Contents

Part I Paranormal Epistemologies


1. Haunted Culture: The Persistence of Belief in the Paranormal
Christopher Partridge

While contemporary civil societies in the post-industrial West have witnessed a decline of Christian hegemony and a distaste for deference to traditional authorities, they have also experienced a widespread nurturing of the subjective life. This has, particularly since the 1960s, allowed the persistence of a ‘haunted culture’ – haunted in the sense that, while, at a relatively superficial level, the dominant discourse in the West privileges the ‘normal’ and the ‘natural’ and relegates the ‘rejected knowledge’ of the paranormal and the supernatural to the periphery of society, at a deeper, primal, gut level, there is a fascination with this shadow side of Western culture. This is reflected in, and stimulated by popular culture. Consequently, regardless of the assertions of dominant secular discourses in the West, it would appear that belief in the paranormal is not the preserve of premodern societies, but rather continues to press in upon the human spirit and to disturb the ordered rationalism that comforts the late-modern mind. Drawing on analyses of secularization and sacralisation, this study provides an overview of the theory of occulture, which, it is argued, helps us to understand this persistence of belief in paranormal phenomena in late-modern, Western societies.


2 The Ghost in the Machine: Spirit and Technology
John Harvey

The chapter deals with the relationship between the Spiritualist ‘apparitions’ and modernist apparatus. It argues that the western ‘image’ of disincarnate spirits produced since the 1860s has been shaped significantly by the devices used to discern and document them. The study focuses upon the contribution that the camera and audio recorder has made to both the fabrication of spirit entities and the endeavour to contact the dead. Photography and ‘audiography’ were, in the context of Spiritualism, the technological equivalents of clairvoyance and clairaudience (the supernatural abilities to see and hear the departed). Whereas the spiritualist medium could receive and send information to and from this world and the next, technological communication with the dead was unidirectional. The camera and audio recorder were merely depositories for the visible and audible presence of the dead, with whom one could no more interact than with the actors on a television and radio. While these new mechanical and electrical devices were, in this respect, far less serviceable than the older and more modest contrivances of the ouija board and planchette, they offered, it was supposed, a more objective and reliable demonstration of the reality of spirits. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, technologies such as the camera, radiograph, phonograph, electron microscope, deep-space telescope, and parabolic microphone brought what was previously invisible and inaudible into the realms of perception and permanence. Spiritualism redirected these facilities from the natural to the supernatural world. In so doing, technology was requisitioned to not only legitimize anomalous phenomena but also bridge the divide between antiquity and modernity, superstition and empiricism. In this context: The study examines the iconography and reception of spirits as mediated by technology. Uniquely, it presents a comparative analysis of so-called spirit (or psychic) photographs and Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP). This in order to discern how their distinctive formal conditions (the one static and visual, and the other kinetic or time based and audible), and their means of encoding (sensitised emulsion and magnetic tape initially, and digital media subsequently) contributed to a cultural understanding of death, the afterlife, and the nature of spirits. The study also explores the commonalities of process (ordinarily, neither the image nor voice of the spirit was evident when the ‘recording’ was made; they were manifest only after the ‘image’ on the photograph or tape was ‘played-back’). Furthermore, it explores the commonalities of perceptual and auditory pareidolia – the viewer’s or listener’s propensity to interpret vague stimulus (the blurs and slurs on the surface of a negative or the interference of white noise on the soundtrack) as something known (a figure or a voice). Finally, the chapter examines the discourse on spirit, (haunted) technology, and mediation presented in popular cultural forms, including films such as Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) and Nakata’s Ring (1998).


3. Paranormal Cultural Practices
Annette Hill

This chapter draws on a popular cultural ethnography of the paranormal. The fieldwork included individual and group interviews, semi-structured focus groups, household in depth interviews, and participant observation in Britain. The sample included participants with a range of positions, audiences of magic entertainment, paranormal drama, reality TV, films, photography and the web, from sceptics to believers, to those in between. Over a hundred men and women aged 18-65+ took part in focus group interviews, 15 individual and expert interviews were conducted, 27 households interviews took place with 70 participants, and there was participant observation of ghost hunting events with approximately 70 participants. This empirical material is used to explore why people are drawn to paranormal beliefs, ideas and experiences in popular culture today.


4. Extraordinary Experiences with UFOs
David Clarke

A study by folklorist William Dewan suggests that around 25% of the US population report a personal experience with "anomalous lights" or UFOs. A 1998 opinion survey in the UK found 2% reporting direct experience with UFOs/ET life, but little if any research has been conducted into this aspect of anomalous/extraordinary experience. As consultant to The National Archives for the ongoing transfer and public release of UFO files created by the Ministry of Defence, I have had a unique opportunity to sample, collect and study examples of this type of anomalous experience reported by members of the public and the armed forces to official agencies since 1950. My paper will discuss these as examples of "personal experience narratives" and memorates recognised and collected by folklorists. I will also scrutinise official policy towards such reported experiences drawing upon the content of the MoD files released by The National Archives.


