What does the paranormal mean to Canadians?
A paranormal investigator in Toronto once lamented that the only time journalists came around to talk to him was Halloween.
Although I understood where the media industry was coming from — a 24-hour news cycle based on timely stories — I could understand where he was coming from as well.
In Canada, the paranormal is often tucked away like Halloween decorations. It’s gobbled down like the candy collected door-to-door during that one night and once sated, people return to their middling lives.
The decorations are in storage, and the openness to the unknown gets closed down for another season. Unless there’s a viral video about strange animal noises in Sioux Lookout, a new supernatural horror movie or UAPs being shot down over Northwest Territories, people are as publicly indifferent to the paranormal as Ontario voters are during an election.
When I started The Superstitious Times five years ago (April 2018), with the input of my former managing editor Dan Hoddinott, and photography colleague Alex Malakhov, I had that investigator’s lamentations in the back of my head.
He became that “grey-beard loon” from the wedding in Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It haunted me that Canadians kept the hunger for the paranormal locked up, and his words caused me to mull over what it is I want to write about.
I’ve even considered if I should’ve pursued a social anthropology undergrad at the University of Toronto instead of settling for archaeology. What I mean by that is I could’ve done my master’s thesis statement on why people believe in ghosts and the geopolitical impacts of what folklore lives on.
But my need to find meaning in this world, ever since I was just a wee kid who had an inexplicable experience out in British Columbia, has drawn me back to the paranormal.
My formative years were spent watching “Sightings”, “Unsolved Mysteries” and “The X-Files” on television, and 1980s cinematic fare for kids was generously spooky: The Lady in White, Labyrinth and The Monster Squad.
The 1980s and early ‘90s seemed to explore more of what we believed. Pop culture pushed back against the Sunday morning “Hour of Power” that featured televangelists clashing with He-Man and G.I. Joe. Canada has always seemed more secular than its American cousin, but there is that strict piety up here too.
But perhaps that secular nature has led to people being as silent as the grave on the paranormal. What do we believe in Canada? The melting pot of ethnicities has allowed us to learn about how other cultures perceive the unknown, casually kicking aside the revenants of Victorian spirituality and tired Gothic tropes.
But what is it that intrigues us about the unknown and quietly hushes us when we reach a broader audience?
This is what I wanted to explore when I launched The Superstitious Times. I wanted to learn about our history as a nation, as well as tackle some of the bigger cultural issues, such as the lack of diversity within the paranormal field.
The website has come a long way since I launched it, gaining visibility thanks to the connections with other writers interested in the unknown, my work with “Haunted Magazine” and my appearance on “Haunted Hospitals”.
I look forward to continuing to bring folkloric tales, as well as challenging readers’ thoughts on the paranormal, with the help of other writers who are interested in the field.
— Brian Baker
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