Episode 39…Dating the Ghosts at Fort Desoto

 

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Listen to Episode 39…Dating the Ghosts at Fort DeSoto

 

What would it take for you to date a ghost?

Before their upcoming visit to Fort DeSoto, Christopher Balzano and Natalie Crist look into some of the legend that keep popping up from the location. From crying ghostly mothers to phantom voices of Native Americans and soldiers to ghostly visions of accidents and suicides from the nearby Skyway Bridge, this may be the single most haunted place in Florida.

And then there is the ghost of a dead fisherman who looks to pick up single ladies on the island.

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The Trippers also look into the documentary Real Haunts and its connection to their new legend project and explore the right age to allow ouija boards and other spirit communication.

You can follow the actual trip this weekend by following the hashtag #haunteddesoto on Twitter and Instagram.

You can reach us at spookytripping@gmail.com or post something to us at www.facebook.com/trippingonlegends.

We’ll be keeping track of them on our site at: www.trippingonlegends.wordpress.com.

Twitter @naynaymyfriend @SpookyBalzano

Instagram @SpookyTripping

 

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Weird Lake Ronkonkoma and Bad Haunted Love in Silver Springs

On this week’s live show, Christopher Balzano takes a moment to look at some of the different stories coming out of Sliver Springs, Florida, that are used to explain what is happening there. Something must be going on, but people have all different stories as to why.

Then, in an odd connection, Balzano explores how the haunted happenings of Lake Ronkonkoma fit in.

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Listen to Episode 36…There’s Something Up at Ormond Beach

You can contact us with questions, comments, and your favorite legend or tidbit of folklore at spookytripping@gmail.com.

Keep visiting the site for the trip log of our travels and other urban legends at:
www.trippingonlegends.wordpress.com

Follow us at: www.facebook.com/trippingonlegends

Twitter @naynaymyfriend@SpookyBalzano

Instagram @SpookyTripping

These are the Ghosts in Your Neighborhood

 

Last week’s Tripping on Legends episode had Christopher Balzano sit down with his daughter and discuss all things haunted children.

Listen to the episode:

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Listen to Episode 37…Haunted Children and Urban Legends

On the heels of that discussion, Balzano sits down and looks at how we learn to tell ghost stories and how we start to understand the paranormal from the stories we hear and tell as kids. He also looks at the local hauntings people experienced in their neighborhoods growing up.

Balzano then takes a few minutes to open up a discussion on what shadow people might be in light of recent developments on some of their legends.

Travel Log…The Mini Lights of St. Petersburg

Tonight go to Booker’s Creek in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Lean over the edge and look at the water which appears more like the dirty, foamy stream of at the end of your driveway when you wash your car than a waterway.  Hold your breath for a moment and say, “Mini Lights, Mini Lights, come out tonight,” three times.  Try not to notice that noise behind you as you finish.  But then the rustling get louder and is coming from all around you.  You see a glowing figure a bit away from you, moving quickly as it runs the distance between the two of you.  You turn to escape, but a pair of pale blue hands, too strong for how small they are, have grabbed your leg and won’t let go.  The other one is getting closer.  You’re in a city neighborhood, Tropicana Field less than a mile away, but you’re alone, and you know, because you’ve heard the stories for years, that you may never be seen again.

Here’s the thing about urban legends and folklore; they’re always in the background and ready when you need them.  They sit there on the shelf with all their universal truths waiting for moments when they are needed.  The right situation, the right need, and they jump out, like memories with springs on them, and fill the void.  They make sense because you’ve heard them before.

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Listen to Episode 9…Mini Lights, Mini Lights, Come Out Tonight

The story of the Mini Lights is one that keeps changing and adapting to its environment, a sign of the times.  It’s nearly impossible to create a straight narrative line which tells the story of them.  Over time the tales have been twisted and combined and borrowed and cut so that everyone who talks about it tells their own version.  That makes a folklorist smile but a storyteller left struggling to choose how to tell the story the right way.   What’s the in and how do you weave it the right way.  No one can even agree with what they should be called.

  • Minnie Lights
  • Mini Lights
  • Mystery Lights
  • Midget Lights
  • Minnie’s Lightning
  • Mini Lightning
  • Merry Lights
  • The Memonites

The Story?

