Students staying in Athens this summer will have the opportunity to explore both local and international paranormal phenomenon.
The Global Occult: Ghosts, Demonology, and the Paranormal, a 3-credit hour Classics and World Religions class, will delve into a worldly study of spook.
According to instructor Brian Collins, the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy, people need to be better educated in the realm of world religions. Collins has been with Ohio University since 2013.
“Most people have not had contact with religions other than their own … they have a very limited knowledge of what a Buddhist is, or what a Hindu is, or what a Muslim is,” Collins said.
Furthermore, people’s ideas of what a certain religion or practitioner of a particular religion is are often based of of inaccurate and illogically driven information.
A large part of the population identifies as non-religious according to Pew Research Center, but a significant proportion of those claim to have some sort of supernatural experience.
“When you think of religion … a lot of it doesn’t have anything to do with churches or mosques or religious institutions of any kind,” Collins said. “But with beliefs of supernatural things like ghosts and psychic powers.”
The Global Occult offers a diverse look at the paranormal, topics of study range from Mongolian and Persian demonology to exorcisms across cultures to “Bloody Mary” in American adolescent culture.
In addition to appearances by a local paranormal investigator and two Skype lectures by professors from other universities, local paranormal expert and recent OU alumnus Nick Lantz will speak to the class.
Published in 2014, Lantz wrote a book about the haunted aspect of Athens in Ghosts and Legends of Athens, Ohio. He will be speaking to the class to discuss legend tripping — the tendency, usually by adolescents, to go and explore locations with associated mystery or legend.
“Almost every student I know has made the nighttime hike up to the Ridges at some point. The allure of an old insane asylum on the hill is hard to resist,” Lantz said in an e-mail.
According to Lantz, the inspiration to take the course is all around Athens.
“The truth is that the supernatural is as much a part of the town’s history as the iconic bricks that make up Court Street,” Lantz said in an email.
Students will delve into the rich paranormal culture of Athens, including the Koons family. The family who lived atop the now-privately owned Mt. Nebo drew people from all around the region in the early days of the 19th-century Spiritualism movement because of their Seance Room.
Witnesses of the family’s spiritual interactions included OU faculty who signed affidavits regarding what they saw. Visitors of the Seance Room spoke of “levitating musical instruments that played by themselves,” Lantz said in an email.
“I have been studying this stuff on my own for many years, but if this had been offered while I was still a student I would have signed up immediately,” he said in an email.
Margaret Storrs, a senior studying world religions with a focus in Islam, has already enrolled in the class.
“I think it’s very interesting, the fears people maintain within religion,” Storrs said.
For students interested in taking the class inspiration is sometimes found in their backyards.
“Living on West Green, it was close to The Ridges, and we went there all the time,” Abbey Knupp, a junior studying journalism, said. “It’s just fun, I don’t know if I believe in it, but it’s fun to let yourself be spooked.”
Although some students may not be staying in Athens during the summer, there is still interest by students. Knupp won’t be taking courses at OU this summer, but if she were, she’d be interested in taking The Global Occult.
“You wouldn’t have to sell me on the class,” Knupp said.