5. Ghosts in the Body: Infections, Genes and the Re-enchantment of Biology
Robert Peckham


This chapter examines the ways in which infectious diseases have been understood as manifestations of the paranormal in popular culture and, reciprocally, how the paranormal has been framed as ‘contagion.’ In the nineteenth century, cholera figured as a ghostly visitation: a white-sheeted reaper haunting the city. The focus in this chapter, however, is on exploring how contemporary scientific technologies, rather than dispelling this supernatural equation, have re-inscribed the paranormal in biology with consequences for how we understand and experience both disease and the paranormal. Genetics strives to unmask the traces of ancient viral infections that haunt our genomes as ghostly presences. In exploring this entanglement of bioscience and the supernatural, the chapter engages with a growing body of cross-disciplinary research that is reconsidering the role of science and technology in the formation and policing of a modern human identity with visible boundaries that demarcate selfhood from the world beyond.


6. Sceptic Culture: Traditions of Disbelief in New Mexico
William J. Dewan

Academic studies of paranormal belief traditions provide a myriad of perspectives on their genesis, dissemination, and meaning in various cultural contexts. However, these studies have too often neglected to examine the social role of disbelief and its impact on popular conceptions of the paranormal or anomalous. In this study, I examine ‘traditions of disbelief’ as part of a broader folk spectrum of paranormal belief language in contemporary American society, with a focus on interviews conducted with a community of self-identified ‘skeptics’ in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I sought to find patterns, codings, and themes in their responses to a variety of topics including religion, the paranormal, education, and the role of skepticism in the modern world. Individuals provided Ideological commonalities that were indicative of their shared ideas about the various dangers faced within 21st century American culture. Specifically, these skeptics positioned themselves as localized defenders of rationalism and empiricism in the American Southwest while treating paranormal beliefs as byproducts of a broader national increase in religious fundamentalism, irrational thought, and deficiencies in science education. Furthermore, skeptic rhetoric repeatedly presents images of epistemological warfare between skeptics and paranormal advocates. I contend that this overarching concern has less to do with paranormal beliefs per se and more to do with the extent to which alternative, competing models of physical reality are allowable in public discourse.


7. ‘Paranormal Science’ from America to Italy: A Case of Cultural Homogenization
Andrea Molle and Christopher D. Bader

In this chapter we argue that the increasing popularity of paranormal topics such as ghosts, "monsters" (such as Bigfoot) and UFOs, can be at least partially traced to three key changes in the discourse about the paranormal.  First, since the 1980s paranormal research in the United States has increasingly drawn upon the rhetoric and model of science.  Second, although paranormal researchers attempt to mimic science in their language and behaviors, the paranormal endeavor is viewed as popular science; one need not have a degree or credentials to study paranormal claims.  Finally, in the past paranormal experiences themselves were often considered quite rare, the modern ghost, Bigfoot and/or UFO hunter enjoys several techniques that can "draw in" paranormal forces, resulting in an increased commonality of experience.  Together these three factors have produced an enormously popular version of the paranormal that is spreading around the globe.   We begin this chapter with a d
iscussion of the paranormal tourist industry in the US, which demonstrates the way in which the paranormal is invading everyday culture.  We then discuss key ways in which the paranormal has changed and explore how American exported paranormal "products" have been impacting a country outside of the anglosphere; Italy.


8. Making Sense of the Paranormal: A Platonic Context for Research Methods
Angela Voss

Judging by the number of academic conferences, research centres and publications now focussed on ‘paranormal’ experiences, it is clear that there is both an upsurge in scholarly interest in this challenging field and a wide variety of methodologies harnessed to address it. From psychical research and parapsychology, anthropology and social sciences, to literature, film and the arts, transpersonal and depth psychology and experiential frameworks based on participator observation, a vast range of extraordinary and anomalous phenomena is open to investigation by all, whether sceptic or sympathiser. However, whilst this can lead to a refreshing display of interdisciplinarity, there is also a danger that a lack of discrimination concerning the merits or appropriateness of methods used to address this non-rational realm may result in a ‘free for all’ hotch potch of contending positions and convictions, with no clear rationale with which to assess the deeper philosophical or epistemological issues involved. In my contribution to this volume, I am suggesting an approach to these issues which may inform and elucidate usages and engagements with the paranormal through providing a framework which both recognises multiple ways of knowing, and also situates them within a coherent whole. This model is essentially derived from Platonic and neoplatonic philosophy. 
Platonism has been denounced by the positivistic strand of twentieth century philosophy and science, partly because of its association with fascism and communism (Hedley & Hutton 2008: 269-282) but mainly because it champions the potential of noetic cognition, a mode of perception which tends to be denied, if not destroyed, by the stronghold of the rational mind (Peter Atkins 2011, Ian McGilchrist 2009: 347, David Stove 1991: ch.7). However writers such as Victoria Nelson (2001), Jeffrey Kripal (2010) and Gregory Shaw (2011) call for scholars to intelligently explore hidden dimensions of experience through building bridges between the public discourses of scepticism and the private ones of authentic anomalous experience (Shaw 2011: 18). I posit that the adoption of models derived from pre-modern religious philosophy may do this through preserving the essential mystery of numinous encounters whilst also providing route maps for their exploration.


