The 1967 Impalas' biannual gathering reveals the blurry line between fandom and religion

The 1967 Impalas' biannual gathering reveals the blurry line between fandom and religion
23 March 2024 J.W.H

Among the various spooky events that took place over Halloween weekend was the biannual “Haunting of the Impalas” at Family Business Brewing, a 15-acre brewery in Dripping Springs, Texas, owned by actor and musician Jensen Ackles.

Along with Jared Padalecki, Ackles is the star of “Supernatural”, a television series that aired from 2005 to 2020.

The weekly sci-fi show within the vein of “The X-Files” and “Supernatural” follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they drive a classic 1967 Chevrolet Impala across the United States, fighting monsters and uncovering their tangled family past. Show creator Eric Kripke described the series as “a modern American Western – two gunslingers come to town, fight bad guys, kiss a girl and ride off into the sunset again.”

Subtly referring to this system's slogan: “Saving people, hunting – family business” Ackles opened the brewery in 2017. It has since grow to be a preferred destination for fans of the show.

“Supernatural” has been called a “cult” dramaWith conventions that attract fans across the country. Religious terms equivalent to cult are sometimes used to precise the seriousness of fandom. But as two scholars from religionwe see the connection between fandom and religion as stronger and deeper than many individuals could imagine.

If you construct it, they may come

The Impala Haunt – fans call the gathering of cars a “haunt” – has been held on the brewery as a free event since 2019, first as an informal gathering after which as an official event sponsored by the brewery.

The same character of the series as Ackles and Padalecki themselves, black 1967 Impala Heroes became an icon for fans. Talking concerning the debt that “Supernatural” owes to Westerns, the series author Kripke said concerning the Impala“If you want cowboys, they need a trusty horse.”

Each automobile has a trunk stuffed with items recreated from the show.
The Haunting of the Impala/Facebook, CC BY-SA

The automobile serves as a house for the brothers on the road, as their protection against evil, and as a cache of weapons for hunting monsters. In a nod to the automobile's starring role, some dedicated fans of the show purchased and restored a black 1967 Impala that they collected through the Haunting of Impalas event.

Fans have lovingly recreated each Impala – sometimes even faithfully to a particular episode. Lined up in a row, each automobile reveals a secret compartment within the trunk stuffed with weapons from the series, equivalent to machetes for killing vampires, silver bullets for werewolves, and holy water for demons.

Particular attention was paid to reflecting other details present in the Impala depending on the season: a bit green soldier stuck in an ashtray or a partially eaten cake. There are 4 Impalas and one within the brewery AMC Gremlin who appeared in several episodes, lined as much as be tested because nearly 100 people got here through through the hour we visited. The brewery's social media accounts recorded over 1,500 responses to the invitation, and one organizer estimated that about 1,000 people attended throughout the day.

“People just want to experience.”

We have seen this behavior before in our work. But it happened in churches and temples relatively than within the brewery parking zone.

Onlookers approached the Impala with tentative respect, wanting to the touch the trunk or take a photograph from the motive force's seat. One of the impalas aroused particular interest since it was utilized in the twelfth season of the series – as a minimum of a dozen people informed us in hushed tones. The owner hovered across the automobile with a polishing cloth to quickly remove any fingerprints left by visiting fans, but was completely satisfied to indicate anyplace where the actor had signed the automobile or otherwise left a mark.

Many of the Impalas participating on this event traveled across the country for days to participate. Organizer Travis Perdue, a fan in his 40s, was in a position to pinpoint the whereabouts of other “supernatural” Impalas – in addition to owners who were too sick to come back or otherwise detained.

Black and yellow vintage cars lined up in a field.
Some fans drive their Impalas across the country to attend the twice-yearly event.
The Haunting of the Impala/Facebook, CC BY-SA

When asked if the event was spiritual in nature, Perdue explained: “It's not about the cars; it's not about the gun. That's something different. People just want to experience something.”

He said he often sees fans getting emotional near the cars. More than a handful of them burst into tears. He said one person even fainted when he saw the restored Impala.

We witnessed one man loudly tell his wife with tears in his eyes, “If I had one of them, I could die happy.”

Written by sociologist Emile Durkheim that when people encounter sacred symbols of their community, they might be overwhelmed by them – that the sentiments evoked by these objects act as “material forces that mechanically generate physical effects.”

Impalas weren't the one powerful symbols on display on the event. Most of the participants wore supernatural-themed clothing – a shirt, a bag, and even a tattoo.

Inside several cars were copies of a monster hunting journal written by John Winchester, the daddy of Sam and Dean on the series. Each magazine contained dozens of hand-printed pages, reproductions of newspaper articles, a Vietnam military service pin, and amazing photos. Like monks producing illuminated manuscriptsa team of fans created each journal by hand.

Perdue, who worked on the magazines, explained that it took eight months to design the primary facsimile and 6 weeks to arrange each subsequent copy. They sell them to other fans for $650, and Perdue's waiting list consists of several dozen people. But the group doesn't generate income from the magazines. Rather, he’s motivated by the enjoyment of making such a beneficial item for other fans.

Open a notebook with handwritten notes next to two FBI badges.
Some fans have painstakingly recreated the show's monster hunting log.
Natasha Mikles, CC BY-SA

Fandom as a faith or vice versa?

Many scholars drew attention to the religious elements of fan culture.

But perhaps we could reverse the comparison and note that religion operates more like a fandom.

Because of America Protestant heritageAmericans often assume that religion is about beliefs; This is because Protestantism renounces “salvation by works” in favor of “sola fides” or “only faith.”

However, most religions don't work this manner. As a spiritual scholar Stephen Prothero emphasizes“Religions are often called “belief systems.” But the Christian tradition is the one major religion that places great emphasis on belief.”

According to Prothero, the common denominator of all religions will not be beliefs, but stories. As he put it: “All religions are 'story systems'.” Beyond Christianity's emphasis on creeds, most religious traditions emphasize practices, experiences and stories – exactly what drew fans to “The Haunted Impala.”

Pilgrimage – traveling to see sacred places and objects – occurs in lots of religions. The pilgrimage took place in 2023 2 million pilgrims to Mecca despite dangerously high temperatures. Mimesis is much more commonor replicating sacred stories through art and ritual. In Mexican tradition Innsthe procession recreates the story of Mary and Joseph, who were turned away from the inn after which broke a piñata in the form of the Star of Bethlehem.

What made Supernatural great wasn't supernatural. Fans know that the Winchester brothers are imaginary. And yet, the Winchesters' story seems to represent something greater than themselves. Impalas grow to be objects of pilgrimage because they supply a physical connection to things that will otherwise be elusive and transcendent – modern mythology and a community of like-minded people.

Religious studies is essentially a Western invention and has due to this fact had many advantages up to now Protestant assumptionseven when discussing non-Christian religions, including the concept that the essence of faith is a set of mental propositions about God or the afterlife.

But if scholars of faith shift their evaluation from beliefs to stories and communities, who's to say that the world's religions aren't simply larger fandoms of figures like Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna?

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”