From religion and folklore to film and even medicine, college departments love to celebrate the supernatural and postulate on the paranormal. Whether you’re an occult-loving student building your college list, or you just want to get an idea of some creepy courses to add to your schedule, check out our list of otherworldly offerings below.
From the Folklore & Mythology Department to freshman seminars, Harvard University offers a plethora of courses for students who want a good scare. Here are a few of our favorites. Take time to dive through their course catalog — there are plenty more spooky seminars where these came from!
Be it angels or zombies, there’s plenty to study in this Harvard course! From ancient rites to modern movies, students explore how we’ve envisioned the afterlife. Ghostly communications, undead intrusions, and the secrets behind our care for those beyond the veil are just some of many topics covered!
Fancy a trip to the underworld? Hell is pretty popular, after all. This class explores what makes modern takes like “Lucifer” and “The Good Place” so popular — and their symbolic reflections of our deepest fears. Students decode both ancient and contemporary underworld tales like “Gilgamesh,” “Orpheus,” Dante’s sinister “Inferno,” Stephen King’s spine-chilling stories, and the haunting “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
Dive into the eerie world of ghosts, demons, mysterious fox spirits, and more to uncover how the supernatural has weaved its way through China’s literary history. In this class, students explore ancient texts and chilling adaptations in film and culture, while unearthing dark secrets of gender, death, and the unknown.
Tulane University boasts some terrifying course offerings. From torture to tunes, their departments love to dive into the dark and mysterious sides of history.
Medieval meets Halloween in this creepy course. From ancient methods of inflicting pain to modern psychological horrors, it delves deep into the murky waters of controversial practices. Torture may be banned in the U.S., but that doesn’t stop Tulane first-year students from studying its horrible history.
Whether it’s seeking connection with the supernatural or bridging past, present, and future, music often paves the way for religious ritual. Students discover how echoing chants of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and the captivating rhythms of voodoo and Santeria bridge the gap between the mortal and the supernatural.
University of Pennsylvania
Students at the University of Pennsylvania have a range of otherworldly options to choose from. Whether you’re fascinated with gods and demons or ghosts and monsters, you’ll never get bored with Penn’s course offerings.
Through the lenses of religion, art, anthropology, and literature, this course covers a plethora of supernatural beings in murals, films, manuscripts, and even comic books. Students study everything from the age-old practices of Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu traditions to the vibrant tales of Afro-Caribbean sources to unearth the captivating stories and theories that have shaped humanity’s understanding of the uncanny and the supernatural.
Students enrolled in this eerie course unravel tales of demonic women who’ve haunted Japanese fiction for over a millennium. The syllabus examines politics and ideologies branding women as sinister figures in ancient folklore all the way up to more recent apparition adaptations — all while exploring notions of gender, the uncanny, and the posthuman fear of technology.
Dartmouth College has plenty of occult offerings to choose from. Explore the undead or learn about witchcraft in every context from Native American history to biomedicine — regardless of your interests, they probably have a supernatural seminar for you!
It’s no surprise the U.S. South has some haunted history. Students in this Dartmouth class delve deep into the region’s role as America’s purgatory. Grave-rising specters, undead heroes, forgotten crimes, and the zombies and vampires in modern media — you name it, this class covers it!
Much can be said about the spellbinding tales from China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia, where magic and supernatural forces reign. Students in this Dartmouth course should prepare to be enchanted by Asia’s captivating supernatural narratives as they unravel the artistic mysteries, delve into the psyche, and uncover the dark political undercurrents in regional folklore and stories!
Treaties hold a turbulent past in North America, so much so that Native American people referred to treaty making as “pen and ink witch-craft.” Working with the records of key treaties, students in this course examine the protocols of diplomacy, the agendas of the participants, and the outcomes of the tumultuous treaties.
Through the lenses of biomedicine and witchcraft, students in this course investigate themes like the journey of healers, health’s societal implications, and the relationship between health and nature. Biomedical students get the rare opportunity to examine the supernatural in an otherwise solely scientific field!
Georgetown University offers plenty of paranormal options. With everything from witch trials to biblical horror stories, here are just some of the many supernatural studies you can pursue.
This course dives beyond simplistic views to offer an expansive look into the eerie portrayal of witches across history, literature, and film. Students deepen their understanding of cultural humanities by exploring the ‘Burning Times’ in early Europe, literary tales ranging from the Brothers Grimm to Disney, and contemporary cinematic takes on witches, all while unraveling the spellbinding lore.
With an anthropologic lens, students in this course take the supernatural seriously to offer insights into today’s remains of violence and injustice from the past. They address history and memory and ask what it means to reckon with racial, religious, ethnic, and gendered violence — posing questions like “what relationships between the past and the future can anthropology bring to light through ethnographies of the supernatural?”
Diving into the more chilling side of the Bible, this course treads the line between the sacred and the spooky. Through haunting biblical passages, Gothic literature, and modern films, students unveil the entwined roots of religion and horror — from biblical monsters like Leviathan to Dracula’s cherished Leviticus quote — and question the omnipresence of the supernatural in religion and its contrast with pure reason.