9 Everyday Ghosts: A Matter of Believing in Belonging
Abby Day
This article examines belief in the context of what the author describes as the sensuous, social supernatural. She argues that scholars should take account for the kind of beliefs being experienced: propositional, emotional/embodied and performative.
During qualitative, longitudinal research carried out in rural and semi-urban communities in northern England, she found that most people discussed beliefs through narrative, rooted in specific social contexts and relationships. Using a holistic, organic, seven-dimensional interpretive model,  she theorises and discusses the implications of her observations and findings, particularly concerning the relocation of the transcendent to the everyday social and temporal.


10. ‘A Giant Bedsheet with the Holes Cut Out’: Expectations and Discussions of the Appearance of Ghosts
Paul Cowdell

‘Ghost’ is a problematic term: it summarises a whole range of historical meanings and expectations. Although not necessarily expressing an individual’s beliefs, it allows a conveniently comprehensible way of discussing afterlife beliefs and experiences. The complexity of believers’thinking has sometimes been subject to an unjust academic reductiveness that fails to recognise its dynamism. In recent ethnographic research in Britain I recorded a widespread willingness to accommodate various manifestations within ideas of ghostly appearance.
The classic white-sheeted ghost reflects neither the majority of described experiences nor the expectations of most believers. Because of its connection with popular media representations, and its association with practical jokes, it is often dismissed from serious consideration, but it remains a potent point of entry for people who want to discuss seriously some quite different beliefs and phenomena. It is useful when considering the current negotiation of ghost beliefs through a combination of registers of different transmitted material. Such complicated negotiations are found throughout the historical record.
I here use the white-sheeted figure as a way to explore the different apparel and appearances expected and reported today. This covers anachronistic clothing and general pallor, as the white sheet is often rationalised by reference to burial methods. Long historical record suggests this is an over-determined academic interpretation that does not adequately reflect the full range of reported sightings.
The image recurs in popular considerations of ghosts, feeding into the continued unfolding of folk narratives and explanations. This apparently outdated figure still retains its potential for being believable, even where it might be expected to reflect disbelief. By looking at how these images have been interpreted, discussed and exploited in a variety of sources, I examine what is currently believed and reported, and raise questions about the interpretation of reports and beliefs over time.


11. Interpreting Death and the Afterlife in US Paranormal Reality Television Programmes and Online Fan Groups
Diane Dobry

American cultural practices related to death and dying often involve denial, discomfort, or avoidance even, at times, in the face of imminent death. Death education in America, once the subject of controversial debate, is now primarily limited to preparing those in healthcare who deal with the dying and their families. What happens beyond death is normally considered to be the domain of religious organizations. Popular culture, however, is one area where speculation about death, dying and the afterlife more frequently and openly takes place. Paranormal television programming is one of the primary sources of such speculation. Over the entire course of the existence of American television, the paranormal has been an ongoing theme, however, prior to the introduction of cable television, most programs were fiction. In more recent years, what is called paranormal reality television (PRTV) has grown more popular. The oldest format of this genre (if PRTV can be considered a genre), is documentary re-enactment programming. Others feature psychics or mediums who claim to read minds, tell the future or talk to the dead. More recent formats include investigative “objective” inquiry with a connection made between the paranormal and spirits of the dead but in a way that appeals to those seeking a more “scientific” approach using measurement, documentation and technology. Observation of online discussions related to these programs reveals viewers engaged in discussions about the programs and the key protagonists, and also in discussions about what constitutes evidence, personal beliefs regarding death and the afterlife and other unknowns, and how contributors assess reality television programs as to their relevance, authenticity and believability. This chapter examines three PRTV program formats and associated online discussions related to the programs’ authenticity, viewers’ questions about death and the afterlife, and beliefs and ideas about these issues. The chapter also presents findings that came out of the research.


