Almost half of Britain believe in some form of the paranormal such as hauntings or extra sensory perception. From psychic magazines like Spirit & Destiny and TV shows such as Most Haunted to vampire romance fiction and ghost tourism - things that go bump in the night have invaded primetime TV, newsagent shelves and our leisure time.
But why has there been such a paranormal turn in popular culture? Is it simply a case of capitalism searching out new revenue streams or does our increasing appetite ghosts and ghouls signify a longstanding desire to explore questions of life and death? Annette Hill, talks about her research into representations of the spooky and supernatural with Laurie and with the writer and critic Matthew Sweet.
Also on the programme Mary McAuley presents her research in to the often isolated institutions that contain the legions of Russia's incarcerated children.
This edition of Thinking Allowed is a co-production between the BBC and The Open University. You can hear it on BBC Radio 4 at 4pm on Wednesday 11th May, 2011 and again at a quarter past midnight on Monday morning, 16th May. Further broadcast details, podcast and listen again links are at bbc.co.uk.