Throughout history and in all cultures, mankind has held a common and unshakable conviction that a nonphysical realm inhabited by spirit beings does indeed exist. That even atheists are not immune to this universal sense of the noumenal (a reality beyond the senses) can be easily demonstrated. A suspenseful mystery, for example, or a realistic war movie, can stimulate a certain fear in readers or audiences. Horror films or novels about the occult, however, are much more unsettling. Why?
Facing a gun is one thing; facing an unseen “ghost” that is throwing furniture around the room brings terror of a different sort, even to the dogmatic materialist who denies the existence of such entities. As philosopher A. E. Taylor argues: “The ‘uncanny’ is precisely that which does not simply belong to ‘this’ everyday world, but directly impresses us as manifesting in some special way the presence of ‘the other’ world. … It is hard to believe that the most skeptical among us does not know the experience. …”
That sense of the “uncanny” to which Taylor refers is normal. It may be repressed, but it remains, no matter how deeply buried. In the former Soviet Union, even after more than 70 years of enforced atheism and the most severe measures against all religious faith, occultism is rampant. Belief in the supernatural is so much a part of human consciousness that it persists in spite of all the arguments that skepticism can marshal.