Part II The Paranormal and Social Change

12. Wilhelm Reich and The Etheric Warriors
Sarah Jane Sloane 

Etheric Warriors Don and Carol Croft and the Legacy of Wilhelm Reich North American activists Carol and Don Croft call themselves “etheric warriors” and join thousands of contemporary believers in “orgone energy,” a bioenergetic substance first posited by Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Through close readings of “The Adventures of Don and Carol Croft” and other online documents, we can see the principles of Reich’s theories wrenched by the Crofts and others into a homegrown conspiracy theory that funds its paranoia with an arsenal of resin-based products for sale on several websites. Wilhelm Reich first developed the theory of orgone energy, a “primordial energy” that enlivens healthy people and breaks apart their “body armor” and releases blockages. A variation on Freud’s notion of libido, Reich’s theory of orgone energy sees it as related to orgasm, the basis of psychosexual and physical health in all life forms. Clouds, galaxies, individual cells, primitive life forms, and human beings are influenced by the presence or absence of orgone. Reich also built “orgone accumulators,” which healed their users of illnesses such as cancer, neurosis, or other diseases formed by blockage of their orgasmic energy. The Crofts use Reichean principles of orgone energy to guide their attempts to neutralize deadly orgone radiation (DOR) which is present in cell phone towers, universities, government buildings, and post offices. Carol Croft, “a high-level empath” and psychic, communicates with dolphins who have helped her and Don Croft know how to proceed in their fight against DOR. Today the Crofts make and sell Chemtrailbusters, St. Buster Buttons, Rainbow Zapper Eggs, Tower Busters, and Holy Hand Grenades in online shops also selling orgone jewelry, healing stones, chakra-cleansing stones, aura photos, and healing bracelets. Through these devices, orgone energy can be “gifted” to places that harbor DOR, as explained on the thousands of postings on the many discussion forums on www.ethericwarriors.com


13. Other Senses: The Politics of Mediumship
Esther Peeren

The paranormal is supposed to exceed the ordinary, the rational and the explicable, yet it is not without its own expectations and conventions. There is, in Michel Foucault’s terms, an ‘archive’ or ‘system of enunciability’ that governs what can and cannot be said – or, more aptly, seen – in the paranormal paradigm. In relation to mediumship, which is my focus here, certain visions and materializations make sense – enabling them to appear with enduring brightness – while others, considered senseless, cannot attain event-status. Looking at two contemporary British novels featuring female mediums from different centuries – Sarah Waters’s Affinity (1999), set in the 1860s, and Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black (2005), which unfolds in the 2000s – I ask what counts as a psychic vision in each historical context and when such visions become too “other” to be considered sensible as emanations of the suprasensible. When does the paranormal shift to the abnormal, leaving intelligibility behind? And what potential does the medium’s supposedly superior eye have for illuminating not just the credible-incredible (the amazement expected of the supernatural) but also the archive’s truly unanticipated and unarticulated outside? It is my contention that the medium’s claim to an “other,” superior vision can amount to a political act in Jacques Rancière’s sense, capable of challenging the existing partage du sensible, the partition or distribution of the sensible that determines what can and cannot be perceived (sensed) and what is and is not intelligible (make sense) in a particular community.


14 ‘There’s Something in My House’: Television and the Politics of the Paranormal
Heather Nunn and Anita Biressi

This chapter attends to this political dimension of the ghostly and the paranormal by considering the ways in which ghosts and haunting in TV drama work to draw attention to the those who are often disenfranchised, marginalised or ill-treated; rendering them both visible and central to the culture and spaces from which they have been earlier excluded. As María del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren (2010: x) explain in their survey of the haunted spaces of everyday culture, there are in fact two kinds of ghosts operating in culture: the figurative and the non-figurative. The non-figurative is most commonly understood as the soul or spirit of a deceased person and the figurative ghost can be many things including a designation for social outcasts, the neglected and the unwanted in the social realm. It is the interaction between the two that works to reveal the silences and oppressions of the lived world and which renders the invisible visible. In Nicholas Mizroeff’s (2002: 239) words:
..the ghost is that which could not be seen...and it has many names in many languages: diasporists, exiles, queers, migrants, gypsies, refugees…The ghost is from one place among many from which to interpellate the networks of visibility that have constructed, destroyed and deconstructed the modern visual subject.
Focusing on the BBC’s drama series Sea of Souls (2004-7), which deploys an investigative paranormal format, our own analysis of popular TV aims to illustrate how in many television treatments of the paranormal it is the ghost – both figurative and non-figurative – that calls to account and makes visible the ways in which their living counterpart has been mistreated, maligned or misunderstood.


15. Social Realism and the Paranormal in Scandinavian Fiction
Olu Jenzen

This chapter discusses the style of ‘paranormal social realism’ by situating two contemporary Scandinavian popular novels in relation to current critical debates on the paranormal in popular culture, and the Swedish tradition of proletarian, social realist literature. In a reading of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 vampire thriller Let the Right One In alongside the young adult novel The Circle by Sara Elfgren and Mats Strandberg (2011) – two texts that take as their central concern a critique of the enduring myths of the welfare state  – the chapter explores how paranormal themes are employed to engage with the politics of the everyday, and the often poorly documented experiences of marginalised or precarious lives from within the realm of popular culture. It argues that the particular combination of witchcraft and psi abilities in The Circle and vampire lore in Let the Right One In – mixed with a distinctly realist tradition – makes these texts stand out as examples of an emerging new style of the popular paranormal.


