The Monsters Of Tennessee — Hondacsr

Like every state in the Union, Tennessee has its local legends, ranging from First Nations stories that predate the arrival of Europeans to the land to modern urban legends the likes of which reflect modern fears and unease. Among these legends are legends of local monsters. Given the centuries of human habitation in the state, […]

via The Monsters Of Tennessee — Hondacsr

Some interesting side stories to follow up on if we go to Tennessee…

http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HSQQNTpQ

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What’s Up, Doc: Being Rejected by the Professor

And here I thought I was doing it right all along.

I set nets and lobster traps out there.  I publish a story I hear in the hopes that a person keywording something they experienced or were told about will fall in and tell me their version of the story.  I then document what they experienced.  I go out to the places where things happen and try to experience it myself, maybe asking a few people nearby if they’ve heard about it.  I’ve been doing that for more than twenty years, since I first asked people what they had heard about my haunted dorm, Charlesgate.  If I’m looking at a place I don’t know, I send out e-mails to the gatekeepers of the tales; librarians, members of town history groups, professors at local colleges.  It’s my way of trying to get my hands on what Charles Johnson once called, “our human inheritance.”

Today I received a response back from a doctor of folklore studies from a university in Pennsylvania.  Nine words if you don’t count our names.

This is not the way to conduct folklore research.

Thanks, Doc.

Years ago Tim Weisberg from Spooky Southcoast gave me the label of Analytical Folklorist.  I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded official and important and close enough to what I do for me to embrace.  After all, I was slowly moving away from investigating the paranormal and had long held to the idea that the value in looking into the paranormal was in finding what it had to do with the people who experienced it and those who sought out their stories.  Tracking down a good ghost story was an exercise in recording oral and written history, and writing it down was capturing more about society than capturing a ghost (or a Ghost on Film).  I believed then that tales of the paranormal and supernatural were a major part of our modern folklore, and my work over the past three years has done nothing to change that.

It’s not that I think ghosts don’t exist.  There are unexplained things in this world, and those things will always remain that way.  The paranormal is our way of trying to make sense out of the unseen, and for every story where we see a possible reason for the ghost, there are ten more that only point at our existing ideas on ghosts or the growing new mythology we are creating concerning the unknown.   There is much folklore in how we look for ghosts, including the people who do it, as there is in the ghosts they look for.

But that’s a story for another day.

This is more about the Legends Project and its goal of searching out stories to trip this summer outside of Florida.

I had started the project a few years ago and restarted it about six months ago with the goal of traveling to sites I could trip and collect stories from.  The idea was to find places where the locals knew of a story, ghost or just off-center, and then go to the location and see what I could collect by talking to people and enacting any ritual connected to the story.

IMG_1978For example, you go to a cry-baby bridge.  You turn your lights out like the tale tells you to do.  Honk twice as instructed and be ready to see the bride appear before you with the dead baby in her arms.  Before that, you hit the Internet finding variations of the story and ask people about it when you get to the town.

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Perhaps the best example of Tripping on Legends doing this would be the case of the Devil’s Tree in Port St. Lucie.  We searched the Net for hours, and when we got there we asked everyone we could find the stories they had heard about it.  We were able to record four or five variations of the story or little add-ons (the serial killer lived in a shack near the tree) and this led us to other mysteries, like what were the ruins near the tree and was the whole thing signal some kind of disturbance in the area where serial killers, sketchy asylum owners, and random acts of violence would find their way to the same spot.

To me, that’s what modern folklore is about.  Find a story, look into the story, try to connect the story.

TImage result for food for the deadhis is what I learned from reading the people who inspired me.  Food for the Dead was one of the most influential books to my early work because Michael Bell set out to find the stories and experience them himself, even though he never really thought there were vampires out there. Jan Harold Brunvand laid out similar methods in collecting as many versions of urban legends as he could.  The same could be said for Charles Robinson in prepping New England Ghost Files.  I would even say hearing Joseph Campbell describing connecting myths follows a similar pattern.

So what am I doing that’s wrong, Doc?

The logical first step is to find a story.  This is a copy of the e-mail I send out to get the pot stirred:

My name is Christopher Balzano, a folklorist living in Southwest Florida.

