When Supernatural first aired in 2005, no one, including the producers themselves, could have predicted that the dark horror fantasy would end up becoming the longest running ‘supernatural genre’ TV series in history. Now with an extraordinary cult-fan following that rivals the most popular movies and TV series, complete with extensive merchandising, convention events and even board games; Supernatural is entering its 14th season with no end yet in sight.
The Success of Supernatural
The reason that Supernatural has become so successful may be equally due to the captivating characters and compelling story as well as the ever-growing fascination with real supernatural phenomena.
The fictional series follows Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), two brothers that spend the entire series as “hunters,” seeking out supernatural beings and phenomena that are causing chaos throughout the U.S. They battle everything from vampires to vengeful ghosts, and phenomena like witchcraft and black magic curses. Creatively, some of the reasons Supernatural has done so well include the development of its main characters, its method of storytelling, establishing of relatable mythologies and its extreme fandom that are tremendously loyal to the series; so much so that they were given a nod in one of the episodes. But we must also consider the compelling and ever-growing draw of the supernatural world itself.
While it is thought that many do not give credence to the ghosts, demons, monsters, and other supernatural beings battled in the series, the real-life facts relating to these phenomena and belief in them say otherwise, which makes the subject matter of supernatural also a compelling draw. In a 2012 study, we found out that about half of the American population believes in ghosts. About 32% of Americans believed that ghosts could hurt you, while 43% said ghosts are harmless. A whopping 84% believe that you can contact the dead!
When it comes to paranormal in itself, 75% of adults agreed that there are supernatural beings existing among us. While these statistics are mostly from American polls and surveys, the belief in the supernatural is even greater in other countries around the world. It is this deep-rooted fascination with the supernatural that has additionally helped captivate viewers of Supernatural. But these overwhelming global beliefs in supernatural phenomena and beings did not happen overnight and as it turns out are as intrinsic to humankind as life is itself.
The History of Supernatural Experiences
In Supernatural, beings, monsters and entities of all manner, as well as witchcraft and magic, are among the many types of phenomena that Sam and Dean encounter on a regular basis. Real-life experiences and belief in the supernatural today extends much farther than one could possibly imagine and has been documented throughout human history in every culture in the world, including the oldest known documented culture; Australian Aboriginal.
Here is a small sampling from around the world of the endless number of supernatural beliefs: In the Mesopotamian region, two ancient demons have been feared throughout history, Lamashtu and Pazuzu (the latter, best know from The Exorcist movie), both bringing unimaginable horrors if encountered. In Japan, the Yokai are a diverse type of beings/entities that can take many forms from a monster to even inanimate objects, bringing encounters that range from fatal malevolence to inspiring and rewarding. A hideous Hindu entity of ancient origins, the Rakshasa, utilized supernatural abilities to help with their bloodlust of devouring humans.
The Native American Seminole tribe spoke of an ancient supernatural creature called Stikini that resembled tribes-people by day, but by night become terrifying undead owl-monsters that devour human hearts. Apep, a demon of the underworld and one of the most feared entities from ancient Egypt to present, could take the form of a monstrous snake if desired. The Vacumama is a terrifying South American water creature that reportedly inhabits the mouth of the Amazon River and can engulf humans whole. A Jiangshi from Chinese lore/legend is a reanimated corpse that moves eerily, leaping onto its victims, absorbing the life energy of another living thing.
And of course, witchcraft, sorcery and the occult go hand-in-hand with the supernatural and have been well documented in every corner of the world time immemorial. Ancient Sumerians and Babylonians had devised an entire system of witchcraft to battle a myriad of dark forces. Though ancient Australian Aborigines, Tibetans, and Mayans are oceans apart from each other, they each developed amazingly detailed magical religions (complete with teachings and instructions, rituals, practices, and ceremonies), including a history of the world and/or universe’s creation, as well as levels of existence in the after-life. Egyptians, Hebrews, and Romans each developed elaborate forms of magic and sorcery that were interfused into every aspect of life.
Ancient Greeks developed two forms of magical practices, theurgy and mageia, both allowing its users to do everything from invoking gods to bestowing harm onto enemies. And ancient Celtic Druids created a detailed belief system and philosophy that embraced the forces of nature, as well as of the universe. With the changing of ages and development of cultures worldwide, new variations of witchcraft and sorcery were developed, like alchemy, to embrace science as well. A good example of this is the angelic Enochian language and magical practices of angels and divine mysticism that was acquired and documented by mathematician and astronomer Dr. John Dee in the 16th century.