University of Arizona
From horror films to haunted histories, the University of Arizona is another school with a wide array of wicked offerings. Check out some of the more unique options below!
Why do we relish that thrill of terror in a horror film or scream at the side characters to do anything other than what they’re doing? This course attempts to answer just that. By analyzing horror from various global regions, students embark on an eerie cinematic journey across time and borders, revealing the captivating allure of the macabre and unearthing the storytelling techniques filmmakers use to petrify us.
Magic and demonology and witch hunts, oh my! Students lucky enough to enroll in this course trace the intriguing journey of witchcraft through the 19th-century occult resurgence, Wicca’s evolution, and modern-day witchcraft beliefs to go beyond the common association of witchcraft with women and delve into experiences across genders. As a bonus, the syllabus also incorporates legal, medical, and anthropological perspectives, unraveling age-old worldviews that might seem alien today.
Astrology, UFOs, ESP, and time travel aren’t covered in a typical syllabus, but then again, this isn’t your typical course. Instead, students dive into beliefs that challenge conventional wisdom, from ghosts to prophetic dreams, and learn to discern between rational and irrational claims.
Frankenstein’s Monster got a bad rep, but why? Students in this course raise key questions about human identity, human values, and the cultural boundaries we construct to cordon off the horrific, the weird, the frightening, the monstrous, or the non-human. They examine the monster-figure in literature and film as a key indicator of cultural history: the symbolic carrier of cultural values, problems, and ideological tensions.
Mythical creatures, vengeful spirits, shape-shifting foxes, strange apparitions, and incorporeal or invisible figures are just some of the ambiguous bodies on this strange syllabus. Reading everything from Buddhist didactic stories to women’s diaries and war tales, students investigate the cultural history of the body, religious beliefs, and theories of the monstrous in these transformations of sacred spirits into the everyday grotesque.
University of Colorado Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder dives into death and examines the supernatural in a variety of cultures. Whether your fascination lies in the tropical Caribbean, the chilly Russian tundra, or colonial Haiti, they probably offer a course for you!
Mortuary practices provide an eerie insight into human history and culture in both the modern and ancient world. This creepy course considers the universal human phenomenon of death and how humans across time and space have caused, planned for, reacted to, and carried out death practices in extraordinarily different ways.
The grotesque, bizarre, surreal, absurd, supernatural, and fantastic are common themes in Russian 19th and 20th century literature. Students in this course discuss Romanticism, Freud and Jung’s interpretations of jokes and dreams, and works by everyone from Pushkin to Dostoevsky within the contexts of Russian folklore in this spooky seminar.
Zombies of the Caribbean? We smell the next major film franchise! Students in this course explore how the mass-media icon of the zombie became a macabre representation of deep-rooted anxieties in the modern world. The syllabus covers the eerie evolution of zombies throughout the ages, including the emergence of the zombie figure in the Caribbean and its evolution from colonial Haiti to present-day popular culture.
Johns Hopkins University
Zombies, monsters, and ghosts just scratch the surface of what Johns Hopkins University has to offer! Check out some of their creepy course offerings below.
This lurid lecture explores the evolution of zombies in literature and cinema, from their historical origins in ethnographic fictions tied to racialized slavery to their present-day appearances in Hollywood blockbusters. Students analyze the implications of this terrifying transformation, from individual victims to horrifying hordes.
Students enrolled in this course are prepared for every disaster scenario — even a zombie apocalypse! Through individual research projects, students explore topics like military responses to disasters or the use of dance in processing trauma. And while the course focuses on mitigating real-life disaster scenarios, the syllabus draws inspiration from the zombie apocalypse theme.
Accidentally bought a dybbuk box on Ebay? Lucky for you, this course arms its students with the knowledge of the monsters, ghosts, golems, dybbuks, and other occult creatures of modern Jewish culture. Students dive into how elements in the religious and folkloric traditions that inspire Yiddish, German, Hebrew, and English literature and early film were used to address questions about the impact of technology, automation, and new insights into human psychology.
Everyone loves a good ghost story, and German authors from the 18th century to the present are no exception! Students in this course explore why ghost stories endure in an age of science and reason and consider whether the occult represents the darker side of science.
Here are a couple honorable mentions from universities without a lot of creepy curricula!
Descent and Return: Ancient Views of Hades and the Afterlife, Utah State University
Utah State doesn’t offer much in the way of creepy curricula, but this course offers plenty of spooky scholarly quests. Students dive into the chilling realm of Hades, where gods and heroes dared to tread while still alive. They examine the epic underworld adventures of Persephone, Odysseus, Orpheus, and Aeneas as well as other historical lore, religious enigmas, and tales that have transcended time. All in one semester!
Vampire: Blood and Empire, University of Pittsburgh
Sink your teeth into this creepy course that takes its students on a chilling journey through the history of vampirism as portrayed in literature and film across different cultures and time periods. Students dive into blood-curdling tales, novels, and films featuring vampires from Russia, Poland, France, England, and America.
Want to find courses like these on your college campus? An IvyWise Academic Advisor can help you find some unconventional courses that fit into your academic goals.