16. Immersed in Illusion, Haunted by History: Marisa Carnesky’s Ghost Train
Josephine Machon

In this chapter I discuss how Marisa Carnesky’s Ghost Train (2004, 2008-), an immersive and truly ‘sensational’ populist performance event, accentuates the spectral potential of such rides and plays with the multifarious possibilities of ‘haunting the imagination’ that the form offers when employed as an artistic intervention. I will consider specifically how she exploits the unheimlich (literally, ‘unhomely’; uncanny or eerie) aspect of illusion, the visceral impact of fairground rides and the affective possibilities of ‘the haunted house’, to instil an immediate, live and ‘lived’ – thus ‘live(d)’ - response in the audience-participants; specifically to the historical, the mythologised, the political and the personal narratives of displaced and sex-trafficked women from recent history.

The discussion draws on (syn)aesthetic analysis (Machon, 2009, 2011), a recent manifesto for ‘New Magic as Contemporary Art’, (various, Straada, 2010) and Jacques Derrida’s ideas around ‘hauntology’ (2006), to illustrate how Carnesky’s idiosyncratic fusion of disciplines across theatre, cabaret, film and fairground, extends forms of representation and invites the audience to experience the historical ‘identities’ of silenced, migrant women across the 20th and 21st centuries by using aspects of illusion as ghostly apparition, to sensual and metaphorical ends; gendered historiographies that are felt as much as intellectually understood.Carnesky’s Ghost Train takes a journey through the uncanny time-place continuum of the historical, the imaginative, the architectural and the durational to establish a paranormal artistic activity that makes manifest these ‘lost’ lives.


17. Ireland The Anomalous State: Paranormal Cultures and The Irish Literary and Political Revival
Wendy E. Cousins

In 1841 the Irish census showed a population of 8.2 million but through famine and emigration this had declined to 4.5 million by 1900 (Public Records Office of Northern Ireland 2007). In the first decade of the twentieth century the island was troubled politically and beset with poverty and disease. Dublin as a capital city was little more than a large town, with a population of around 400,000 and the worst housing conditions in the British Isles. Mortality rates were high, the death rate in Dublin per thousand was 22.3 while in London it was just 15.6 (The National Archives of Ireland 1911). The Anglo-Irish Protestant class, descendants and successors of the Protestant Ascendancy that had ruled Ireland in the eighteenth century made up only 10% of the city’s population, yet within this small section of society a number of closely-interconnected poets, artists, women’s liberationists and revolutionaries were exploring altered states of consciousness, esoteric philosophies, Eastern religions and radical politics in a way that prefigures the zeitgeist of 1960s California. Their writing was to influence the course of Western literature and define the rebirth of Ireland as a nation.
Poet and polymath George William Russell (‘AE’) proclaimed the awakening of the old gods in the Dublin hills and taught the members of his wide social circle techniques of altering consciousness which they learned to use as a means of inspiring their artistic work. Other writers as diverse as W.B. Yeats, the duo Somerville and Ross, and James Cousins were variously involved in mysticism, spiritualism, Theosophy and ceremonial magic. Automatic writing mediums Hester Dowden, Eileen Garrett and Geraldine Cummins were also features of the literary scene. In political and public life the paranormal had influence. The island saw out the end of the nineteenth century as part of the British Empire under the governance of Conservative statesmen Arthur and Gerard Balfour, both eminent members of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), who served successive terms as Chief Secretary for Ireland. Their SPR colleague, Sir William Fletcher Barrett, as well as investigating telepathy, dowsing and poltergeists was Professor of Physics at the Royal College of Science for Ireland. Revolutionary activist Maude Gonne (one of the founders of Sinn Féin and Yeats’s muse) reported a number of personal paranormal experiences and held to the belief that “every political movement on earth has its counterpart in the spirit world and the battles we fight have perhaps been already fought out on another plane and great leaders draw their often unexplained power from this” (Gonne McBride 1938: 336).
For creative people engaged in processes of  personal and national reinvention this fascination with the Otherworldly was simultaneously a manifestation of a sense of geographic and cultural dislocation, and an inventive way of integrating paradoxes of identity and territory. A process of re-enchantment which allowed the ordinary to become extraordinary and enabling them to reach a new ‘province of the imagination’.


18. Mexico’s La Ilustración Espírita: Toward a Transatlantic Understanding of a Spiritualist Archive
María del Pilar Blanco