There is no doubt that the producers and writers of Supernatural have literally an unlimited number of supernatural beings, phenomena, practices, and beliefs to choose from in the real world to use as fodder for seasons and seasons of stories. From the Leviathan throughout season 7, to the Enochian angelic symbols and language, utilized in almost every season since the introduction of angels in season 4. And of course, it should be no surprise that the writers and producers take significant artistic license with every aspect of the supernatural they utilize in order to best serve the fictional story they are crafting in support of Winchesters’ journey.
An Expert’s POV
To help us dive deeper into the chilling real-life supernatural that inspired the TV series, we’ve tracked down the top authority, scientific researcher and investigator of supernatural phenomena and occult practices: World-renowned Parapsychologist, Anomalist, Supernatural/Occult & Paranormal Investigator Christopher Chacon. In addition to his extensive background as a trained Parapsychologist and Anomalist that has also spent decades researching and studying supernatural and occult belief systems around the world, Chacon is also a master magician/illusionist.
For almost forty years, he has directly dealt with thousands of cases of every type of supernatural phenomena imaginable, including possessions, hauntings and poltergeists, creature attacks, sorcery/dark-magick, and curses and has participated on countless expeditions around the world exploring arcane supernatural beliefs and discoveries. Chacon’s cases are international; his clients include private individuals and organizations, religious and academic institutions, government agencies and corporations. Because of Chacon’s extensive background and unprecedented experiences dealing with the supernatural, he has earned high praises from some of the preeminent authorities in dealing with the supernatural, one of them the late Father James LeBar who was one of America’s top exorcists for over twenty years. In an interview with Father LeBar, he stated, “He (Chacon) has the uncanny ability to step outside-the-box of the situation and conventional thinking to better understand and deal with dark forces he confronts. If there were ever a real-life embodiment of Sam and Dean as warriors of the supernatural, Chacon would be it.”
As it turns out, the world of the Supernatural TV series has crossed paths with Chacon on a few occasions that we can confirm. Chacon’s first dealing with anything ‘Winchester-related’ was long before the series ever premiered with his investigation of the world-famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, where the Winchesters of Supernatural got their name. Chacon was brought in by the operators of the Winchester House back in the early 1990’s to conduct the only sanctioned scientific investigation and document the reported haunt phenomena within the historic site. Chacon’s investigation went 24-hours a day for weeks and utilized some of the most advanced technology imaginable. Sam’s actor Jared Padalecki was so intrigued by the house that he visited it in 2013 with his wife (dark-haired Ruby in Supernatural).
The second interaction of Supernatural and Chacon would be when he was brought in by producers of the series in 2012 to meet with the writers to discuss real phenomena in the world, according to a former producer. For all we know, it is quite possible and makes perfect sense that Chacon could have been brought in numerous times over the years. And the third interaction was for a 2015 CW promotional trailer for the new season of Supernatural and the release of the movie, Poltergeist. Chacon hosted Supernatural actors Rob Benedict (best known for his roles as the prophet Chuck and God) and Richard Speight Jr. (best known for his role as the archangel Gabriel/Loki), taking them into a home that had been overrun by real-life poltergeist phenomena.
Chacon’s opinion on the Supernatural TV series is fairly positive, admitting that his work abroad gives him little time for TV. Chacon’s says, “While watching a TV series about supernatural phenomena may not be a total escape for me, the relationships and story arcs are intriguing enough, even if the phenomena may not be depicted accurately. In the real world, phenomena, like life, are rarely ever so clear, cut and dry, and rarely wrap-up so neatly, which makes the conclusions and closure in the series refreshing.”
Facts That Are Scarier Than Fiction
Shockingly enough, all of the phenomena and monsters in Supernatural may only be a small sampling compared to what is actually out there in the real world. Chacon states, “Generally speaking, the many types and volatility of phenomena being reported worldwide far exceeds what is depicted in the TV series.” He continues, “Of course that is just what is being reported and would still require verification, especially since some 70% to 80% of all phenomena have rational explanations. That said I have encountered a significant percentage of phenomena that not only defies the laws of nature and physics, but also redefines long-held beliefs and thinking regarding these phenomena; in their origin, their mechanics and how they work, and how to deal with them if at all.”
When it comes to depictions in Supernatural, Chacon notes that it should be no surprise that it isn’t the job of the writers and producers to depict real-life events, “On the contrary, it is the job of the writers and producers to create a compelling dramatic story with captivating characters, the phenomena serving only as a vital support to the characters, the story and the series as a whole and therefore need not be accurate to real-life, but rather just sustain the traditional thinking of these phenomena.”