The story has to start, maybe because it is easiest, with a description as to what people have physically claimed to see, or more accurately what they claim other people have told them they see.  First hand sightings are almost nonexistent.  People state they have witnessed or heard stories of strange, almost monstrous “small people” around a bridge or in a field near the bridge in one of three possible locations.  Descriptions vary as to what is seen.  An article in the Tampa Bay Times says the creatures are, “bluish-greenish-gray, bald and small.”  Some say they are small people whose skin has a green or pale glow to it.  Other people say they are just dressed in all green with painted skin but have glowing green eyes.  Stories are out there to say they are more like ogres.  In modern times people have said the Mini Lights are now dead and exist as ghost lights of white and green and blue, nearly as large as a small child, floating or appearing to run at you.

Both the people and the orbs are said to appear and disappear at will, popping up and seeming to surround you, supporting the idea they are paranormal or sewer travelers.  The most important aspect of their behavior, and the one that both inspires their infamy and explains it, is that they abduct people and take them away never to been seen again.  They may physically attack you or try to intimidate you to leave, but more than likely if you see them, it’s too late.  No evidence left behind.

The story is said to date back generations, but has experienced a resurgence in the last few years, partly due to the nearby baseball team and partly due to a new movie being made about them.  When newspapers mention them, they get responses from people who all know the details as they were told them by their sources, and when Facebook posts went out asking residents for details, the responses were an avalanche and conflicting.

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We can start with the witch, because she is somewhat consistent to the story.  She lived in a shack near Booker Creek and was named Minnie.  At times she is said to live under a bridge that crosses the creek.  No one is really sure of the date or how she had came to the area, but she was protective of her land.  Anyone approaching would soon find themselves being chased by two protectors.  Some of the stories claim these are her sons, or may even be circus freaks she worked with while she was with the circus.  Others claim they were monsters she had captured or even a witch’s familiar, maybe born of some horrible spell that mutated humans.

As the area was developed more, they say the shack was torn down and Minnie disappeared, perhaps leaving a curse on the area.  Another tale says she was upset when she had to give up a part of her land when they began developing and sought her revenge.  Others say she left, but for a while the shack remained and you could conjure something by circling her house and chanting her name.  Sometimes the house is a Mennonite church near the bridge or that she is a Mennonite that moved into an abandoned church.  Either way, the little ones remained in the area, perhaps becoming ghosts, and still wander around at night.  They can be brought out by calling out, “Mini Lights, Mini Lights, come out tonight.”

The Bridge is Just over There

Here’s where things get a bit more confusing.  There are several locations people have associated with the story.  Online and news sources retell the story as happening as very specific locations and addresses (which we will not print).  The majority of stories focus on one of three locations which are connected to Booker Creek; Rosier Park, Thrill Hill, and Child’s Park.  This made it hard to focus our attention when we went out to see if we could find the witch or the lights.

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We first went to Thrill Hill, named because of the steep climb and quick drop of the road the hill takes as the bridge crosses over the Creek.  The legend, which has a racial element we will talk about later, may be closely tied to the slow losing of the community, and as we made our way there, weaving in and out of small neighborhoods, the streets alternated between close, rundown houses and large well-kept properties.  Thrill Hill itself was more of an industrial park, with large business and docks on either side.  Of the places we went, this was the only one that had enough water to support a boat and a large enough space under the bridge to lend credence to the “living under the bridge” aspects of the story.  The place was not near spooky.  Cars were coming by constantly, and the lights and music from nearby businesses broke any odd atmosphere that might have been there at some point.

We stood on opposite ends of the bridge and both called out to whatever might be there three times.  Between the water and cars and lights, it might be able understand why people might associate Thrill Hill with the story.  There are odd streaks of colored lights all over the bridge and the road, but all can be explained, mostly by the way the road rises and falls.  It may be more a case of a location having a name that is promoted and known by local businesses and the nature of the name pinning a local legend to it.

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The next location, Roser Park, offered much more.  Natalie is convinced this was the location of Mini Lights, and there were elements to our experience there that points at something being in the park.  The area is 270-acres and has almost 150 historic homes, some of which are beautiful near-estates and other of which have that same rundown feel we saw in the other neighborhoods.  The main path that cuts through it is also lined with houses and markers talking about the history, development, and renaissance of the neighborhood.  Just past the trees and bridge crossing lies a hospital.

The bridges at Roser Park were much smaller and crossed Booker Creek at several places.  One, however, was where the creek turned and also had a field that fit the description of how the monsters would cover an expanse of land in chasing you down.  On the other hand, there is a connection between economic challenges and the sightings, and the community appeared to be a higher end locale.

