A Brief History
Various types of alleged supernatural entities are believed to have plagued people in Western Civilization from Ancient to Modern times. Western Civilization includes not only Europe, but also places colonized by Europeans, including, for example, North America. To that end, we begin by examining the earliest examples of perceived supernatural beings, such as the Minotaur from Ancient Greece. From there, we address the Medieval and Early modern witch hunts that terrorized mostly women as well as a smaller number of men in England, France, and Germany, and the English colony of Massachusetts. We ultimately conclude by covering more modern fears of similar and newer supernatural creatures. We consider what aspects of these beliefs and related persecutions changed over time and across cultures and what aspects of belief in the supernatural were constant in each respective culture and time period. Through a combination of documentary films, readings of primary and secondary sources, and discussions, we seek to understand why fears of paranormal and cryptozoological beings have been so pervasive in Western culture from its earliest beginnings through the present. These fears have resulted in widespread persecution, execution, and exorcism of thousands of men, women, children, animals, and, even in at least one case, an iceberg (in the 1600s during The Little Ice Age) as alleged demons, witches, vampires, or werewolves! Because these beliefs have also had a profound influence on Western culture from art to literature, we hope to better understand these beliefs and their influence on Western Civilization.
I. Introduction: Defining the supernatural; the nature of belief; cultural circumstances that gave rise to particular ancient near eastern belief systems
II. Introducing the modern supernatural and the role of the “I” in Western Enlightenment and Romanticism: dreaming big and playing God!
III. A survey of the modern supernatural, the persistence of the ghost, the undead, and visitations from heaven and hell!
- On August 2, 1343, Olivier Clisson, a French nobleman from Brittany, was convicted of treason in Paris and beheaded.
- On December 4, 1872, in the Atlantic Ocean west of the Iberian peninsula, the American brigantine Mary Celeste was found by the British brigantine Dei Gratia sailing east without its crew toward the Mediterranean.
- On January 23, 1897, Elva Zona Heaster, about 24 years old, was found dead, later proven to have been murdered by her husband through her own ghost’s testimony!
- On January 19, 1913, the Holly Hotel in Holly, Michigan burned for the first time!
- On February 19, 2013, management and guests at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles finally found out why their water had been getting worse and worse over the past month.
IV. The vampire’s symbolic usefulness as the vampire meets Victorian/modern American sex, death, and technology!
- On June 17, 1462, Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad III “The Impaler,” or simply “Dracula,” conducted a night raid against his Turkish enemy, Mehmed II, who had invaded Vlad’s land of Wallachia (Romania).
- On November 26, 1476, Vlad the Impaler declared his third reign as ruler of Wallachia.
- On May 26, 1896, Bram Stoker’s horror novel Dracula was published. Before and since, horror stories have terrified us, whether at the movies, around a campfire or under our bedroom covers reading a spooky book by flashlight.
V. The witch as political symbol during the witch-hunting episodes in early modern Europe and colonial New England.
- On October 29, 1390, Paris, France got its first taste of professional witch hunting when the first of two witchcraft trials began in the French capital. Religious persecution of witches was nothing new, with records of arraignments by ecclesiastical authorities going back to 1275, but now the secular authorities, i.e. the state authorities, were involved. Exactly 302 years later, on October 29, 1692, the Court of Oyer and Terminer in Salem, Massachusetts was dissolved after having presided over the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
- On August 18, 1612, the trials of the “Pendle Witches” began in England. 22 years later to the day, across the Channel in France, Urbain Grandier was convicted of sorcery and burned alive. Apparently the 18th of August is not a good day to be a witch in Europe, at least not back in the 17th century.
- On August 19, 1612, three women from Samlesbury in Lancashire, England were put on trial for witchcraft. Just yesterday History and Headlines featured an article about another Lancashire witch trial. In this article we present to you the Samlesbury witch trials and also discuss a case of 5 witches who were executed on the same date in Salem, Massachusetts but in 1692.
- On June 2, 1692, the trial of Bridget Bishop began, starting a reign of terror in Salem, Massachusetts known as “The Salem Witch Trials.” The hysterical idiots responsible (unless you believe in witches) executed (by hanging) 20 people from 1692 to 1693. Scores of others had been accused, many of whom confessed to avoid execution, and many were imprisoned. At least 5 of those imprisoned died while in jail. No “witch” was burned at the stake in these trials. Execution was by hanging.
VI. From bewitching to possession: the supernatural as cultural symbol from the real-life exorcisms of Roland Doe (late 1940s) and Anneliese Michel (1975) to the Slenderman stabbing (2014).
