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“The story–from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace–is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” –Ursula K. Le Guin
What is it about monsters, UFOs, ghosts, and other paranormal topics that appeals to so many of us? Some people say they simply like a good mystery or a scare, while others enjoy the challenge of trying to understand what happens after we die, or are drawn to explore seemingly supernatural events that defy easy scientific categorization. But there are deeper and more fundamental motivations to consider. For thousands of years, humans have explicitly tried to understand the workings of the natural world through storytelling, and these efforts have most often relied upon paranormal explanations—gods, demons, magic, supernatural creatures, and spirits.
Part of this ancient need to tell engaging “just so” stories to each other is rooted in a basic quest for entertainment, but an overarching motivation to order and control the natural world also plays a fundamental role in this human tendency to want to explain how and why things happen. It makes us more comfortable to know that while some events may seem random and inexplicable, there may be forces at work “behind the scenes” that provide hidden guidance and order to our complicated lives.
Modern quantitative science has unlocked many of the secrets of the universe, but there are plenty of phenomena that researchers are still unable to fully comprehend. It can’t be a coincidence that the most memorable paranormal events, sites, and experiences also come with amazingly vivid historical narratives. In fact, the more dramatic the folklore behind an event, the more we want to engage with that story. This is why we find paranormal mysteries so intriguing and their presence strangely reassuring. Sometimes the journey may be more rewarding than the eventual destination.