The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History

Edited by Dennis Waskul and Marc Eaton
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1525-7
Publication: Jul 18

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1524-0
Publication: Jul 18

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1526-4
Publication: Jul 18

248 pages
6 x 9
13 halftones

Demonstrating the value of serious academic inquiry into supernatural beliefs and practices—from ghosts, vampirism, cryptozoology, and dark tourism to tarot cards, fortunetelling, voodoo, and alien abduction

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In the twenty-first century, as in centuries past, stories of the supernatural thrill and terrify us. But despite their popularity, scholars often dismiss such beliefs in the uncanny as inconsequential, or even embarrassing. The editors and contributors to The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History have made a concerted effort to understand encounters with ghosts and the supernatural that have persisted and flourished. Featuring folkloric researchers examining the cultural value of such beliefs and practices, sociologists who acknowledge the social and historical value of the supernatural, and enthusiasts of the mystical and uncanny, this volume includes a variety of experts and interested observers using first-hand ethnographic experiences and historical records.

The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History seeks to understand the socio-cultural and socio-historical contexts of the supernatural. This volume takes the supernatural as real because belief in it has fundamentally shaped human history. It continues to inform people's interpretations, actions, and identities on a daily basis. The supernatural is an indelible part of our social world that deserves sincere scholarly attention.

Contributors include: Janet Baldwin, I'Nasah Crockett, William Ryan Force, Rachael Ironside, Tea Krulos, Joseph Laycock, Stephen L. Muzzatti, Scott Scribner, Emma Smith, Jeannie Banks Thomas, and the editor.


“Far too much of the discussion about supernatural beliefs and experiences focuses upon the credibility of the claims and the quality of the evidence. It is high time that social scientists drew our attention to the social reality of the supernatural, something that The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History accomplishes with authority. Across its chapters, readers will discover how beliefs about ghosts, UFOs, mysterious creatures and the like impact tourism, popular culture and self-identity, how the ongoing tension between science and spirituality manifests itself in paranormal subcultures and ways to categorize such seemingly incomprehensible experiences as ghost encounters and alien abductions.
Christopher Bader, Professor of Sociology, Chapman University

At last! This collection lays the long-needed foundation for academic study of belief in the supernatural. Waskul and Eaton make a logical and well-researched argument for the social importance of paranormal phenomena and dark tourism. The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History is essential for anyone planning work in this previously ‘damned’ area of study.”
Bill Ellis, Professor Emeritus of English and American Studies, Penn State University

"The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History is an important, provocative, and hugely enjoyable collection of essays. Few who have studied modern culture would question that it is haunted by a fascination with the anomalous, the paranormal, and the supernatural (beyond the regulated confines of institutional religion). As such, there is a need for an interdisciplinary, scholarly analysis of the social and cultural functions of such beliefs. The thoughtful and engaging studies in this timely volume meet that need superbly. It is a difficult book to put down."
Christopher Partridge, Professor of Religious Studies, Lancaster University

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History • Dennis Waskul and Marc Eaton
1. Toward a Cryptoscience • William Ryan Force
2. On Researching the Supernatural: Cultural Competence and Cape Breton Stories • Jeannie Banks Thomas
3. Ghosts and Hauntings: Genres, Forms, and Types • Dennis Waskul
4. Paranormal Investigation: The Scientist and the Sensitive • Marc Eaton
5. The Allure of Dark Tourism: Legend Tripping and Ghost Seeking in Dark Places • Rachael Ironside
6. “The Spirits Tell Me That You’re Seeking Help”: Fortune-Telling in Late Capitalism • Stephen L. Muzzatti and Emma M. Smith
7 .Reading Tarot: Telling Fortunes, Telling Friends, and Retelling Everyday Life • Janet Baldwin
8. Twentieth-Century Voodoo: Black Culture, Cultural Geographies, and the Meaning of Place • I’Nasah Crockett
9. Vampirism: Modern Vampires and Embattled Identity Claims • Joseph P. Laycock
10. Cryptozoology: The Hunt for Hidden Animals and Monsters • Tea Krulos
11. Alien Abduction Narratives: A Proposed Model and Brief Case Study • Scott R. Scribner


About the Author(s)

Dennis Waskul is a Professor of Sociology and Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and former president of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. He has authored, co-authored, or edited a variety of books, including Ghostly Encounters: The Hauntings of Everyday Life (with Michele Waskul); Body/Embodiment (with Phillip Vannini); The Senses in Self, Society, and Culture (with Phillip Vannini and Simon Gottschalk); and Popular Culture as Everyday Life (edited with Phillip Vannini).

Marc Eaton is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Ripon College, in Wisconsin.