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Posted on Thursday, June 16 - 2005

About three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief, according to a recent Gallup survey. The most popular is extrasensory perception (ESP), mentioned by 41%, followed closely by belief in haunted houses (37%).A special analysis of the data shows that 73% of Americans believe in at least one of the 10 items listed above, while 27% believe in none of them. A Gallup survey in 2001 provided similar results -- 76% professed belief in at least one of the 10 items.The "cumulative percent" column shows that more than one-fifth of all Americans, 22%, believe in five or more items, 32% believe in at least four items, and more than half, 57%, believein at least two paranormal items.

Only 1% believe in all 10 items.Three other items included in the survey, but which do not necessarily reflect paranormal beliefs, include beliefs in "psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body," "that people on earth are sometimes possessed by the devil," and "that extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past." The healing powers of the mind have been demonstrated empirically, reflected in the power of placebos, among other examples. More than half of Americans, 55%, believe in this connection. The poll shows that 42% of Americans believe that "people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil." However, it is unclear how many people treatthat statement literally, and how many interpret it in metaphorical terms. Thus, for purposes of this analysis, that item was excluded.Strictly speaking, visits from aliens are not part of paranormal beliefs. Although definitive scientific evidence of such visits is lacking, in principle the existence of extra-terrestrial beings and their ability to visit earth are subject to empirical verification.All of the other 10 items listed above require the belief that humans have more than the "normal" five senses.

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