VIII. The supernatural as technological document, especially in the case of ghost hunters (as in the television shows) and paranormal investigators (such as Ed and Lorraine Warren) versus debunkers (such as Harry Houdini, Penn and Teller, etc.)
- October 30th, also known as “Mischief Night” or “Devil’s Night,” is usually known for various pranks practiced prior to Halloween by children, teenagers and sometimes even adults. Perhaps instead of going out terrorizing the land, dear reader, you might curl up with a warm computer and watch some of the creepiest videos to appear on Youtube!
- On October 31st, we celebrate Halloween around the world! On honor of the holiday most popularly associated with almost all things creepy, we list some of the creepiest videos found on YouTube!
- On November 1st, Mexicans continue their three-day celebration known as the “Day of the Dead,” which begins on October 31st and concludes on November 2nd. For our third entry in our examination of the creepiest videos of YouTube, we honor those who really did pass away by featuring mysterious videos concerning real-life tragedies.
IX. The supernatural as para-science, especially what about the seventies? For example, the Philip experiment of 1972.
X. The modern supernatural: a reflection
On June 25, 1843, Marie Anne Lenormand, France’s most famous fortune teller and cartomancer (card reader), died.
Many people love reading their astrological horoscopes. It is estimated that between 20-30% of women do so regularly. The horoscopes in this article were not done with the help of astrology but rather with the help of the Madame Lenormand fortune telling cards. The author, Beth Michaels, has some experience with cartomancy and sometimes shares this with her readers.
In line with our other article of predictions, the one offering personal predictions based on zodiac sign, this article conveys 10 general predictions for the United States and World for 2015.
On December 15, 1967, the “Mothman” prophecy came true when the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River collapsed, tumbling cars into the cold water!
A couple of days ago, we reported on the mainstream media’s gloomy prediction of a potentially catastrophic snow storm striking North America on January 26-27, 2015. Yet, now such news reports as this one are slamming how Winter Storm Juno did not exactly live up to the “sky is falling” hype.
On April 17, 1897, a UFO hit a windmill and crashed, killing its pilot!
On February 24, 1942, less than 3 months after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the city of Los Angeles seemed to be under attack from a mysterious flying object.
On July 7, 1947, a mysterious object fell from the sky near Roswell, New Mexico, and was reported the next day in the local newspaper as a “Flying Saucer” captured by RAAF (Roswell Army Airfield) personnel. One could hardly blame the newspaper, because the official Air Force press release said authorities had recovered a “flying disc.”
On July 8, 1947, the local Roswell newspaper reported the crash of a UFO outside of town, calling it a “flying saucer.”
On January 7, 1948, a Kentucky Air National Guard pilot met his death trying to intercept a UFO!
On November 2, 1957, the North Texas prairie town of Levelland (population around 10,000 at the time) was the scene of one of the better documented UFO incidents.
On December 17, 1969 the U.S. Air Force shut down Project Blue Book, its investigation of UFOs.
On September 19, 1976, 2 F-4 Phantom IIs of the Imperial Iranian Air Force flew out to intercept a UFO over the capital city of Tehran.
On November 26, 1977, the people of southern Britain were astonished to find their afternoon televisions hijacked by an entity claiming to be “Vrillon.”
On December 24, 1980, a series of mysterious lights and aircraft were sighted in the area of Rendlesham Forest (Sussex England) and allegedly covered up by British authorities.
On January 8, 1981, a close encounter with a UFO left actual physical evidence!
On October 9, 1992, an unidentified flying object (UFO) crashed in a driveway in Peekskill, New York, crushing the trunk of the 1980 Chevy Malibu that was parked there.
On January 5, 2000, witnesses, of whom at least 5 were police officers, observed a triangular UFO over the American state of Illinois.
On 13 October 2010, roughly thirty years after the famed Rendelsham Forest incident, thousands of eyewitnesses reported seeing shiny, circular objects in the skies above New York City – validating the mass UFO sighting predicted by Stanley A. Fulham, a former NORAD officer and relatively well-known author, a few months earlier.
On November 12, 1933, Hugh Gray took the first known photos of the Loch Ness Monster.
On April 21, 1934, one of the most famous photographs in history was taken by a London gynecologist!
In the night of what is believed to be February 2, 1959, 9 Russian university students hiking and skiing in the wilderness of the Ural mountains died mysteriously. Theories for their demise range from natural disasters to a government or military cover up and even to an encounter with aliens or the Russian bigfoot known as Yeti.
On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson shot his famous footage of a bigfoot at Bluff Creek, California. The creature was later determined to be female and became known as “Patty.”
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