‘La Ilustración Espírita: Toward a Transatlantic Understanding of a Spiritualist Archive’ Dr. María del Pilar Blanco (maria.blanco@ucl.ac.uk) The publication of John Gray’s The Immortalization Commission (2011) represents a very recent and popular example of how contemporary criticism and philosophy continues to show a deep interest in the relations between humanity’s desire for immortality and the modern age of scientific confidence. Like Gray, other authors like Roger Luckhurst (The Invention of Telepathy, 2002) describe how subjects in Anglo-American industrial cultures in the nineteenth century, having broken the codes to some of the most enduring of mysteries of life, envisaged applying the same methods to dispel the shadows surrounding the afterlife. However, the narratives about the material cultures that contributed to a spectral turn of the nineteenth century have mostly focused on how this was predominantly a European and North American phenomenon. This essay seeks to shed new light on this transatlantic network of spiritualism through an analysis of Mexico City’s La Ilustración Espírita, one of the country’s magazines devoted to this doctrine. Published for over two decades, the magazine was contemporaneous with similar publications in the global north, and represents an excellent repository of the debates between spiritualists and materialists in the dawn of Mexico’s liberal age. Spiritualism and ultimately spiritualist journalism were practices that went hand in hand with the opening of transatlantic exchanges about science in the last decades of that century. I argue that by opening these archives we can start building a more historically and culturally nuanced methodology that addresses how global societies came to terms with dreams of immortality and the ghosts of an expanding scientific age. Opening the archive of La Ilustración Espírita is therefore an example of how we can begin to understand haunting as a historical phenomenon that asks to be examined at both local and global levels.


19. Visions of the Paranormal: Representations of Psychic Women and Ghosts in Television and Film
Karin Beeler

A number of films and television shows from 1990 to the present reflect a keen interest in representing female psychics and their encounters with ghosts. This period coincides with what some scholars would call third wave feminism and what others have called postfeminism. The shift away from second wave feminism to third wave feminism has found expression in diverse depictions of psychic women – a trend that shows no signs of stopping. The psychic woman/medium/seer/witch has thus become a new kind of hero figure who challenges established ways of knowing and who embodies contradictions, individuality and the ability to negotiate spaces – ideas that that have also been discussed in third wave feminist criticism.
The psychic /ghost relationship serves as a way of reflecting anxieties associated with women in specific roles or situations:  women who face certain challenges as mothers and/or working women, women who negotiate social situations in a patriarchal world, and women who experience a traumatic event.  Television series such as Stephen Volk’s UK drama  Afterlife, the  long running American series Medium (2005 – 2011)and Ghost Whisperer (2005-2010), the shortlived Josh Whedon series Firefly (2002) and the American production Wonderfalls (2004), along with American films such as Ghost (1990),  The Gift (2000) andSerenity are just some of the works that engage with these issues.  While there are reality or “factual” television programs with psychic content (e.g.  Rescue Mediums), drama series have proven to be a key genre for experimenting with notions of female heroism in a paranormal context. This chapter examines how women in film, television drama and reality television are positioned as unlikely heroes and how their interaction with ghosts reveals the importance of questioning boundaries in a postfeminist context. The dismantling of boundaries also manifests itself in the representation of the psychic who functions as a ghostlike presence (e.g. the character River in Firefly), and in the representation of the ghost child (Afterlife; Marchlands) as a mediating force that engages with the psychic individual in order to transgress gendered, social and physical spaces. The psychic/ghost relationship thus serves as a metaphor for new ways of seeing and may inspire viewers, especially female viewers to venture into their own versions of the unknown.


Part III Paranormal Phenomenologies


20. The Gizmo and The Glitch: Telepathy, Ocular Philosophy, and other Extensions of Sensation
Kristen Gallerneaux Brooks

This chapter will investigate the byproducts and doctrines of paranormal culture, as it is conflated with technology and its connective sensory tissues, in both analog and digital forms. Perspectives from material culture and folklore studies, parapsychology, critical art theory, and other forms of inquiry will be directed towards discussions of the ocular philosophies scattered throughout the history of paranormal research, specifically those areas most concerned with non-normative sensation. The first half relates to “analog” instances connected to non-retinal and telepathic vision, with discussions in the second half focusing on aspects of the “digital,” especially spectral matters narrated by the Google Street View feature. My own position in this dialogue is not to validate or deny the authenticity of the cases presented within, but is rooted in the opinion that the visual and material facets of paranormal culture are overlooked artifacts that have the ability to act as active entities that encourage the development of narrative, and as catalysts for debate concerning the rhetoric of truth. All of this is inspired by, yet occurs outside of, the pictorial frame. This relates to the concept of visual legends and visual memorates, terms I use to describe processes of narrative, supported through the use of the invisible attributes of tangible artifacts as opposed to oral histories. How fitting a topic then, considering that psychical research has often placed an emphasis on the visual in tandem with narrative. These byproducts of psi research exist in the form of documentation and devices of the research environment and its experiments, taking form in drawings, photographs, and films. I hope to show that the aesthetic and philosophical considerations of the metaphorical and metaphysical thresholds present in paranormal culture have the potential to uncover intersections of belief, science, and modes of human creativity that can create new forms of shared experience, visual, spiritual, and otherwise.