I am starting a new project looking to explore and celebrate the stories that have become the foundation for the rich oral and written tradition of this country.  I am looking for the folklore that has contributed to the development and tradition of America, and I am hoping for your help.

I believe the journey of a folklorist starts with asking a question to get the adventure started, so today I am asking you.

Is there a story in your area that your citizens view as folklore or local myth?

Having done this for more than two decade, I understand how difficult that question may be. It involves sifting through old stories and urban legends to try and sort things out.  I am not asking you to go that far, mainly because that’s where the love of the trip lies for me.  I’m just searching for whatever information you might have and perhaps a lead.

I am looking to document the more obscure stories, the hidden John Henry of your area.

The story may be familiar but region specific, creepy or spooky, or just plain entertaining or important.  Folklore, urban legends, or just regional legends are all fair game.

I am especially interested if you know of storytellers who make these tales come to life or know of local archived audio files of them.

I thank you for your time, and I hope to hear back from you.

 

I have sent this to countless libraries and historical societies.  I have sent it to paranormal investigators and professors.  It’s a feeler, and more often than not it gets ignored.  The goal is to have someone get the e-mail and remember a story, or be bored enough to look through their files and find something that might fit the bill.  Sometimes there is a near-forgotten story in a drawer somewhere, like the Haunted Schoolhouse case a few years ago.  The bigger hope is that I get into their mind, so when something comes along, they think of me and what I am doing and get back in touch.

img_1614Almost every legend trip I have done in the past six months was born of this letter.  A librarian told me about the Singing River.  A newspaper writer pointed me towards the Mini Lights.  A member of the historical society asked me if Talking Mary fit into what we were trying to do.

So what do I do differently, Doc?

I have since sent a return e-mail asking what more I need to do to warrant a moment of his time and a lead on a story, but when I look at what I do, I am confident I’m going about it the right way.  I do it with a love of the story and an eye to what it says about us.   I do it with respect and awe.  I do it with the hope of experiencing what people have claimed to be their town’s truth but with the realization that more often than not I’ll just be shouting into the wind.

The first paranormal story I can remember involved a retelling of a Devil’s Footprint in New Hampshire.  I was living there at the time (seven years old), and as I read how the town had created whole mythos around this imprint in stone, I became fascinated with what was the truth behind the story, especially after the writer gave several different account of the legend.  Then he put his socked foot into the print and it fit exactly.  I was hooked.  Years went by and the same idea of the Devil’s footprint kept coming up.

Maybe I’m not going about this the right way, but methods have to shift.  We do not tell our stories the same way, and we do not hear them like the days of old.  Smart phones are handheld campfires, and Reddit is your sketchy cousin letting you in on the haunted house down the street.  Folklore is happening as we live and changing as quickly as we can switch apps.  There is history in the ghost story.  There is societal knowledge in the cryptid still wandering in the woods.  The best way to hold this knowledge is to experience and squint and look for the strings.

Here’s hoping that’s good enough for you, Doc.

 

Mini Lights, Minnie Lights, Come Out Tonight

 

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The Mini Lights of St. Petersburg ended up being one of the most interesting legend trips we’ve done, not because of any evidence we got, but for the rich insight it gave us into the community and the challenges it provided for trying to figure out where things happened and what the straight story might be.

Ends up there isn’t one location and there isn’t one story.  You can spend your time trying to straighten out spaghetti or you can devour the bowl and ask for some garlic bread and meatballs.

Check out the episode we did on the way and after…  http://triplegend.hipcast.com/deluge/triplegend-20170326103541-9630.mp3

As well as some follow up on that case and the Devil’s Tree in Port St. Lucie…  http://triplegend.hipcast.com/deluge/triplegend-20170327012736-6406.mp3

…and hear the show where we first talk about it…http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HtJFN9GQ

…and more about the Devil’s Tree and the mysterious draw to the ruins.  http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HQRrNrBQ

 

Subscibe to the full show at http://triplegend.hipcast.com/rss/tol1.xml or search for us on Sticher, TuneIn and Itunes and Google Play.

