‘Paranormal Nation’ and America’s Fear of the Supernatural

Written by Shelby Hatfield

Marc E. Fitch, author of Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFO’s, and Bigfoot, makes the claim that the belief in the supernatural rises when our nation experiences traumatic events. This theory is a psychological explanation of why Americans follow trends of believing in supernatural beings. The author says that even though the supernatural takes different forms, it is a basis for many American’s faith and gives them a way to understand disastrous events about which they can’t always know the truth (327). For instance, belief in UFO’s increased after the Cold War, belief in worshiping Satan rose during the era of Communism and McCarthyism, and, in an earlier era, more people said they believed in psychics after Darwin’s On the Origins of Species was released.

To extend these claims, we can note a significant rise in the belief of supernatural beings and ghosts since our nation experienced one of the worst tragedies of our era: 9/11. Following Fitch, I argue that people channel their fear of events and people into supernatural beliefs as a way of understanding their fears. For instance, many Americans see foreigners as monsters or demons because they are the ones who attacked our nation. If the people who committed this tragedy are seen as supernatural beings by Americans and others, these people can better understand and control their fears because demons and monsters are fictional creatures that cannot actually harm us. An example of this comparison is the “gothic nature” of the terrorists themselves. American narratives about the 9/11 terrorists emphasize their quasi-supernatural qualities, pointing out that, like ghosts, these men led two lives by hiding themselves among our own people and had an obsession with “dying for cause.” In addition, the ugly impression these men left on our country of violent death resonates in our minds as a ghost that will haunt us for decades to come.

Another example of the increase in supernatural narratives in the aftermath of 9/11 is the increase in stories about vampires—books, television shows, and movies about vampires have been enormously popular in the past decade or so. This type of phenomenon quickly rose only a few short years after 9/11, focusing on supernatural beings who walk among us, murdering some victims and attempting to recruit others to their lifestyle in gothic plots that, once again, reflect our national narratives about the 9/11 terrorists.

 

Works Cited

Fitch, Marc E. Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFO’s, and Bigfoot. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2013. Print.

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