There are many amongst us who believe in superstitions though most might outwardly scoff at them.
To understand what drives some people to truly believe the paranormal, two sociologists visited psychic fairs, spent nights in haunted houses, trekked with Bigfoot hunters, sat in on support groups for people who had been abducted by aliens, and conducted two nationwide surveys.
AdvertisementThe researchers reported in a new book, called "Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture," that reasons why people believed varied.
For some, the paranormal served as just another way of explaining the world. For others, extraordinary phenomena offered opportunities to chase mysteries, experience thrills and even achieve celebrity status, if they could actually find proof.
"It's almost like an adult way to get that kidlike need for adventure and exploration," Discovery News quoted co-author Christopher Bader, of Baylor University, as saying.
"Other people are sitting at home and renting videos, but you're sitting in a haunted house that is infested with demons.
"These guys who are hunting Bigfoot are out chasing a monster.
"I could see the real appeal in going out for weekend and never knowing what you might find," he said.
Bader and started with two nationwide surveys that interviewed a total of more than 3,000 Americans about their beliefs, experiences and interests.
They found that people who are moderately religious are most likely to believe in the paranormal.
This could be because they are open enough to believe in the unknown, but not so rigid in their religious beliefs to reject mysterious experiences altogether.
The numbers also showed that different types of paranormal entities appeal to different demographics.
Bigfoot hunters were perhaps the most surprising group, said Bader.
They defied all stereotypes of paranormal pursuers who wear flowing clothes and commune with spirits.
Instead, they were very serious, extremely conventional and often highly professional. In fact, their beliefs contradicted their lifestyles so much that many of them were plagued by anxiety, which drove them even further to stick to their beliefs.
"Their friends and family consider them kooky. Everyone is saying they're nuts. So, they have a real aggressive style and seriousness of purpose. They want to prove everyone wrong," said Bader.