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.
The internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor was an atrocity, something that haunts the popular conscience of America and is thus often suppressed or forgotten, especially in mainstream media. An exception to this came in the third season of Teen Wolf, in which the primary antagonist is an internment camp’s vengeful spirit.
The following post is by Morgan Blair, an undergraduate from the University of Louisville, and it deals with the concept of the uncanny as it is utilized by writer Georg Heym and director Robert Wiene. The uncanny itself is an important facet to consider when studying the paranormal, particularly ghosts and hauntings. Morgan’s post provides an intriguing look at Freud’s theory and presents an understanding that merits further consideration.
If you were asked to picture a ghost it would more than likely be a white creation that looks like a bedsheet with eyes cut out. When Charlie Brown needed some dorky costume in his Halloween special, he tossed a sheet over his head and cut out 17 eyeholes too many. The idea of a white bed sheet being a ghost is rooted in our cultural consciousness as the most simple portrayal of something spectral.
How far can a vengeful wish reach? In Griffin Dunne’s film Practical Magic (1998), revenge can be carried on beyond the grave itself. This manifests itself in two distinct manners that are intertwined by the end of the film: in a family curse, and in the ghost of a murdered boyfriend who haunts the film’s main characters.
Almost 100 years ago, Freud analyzed the qualities of things considered uncanny. He referred to the uncanny in his study of the subject as the “Unheimlich,” saying, “‘Unheimlich’ is the name for everything that ought to have remained… hidden and secret and has become visible” (Freud 934). He later refers to the “Unheimlich” as closely associated with “ghostly.” Along with childlike tendencies and doubled reflections, he describes repetition as an essential quality. Often a part of childlike behavior and neurotic tendency, to repeat results in a “repetition-compulsion” is, “perceived as uncanny” (Freud 943).
The episode “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (1998) of The X-Files is one that stands out from other episodes in that it is both a Christmas special and one in which the two agents actually encounter the monster of the week without any question as to whether or not it is truly supernatural. One particularly important theme is that both characters are forced to face their hypocrisy. The characters and their relationships are developed significantly.