Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl

Oct 13, 2023

If You Should Go at Midnight

Legends and Legend Tripping in America

University Press of Mississippi 2023

Across today’s America, countless people will embark on an adventure. They will prowl among overgrown headstones in forgotten graveyards, stalk through darkened woods and wildlands, and creep down the crumbling corridors of abandoned buildings. They have set forth in search of a profound paranormal experience and may seem to achieve just that. They are part of the growing cultural phenomenon, which is called legend tripping.

In If You Should Go at Midnight: Legends and Legend Tripping in America (UP of Mississippi, 2023), Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl guides readers through an exploration of legend tripping, drawing on years of scholarship, documentary accounts, and his own extensive fieldwork. Poring over old reports and legends, sleeping in haunted inns, and trekking through wilderness full of cannibal mutants and strange beasts, Debies-Carl provides an in-depth analysis of this practice that has long fascinated scholars yet remains a mystery to many observers. From multiple perspectives, Debies-Carl illustrates the value of legend tripping for social scientists. In brief, legend tripping reflects the modern world, revealing both its problems and its virtues. In society as well as in legend tripping, there is ambiguity, conflict, crisis of meaning, and the substitution of debate for social consensus. Conversely, both emphasize individual agency and values, even in paranormal matters. While people still need meaningful and transformative experiences, authoritative, traditional institutions are less capable of providing them. Instead, legend trippers voluntarily search for individually meaningful experiences and actively participate in shaping and interpreting those experiences for themselves.

Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl is Associate Professor of sociology at the University of New Haven. His research examines the social significance of physical spaces and space-based behaviors and has appeared in various scholarly journals. He is the author of Punk Rock and the Politics of Place (Routledge, 2014).

Yadong Li is a PhD student in socio-cultural anthropology at Tulane University. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of the paranormal, hope studies, and post-structural philosophy. More details about his scholarship and research interests can be found here.

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Yadong Li

Yadong is a PhD student in socio-cultural anthropology at Tulane University. He is interested in the anthropology of time, hope studies, and post-structuralist philosophy. If you are interested in any of these topics, feel free to contact him by email: yli88@tulane.edu / lydooooong@gmail.com.
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