Before immersing ourselves into chilling stories of supernatural phenomena, it should be noted that perhaps even more terrifying and disturbingly more common these days are the stories where everyday people, that turn out to be monsters in their own right, are behind the unspeakable horrors that take place. Chacon points this out from his many travels around the world, no matter if it is in a third world country or the most economically developed, the truly most horrifying situations do not involve supernatural or paranormal phenomena, but rather the most heinous and atrocious acts caused by people. An example of this in Supernatural is also one of the scariest episodes that didn’t involve sinister demons, creatures or ghosts, but rather a sociopathic malicious human.
Most long-time fans of Supernatural will tell you that Season 4, Episode 11, titled, Family Remains, left a truly gut-wrenching lasting impression on them as a supposed “haunted” house revealed a young girl’s sexual abuse by her father and the torturous conditions she had to endure. This episode was particularly disturbing, perhaps because the majority of us who are fans of Supernatural have been conditioned over a lifetime to believe that supernatural phenomena doesn’t really exist, making episodes that deal with it far safer and more palatable than the type of atrocities that we unfortunately often hear in our evening news. The fact that supernatural phenomenon has indeed been taking place worldwide doesn’t make any of it any easier to deal with.
To get a first-hand perspective from the victims of real supernatural phenomena, we are fortunate to have the unprecedented opportunity to interview a select few of Chacon’s clients of five cases from around the world to discuss their horrific experiences. I should first point out that each of these people and families had to first go through a barrage of examinations and tests, including; physiological/medical exams, psychological, environmental and a variety of others before they became clients of Chacon, to rule-out rational explanations; from psychosis to hoaxes. Additionally, each client had to meet strict criteria regarding confidentiality that included background checks.
In one of these cases in China, a fun-filled outdoor birthday party turned into hysterics when a massive invisible beast ripped and mauled through fencing, tables and playground equipment, knocking one child across the yard. The unseen monster sounding reminiscent of the hellhounds featured multiple times in Supernatural. The child that made contact with the beast immediately fell ill, then unconscious and hours later disappeared entirely within his home.
After medics and law enforcement got involved and after the disappearance of the child’s mother and a police officer, both while in the home, Chacon was brought in to investigate. After interviewing all involved, Chacon entered the house alone and reappeared a few hours later with the missing child, the mother, and the police officer, advising everyone that the situation’s been rectified. Though the house was deemed safe, the family sold it and moved out of the area in fear. Chacon left before anyone had a chance to thank him, never divulging what the invisible beast was.
In a case in Bolivia, a family was suddenly overcome in their home by the smell of sulfur and rotting flesh and a growing swarm of flies that filled rooms. When they attempted to escape their home, waves of birds and grasshoppers assaulted them. This repeated anywhere they went. When the sun began causing burns to their skin and everyone lost their voices, the family was rushed to the hospital, accompanied by local priests. When it was discovered that holy water burned family members and their reflection appeared eerily distorted in mirrors, Chacon was contacted.
Upon his arrival, Chacon’s investigation and interviews discovered that the father of the family had recently and inadvertently drawn the wrath of a very powerful old witch. Chacon went to directly investigate the reported witch, and within a few hours, all the supernatural curses that had afflicted the family had stopped. How Chacon stopped the curse or the witch that cast it for that matter is unknown, but throughout the Supernatural series witchcraft and curses have been depicted and usually broken, like finding and destroying a hex bag, typically resulting in eliminating the witch altogether.
A case in Western Africa involved a community that was under siege by a giant humanoid-like creature that walked on two legs, seemingly made of clay and possessed incredible force, knocking over trees and smashing cars. It crashed through one home, attacking the children and their grandmother, leaving only a trail of claw and footprints made of clay as evidence for police. The grandmother and children, as well as a dozen other witnesses in the neighborhood, described the creature with skin like tree bark, sharp, crusty, and entirely made of or at least covered in clay with huge claw-like hands, and empty eye sockets.
While rumors swirled that witchcraft and a vendetta was behind this evil creature and its attacks, local authorities were quick to quell any press reports by stating the attacks and resulting hysterics and unrest were due to ethnic attacks that have been ongoing in the region. In Supernatural, they encountered a powerful creature called a Golem made of clay that had to be controlled by someone worthy to do so. Otherwise, it would become unleashed. In this real-life case, there was never any confirmation whether this was a Golem or what the life-form actually was, but after almost two weeks of enduring the creature’s attacks, Chacon was brought in by authorities, and after his investigation, the creature was never seen again. The community, as well as authorities, were grateful to Chacon for his help and whatever he did to stop the creature, but never got the chance to thank him.
