A hand silently pushes against a see-through sheet, fingertips asserting pressure until they become visibly white against the grayish material. The hand keeps swaying and pressing but never breaks through.

This silent video by Tom Friedman is projected at the entrance to the Minneapolis Institute of Art's Target Gallery, setting the stage for "Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art," an ambitious new exhibit opening Saturday.

"This is not a haunted-house show or a Halloween show," said curator Bob Cozzolino. "The hand is supposed to entice you, but also let you know it's a little bit on the edge."

So don't freak out. But do proceed with caution.

Offering more than 150 works from the early 19th century through the present day, the show is grounded in spiritualism, a movement that began in the mid-1880s in upstate New York around the belief that the souls of the departed could connect with the living.

That focus, says Cozzolino, is what makes this exhibition stand out from others that have tackled the paranormal in American art, such as "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult," which opened at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art more than 15 years ago.

"Ninety percent of the material in this show is by people who had supernatural or paranormal experiences or beliefs, so that was one way of just narrowing down what could have been a show three times that size," he said. "It is a first pass, a possible iteration of art and spirit contact made by artists in the United States primarily up to 1960. …

"The contemporary artists were selected very specifically and are, by necessity, limited."

Organized by Mia, this touring show is making its final stop after traveling last year to the Toledo Museum of Art and Louisville's Speed Art Museum.

The exhibition begins with a bold acknowledgment. "Destinies Manifest," a video by mestizo artist John Jota Leaños (Xicano/Italian/Chumash), addresses the show's first theme — that America is a haunted land.

"His piece is not so much about ghosts per se, but the colonialism and genocide of its founding," said Cozzolino.

Displayed in front of Mia's Indigenous galleries, the seven-minute animated video draws on John Gast's 1872 painting "American Progress," showing a white angel-like figure floating above white colonial settlers as they cross the frontier. As the camera pans out, we see the settlers encroaching on Native Americans, bison, bears, wolves, totems and more. In a flash, the angel's body is stripped away, presenting her in her true form: an angel of death.

"There is this continued presence of — whether it be in the minds of Americans or American Exceptionalism, or the notion of land ownership and the right to land and place and privileges — the haunting of people of color, Indigenous people, Chinese-Americans, Latinx folks," said Leaños.

This type of haunting is just one of many present in the show.

A more art-historical piece is Martin Johnson Heade's "Gremlin in the Studio," created around 1865-75. It looks like a typical painting of a marsh with a sunset. Then you realize the painting rests on top of logs, and there's a gremlin underneath, making water drip.

Spirits in the house

The exhibition is divided into four sections: haunted America; ghosts or ghostlike apparitions; rituals for channeling spirits, and imagined dimensions including UFOs and galaxies far, far away.

Many works straddle a space between the traditional art world and the spiritual realm, as Cozzolino tries to summon a bigger picture.

Often spiritualists would work with a medium, a person who claimed to have direct contacts with spirits. Mary and Elizabeth Bangs, aka "The Bangs Sisters," were two mediums who sold what they called "spirit portraits" — drawings or paintings of dead people that they claimed were generated by spirits. The exhibit includes a painting they did around 1900, showing a doctor with his deceased wife and twin daughters.

It looks like a normal family portrait, if creepily reminiscent of the twins from "The Shining." In fact, the widowed doctor had come to see the sisters in hopes of getting a picture of his wife. Her face seemed to simply materialize on the canvas. The Bangs Sisters reportedly put the portrait aside, and when they retrieved it, the two dead girls' faces had been added to it.

The Bangs were later exposed as frauds who employed sleight-of-hand trickery, though some still believe the portraits were genuinely "precipitated" by spirits. The piece was borrowed from the Hett Art Gallery and Museum at Camp Chesterfield, home of the Indiana Association of Spiritualists.

Flash forward a century: Renée Stout's 2011 installation "The Rootworker's Worktable" consists of an antique wooden table with various bottles and potions and a chalkboard covered with scribbling about "important roots."

The work evokes a fictional herbalist named Fatima Mayfield — an alter ego inspired by Stout's research into the Southern Black spiritual belief system Hoodoo and the beliefs of West and Central Africa, where many slaves came from.

"It's like the TV show 'The Big Bang Theory' — you hear Howard's mother hollering from another room but you never see her," said Stout. "You see the presence of the rootworker through the objects, [inviting] the viewer to create a picture of her in their own mind."

If the beginning of the show feels like a haunted house, the ending is more of an investigation into people who collaborated directly with a spirit to make images (one spirit was William Blake's) and others who claim they had UFO sightings or saw into other universes.

It leaves one wondering: Do I believe?

"I haven't had any UFO experiences," admits Cozzolino. "Only ghosts."

Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art
When: Feb. 19-May 15. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Wed. & Fri.-Sun., 10-9 Thu.
Where: Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.
Admission: $16-$20, free for 17 and younger. 612-870-3000 or artsmia.org