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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The Sounds of the Spooky

If I were an older man, and I’m starting to get there, I might look at the state of modern music and muse about the loss of the good old days.  The quality of the music, the use of new methods of recording and songwriting, can be debated.  Most music is made for the young, so if I like the music teens like, something may be quite wrong.  There is something else lacking in the business today that makes it less appealing, and from genre to genre and artist to artist, downloads and Grammys can’t hide it.

Music is missing mythology.

Paul is dead.  Led Zepplin channeled the dead, and maybe the devil, by living in Aleister Crowley’s house.  Everyone sells their soul to the Devil and dies at 27.  Lyrics are written in blood or spoken into the ear from beyond the grave.  Axl wants to meet Brett behind the state for a fight right after Jimi Hendricks creates a superband to play metal-jazz.  Seal’s scar appear overnight on his face like stigmata.  Ace Frehley.

Not that there is no band rivalry and rumor today.  We get the information quicker today, but that might be the problem.  The spotlight is hotter and the economic stakes are higher, which translates to no rebels in rock, which has effectively killed the “rock and roll spirit.”  Social media is quick to whitewash and kill the mythology.  That glacier-like movement of media helped to mold those old legends, and before anyone could respond, the rumors were solidified in our consciousnesses.

The paranormal has always fueled those rumors.  Dancing with the occult, holding hands with Satan, and ghostly visitations are as common as the power chord and pyrotechnics.  Like biblical scholars or Homer, there have been a chosen few who have taken these tales and raised them to level of religion for lovers of music.  Not content to allow word of mouth to do them justice, they have pressed these stories  into words like pressing vinyl.

We’ve been lucky at Spooky Southcoast to tap into some of these musical myths.  Over the years, we’ve brought in experts and observers to this odd connection between music and the supernatural.  We had R. Gary Patterson on twice, once the night after Amy Winehouse was discovered dead, and he talked to us up until he had to get off because Coast to Coast was on the other line.  We’ve brought in Carl “Chops” Woods to talk about the curses of the blues, only to see EVP form before our eyes.

Enjoy them while you’re waiting in the crossroads.

Listen to the interview with Joe Niezgoda from 2-6-1.
Listen to Carl “Chops” Woods and the paranormal history of blues from 2-28-09
Listen to the interview with Aaron Hanson about remote viewing Michael Jackson’s death from 7-4-09
Listen to the interview with R. Gary Patterson from 1-20-07
Listen to the interview with R. Gary Patterson hot on the heels of Amy Weinhouse’s death from 7-23-1

The new Tripping on Legends Project is officially launched

Steven King once said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” There might be two things wrong with using that phrase for my life right now. First, I am feeling anything but scared. This new project has my hands sweaty with anticipation and excitement, but there is nothing to lose so nothing much to look around the corner for with fear.

The second part is that King was not talking about starting over, which this is. A few months ago I left a part of myself behind and gave up the ghost, so to speak. After more than ten years, without a proclamation on social media or a trumpet sound, I took down my Web site, Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads, and stopped actively seeking out and responding to inquiries about ghosts and monsters and things that live in the dark. The reasons are too abstract to explain, so I’ll leave it at there was something in my stomach telling me to stop. Seeing the stat tracker the next day screaming zero and having my information quickly removed from search engines was a shock, and I didn’t really feel the weight lift.

I had talked about the Tripping on Legends project for a while and decided to put my energies there. It is a call back to the part of the paranormal that sparked me in grade school, and college, and when I first starting using Page Builder on an archaic computer to built Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads. Although I am not seeking out the supernatural, I am looking at those same core emotions that call to us and make us keep coming back to the same themes and ideas. If ghosts cross my path, I’ll walk with them a while, but that is not the spirit of the journey.

Tripping on Legends is like skipping a stone across the country and seeing where it lands. I am looking to document hidden heroes across the country, especially the ones who may never have existed. I am making a call to each corner of the country to tell me the stories that time has forgotten, and I am hoping in the process to tell the tale of this country through those stories. We all remember Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill and John Henry, each state, each town, has their hidden Johnny Appleseed, their own folklore that has shaped their people and their landscape as much as its industry and geography. Basic crime scene investigation tells us we leave something and pick up something everywhere we go, and cultures drop and grasp through their heroes and stories.

I am looking to document the more obscure stories, the hidden Calamity Jane of towns. 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’ll be spending a week with each state, on the phone and typing blindly, trying to reach people who have the tale.

