Collected Essays on Anthropology, the Paranormal, Mediumship, and Extraordinary Experience.

Jack Hunter
April, 2018.

Amazon RRP $18. 99 US Paperback | $8.99 Kindle
Amazon RRP £12.99 UK Paperback | £6.99 Kindle

Engaging the Anomalous is a collection of essays written by Jack Hunter between 2010-17. Together, the essays push toward the development of a non-reductive, participatory and experiential anthropology of the paranormal. Over the course of the book, Hunter surveys:

• Trends in anthropology’s engagement with the paranormal
• The anthropology and neuroscience of spirit possession
• The history of Spiritualism and the phenomena of physical mediumship
• The overlaps between mediumistic practices and other mind-body phenomena

Hunter also poses serious questions about consciousness, experience, spirits, mediumship, psi, the nature of reality, and how best to investigate and understand them. In addition, the book features a selection of illuminating interviews with the author, as well as an original Foreword by leading parapsychologist and trickster theorist George P. Hansen. Engaging the Anomalous is a bold contribution to Anomalistic literature.


“As I have lectured on both sides of the pond, I have noticed a kind of quiet renaissance of interest in the paranormal among intellectuals, especially among younger scholars of religion, anthropology, and literary criticism. Jack Hunter is a shining light among these emerging voices. His search for a non-reductive anthropology, for a “paranthropology” as his journal has it, is among the most hopeful and creative signs in our shared fields. With his trademark refusal to simply “bracket” away every honest ontological question and his balanced insistence that there is a third path forward between and beyond naive belief and equally naive debunking, Jack has blazed a trail through any number of intellectual and spiritual jungles. Here is a welcome record of that trail-blazing and that intellectual courage.”

—Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions.

“A must-read for anyone interested in the study of anomalous, extraordinary, and paranormal experiences. The brilliance of Hunter’s analysis is not just that he identifies how contemporary methods fall short of weighing in on the ontological reality of the paranormal… but in the construction of a new method, a new strategy, that acknowledges the “agency” of spirits and paranormal experience. Yes, spirits are ontologically real, surprise!”

—Diana Walsh Pasulka, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Author of American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, technology.

“Throughout history, across all cultures, and at all educational levels, people have reported experiences labeled strange, bizarre, paranormal, or supernatural. Anthropologist Jack Hunter inspects these weird but common experiences in a collected set of crisp essays and interviews. Are such experiences real, despite their challenges to today’s scientific worldview? Or should we take human experiences more seriously and use them as clues to help expand our sense of reality? These are among the endlessly fascinating questions explored in an engaging way in Engaging the Anomalous.”

—Dean Radin, Ph.D. Chief Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences. Author of Real Magic.

“This book demonstrates a highly original approach not just to the anthropology of the paranormal but arguably to the discipline itself, which often lacks the conceptual tools with which to place our interlocutors’ ontologies on the same footing as ours. Questions of belief become superfluous in this work—indeed, there are more important queries and extraordinary experiences cannot and should not be reduced to states of mind or representations. Furthermore, Hunter has had the courage to argue systematically for a destabilisation of ontological certainty which I find fundamental for scholars working with religious and spiritual processes. This he does despite the risk of ostracisation from a community which generally maintains rigid boundaries of methodological atheism. This is a book ripe with historical and theoretical considerations which provides the reader with excellent material, while it is nevertheless ethnographic in that it is ultimately grounded in Hunter´s dissertation work with a spiritual lodge in Bristol.”

—Diana Espírito Santo, Ph.D., Dept. Anthropology, La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.