 

For more content, also follow us on Twitter at @SpookyBalzano and @NayNayMyFriend and on Faceboook at https://www.facebook.com/TrippingonLegends/ and YouTube.

 

Revisiting Rockadundee

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I first published information about Rockadundee Road in early 2oo2 as I was starting Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.  It was one of the first Massachusetts legends, right after the Red Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44, that connected with me and that I was able to, to some  some degree, track down.   It’s interesting how this story went from an obscure legend passed through the writings of a few Web sites back in the day to a full fledged legend.

The greatest moment of local folklore is the moment the story becomes such a part of a community, or such a menace to it, that media outlets and other writers have to come forward to prove the legendness of it.  Here are some more modern accounts of the story and the craze around it:

 Suburban Legend: The Haunting of Rock-a-Dundee Road  by Hell’s Acre

Ghostvillage’s discussion on it…with a little visit by Christopher Balzano

Strange USA’s discussion

In Massachusetts, there is the tale of Rockadundee Road in Hampden, a small town in the western part of the state that could be copied and reproduced as a picture of New England.

It is the kind of road, formerly part of the forest that now surrounds it, that inspires ghost stories.  Urban legends stick there and get passed between residents and paranormal enthusiasts alike.

The more bizarre stories involve an old witch who lived on the road who needed humans, particularly teenage, for rituals and incantations.  She would find people who became stuck on the dirt road, hack them up with an ax, and bring them back to her shack in the woods.  There is also a tale of a group of teenagers who went to the road, and for reasons unknown, and hung themselves from the trees along the road, perhaps hoping their spirits would haunt the town together.

The town reports no teenager who ever went missing or a group who ever killed themselves in a mass ritual, but the legends persist.  All of the stories coming out of Hampden are echoed across the country in other legends, and the themes of the stories should be familiar to anyone who spends any time near a campfire.  The hanging, the witch, the haunted road, and the use of teens in all the stories, resonate with urban mythologists and researchers alike.

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There is one story that has a twist unique to Rockadundee Road.  The story starts once with the death of a child, usually a young boy.  While playing near the road, the child is hit by a car, almost always said to be a drunk driver, and killed.  The parents, or maybe the community, create some kind of memorial for him.  The site of his demise is covered with signs, a cross, or teddy bears.  The ghost of the child then becomes like the ghost hitchhiker, appearing in cars or seen playing on the side of the road.

The story is pretty standard, and more and more investigators are hearing of haunted roadside memorials. At Rockadundee Road the victim is a boy killed by a drunk driver whose parents, in their grief, built a gazebo as a memorial. The boy is seen playing in the structure or nearby.  The story goes on that a group of teenagers suffered a mysterious death while jumping on the gazebo as part of a dare.  

In almost every report, like most haunted road graves, there is also a ghost car that follows people in the same area.  The phantom vehicle comes from behind, often honking at the observer or flashing their lights.  The car disappears going around the next turn.  In Hampden the haunted tailgater has been reported to run people off the road.  Most believe the car to be the one that killed the child.  The psychic impression of the violent demise is trapped on the road and is forced for some reason to replay itself.

The haunting seems too good to be true and involves a situation too familiar to not connect with the majority of people.  We have all seen the memorials on the side of the road and wondered what the back story is.  When the deceased is a child we become even more empathetic and more likely to believe the story.  We feel for and are frightened by the little boy unable to find peace.

There are usually contradictions or inconsistencies involved in the story.  The driver is said to be drunk and never caught.  There is also the fact that no one ever reports of seeing both ghosts.  The stories are always retold as, “I saw this and I was told this is the reason why and there is this other ghost…”  The teller fills in the holes, making the story more exciting.  Most importantly, the same haunting is told and told again in different towns around the country.

The dark and lonely road is enough to inspire fear in anyone, but on Rockadundee Road, the haunted road is raised to the level of art form.

 

 

Tripping the Devil’s Tree

Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano went out in search of the Devil’s Tree at Oak  Hammock  Park in Port St. Lucie.

We’ve got a full write up of the context and what happened coming later this week, but you can catch the two podcasts they did on the topic.  The first is a trek down different Devil legends and the second is their field report on the Devil’s Tree.

