Do We Still Believe in the Paranormal?
Strange footage of a hairy creature walking through the woods. Orbs caught on still pictures. Triangular lights blinking in the night sky. We’ve seen the videos and heard the stories, but how many people today truly believe in the paranormal?
I thought it’d be interesting to look at some recent polls regarding belief in a few supernatural topics, namely ghosts, aliens, and Bigfoot. I can’t necessarily vouch for their accuracy, but these surveys should give us a decent idea of where things stand in today’s (presumably) skeptical world.
You know, the idea that an undiscovered species of bipedal ape lurks throughout North America isn’t all that outlandish. In fact, scientists such as Jane Goodall and David Attenborough believe Bigfoot or the Yeti may exist. How about the rest of us?
A recent graphic (above) created by Joshua Stevens shows the number of Bigfoot sightings reported throughout the U.S. from 1921 to 2013, 3,313 sightings in total. That’s quite a few, and according to Stevens, “it’s clear that if the legendary biped is real, it’s thriving out west.”
As for how many people today believe Bigfoot/Sasquatch is real, an Angus Reed Public Opinion poll last year found that about 30% of Americans believe Bigfoot exists. This data was turned into an infographic by LiveScience.
Do you believe in ghosts? You may be surprised (or not!) to find out that nearly half of Americans and more than half of Britons believe in the existence of spirits, according to two recent polls.
The first poll, by the Huffington Post in collaboration with YouGov, surveyed 1,000 adults and found that 45% believe in the existence of ghosts, and a full 64% believe in some kind of afterlife.
However, only 28% claimed to have ever personally encountered a ghost. In a more recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll (this month, in fact), 61% said they believed “some people have experienced ghosts.”
YouGov also performed another study, at the behest of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, in which they found that 52% of Britons believe in paranormal activity. A full one in five also said they had experienced said paranormal activity for themselves.
Another poll by CBS News in 2009 found that 48% of Americans believed in ghosts, and 78% believed in life after death. Again, however, only 22% claimed to have ever seen or “felt the presence of” a ghost.
Obviously, there’s a distinction to be made between unidentified objects (which any given UFO sighting invariably is) and an actual alien spacecraft. So, how many people believe that aliens from other planets have visited Earth?
According to a National Geographic survey in 2012, 36% of Americans believe UFOs exist, and “nearly four-fifths of respondents said they believe the government has concealed information about UFOs from the public.”
Another poll by Huffington Post/YouGov from September 2013 showed that 48% of Americans believe that “some people have witnessed UFOs that have extraterrestrial origin.”
Going a bit farther back, and beyond the idea of alien visitation, a 2005 poll found that 60% of Americans believe that “some form” of extraterrestrial life exists on other planets.
According to Seth Shostak, who will be appearing on Art Bell’s Dark Matter tonight, “It is quite likely that there is life elsewhere in our galaxy, and there’s a real possibility that we will find evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life by the year 2025.”
So, there you have it. Bigfoot, ghosts, UFOs. If these polls are to be believed, we’re not quite as skeptical today as I would have thought. Of course, we’re unlikely to ever believe in something like this again.
But clearly a good chunk — and in some cases, a majority — of people still believe there is something out there, something unexplained. And why not? What do you believe?