliography of authoritative scholarly works, primary texts, and theoretical frameworks pertinent to the study of Spiritualism, ufology, and dowsing
Focusing on a topic of great interest and fascination, not only historically, but currently Haunted Ground was written by a professional scholar of religion yet is accessible and relevant to all. Caterine’s fascinating book poses and answers a new question about the paranormal – what is the reason for-and significance of-our obsession with this subject? To answer this question he weaves together insights developed by scholars of religion, history, literature, sociology and psychology to provide an interdisciplinary perspective on this always popular topic.
Haunted Ground author Darryl Caterine, PhD, is associate professor of religion in the department of religious studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. He earned his degrees in religious studies from Harvard University and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Dr. Caterine’s first book Conservative Catholicism and the Carmelites: Identity, Ethnicity, and Tradition in the Modern Church was selected by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book of 2003.