We called out three times in several places along the water, but nothing dramatic happened.  There are times when we are in the field when I keep things from Natalie in order to keep us from influencing each other and partly to not scare her with what I am seeing.  Several times I saw orbs the size of basketballs crossing the street.  I tried to get pictures of them, but they had moved on before I could. I also saw something more disturbing.  As we walked back and forth across the path, something dark was following us.  A dark shadow moved behind us in the tree, jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree and then leaning against the trunk, almost out of view.  It was like a solid shadow in the form of a person but with no eyes or distinguishable face.  It stopped when we stopped and moved when we did, and when I would turn back and see it, it would jump, land, and lean.  I had the distinct impression it was the same figure, or at least related, to the one we saw in Holiday, Florida.  I also heard crunching of leaves as if something unseen was following us and surrounding us as we walked the distance of the area.

The last location led the two of us to again enter a playground after dark, this time Child’s Park.  This was my frontrunner for the actual location, mainly due to its reference in one of the news articles as being the place where a specific witness had grown up hearing the story.  We found a cement foundation, which may have been the place where Minnie’s house once stood, and it was situated near a large entrance to the sewer that could have been where her foot soldiers could move throughout the area and create that impression they could appear and disappear at will.

When we stopped to try and conjure the Mini Lights, it was obvious we were not alone.  The distinct sounds of alligators could be heard from the sewer, which may sound a bit like the old urban legend of alligators in the sewers of major cities but makes more sense when you consider the tunnels size and their location.  It also lends credibility to one aspect of the legend we will look into more in Part 2.  We ran into several people walking through the park that added to the overall creepiness there, and the surrounding area seem to fit the depressed and urban aspects of the story, but nothing happened there to prove or disprove that this was the spot where the story takes place.

Unlike some other legends we have explored in the last year, the Mini Lights does not have sightings we can pin down that spark the folklore.  It seems to be more a story passed down to warn kids and say something about the community rather than one invented to explain away events that were unexplained.  What we’re left with then is the question of why they story has endured and what it means about the people who continue to pass it down.

Of course, that is a story for another day.

When the Trippers Hit Carolina

What the hell are a couple of Legend Trippers living in Lee County, Florida, doing in North Carolina?

In the Summer of 2017, Tripping on Legends made their way up to Indiana to check on some stories of pukwudgies playing on mounds.  To make a full road trip of it, they spent some time in an area of North Carolina known as the Piedmonts to figure out whether the Tech Triangle might have a little Bridgwater Triangle in it.

First they look to discover what the true story is at the Devil’s Tramping Ground in Chatham County.

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They then head to Durham to search for the headless trainman who walks the grounds near the old Catsburg Country Store. They close out the marathon day hot on the trail of a white gowned ghost hitchhiker named Lydia.

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Listen to Episode 19…Tripping Carolina in My Mind

 

Then Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano find themselves in Greensboro, North Carolina, staying at the haunted Biltmore Hotel. After spending a few hours sleeping off the road and then recovering from a night of tripping in the NC Triangle, they find themselves waking up to several different types of hauntings..and face to face with a red-headed ghost who does not want them to be there.

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Listen to Episode 20…There’s Something in Room 223

When they reviewed some of the audio they recorded, things at the Biltmore got a bit creeper.

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Listen to Episode 21…but Who Is Haunting Lydia

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Travel Log…The Devil’s Tramping Ground

There’s something to the Name Game, but there are times when a legend plants itself so deep into the minds of residents it forces them to actually name the place for the odd folklore born there.  We recently came across something like this with Bloody Bucket Road in Wachula, Florida, a road named after a story which then inspired a story which inspired an urban legend.  We’ve also found our way to places informally named after the weird happenings there, like the Devil’s Tree and Thrill Hill.  Rarely does a crazy story, known by the people living in the area if not fully believed, make the powers that be change the name of a place to reflect the popularity of a story.

20170711_113012The Devil’s Tramping Ground in Bear Creek, North Carolina is one of those places.  As we heard more about the story, given our obsession at the time with all things named after the Devil, we knew if we were going to North Carolina to look for phantom trains and hitchhikers, we were going to have to stop in and see if we could glimpse something unknown and supernatural making circles in the middle of the woods.

It started with a search into an area of North Carolina known as the known as the Piedmonts.  While looking for something else, I stumbled upon Craig Payst’s Web site North Carolina Ghost Stories.  He has a whole section of his site dedicated to the odd stories from that area, including a weird legend that has gained popularity among the people there over the last few decades.  Some of the details were familiar in that way a good piece of folklore should be, but one of the most interesting slants to the story was that the legend was shifting, adapting with the times to conform to changing ideas.  As we changed as people, the little tale of a patch of land where nothing would grown changed with them.

