You've probably been told by many people that messing with the occult is extremely dangerous and potentially even life threatening, but how much attention should we really pay to these stark warnings about experimenting with the supernatural?
Is dabbling with the occult really that dangerous and what happens if we compare it with the slightly risky sport of skiing? Let's start with skiing, because we have some definite numbers we can work off in this case. It's a known fact that on average 40 people die as a result of a skiing or snowboarding accident each year.
So, in comparison, the average number of people who die as a result of occult related activities each year is zero. There could be some deaths which are a result of the occult but aren't identified or recorded as such, but we'll come on to that.
There's also some deaths that are very loosely linked to the occult, including the odd bodged, forced exorcism performed by people who get carried away. In some countries and cultures exorcisms are still fairly commonplace and are sometimes practiced without the victim's consent. Without proper restraint the ritual can become violent and even life threatening.
In fact, as recently as August 2018 a spiritual healer appeared in a Sydney court accused of carrying out a black magic exorcism on a non-consenting man. Riza Morinaj, denied claims that his victim was held down during the ritual and even asked the exorcist to stop. The ritual involved the use of suction cups, which were placed on the man's body, he also claimed he was cut with a small blade. Luckily the man's injuries weren't life threatening in this case.
There's also examples of murders and mass suicides driven by occult groups, these deaths aren't really as a result of dabbling in the paranormal, it's just a death at the hands of a deluded member of an ill-informed cult.
There's also plenty of examples of accidental deaths as a result of occult practices. Like the Nigeria man who was shot dead while trying out a bulletproof amulet in 2011. Yisa Anifowose believed that the enchanted trinket would rendered him bulletproof and asked a friend to shoot at him. Of course, it didn't work.
There's also the story of a psychic medium in Thailand who killed himself in an ancient folk sword ritual, which was supposed to prove his immortality. Theprit Palee was performing the traditional spirit dance, which is said to honour the ghosts of ancestors and usually proves that the medium can beat death, the blade always snaps before being plunged into the performer's chest. On this occasion the mystic didn't have the spirits on his side and ended up accidentally stabbing himself in the chest with the weapon. He was later pronounced dead in hospital.
There is one occult field, which historically was very dangerous to dabble in and that's witchcraft. The 16th to the 18th century was a pretty dangerous time to be a witch. In Europe alone it's estimated that up to 60,000 women and men were tried and executed as witches. At the time, that was 0.01% of the world's population, it would be equivalent to killing 7,000,000 today.
We're a little more enlightened now, witches are no longer burnt at the stake, it's generally accepted that there are no deaths as a result of the paranormal today. However, believers in the paranormal, especially those who back demonic infestations and poltergeist hauntings, may tell you a different story. While the recorded numbers of people dying as a result of the occult is low, or non-existent, these figures might not tell the whole story.
Many within the paranormal field think that deaths as a result of meddling with the occult are often disguised as other more common causes of death. It's said that demons and certain types of hauntings can drive people to depression and exhaustion, this can eventually lead to accidents due to lapses in concentration and even suicide.
This is quite hard to get any solid numbers from. We know that the most common cause of suicide is mental illness, which is estimated to be present in up to 90% of people who take their own life. Those who have already been diagnosed with a pre-existing condition like depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia haven't committed suicide as a result of the paranormal and this accounts for about 90% of victims.
When you remove from these figures additional causes like substance abuse, childhood traumas and having a chronic disease from the remaining 10%, the number of unexplained suicides ends up being pretty small. The likelihood of a supernatural force being behind the death can be reduced further when you take into account that in around 80% of completed suicides, the individual has seen a doctor within the year before their death.
Even if the believers are correct, the numbers are still tiny, especially as the number of people engaging in paranormal pursuits is massively on the rise. We've seen an explosion of ghost hunting events in the last few years, making paranormal investigation accessible to members of the public. Many of these events take place in locations that are said to be haunted by demonic entities and the events often include the use of Ouija boards, which are historically described as being extremely dangerous.
So, all this means that the risk involved in dabbling in the occult is very low indeed, if not completely non-existent. To go back and address the original question; what's more dangerous, dabbling in the occult or skiing? The answer clearly is skiing.
In fact, the occult accounts for less deaths each year than riding a roller coaster does, that accounts for around four deaths a year in the US alone. And, sadly, around 70 children die every year from choking on a hot dog, making hot dogs statistically more dangerous than witchcraft.
If you're still worried about experimenting with the occult, then here's one final statistic that should put your mind at rest. Each yeah, almost 500 Americans die as a result of falling out of their bed during the night, this type of accident accounts for 1.8 million visits to the emergency room every year.