21. Paranormal Art History: Psychometry and the Afterlife of Objects, A Canadian Case Study
Jennifer Fisher

Within paranormal discourse, psychometry is the ability to perceive through touch what are reputedly magnetic, energetic or ‘ethereal’ signatures imprinted in an object. This essay explores the epistemological stakes of psychometry: how might psychometry inform and expand art historical methodologies in locating the unknown attribution and stories of artifacts? Can intuitive technologies such as psychometry (denigrated as a pseudoscience for over a century) contribute to the forensic investigations of art history? First examining psychometric methods in art history and archaeology, I then undertake a case study that engaged the collaboration of both clairvoyants and museum curators to discern the lost provenance of two nineteenth-century family portraits. This essay analyzes psychometry within a paranormal sensorium to animate what is purportedly a resonant materiality beyond linear and ocularcentric conceptions of art history.


22. Music and the Paranormal
Melvyn J. Willin

The paranormal continues to intrigue people throughout many sections of society and it might be argued that mankind’s belief system requires a striving for matters beyond human comprehension. Music plays a role in many aspects of life and in most religions. The singing of popular songs and well-known hymns has long been thought conducive to binding a group of people together and, in the case of Spiritualism, to encourage the communication of spirits. Mediums have spoken of direct contact with the spirits of departed composers and performers. They have played their music, written it down under dictation from these discarnates, and provided information about composers and their works conveyed from an allegedly spiritual source. Although not necessarily claiming spirit contact directly as the source of their inspiration, many well known and respected composers have undergone psychic experiences which have brought them into contact with an external source which has been described as ‘divine’. For the purpose of this chapter I decided to explore the realm of musical mediumship through Spiritualism and spiritualistic sources. This will include the claims of 19th Century believers such as Jesse Shepard, Florizel von Reuter, Charles Tweedale and Jelly d'Aranyi as well as details of interviews given to me by 20th and 21st Century composers and performers such as John Tavener and John Lill. So-called ‘musical mediums’ will be discussed with reference to the validity of their music and the claims attached to their works - the main person studied being Rosemary Brown. A number of well-known classical composers and famous performers will be examined including Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin and Caruso. Throughout the chapter the intangibility of both music and the paranormal will be highlighted. Musical mediums are viewed by the society in which they operate as rather special people. They fulfil a need for the existence of something that lies outside of the material world that we all live in. They allegedly produce music from a spirit world that (they believe) provides proof of survival beyond death. Furthermore, because musical ability is viewed by many as being a ‘gift’ from some unknown source when it is displayed by seemingly normal people then a divine origin can be more easily suggested. These ideas will be examined.


23. Summoning the Spirits: Suggestion, Magic and the Cognitive Approach to Performance Creation
Jon Armstrong

This chapter will site the generation of paranormal events, such as séances, within the discipline of performance theory, with particular reference to magic (conjuring). It will provide an overview of relevant current thinking from a range of different disciplines, including performance theory and cognitive science, and provide a number of jumping off points for further study. It will then analyse the links between performances of this type, magic and immersive theatre, and look at possible future applications and ethical implications for immersive performance.


24. Trance, Transfiguration and Trust: Spiritualism in Western Australia
Janet Baldwin

Healing is regarded by Spiritualist mediums as one of the highest expressions of power and it is offered in situ to the public prior to, or after, the Divine Church Service. Absent healing is sent through prayers and blessings to those whose name is evoked during meditation or placed in healing books and lists invariably located on the Spiritualist Church platform. Private healing sessions are also offered by particularly gifted mediums and this chapter is centred on participation observation of trance mediumship circles, here mediums offer their bodies as instruments to heal clients and those in spirit. Illness and disease manifest due to stress and social control and spiritual healing helps to reduce the suffering. This culturally contextual belief, patterns itself on the body and mind in many ways, and I explore how the body is seen as the existential ground of culture, manifests the understanding of social memory of illness and stress, and how spiritual healing serves as a remedy for clients and those in spirit. I discuss the spiritual practice of a trance medium and a patient in need, the transfiguration of a medium by a family of three and the discourse of a discarnate spirit who seeks to teach and heal.  


25. A Phenomenology of the Ghost Hunting Scene in the USA and in Germany
Gerhard Mayer

Over the past few years, Ghost Hunting Groups (GHGs) were founded, particularly in the United States, which have committed themselves to the investigation of haunted sites. This article will focus on the analysis of this movement and its remarkable development, which results from three major factors: (1) the presence of ghost-hunting-related themes in the media, such as on television and in movies, (2) the popularization of the internet and the possibilities that emerge in the area of information access, general exchange and networking, as well as (3) easy availability and manageability of high-tech equipment along with the simplification of data processing due to data digitalization. First, this article will dimensionalize the field of GHGs according to various criteria. Subsequently, an attempt is made to reconstruct the emergence of the movement. Next, the most important methodological approaches (equipment, procedures) will be outlined. And finally, the main part of the text will focus on the situation in the United States. It is based on self-portrayals of the GHGs on their webpages, the analysis of the Ghost Hunters TV series that plays an important role in the emergence of the movement and is closely linked to the GHG The Atlantic Paranomal Society (TAPS), as well as on the few scientific studies that exist on the movement. In a second step, the paper will look at GHGs in Germany, which adopt the American model on the one hand, but in many cases use a different culture-dependent framing, on the other. The article concludes by highlighting problems this form of non-professional research pose to scientific anomalistics.