Epsiode 7…Tripping the Devil

Epsiode 8…Tripping the Devil’s Tree

 

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Holiday’s Ghostly Pants?

picture courtesy of iHorror

This story originally appeared in the book Ghostly Adventures.  I edited it slightly for modern consumption, but this seems like a great day trip for the Legends Project.

 

Check out the audio from the episode…

Laurie’s work as a paranormal investigator sometimes forces her to keep quiet around people she does not know. Many investigators are fine among their own kind, but the outside world is not so accepting. Spending too much time with people who believe in the paranormal makes you think everyone is open about that kind of thing. It only takes a few people giving you that look, the one where you know they will not invite you over for coffee sometime, to keep your stories and your ideas to yourself.

 

Holiday, Florida, is like that. On the west coast of Florida, halfway down the state but a world away from the lights of Orlando or the history of St. Petersburg, the town is bursting with untold ghost stories and legends. It just takes time, and the right questions, to get them out of people.

 

Laurie was not sure how her neighbors would perceive her experiences when she moved there. “When I first moved to this neighborhood I kept a low profile. No one even knew I was a ghost hunter for ten years. Over those ten years I heard lots of stories from neighbors about strange happenings around there, and since my ghost hunting pastime became known I have heard even more endless reports.”

 

One story stays with her. “About twenty years ago I went to a barbecue at a neighbor’s home, a fisherman who had lots of local yokel buddies. Someone started telling a story saying that he had seen a pair of pants with shoes, like a man from the waist down, run across a nearby road on a rainy night. Another man jumped in to say that he saw it too and pretty soon they were comparing notes, and even with all I have seen and heard myself, I chalked this up to just too much beer and a bunch of tall-tale fishermen telling yet another ridiculous tale.”

 

The story was a legend in the town, but like many legends, there was an air of truth to it. While many accounts came secondhand, there were also people who saw the mysterious pants with their own eyes, making the other stories more believable. Laurie saw the story as legend, but a while later she was confronted herself. “About two years later, I was coming home from a friend’s home. It was late and it was raining, there was a slight fog but nothing blinding. I saw my neighbor’s eighteen-year-old son on the side of the highway near the road that leads to my road. His motorcycle had broken down and he was soaked to the gills. I picked him up to give him a ride home as he lived four houses down from me.

 

“We were driving down the road that eventually dead ends to my road, and as we came over a rise and into the dip that followed I could not believe what I saw. I was driving my old Bronco, which was very tall, and I had my high beams on, which illuminated the road for quite a distance. There are no streetlights here and the road is very dark at night. The rain was still coming down but only a light drizzle now compared to the earlier downpour. There, about thirty yards in front of my truck, was what appeared to be a man from the waist down, crossing the road into a nearby trailer park.” The ghost had no upper body and she could not see its feet. There was only a pair of pants, suspended in midair.

 

“I locked my brakes and sat in disbelief and looked over to the boy beside me. He looked scared to death. The youth asked her if she had seen what he had seen. I said that of course I had and he replied, ‘I am so glad. I have seen it before and no one would have believed me so I never told anyone.’”

 

The clothes matched the description given by the men at the barbeque. “The pants were brown, uniform-style pants, with shoes and a belt, but there was absolutely nothing visible of the man above the belt.”

 

Although it seems most towns in America have some kind of highway haunting, they are usually full-bodied apparitions, not just a pair of slacks. In fact, it is unusual to see only the clothes of a ghost. While many people feel spirits can exists after death, one of the questions always asked is why they have clothes. That question cannot be answered except to say somehow their remaining energy consists of how they viewed themselves in life. Regardless, the phantom pants are a rarity in the field, even to someone with Laurie’s resume.

 

The experience made Laurie more open to legends and local folklore. “That evening I learned that no matter how ridiculous something sounds to me, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to people. I have heard several bizarre claims since. I can honestly say that even though I scoffed and shook my head when I heard the tale, I now have to eat my words on the ghost of the traveling pants. I have no explanation for what I saw that night. I haven’t seen it again even though others claim to have.”