One of the most prevalent supernatural beings and phenomena throughout the Supernatural series has unquestionably been demons and possession. A real-life case of possession that took place in Bulgaria involved a well-mannered teenager that awoke in the middle of the night screaming and growling and emitting spectacular arcing bolts of electricity. The scrawny young girl seriously injured family members and paramedics that were called, breaking bones, electrocuting and knocking them unconscious. Over the next 48-hours the phenomena grew worse, also knocking out power in neighboring homes, thinning the air in the room as if underwater and causing it to be heated over a hundred degrees.
After doctors and local priests witnessed the possession first-hand, authorization for an Exorcism was fast-tracked. But the Exorcism only worsened the possession and phenomena, attracting swarms of insects covering the house and the teenager now speaking an unearthly language that caused all that heard it to become delusional and paranoid. Five days into the Exorcism, Chacon arrived and was placed one-on-one with the possessed victim. In no time at all the phenomena stopped and the teenager had returned to normal with no recollection of what took place. According to a priest who assisted with the Exorcism, the Exorcist admitted it was one of the most extreme cases of possession he had ever seen and one of the most miraculous recoveries. The priest went on to convey that there is no book, movie or TV show, and no amount of training, that could ever prepare anyone for experiencing such a true manifestation of evil.
In the fifth and final case, a single mother and her two children living in the Northwestern United States began to encounter unexplainable phenomena at a home they had just moved into. A skeptic at heart, at first the woman tried to explain away the unusual sounds, repulsive smells, feeling of being touched and even shadows that were visible only in the peripheral vision, bringing in contractors, environmental consultants, and even a psychotherapist. But as the phenomena got more aggressive and overt, it quickly became apparent they were dealing with a volatile phenomenon: a malevolent haunting or poltergeist.
Friends, work associates, and family all had disturbing and terrifying encounters with the growing unseen force culminating with a priest that the woman’s mother brought in to bless the house being found unconscious, his body beaten, cut and bruised. Though the woman and her children vacated the house, it stalked them and continued its assault wherever they considered home, following them first to a friend’s apartment and then to her mother’s family home. On the verge of a breakdown, the woman’s psychotherapist, doctor and the priest that was assaulted sought additional assistance, and Chacon was brought in. After Chacon visited each location that the poltergeist manifested and an hour with the mother and her children, all signs of the poltergeist phenomena were gone. Chacon left before anyone could thank him.
I should point out that my interviews with each of these people revealed that none of them were interested in the supernatural, nor believed in it, prior to having their encounter, and they were all at most only minimally religious. Additionally, none were fans of literature, internet sites, movies or TV shows dealing with the supernatural, with none of them ever having watched an episode of Supernatural. In each of these five cases, everyone I interviewed said they were told by Chacon to seek out psychotherapy to deal with the trauma associated with their experience. In each of the interviews, be it the Chinese man whose child was attacked by an invisible beast and then disappeared along with his wife, to the Priest assisting with the Exorcism, they described a horrifying experience that they would not wish upon their worst enemy.
When each of these clients was asked to describe Chacon, their words included; fearless, focused, captivating, uplifting and pensive. This gives you a grand idea as to what kind of investigator Chacon is. Like the Winchesters, Chacon seems determined to help these families…even if it’s the last thing he does, never expecting anything in return. While I have been open to the concept of supernatural phenomena, I never would have imagined that any of these encounters or phenomena was even possible if I hadn’t interviewed these victims personally.
Supernatural: A Deeper Look
At the beginning of Supernatural series, there were many beings and phenomena that Dean did not believe in, including angels and God. His certainty about demons and skepticism about others was most likely inherited by his father who had the same select beliefs. But how could someone believe in supernatural beings like vampires, wendigos, ghosts, and demons, yet not believe in angels and a supreme being? Chacon’s research and observations on belief, the how and why of it, are fascinating and far too comprehensive and in-depth to go into detail in this article. However, he describes one concept of belief as a select mosaic made up of a variety of experiences that are accepted or rejected at a subconscious level.
Individuals can say they believe in a God and ghosts without any doubt, yet say there is no such things as UFOs and aliens. This uniquely selective process of belief defies many suggested theories by biologists that dismiss belief as just a scientific function and nothing more. In Dean’s case, little by little, between the types of supernatural experiences and the views of Sam, Dean has no choice but to embrace the existence of angels and God as well. This complete reversal of beliefs did not happen overnight and was a transformation of the belief that left him humble, perhaps for the very first time. Whether we want to accept it or not, our personal beliefs do play a roll if even in some subconscious manner whenever we hear a ghost story or in this case, watch an episode of Supernatural.
