If the above title read All Things Supernatural, would we be talking about the same thing? What if it was All Things Paranormal? Same subject? While bigfoots, zombies, mutilated cattle, UFO’s, and ghosts* are certainly not ordinary, are they supernatural, paranormal, or something else?
Let’s get some definitions. Merriam/Webster’s online dictionary says supernatural is …of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe, especially of or relating to God, a god, demigod, spirit, or devil. Whew! Surely a ghost fits somewhere in there, but is a dead cow the result of a supernatural event? That’s a bit presumptuous.
What do they say about paranormal? …not scientifically explainable: supernatural. Wait a minute! I’m not buying this either. There are lots of scientific theories supporting all of these things…zombies even! A theory is just somebody’s explanation that’s not (yet) proven—its hypothetical. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is just that: a theory that just about every white-coated scientist believes despite lack of absolute proof.
Theories are cool. Though unproven, you can still believe one is true and rely on it day-to-day. So when it comes to having a less than rickety frame of reference for otherwise crazy things like UFO’s and ghosts, I think there’s no better concept than my old fav, the preternatural. I first heard this term uttered by a fictional character named Dr. Markway (played by Richard Johnson) in the 1963 film the Haunting (the original movie; not the stupid re-make. It happens to be my favorite ghost movie, and I highly recommend it to any serious believer or skeptic. I also blame it for my continuing preoccupation with ghosts decades later).
Dr. John Markway: A closed mind is the worst defense against the supernatural… If it happens to you, your liable to have that shut door in your mind ripped right off it’s hinges!-from the Haunting
Early in the movie, the parapsychologist is trying to explain to a skeptical but curious investigator his theory of why things keep going bump in the night in an old mansion in New England. He tells his dubious associate that there were lots of phenomena that were not explainable at the time they happened, but were later proven scientifically. He gave the example of magnetism. What self-respecting peasant in 16th Century Europe didn’t think that a (magnetic) rock causing a metal knife to inexplicably slide towards it wasn’t the work of Satan? It was supernatural then. Its Physics 101 now.
Markway’s term for this kind of stuff was preternatural. You know, as in before nature; before it was proven to be a natural part of it.
In this 21st Century we now have the words to talk about weird things, the theories that might explain them, the hardware to measure them, and the growing evidence that could eventually prove they exist. But most of us still don’t get it. What’s happening “out there” (where the truth is) is still beyond common understanding.
Enter the Valley by Christopher O’Brien is his second book about one very strange locale in southern Colorado, the San Luis Valley. It has a little bit of everything, including ghosts, UFO’s, and cattle mutilations. Trying to put all this into perspective, he offers up not only experiences and theories, but rules of how to investigate them. One of his theory/rules is “the (sub) culture itself may cocreate manifestations of individually perceived phenomena.” If he’s right, some paranormal occurrences could be in our collective heads… as if our brains are responsible for conjuring up the very things our brains are anxiously trying to figure out!
Or instead do these “non-ordinary” events happen in a Castanedan universe–
a Separate Reality that exists independently of our own thoughts?
In the long run, only you know what you saw, heard, or felt if you were lucky enough to have a preternatural experience. Don’t ever let anyone convince you it was just your imagination!
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*Author’s comment: 10/1/2012–I was just reminded by a reader as to why no vampires are on this list at Halloween season: “From my all-time favorite TV show, the legendary “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” comes the notion that the one night of the year that you won’t find vampires and other demon-y creatures about is Hallowe’en. They take the night off because, as one vamp in the show, said, it’s just too much of a mess out there, can’t always tell the real vamps from the make-believe, you could end up biting one of your own.”