I am not expecting this to just be about the stories. I’ll be documenting who responds, from what towns and from what positions, because I am as interested in knowing who holds our pasts in their hands. Who are the people who are keeping this alive and dusting off the old books to get the facts, or at least the feel of the facts, passed down. Having been a librarian (although I know many librarians would laugh at that given what I have no degree and worked in acquisitions) I am hoping they are the gatekeepers, but I know archivists, news reporters, and educators are out there hoping someone asks them about what they do. For me, the excitement comes in the research, including trying to find the person who knows what I am looking for.

The best part of the project might be the end game. For the first time in a long time, I have none. I have no audience or editor, no footstep to trip on or shadow to overcome. This journey is for the journey, and I am as open to what happens as I am motivated by the mere directlessness of it.

Tomorrow I am off to Iowa. There is no logic as to why I would start there, other than to say I know nothing about the place. Like Tripping on Legends itself, I have never been there before and don’t know what it holds for me. There is some small town there, and I think I know enough about it to know the whole state may be small towns, that has a day dedicated to a war hero that never fought in a war or a festival where kids dress up as characters in a story they all know but that the rest of the country is ignorant to. That’s where I want to go, and I step with more passion than I’ve had in a few years.

Magnet Hill

Having a paranormal occurrence in your town, especially one that explodes on the scene and changes the town can be come a lightning rod for a community.

Such a thing happened to the town of Leominster, Massachusetts in 1939.  A salesman on business in the town stopped his car and but did not put on the parking brake.  He stepped out and watched his car go up the hill before his eyes.  He reported what he had seen and word quickly spread through the town and beyond.

The town exploded.

Walter Deacon Jr. followed the story for several days and chronicled the events.  The days after people came out by the score to try and test Magic Hill and see if they could defy gravity and the laws of science, including an “official” test by the Chief of Police,

George H. Smith.  Time and again people stood amazed as they magically went up the hill with no effort.  The next day the scene seems to have gotten worse as people came from neighboring towns and outside the state.  They went up the hill in bikes, baby carriages any anything else that could roll.  Kids started to charge people for rides on their bikes.  Some even went on the grass nearby, closed their eyes and spun around. 

After opening their eyes they said they had been drawn uphill.

The police wanted to close the street as cars rushed next to little kids on bikes, but the crowd prevailed.  The Superintendent of Streets in Leominster was called in to investigate.  He concluded the street was actually a decline of 1.9 feet but the surrounding area created the illusion that you were traveling uphill.  To stop the pedestrians from coming and causing traffic accidents he tried to fill the hole, but reports said the material he used rolled off the hill.

The hill’s popularity eventually faded, but people still remember the case which comes up when discussing the folklore of the town.  Was the hill really magic?  Probably not. 

News reports of the incident are a bit tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing and stories the reporter heard sound too fantastic to be true, especially one that said cars traveled “up” the hill at between 10 to 15 miles per hour.  Boyden’s statements about the hill ring true to a degree and archaeologists who tested the area found no magnetic forces.

Do not tell that to the people who experienced it.  Truth or legend, the people of the town enjoyed their moment in the spotlight basking in an event that attracted people from all around.

This article could not have been written without the help of Jeannine T. Levesque from the Leominster Public Library. I encourage people to give to this library that is more than anxious to help eager minds learn about and research the paranormal.  Most of this material comes from the Leominster Daily Enterprise from July 13 to 15, 1939, and was written by Walter I. Deacon Jr.  Other material was taken from Curious New England by Joesph Citro.

Pointing the Finger at Folklore: Where to find the Blame in Missouri

This article originally appeared on Ghostvillage News

It’s hard to put a warning on local ghostly folklore. It creeps into the personality of a place, feeding on universal themes and attraction and becomes a living, breathing thing that begs to be heard. By its very nature, it draws us in, and asks us to become part of the story. They are tales told during sleepovers and campfires, sometimes even as cautionary tales told by parents with pointed fingers, but they become the narrative of a location, the reason why the house is left unoccupied or the sign is posted. The lure to be part of the story and to test whether the tale could possibly be true is too strong. What fun is it to just hear the story anyway? It’s the easiest way for an ordinary person to be part of something extraordinary.

This week that attraction led to tragedy. In Poplar Bluff, Missouri, five teens were testing the validity of a local ghost story by parking on train tracks that are supposed to be haunted and waiting to see the apparitions that are supposed to invade the car. As the train drew closer, the car refused to start again, and two of the teens who could not get out of the car were killed while a third who rushed back to help them was seriously injured.

