LAYTON -- Nearly one out of every three Americans believe in ghosts, according to a national survey. But that percentage is much higher in Utah, based on the predominant LDS faith and the strong religious base of other state residents, claims a Top of Utah medium.
Based on a 2007 Gallup poll shared by a Los Angeles public relations firm -- in response to the box office success of the Hollywood film "Paranormal Activity" -- 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts.
But local psychic medium Kim Terry says that figure is much higher in Utah.
Utahns believing in ghosts may be as high as 70 percent, with 40 to 50 percent of those having had some type of occurrence "that came from a different framework," said Terry, a Ogden-based professional rescue medium and ghost hunter.
Terry said she attributes Utah's high percentage of ghost-believers, in part, to the predominant LDS culture and other active religious people living here. Another element is the expansion of people's spiritual awareness.
"I think they go in hand-in hand," said the Virginia native.
Part of the LDS Church's ordinances include baptism for the dead, Terry said. Why would church members be doing these things if they didn't believe in the hereafter, she asked?
"We are praying to God," Terry said.
And in trying to contact the Divine, she said, it enhances their belief in ghosts.
Gia Ghadimian, account executive for California-based LCO PR, the firm that released the national survey numbers, said the 32 percent figure would probably be higher if those people were polled today, due to the recent interest in the paranormal.
The number of people believing in ghosts could be much higher in regions where people are actively religious, Ghadimian said, because religion plays "a large role" in the belief in ghosts.
There is a growing interest beyond this life as talk of that subject becomes more socially viable and acceptable, Terry said.
"The obsession (people have with ghosts) is death. What happens next? Where do we go? The unknown," said Terry, whose personal experiences involve rescuing ghosts who have become stuck in this physical plane, and through contact moving them "over to the other side."
When she first started as a psychic and was doing readings, Terry said, it was a specific group of clientele she could target. But 20 years later, she is now performing work for ministers, priests, bishops and atheists.
"People really do want to know what this is all about," Terry said.
She said there is a growing interest in the paranormal because a lot of physical things in the world are not working.
And Terry isn't just telling ghost stories.
"It isn't anything to be afraid of," said Terry, who occasionally has been shocked or startled in working with the paranormal, but never scared as she treats ghosts with respect.
"I think it is validating," Terry said.
"My sense in studying the history of spiritualism is that people are fascinated with the idea of ghosts because it allows them to give some shape to the uncertainties that arise in the experience they have of their own consciousness," Weber State University Assistant Professor of History Brady Brower said.
"All sorts of unexplainable things happen in the lives of normally functioning individuals," said Brower, author of "Unruly Spirits: The Science of Psychic Phenomena in Modern France."
But interest in the paranormal is not a new phenomenon.
"There is nothing particularly new or American about the fascination with ghosts, and that the belief in spirits probably constitutes one of the earliest tenets of human religion, Brower said.
In its modern form, emerging in upstate New York with the 1848 craze for table-rapping, spiritualism can generally be described as a response to the lack of established religious authority in the young American republic, part of what historian Alice Felt Tyler called "freedom's ferment," Brower said.
"Spiritualism was, from its beginnings, embraced as a democratic and scientific form of faith," Brower said, adding in Europe, spiritualism fit with the efforts of reformers to challenge the authority of the established faiths and provide a rational basis for belief in a future life.
It was also adopted by some middle class as part of an emerging bourgeois "cult of the family" in that it offered redemptive meanings to the death of a loved one and provided essential comfort, he said.
The claim in "modern spiritualism" that these experiences could be tested scientifically brought a new dimension to old religious ideas about the soul, Brower said. It is the tension between the scientific world view and religious belief that is manipulated quite skillfully in films like "Paranormal Activity," he said.
"Movies like this play on our expectations about how the world works by juxtaposing a form borrowed from scientific and media representations of reality (the objective eye of the video camera) with events that do not accord with our normal expectations and that science cannot easily explain," Brower said.
While no one's view of reality is likely to be permanently upset by a Hollywood movie, Brower said, "I think there is still room to question the overtly sadistic nature of some of these representations and what they suggest about our fears and desires as a culture."