Helping out at the first annual Banshee Paranormal Festival in New England got me thinking: here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, and we still find ourselves fascinated by ghosts, demons, and all manner of supernatural creatures. Wasn't the cold, objective light of science supposed to have done away with all the boogymen by now, turning us into practicing athiests, living in a rational universe where everything is explained by logic and common sense? Well, perhaps...but so far, things have not turned out the way the science types planned. In 2013, we still want our Angels, Devils, Haunted Houses, and Witches - We want them more than ever.
Why? Maybe it's because, instead of solving global problems as promised, scientific inquiry has led to far greater horrors than anything imagined by the old-time Inquisition: Genetic Mutations, Nuclear Weapons, Killer Robots, Organ Bootleggers, and the occasional Plague Virus. Plus, we seem to be in the process of heating the earth, a little at a time, to pizza oven-like temperatures. Thanks to global warming, we will someday be able to experience Hell right in our own back yard! ( Helpful NASA scientists have given us a sneak preview by exploring the greenhouse planet Venus: surface temp 800 degrees F, beneath toxic clouds.)
Organized religion, of course, has never spared us terror. Quite the opposite. For a while, Church Fathers did a respectable job with their Hellfire, Eternal Damnation, and the Wrath of God. Today, a good education makes most of this sound silly; and when it doesn't, the horrors are quickly dealt with: the Demons are exorcised, the Vampires staked. Ghost hunters, meanwhile, do fun stuff like exploring abandoned buildings on TV. The ghosts they discover whisper and de-materialize without ever hurting anyone.
Set against these old, comfortable thrills we find new and creative threats: Depletion of the Ocean's Oxygen Supply, Computers Nosing Into Every Detail of Our Lives, and the Techno-Horrors mentioned above. Horrors that will destroy us, without warning, in a spirit of cold efficiency. Author H. P. Lovecraft once observed that, rather than face the unpleasant new truths science teaches about the universe, the human race will eventually choose to reject the revelations of science in favor of the "peace and comfort" of a new Dark Age.
I am not so sure we have that option. Turning your back on a hostile nuclear mutation will not stop it from tearing you to pieces. For those who believe the only thing we have to worry about is a creepy blob of ectoplasm floating in the attic, more power to you. After all, who am I to insist that everyone live in fear of World-wide Suffocation? Lying awake in the dark, each of us is entitled to our own personal terror.
George Goner, for The Haunted Cabaret
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