by Alissa Lee Dornink
My friend recently sent me a life-sized carboard cutout of the character Dean Winchester, of Supernatural fame, that she found at a vintage shop in Minneapolis. For those not familiar, Supernatural was a long running CW show that followed two brothers as they crisscrossed the country in their 1967 Chevy Impala hunting monsters and fighting evil supernatural beings.
I thought it would be in keeping with the road trip spirit of his character to bring him along as I traveled to visit family in Nebraska and Minnesota, so I folded him up and brought him along to get pictures of Dean ‘helping’ on the farm in the shop and hanging out in Nebraska—like a giant, six-foot-tall Flat Stanly. He has since taken up residence in a corner of my office where he keeps watch over things, waits for his next road trip, gets decorated for holidays, and occasionally scares people who walk by and think he’s real.
Supernatural ran for fifteen seasons and almost 330 episodes. It has been off the air for a year and a half now, but is still streaming and all fifteen seasons are available on DVD at the library. It had something for everyone and was a mix of science fiction, fantasy, action, mystery, comedy, and drama. There were monster-of-the-week episodes, multi-season story arcs, time travel, and even an episode when they were turned into cartoons. It touched on serious topics of biological versus chosen family, mental health, and friendship, yet also had an episode when the main character can read the thoughts of dogs. One of the fascinating parts of it was its incorporation of myths, urban legends, supernatural and spiritual mythology into its storylines. It was easy to get sucked down a research rabbit hole watching some of the episodes to see what they were referencing.
Even though it’s not spooky season right now, it’s always enjoyable to take a break from reality and escape into a world of the unexplainable, whether it’s through watching 220 hours of a TV show like Supernatural or reading about it. If you are looking for spine chilling places with creepy vibes to visit, National Geographic’s ‘Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places’ has over 250 locations throughout the world. There are haunted battlefields, abbeys, sacred places, UFO hot spots, and mythical creatures to discover and explore. Marc Hartzman’s book ‘Chasing Ghosts: A Tour of Our Fascination with Spirits and the Supernatural’ will take you on a tour of famous haunted sites while providing a fascinating journey of supernatural history.
Alasdair Wickham documents supernatural encounters around the world in his book ‘The Dead Roam the Earth: True Stories of the Paranormal from Around the World,’ whether it is recounting Mothmen sightings, poltergeist, witchcraft, and more. Richard Maclean Smith also curated a volume of real-life paranormal encounters in ‘Unexplained: Real-Life Supernatural Stories for Uncertain Times.’ The podcast host presents a new twist on these tales and discusses the connection of the supernatural to our own beliefs in science, superstition, and perception. ‘Monsters in America: Our Hidden Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting,’ by W Scott Poole traces the history of our interest in the macabre and argues that monsters are not just fears of the individual but part of public imagination and reactions to cultural influence and conflicting anxieties. (You can see these themes reflected in various episodes of Supernatural.)
If you think the paranormal and supernatural are more fiction than fact you might appreciate Michael Shermer’s ‘Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye.’ It is a collection of essays ‘dense with facts, convincing arguments, and curious statistics…for readers who believe that explaining stuff is a good idea’ and talks about UFOs, cryptids, the supernatural and more. Along those same lines is Steven Novella’s ‘The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake.’
Maybe this summer, cardboard Dean and I will take a road trip to some of the local Iowa and Minnesota spooky places for more photo ops. Until then, I have a few final seasons of Supernatural to watch.