26. The GHost Project – Manifesting Ghosts through Visual Art and Creative Research
Sarah Sparkes

Guests, Hosts & Ghosts and how to make them: The GHost project – manifesting ghosts through visual art and creative research. Sarah Sparkes GHost is a visual arts and creative research project which, in homage to Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, “A guest + a host = a ghost”, takes on and explores the conceit of guests, hosts and ghosts, both metaphorically and practically, in its activities. To date, the project has had two central strands. Firstly, a consideration of the relevance of ghosts in contemporary culture which is centred around a programme of interdisciplinary seminars – so-called Hostings – held in Senate House at the University of London. Secondly, Ghost is composed of a series of exhibitions, screenings and performances designed to make manifest and, by extension, examine the aesthetics of ghosts and haunted spaces. Drawing on a number of case studies from GHost exhibitions and Hostings this chapter will explore how ghostly charactereistics are manifested in contemporary culture and art practice. The chapter will look at the ghosts of video art and film – literal apparitions as well as the more abstract notion of technology becoming the medium which channels the spirits – and the creation of the uncanny in installation and performance art. Particular reference will be made to the use of audiovisual and mechanical technologies as well as performance art to manifest ghostly apparitions and simulate haunted atmospheres. Drawing on the GHost exhibitions and Hostings, this chapter aims to provide some insights into the manifestation of ghostly aesthetics.


27. The Monsters of Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes: Prehistoric Ghosts that Haunt East London’s Lower Lea Valley
Gareth Edward Rees

The Monsters of Hackney & Walthamstow Marshes: Prehistoric Ghosts That Haunt the Lower Lea Valley On the 27th of December 1981, four boys leave their homes to play on the snow. In this weather, Hackney Marshes’ playing fields become an irresistible plateau of bright white possibility. They build snowmen. They throw snowballs. They do what young boys do. And when they find a mysterious set of footprints they follow, wondering what could possibly make such huge impressions. Little Tommy Murray, 13, is walking a little ahead of his friends when he comes upon something. At first glance it looks like a dog. But this thing is gigantic. It turns and rears up at him, growling, all teeth and claws. Tommy screams. His friends’ mouths open in horror. A bear is roaming Hackney marshes. This is not the first time an incident like this has been reported, (and perhaps not the last). Whether the tale of the 1981 bear is a hoax, a true account of a wild bear or a paranormal vision, it’s not surprising that such stories take hold in this particular part of London. Bears, crocodiles and wild cats have all been spotted here. The scientific evidence stacked against the existence of these creatures does little to dispel these rumours, which gain their own narrative momentum and quickly become artifacts of local urban folklore.In this essay I want to explain why the lower Lea Valley is haunted by spectres of the past; how it challenges perceptions of linear time and space in a modern city; and why its peculiar topography makes a fertile ground for paranormal beast sightings. If you examine how the surrounding roads and water channels interlock, this zone is almost an island. Or, the way I look at it, the opposite of an island. This is not a place surrounded by nothing. It’s a nothing surrounded by place.


28 A Short Bestiary of Creatures from the Web
Line Henriksen

Ever heard of smile.jpg? It is said that it appeared online for the first time in the 1990's, and that it is supposed to be a picture of a dog-like creature with a broad grin, a human hand reaching out from the darkness behind it. Anyone who has ever seen the jpeg is rumoured to have been visited by the creature, smile.dog, in their nightmares. It tells them to “spread the word” by showing the jpeg to others. Then it will leave them alone. Promise. 'The Curious Case of Smile.jpg' is a so-called creepypasta. These are online urban legends, which often claim to be stories of ‘real’ encounters with the paranormal. In this sense, creepypastas have a lot in common with many other contemporary narratives of the paranormal found in for example web series Alternate Reality Games and so-called point of view/found footage horror films, most of which flirt with documentary-style aesthetics. In this chapter I would like to explore monstrous encounters in narratives of the ‘authentic’ paranormal through the lens of materialist feminisms. Most materialist feminists argue that the materiality of the world is never still, but always engaged in active processes of materialization. In the midst of such movement and transformation, one will encounter monsters, that is, the strange(r) and the ‘other’ that cannot be completely anticipated nor fully known, but which one must learn to live with and respond to in respectful ways. This is the beginnings of a posthuman ethic as well as an opening up of what Donna Haraway calls the ‘promises of monsters’ : the possibility of changing the world by disturbing it with accounts of virtual, liveable elsewheres. But how does one respond to ghosts and ghouls, monsters and phantoms? And how does one explore and navigate in worlds that are in constant transformation?

book cover image

 

image from book - couple posing for portrait with ghost

 

image of apparition in hall with seated audience

 

image of woman wrapped in fur floating in a void of black