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The basics of the story should sound like something you’ve heard before.  In the woods near an area known as Harper’s Crossing there is a patch of land where things would not grow.  The infertile pattern was in an almost perfect circle, so people said there had to be something sinister and supernatural about it.  The first stories, which is said to date back at least two hundred years, tell of the Devil himself cast down, or up, to earth to contemplate what evil deeds to commit against the people of the Piedmonts.  Payst attributes this foundation to the strong religious ideas of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who made their way to the State.  No reason is given as to why these people should be a target for him, but there he walked in a circle debating and scheming what to do and tearing up the ground as he walked.   

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Listen to Episode 17…Trips, Triangles, and North Carolina Folklore

20170711_105007.jpgThere is more than just barren land in the story though.  Men and beast avoid the spot for reasons they can’t explain.  People who have dared to try and stay there at night have left with terrible visions.  It is also said that anything placed in the middle of the circle, living or dead, will be cast out by unseen hands.  Some have seen unexplained lights, and like many sites like this one, people have reported seeing hooded figures, either dark souls or Satanic cult members, walking the circle and the surrounding woods.  

If that was end of the story, it would make for an interesting tale.  But there is more to the story.  In the past few years, every trend in the paranormal has been used to explain the site or offer up a backstory for the unexplained.  According to Payst and some others who have looked into the stories, over the years the story has shifted to aliens, a witchcraft hotspot, and an ancient Indian burial location.  Each variation reflects the fears and the interests of the people who are making the story their own, evidenced by the newer idea that the spot is actually a vortex.  Whether to keep the deep folklore alive or just to claim a little ownership in the story, the little patch in the woods transforms itself into what people want.  

This, along with the idea of being pushed by unseen hands drew us to the site.

When we got there is a warm summer day with clouds and a slight breeze.  It was not hard to find, especially considering the street is named for the legend.  We set up a stationary camera to capture the whole thing and walked the perimeter of the circle.  It was littered with garbage, convenience store cups, and beer bottles.  There was a metal chair set up roughly in the middle and a makeshift fire pit.  Someone had been there recently, confirming the Devil’s  Tramping Ground as a party place.  

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We walked a ways into the woods and found evidence of other activity.  There were animal bones scattered in different locations, proof of either cult activity or people wanted it to look like there was cult activity.  Other than the bones and tarps, there was not too much to the area itself.  We spent time in the circle itself to see if we could feel anything trying to get rid of us, but our feet remained firmly planted.  Natalie had the idea to make a cross out of some of the local vegetation to see if it would get tossed from the circle.  We stayed for about an hour, mainly to say we had been there, and made our way to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

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The original plan was to go back that night and see if we could talk to some of the people who partied there or even interview the dark forces, but we spent too much time looking for the hitchhiking Lydia and were not able to get back.  A follow-up the next day revealed nothing else out of the ordinary and our cross was in the same place.  In fact, after the being molested by ghostly redheads in Greensboro and getting new Pukwudgie reports in Indiana, the Harper’s Crossing and the Devil’s Tramping Ground felt mundane.

IMG_3104It was not until we reviewed the camera some time later that things got eerie.  One of the things I noticed, and we had not talked about it at the time of the trip, was how little time we spent in the middle of the circle.  Most of the time we were there was spent trailing the woods, but we seemed to unconsciously avoid actually being where the Devil was believed to walked.  It was subtle.  We had travelled 1,000 miles and didn’t spend much time in the middle.

You can’t put your hands on that kind of idea or hold it up.  It could just be an overactive mind wanting to justify having touched a legend.  The camera, however, picked something up which almost defines the eye.  At one point the lighting completely changes (perhaps due to the clouds overhead), but then several odd noises are heard.  These climax with a clear clanging of metal.  At that exact moment, something flies through the frame and out of the circle.  We have broken it down and determined it was not a bird and was too big, even in perspective, to be an insect or something else hanging out in the woods.  This, mixed with the sound heard right before the movement, leads us to believe one of those beer or soda cans was kicked out of the circle while we played in the woods.

Like the legend itself, there is no clear cut answer to what we saw.  The Devil’s Tramping Ground has exist for decades, and if every bit of folklore is born from some truth, there might be more to the story than just some dead vegetation and some odd lights in the woods.  People will continue to tell their stories about the place, odd first hand accounts with their choice of background to give it context.  The legend will continue because we want it to, but just when you think it’s safe to sit back and think of it all as just a story, a swift kick and clang might happen and make you rethink whether a ghost story, or even a tale of the Devil, has more fact than fable to it.  

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Listen to Episode 19…Tripping Carolina in My Mind

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Listen to Conversations on Folklore with Craig Payst