Canadians have faith in angels and spirits

CanWest News Service/December 30, 2007

Though Johnny, Jack and Jose make fine enough company on New Year's Eve, on most days, Canadians put their faith in spirits of a very different variety.

According to a national survey of 1,000 adults, fully two-thirds of Canadians believe in angels (66 per cent) and nearly half believe in spirits and ghosts (48 per cent). Another 10 per cent of people are convinced their own residence is home to a supernatural presence.

"To put it in perspective," reports pollster Ipsos Reid, "that's 2.5 million Canadians who believe that when something goes bump in the night, it's more than the (rodents) from Ratatouille."

Barbara Smith, the B.C.-based author of more than a dozen books of ghost stories, says the latter results confirm what she's anecdotally known to be true for years.

"One in 10 sounds really high but from the interviews I've done, that number does fit with what people think," says Smith. "After all my research, I'm convinced there's something out there that we don't fully understand."

Most surprising to Smith was the fact Atlantic Canada didn't lead the country in either belief in the paranormal or belief that a supernatural presence was in the respondent's home. In the latter category, the region ranked fourth behind Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan/Manitoba; in the former category, Atlantic Canada ranked fourth behind Saskatchewan/Manitoba, Alberta, and B.C.

"When I phoned to get Maritimes stories (of hauntings), it almost seemed like if you didn't have a ghost, your house wasn't much of a home," says Smith. "I think it's the history of the sea and so many deaths ... the Titanic sank just off the coast of Newfoundland."

The survey, commissioned by CanWest News Service and Global Television, found women are far more likely to believe in angels than men: 75 per cent versus 56 per cent. Age, however, had little influence over Canadians' faith in the spiritual beings, with those 35 to 54 only slightly more likely to believe in angels (68 per cent) than their older (65 per cent) and younger (64 per cent) counterparts.

A gender bias also was evident when it came to belief in spirits and ghosts: 53 per cent of women believe, compared to 42 per cent of men. Age was more relevant in this category, with younger (54 per cent) and middle-aged Canadians (52 per cent) much more likely to believe than older people (39 per cent).

As a spokeswoman for Fort Edmonton Park, an Alberta attraction renown for supposed paranormal activity, Jan Archbold has heard her share of ghost stories - particularly in relation to Firkins House, one of the site's donated historical buildings.

"The previous owner had a number of (supernatural) experiences in the house and related them to us," says Archbold. "Sometimes it's easy for people to think, 'Well, they must be flaky if they're talking about those kinds of things,' but she was a very grounded individual."

Although Archbold never has witnessed anything paranormal firsthand, she doesn't dismiss the possibility of spirits.

"The city doesn't want us to emphasize the ghost part because we're here to provide the historical perspective," she says. "But I myself am a spiritual kind of person and believe there is something far greater than what we know here."

The CanWest/Global survey was conducted between Dec. 11 and Dec. 13, 2007. It is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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