A YouGov poll found that 2 in 3 Americans (67%) believe they have experienced at least one of 13 paranormal encounters, such as seeing an object or hearing a voice without explanation. For each individual event, however, most say they have no personal experience.
About a third of American adults report feeling an unfamiliar presence or energy (37%) or hearing an unexplained sound or music (33%). Nearly 3 in 10 report smelling an unexplained odor (30%), hearing the voice of someone who wasn’t there (29%) or feeling an unexplained change in temperature (28%). A quarter (25%) say they have seen lights or other devices turn on or off without explanation. Fewer experiences saw an object move without explanation (22%), seen unexplained orbs of light (22%), seen a door open or close without explanation (20%), saw a spirit or ghost ( 19%), or seen unexplained smoke (11%). About 1 in 10 Americans acknowledge having seen supernatural beings mentioned in scripture, such as angels (13%) or demons (10%).
But even among those reporting these incidents, people are divided on the real cause. About a third of American adults (35%) believe their experiences come from otherworldly or supernatural means. Fewer (29%) say these encounters are more likely to have a scientific explanation. Others (36%) are not sure.
Additionally, a quarter of Americans (25%) believe they have lived in a haunted house. Those who say they have had this experience are much more likely, often two to three times more likely, to say they have had one of the other paranormal encounters. In fact, most so-called haunted house residents claim to have experienced seven out of 13 paranormal encounters.
Americans are more likely to say they have experienced something supernatural outside of themselves than to say they possess these abilities. About 2 in 5 people (39%) say they have one of the seven paranormal abilities. One in 4 (24%) believe they can psychically sense the emotions or auras of others, 15% believe they hear voices or sounds of spirits or ghosts, 13% believe they can psychically see current events for which they are not not physically present, 13% think they can psychically see past events, 12% say they can psychically see future events, 9% think they can read minds, and 8% think they can communicate with the dead.
Young Americans are much more likely to say they have these paranormal abilities. Additionally, those who report having paranormal abilities are at least twice as likely to say they have had one of 13 paranormal experiences.
As pastors consider how to approach Halloween, it may be helpful to consider the openness that many Americans seem to have toward the supernatural.
Lifeway Research found that just over one in eight American Protestant pastors (13%) advise their congregation to avoid the holidays altogether. Thus, most pastors encourage some type of Halloween engagement – whether it’s an alternative religious event (71%), building relationships with neighbors (58%) or distribution of leaflets (34%).
It should be noted that the less religious generations – the younger generations – are the most open to other supernatural beliefs. This should impress on the churches that most young people do not reject the faith because they adopt a modern secular framework for the world.
Pastors may consider scheduling pre-Halloween evangelism training specifically tailored to topics covered at this time of year.
As congregants build relationships with neighbors or engage in conversations about the supernatural and the frightening, prepare them to naturally steer those discussions toward the gospel.
It doesn’t have to be strained or a canned presentation. But ghost stories offer a natural avenue for discussing life after death. Haunted houses and monsters can open doors to conversations about Jesus overcoming evil.
This season could even be a great opportunity to evangelise at home, as young children may see scary scenes and need parents to remind them of God’s victory. It may also give you the opportunity to sing all the lyrics you still remember for “God Is Bigger Than the Boogeyman”.
When the culture begins to talk about the supernatural, Christians must be ready for those conversations and willing to point people to Jesus and the hope we have within ourselves during the scariest seasons of life.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Aaron Earls and originally published by Lifeway Research.