Haunted Ground
Journeys through a Paranormal America
by Darryl V. Caterine
August 2011, 199pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39277-1
$45, £35, 40€, A62
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39278-8
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Lily Dale, New York; a thriving Spiritualist community established well over a century ago. Roswell, New Mexico; home of the Roswell UFO Festival that attracts nearly 30,000 attendees annually. Popular television shows like The X-Files, Medium, and The Mentalist; hit movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Sixth Sense, and Phenomenon. Why do Americans continue to have such a keen interest in the paranormal?

This fascinating and insightful tour through present-day meetings of Spiritualists, UFOlogists, and dowsers illuminates our obsession with the paranormal and challenges the misunderstanding of the paranormal as a marginal or inconsequential feature of America's religious landscape.

According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans believe in some form of paranormal activity. The United States has had a collective fascination with the paranormal since the mid-1800s, and it remains an integral part of our culture. Haunted Ground: Journeys through a Paranormal America examines three of the most vibrant paranormal gatherings in the United States—Lily Dale, a Spiritualist summer camp; the Roswell UFO Festival; and the American Society of Dowsers’ annual convention of “water witches”—to explore and explain the reasons for our obsession with the paranormal.

Both academically informed and thoroughly entertaining, this book takes readers on a “road trip” through our nation, guided by professor of American religion Darryl V. Caterine, PhD. The author interprets seemingly unrelated case studies of phantasmagoria collectively as an integral part of the modern discourse about “nature” as ultimate reality. Along the way, Dr. Caterine reveals how Americans’ interest in the paranormal is rooted in their anxieties about cultural, political, and economic instability—and in a historic sense of alienation and homelessness.


  • Chronologies focusing on the main developments in Spiritualist, UFOlogical, and dowsing history
  • Photographs of materials, culture, and events at Lily Dale, the Roswell UFO Festival, and The American Society of Dowsers annual convention taken by the author
  • A bibliography of authoritative scholarly works, primary texts, and theoretical frameworks pertinent to the study of Spiritualism, UFOlogy, and dowsing
Darryl V. Caterine, PhD, is associate professor of religion in the Department of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY. He earned his degrees in religious studies from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA. Dr. Caterine's first book, Conservative Catholicism and the Carmelites: Identity, Ethnicity, and Tradition in the Modern Church, was selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book of 2003. His website is www.darrylcaterine.com.


"Caterine's writing style is pleasant and engaging. . . . Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, February 1, 2012

"On this road trip through haunted America, where the paranormal is normal, the extraordinary is ordinary, Darryl Caterine takes us into the heart of a weird America that reveals central American hopes and fears. Driven by compelling writing, making for compulsive reading, this book is full of insights into why Americans, from the margins to the mainstream, search for spiritual ancestors and sacred ground."—David Chidester, Author of Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture

"There is a darkness at the heart of Darryl Caterine’s Haunted Ground—an appreciation for the limitations upon the ability to appreciate, let alone measure, the reverberations that bare humans make in this life. Yet these are what the UFOlogists, the dousers, the mediums, channelers, and spiritually attuned are doing—recording these ghostly rhythms as they circulate via capital and media. They are alone but yet there is something unheard that makes for an uncanny bind between Caterine and his informants. A stark, arresting, and elegant narrative. A strange meditation on the 'damned facts' of American history—a blithe and benevolent imperialism but also those stubborn realities that are not so easily mapped in projects of cultural memory and analysis. Caterine takes the reader to that strangest of places, at once celebrated and unacknowledged in the American grain: the radiant space where empty death is confronted. Here is a scholar who has gone off the grid, as it were, producing a searing, original, and devastating account of what life is like at the surface, the magic and dread lying ever someplace else." —John Lardas Modern, Teacher of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College

"Haunted Ground is a compelling and engaging tour of the rich terrain of paranormal America. Caterine shows how the most central concerns of Americans’ search for wonder and spiritual fulfillment lie at the heart of endeavors too often relegated to the category of the'weird'. With a keen eye and incisive analysis, he provides new insight into the paranormal as 'public discourse'."—Judith Weisenfeld, Professor of Religion, Princeton University

"A deeply engaged observer of paranormal microcultures, Caterine relates in colorful language the resiliency of American investment in the notion of an enchanted world. At the same time, he is able to indicate how such clusters of belief—at Lily Dale, Roswell, and the Dowsers Convention—collectively shape a story-in-progress about the normative in American religious life. His accounts of his own experiences, embedded in this narrative, enable us to see the tenuousness and fragility of paranormal belief alongside the coalesced object of study that is familiar to those who research religion. The approach and writing here is a successful experiment, and a contribution to both ethnographic method and style in the study of American religion."—John Corrigan, Lucius Moody Bristol Distinguished Professor, Florida State University
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