Though the stories in Supernatural are fictional, the phenomena depicted, like that which is experienced in real-life, deals with encounters that defy our accepted understanding of our universe and the laws of nature and physics. Because these phenomena lie outside our current understanding, we label them as “supernatural.” But what if the interpreting of something being supernatural or not is all a matter of perspective. Chacon points out, “The northern lights (aurora borealis) were seen by some ancient cultures as being supernatural; a doorway for spirits entering and leaving our world.
Of course, now we know that the northern lights are just electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere along its magnetic fields. In this regard, many of the experiences (supernatural/paranormal) we may have now, be it beings, creatures or phenomena, may only seem supernatural to us based on our comprehension of them. It is quite possible that many of the phenomena we deem supernatural or paranormal today may someday be accepted as natural and normal.” Of course, a huge part of the supernatural experience itself lies in our own belief system.
Chacon goes on, “Our belief systems dictate how each and every person responds to phenomena (supernatural/paranormal), from fascination to outright denial. It is therefore crucial that we are mindful and fully aware of our own predispositions and biases before trying to make any conclusions about an experience.”
Just one of the many examples Chacon gave on how our belief systems can affect our experiences was in how we go about reaching conclusions about a supernatural experience. Chacon states, “One of the most common errors made about these experiences is in rushing to a conclusion. I cannot tell you how many times I have dealt with reported supernatural experiences that were concluded to be authentic and were actually quite explainable and conversely, how many experiences that were dismissed as explainable and turned out to be quite real. This also applies to the interpretation of the phenomenon itself. A significant percentage of real supernatural experiences are misidentified as an entirely different phenomenon all together, which makes any steps in dealing with it counterproductive.”
The phenomena in Supernatural are depicted much simpler and straightforward with rarely any equivocation. While that might not be true to real-life, it certainly helps keep the focus on the primary story. In the end, Supernatural boils down to one thing: the fight between good and evil. The first 4 seasons confronted this battle primarily at a personal level. This fight hits biblical levels in season 5 with the release of Lucifer and the race to stop the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. And while monumental threats continue to arise each season, from battling angels and demons for the supremacy of the Earth to the spread of the Leviathan, from the release of the Darkness to the potential threat of Lucifer’s Nephilim son, the fight now continues to go back to a personal level and how Sam and Dean each interpret good and evil, the choices they make as a means to an end and the ramifications of those choices.
Having experienced first-hand more phenomena than one could possibly imagine, Chacon’s thoughts on good and evil are as complex as his thoughts are about supernatural phenomena.
He says, “The duality of good and evil has existed throughout history, religion, philosophy, and psychology, arguably an interpretation of early religious beliefs and cultures. And while I have indeed dealt with situations that could potentially support the antagonistic duality of good and evil, I have also encountered situations that reveal a possible triality and even quadrality. Whether these two, three, four or more forces are interacting or battling with one another or simply symbiotically coexisting with each other like the particles of an atom, one must also recognize the interdependence between these supposed opposing forces (there is no light without darkness) and how antithetical concepts like these can greatly influence our interpretation of them. Like most things, good and evil can, in fact, be relative. Understanding one’s own beliefs, biases and inner-processes can help in pausing, stepping back and truly observing the nature, origin and intent of a phenomenon and if we are mislabeling one or another or both as good and evil. For my own process, when dealing with phenomena that must first be interpreted in an attempt to fully understand it, sometimes one needs to gain other perspectives first. If this is achieved, it can reveal that good and evil can at times be in the eye of the beholder.”
As previously mentioned, the supernatural monsters and phenomena throughout the TV series serve as a key support for the characters and the overall stories, with the core of supernatural lying in the relationships: the relationship between the Winchester brothers, their friends and enemies, their allies and adversaries. Even the relationships of those they help, though it may only be for an episode, can leave a more lasting overall impression than the phenomena itself. That being said, if it were not for the Supernatural aspect, it is unlikely that the series would have lasted this long.
The longevity of Supernatural is a combination of relationships and story, with the supernatural phenomena playing a pivotal role in each story and in a sense is itself a character, be it a supporting one. We as the audience, whether believers in the supernatural or not, are captivated by its possibilities and are swept along in the Winchesters’ odyssey, anxious to see how it all turns out.
With this coming 14th season that will bring the series to 307 episodes total; if you are not watching Supernatural in primetime, there’s a good chance you will be able to catch it in rerun somewhere, day or night. And based on what I discovered researching this article, I can say with almost absolute certainty that whenever Supernatural is airing, there is indeed a very good chance that an encounter of real supernatural phenomena is happening somewhere in the world.