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The scariest courses you can study at university

Are you brave enough to enrol on one of these university courses on witches, ghosts, paranormal activity or demons? 

    Seeta Bhardwa


    Grace McCabe

    October 30 2023
    The scariest courses you can study at university


    Are you fascinated by the idea of witches and magic? Do stories about the Devil pique your interest? And do you often spend time wondering if there are supernatural realms beyond our own?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions then taking one of the courses below could be right up your street. 

    You will learn about the origins of supernatural beings, how humans related to them and how the social constructs of ghosts and spirits have evolved over time. 

    Enrol yourself on one of these courses – if you’re feeling brave enough. 

    Paraspychology – University of Edinburgh

    If you’re interested in studying things such as magic and the paranormal, than a parapsychology degree might be a good choice for you. 

    The University of Edinburgh’s Koestler Parapsychology Unit conducts research into many different areas of parapsychology, including the historical context, out-of-body experiences, experiences of hauntings, dreaming, psychic ability and many other things. 

    Students are also able to study courses in many of these topics across all study levels. 

    The University of Edinburgh has been offering this course for the past 50 years, but there are a number of other universities that also offer the course. 

    Magic and occult scienceUniversity of Exeter

    In this new MA introduced this year by the University of Exeter, students will learn about the diverse history of esotericism, witchcraft, ritual magic, occult science and many other related topics. 

    Academics from a range of different areas, including history, literature, philosophy and sociology, will lead classes analysing the role of magic throughout history in the East and the West. 

    Students will have the freedom to build their own programmes based on their interests, by choosing from a wide range of modules including the Western Dragon in Lore, Literature and Art, magic in literature and folklore, and the history of science and medicine.

    Students are also expected to conduct their own research projects and will be able to take part in monthly meetings and field trips as part of the course. 

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    Witchcraft and magic – University of Oslo

    This course at the University of Oslo looks at the cultural history of magic and witchcraft, specifically the early modern witch-hunts in Europe. Students can either take the course in person or online. 

    It explores how concepts of magic and witchcraft have changed over time and how this was recorded in demonological manuals, literature and legislative texts. 

    Students will also be able to specialise as the course goes on to look at occultism and neopaganism. A perfect course choice for students who love anything to do with witches.

    Shakespeare’s Hamlet: the ghost – Harvard University

    This module is offered as part of the wider humanities course at Harvard University and looks at William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the ghost of the dead King of Denmark as he appears to his son. This begins a chain of events that lead to the gruesome ending of the play. 

    As students explore the ghost in Hamlet, they will look at the historical context that helped to shape the narrative. They will also consider how religion and the afterlife were understood during Shakespeare’s time and the way the play would have been staged in the Globe to create an impactful performance. 

    Pain and torture through history – Tulane University 

    Within the history department, Tulane University offers a seminar for first-year students to study pain and torture throughout history.

    Students will explore what torture is and whether it can ever be justified. Students will also study various methods of torture through history, consider whether pain is an entity and look at torturers themselves and how they have developed throughout history. 

    The undead south: horror and haunting in US southern literature – Dartmouth College 

    The English department at Dartmouth College offers a course that explores how race, culture, history, economics and politics led to horror and haunting in the southern states of America. 

    Exploring the idea of the “undead”, students will explore posthumous horrors such as rising from the grave, funeral practices, lost causes vs heroes and repressed crime.

    Students will also have the opportunity to compare traditional gothic horror to that of the contemporary representation in literature, TV, film and media. 

    American apocalypse: disaster and dystopia in Hollywood filmUtah State University

    This module, which can be taken as part of the film studies degree, examines how Hollywood movies deal with the concept of an apocalypse through a range of difference scenarios. 

    These include war, famine and alien invasion. 

    MonstersUniversity of Toronto

    This course unpicks the notion of a “monster” and how monsters have been depicted in film and literature throughout the years. 

    Classes compare ancient and mythological monsters with what is considered monstrosity in the modern world. 

    It also looks at human “monsters” throughout history, such as tyrants or world leaders who have carried out acts that are considered beyond acceptable human behaviour. 

    It is also interested in places where one entertains the idea that there are real monsters such as witches, werewolves and vampires lurking within our world.

    The devil in literature and filmUniversity of Kent

    The devil is a figure that symbolises pure evil and the antithesis to god and religion. It has been depicted in many ways throughout the years as a figure of temptation and has moved beyond its biblical origins. 

    This module explores the appearance of the devil across a range of literary texts and films, how that has evolved over time and considers an understanding of the wider historical and philosophical contexts of such depictions. 

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