Mysterious Phenomena: The New Obsession

January 20, 1978

Report Outline
Popularity of Pseudoscience
Legacy of the Supernatural
Debate on Psychic Concepts
Special Focus

Popularity of Pseudoscience

Outpouring of Books, Movies, TV Shows

By all indications, America is in the midst of a mystical revolution. Inundated with tales of extraordinary phenomena and claims of strange psychic powers, people in increasing numbers are turning to belief in rationally unexplainable—paranormal—phenomena. Reincarnation, mind reading, visitations from outer space and other marvels, once considered the exclusive province of science fiction, have gained popular acceptance as fact.

A good illustration of the trend is the growth of interest in astrology. A Gallup Poll last year indicated that 32 million adults in the United States believed in astrological predictions. Whereas a generation ago only 100 daily newspapers published horoscopes, today some 1,250 do. But those figures may tell only a part of the story. Further evidence suggests that many Americans are apparently willing to embrace a great variety of beliefs dismissed by science and most Western religions as pure superstition.

Books promoting the paranormal and the occult continue to be leading sellers, while current films about extraterrestrial life, “Star Wars,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” appear certain to break movie box-office records. Enrollments in college courses that deal with these subjects are also running high. Throughout a broad segment of society, according to writer Lee Nisbet, the quest for political and social utopias has been replaced by a desire to enter into “realms of mystical experience and mystical knowledge.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mar. 05, 2004  The Search for Extraterrestrials
Mar. 29, 1996  Pursuing the Paranormal
Jan. 20, 1978  Mysterious Phenomena: The New Obsession
Popular Culture