Halloween History

Darby Orcutt, assistant head for NC State University Libraries, will be teaching STS: 490: Science, PSI, Sasquatch, and Spirits this spring. This interdisciplinary course teaches students how to use scientific methods to explore topics that are not generally considered part of mainstream science. The course will be delivered online on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30-5:45 p.m. 

“We try to ask why some fields are considered worthy for scientific work, and why some subjects are excluded from serious scientific study,” Orcutt said.

According to Orcutt, students taking STS: 490 will look at potential evidence for these paranormal ideas and use scientific research methods to further investigate them. 

“The best way to frame this class is a cultural studies course,” Orcutt said. “It is a humanistic approach to science. While at times we use a humanities or social science lens to look at the subject matter, we are doing so by embedding ourselves in scientific practice.”

Tyler Currie, a NC State alumnus, took STS: 490 during the 2018 spring semester. Currie took the class because he enjoyed Orcutt’s teaching style in a previous class. 

“This class introduces you to how to think about science in a new light and can open up the perspective you might hold about things you might not think are possible,” Currie said. “It also shows the relationship between popular culture and science.”

In past years, this class has visited haunted sites and the Cryptozoology and Paranormal Museum in Littleton, North Carolina, according to Orcutt and Currie.

“On a Friday night, we went on a field trip to a haunted house and brought EMF readers and recording devices with us,” Currie said. “The house we went to was supposedly very haunted, and we got firsthand experience about what it was like to ghost hunt. We didn’t see anything for sure, but it was an enjoyable experience.”

Neither Orcutt nor Curry are entirely convinced that paranormal ideas exist. But according to Orcutt, the class is not meant to convince students to believe in sasquatch or spirits but instead, it is meant to encourage them to keep an open mind about topics that the scientific world fails to take seriously.  

“I’ve seen some things that I have a very difficult time explaining, but just because I have a difficult time explaining something doesn’t mean it’s paranormal,” Orcutt said. “This is part of the disconnect. Gallup polls have found that 75% of people in the U.S. hold some sort of paranormal belief, oftentimes because of some experience they or someone close to them has had. Yet society says that if we are going to believe in science, we can’t even entertain these other ideas.”

Although this class has been offered to only honors students in recent years, it will now be available to all students this upcoming semester. There are no prerequisites for this course. 

Students who are interested in this course can enroll through MyPack Portal or contact Darby Orcutt for more information.