Why Are People Afraid of Ghosts?

That’s not really a sociological question but it does raise some sociological questions.

According to an article I read in last week’s Time magazine, 37% of Americans believe that houses can really be haunted. (Did the research organization really get a good cross-section of the American public when they asked that question? Who knows.) I wonder how we compare with the populations of other rich, industrialized nations.

I wonder how religion and education level affect belief in haunted houses. I’ll go way out on a limb and say the less religious you are the more likely you subscribe to a materialistic worldview that doesn’t allow for the existence of ghosts and magic. I’ll also guess that as education increases, belief in education decreases. So, maybe 5% of people with graduate degrees believe in haunted houses while 60% of high school dropouts think that houses can be haunted. Why do I think so> Well, maybe getting more education is related to having a more "rational" worldview, one that tends to make people dismiss things like ghosts and magic.

Halloween is based on a pagan holiday, if I remember my history correctly. The pagan holiday was then co-opted by the Catholic church and turned into something called All-Souls Day, which I think was actually observed on November 1st. (Sorry to say that I am just too busy and tired to do any research tonight.). Of course that Pagan and Christian stuff was tossed out the window as society started to turn away from religion. 

Yes, I guess Americans are still quite religious compared with Europeans. Or are we? I sometimes wonder how much of this "religiosity" is just an act. How often are our "Christian" sentiments just kneejerk reactions programmed into us when our parents could still make us go to church? How often are our "Christian" attitudes toward social issues like ga marriage really just the product of manipulation by political and religious elites? But I digress…

Anyway, now that the various religious associations with this extra-spooky time of the year have fallen away we are left with costume parties, treak-or-treating, and 5647 types of Halloween candy. And about 1/3 of that candy will be on sale beginning November 1. Yum.

When did we start playing tricks on people and asking for treats? Yes, I played some tricks as a kid. But being either a baby or a sugar addict, I tended to focus on the candy. Yum. Ever noticed that trick-or-treat time has changed? well, probably not unless you are over 30. Seems like it was normal for kids to go around the neighborhood asking for candy. Now, I think, most kids only go to organized Halloween events like events at malls. Yawn.

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~ by chetdavis on October 30, 2006.

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