By Allison Jornlin
Contrary to what you see on Reality TV, women were largely responsible for building the foundations of paranormal research. The original ghost hunter was, in fact, a woman.
Catherine Crowe (1790-1872) investigated and wrote about hauntings in a manner we would still recognize today. Beyond ghostly encounters, her 1848 book The Night-Side of Nature also brought to light a variety of unexplained phenomena including what we now call OBEs, NDEs, time slips, ESP, etc… You’re familiar with the words “poltergeist” and “doppelgänger” because she introduced the terms and concepts to English usage.
Crowe’s contributions are not an isolated case. The term ”tulpa” is another example. This concept describing a thought-form creature so popular in paranormal circles today comes from the work of Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969). She travelled throughout to Asia to study the mystical practices of Buddhist monks in the 1920s and 1930s. Her book Magic & Mystery in Tibet describes her encounters with tulpas, telepathy, or other extraordinary mental abilities in the fabled “Land of the Snows.”
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was yet another globetrotting female investigator. Better-known as an award-winning novelist from the literary period known as the Harlem Renaissance, she was also a university-trained anthropologist driven to explore her African roots. She travelled the rural South collecting folktales and studying with Hoodoo’s legendary “two-headed doctors.” This work would become the book Mules & Men. Later a Guggenheim fellowship enabled her to study Voodoo in Haiti and Jamaica, where she would experience supernatural events that she could not dismiss. She would also be the first to photograph a Haitian zombie. Her adventures became the book Tell My Horse.
These and other tales of forgotten female trailblazers of the paranormal can be found on the new YouTube channel Paranormal Women: A Hidden History started by our Milwaukee tour founder, Allison Jornlin.