The children were trying to get a look at the two ghosts said to haunt the tracks, both of which supposedly died in a train accident that killed several people in the early 1900s. One is of a woman who lost her small child during the accident and who asks people who stop on the tracks for helping finding them. The other is a man who was decapitated and is seen searching for it in a ditch nearby. Other activity includes car radios being played with and an unexplained fog that clouds up the windows.

If any of this sounds familiar, it should. The same story is probably told in your town or a town nearby. Everyone knows the tale, and it speaks to something inherently sad and attractive at the same time. We might not all believe in ghosts, but people tend to believe in the mythology surrounding ghost stories. Tales like this have all the earmarks of appeal: an accident that is plausible, a loss of life, a spirit unable to get to the other side because of unfinished business, children trapped in time. Throw in a specific location and the story that other people have witnessed it, and you too can be part of the legend that is too good to not be true.

The truly frightening part of a story like this is that when something like this happens, it only strengthens the lore of the story. Why was the car unable to start again? As time goes on and the names and faces of the victims fade, people will speak of the man who held them in or the angel who pulled the last girl to safety as she tried to help. At Session House, a dorm at Smith College in Massachusetts, there is a tradition of looking for the ghosts that haunt the building on Halloween night. One year a student got hurt falling down the stairs, but over the years the story became more sensationalized. She now is said to have died and is also haunting the college. And that is the way it goes, half truths become cemented and unquestioned fact.

It is not the first time something like this has happened. The most famous story happened almost six years ago when a group of teens trespassed on a property in Ohio, and one, Rachel Barezinsky, was shot in the head and barely survived. There have been other reports of teens getting hurt or lost looking to follow up on a local legend, but the tragedy in Missouri might be the most dreadful because of the loss of life and the way it played itself out. These stories appeal to people who look for ghosts, but the youth have always felt the stronger pull. Long before Ghost Hunters there was Bloody Mary and Suicide Rock down the street.

In the coming days there will be plenty of blame. Already people have pointed to Web sites such as StrangeUSA.com and the proliferation of ghost investigation television shows. People have said the trend of kids to want to legend trip too often leads to things like this happening, which is, of course, the kind of exaggeration that leads to legends in the first place. The fact of the matter is that people find these places and have found them long before there were lists of haunted places on the Internet. One administrator of a popular site that lists locations to find ghosts and ghostly legends has made it very clear where he stands. “If a place makes it to my site it is because a lot of people in that town know about it.” In other words, responsibility does not land on him because they were going to find in anyway.

Of course, this is only part of the answer. In actuality, today’s climate of investigating and tripping is different from the past. Social media is the campfire of today, Web conferencing the sleepover. People hear the stories from their friends or passed down from the older kid next door, but they also search them out. The information put out there often becomes the stepping stones for thrill seeker. Instead of a trickle whispered about, the information becomes a faucet, but this does not mean any of these sites or the producers of a ghost show are responsible.

There may truly be no blame. The folklore overrides the commonsense of the moment. Thinking educating teens, while a valuable endeavor in other respects, would have stopped this is like thinking teaching gun safety to gang members will stop drive-bys. In the moment there is only the story and something in us that we can only partly explain. It is the reason we watch scary moves or our minds wander during rainstorms. It is why we drive too fast on the highway at night or invent pastimes that call for us to throw ourselves off cliffs. The ghostly legend has its base in our very humanity, and you can’t put always put a warning on that.

Jeff Belanger’s Latest Book Introduces New Paranormal Movement: Legend Tripping

Picture Yourself Legend Tripping explores how to find, document, and experience ghosts, aliens, monsters, and urban legends.

Paranormal researcher and author launches new legend tripping resource Web site.

BOSTON, MA — July 13, 2010 — The idea of legend tripping has been around for thousands of years. There’s a good chance you’ve already done it. Remember sneaking off into that cemetery at night as a kid to see if there were any ghosts? Remember hearing there was a monster lurking in that old abandoned building and wanting to check it out? Or hearing about a UFO landing site and wanting to plan your next vacation in the area so you could stand where the craft was said to have left its mark? That’s legend tripping. But it can be so much more. We can become part of the story. Today people still seek out these legends in record numbers in an effort to touch the unexplained. In Jeff Belanger’s new book and accompanying DVD, Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Back Yard, he explores how to find, experience, and chronicle these legends.

Legend tripping offers a unique and inexpensive paranormal investigation opportunity for those with a big sense of adventure, and it’s an activity that can be done alone or in groups. You don’t need complicated or expensive equipment, just your human senses and a sense of wonder.

“Legends are real,” said Jeff Belanger, author of Picture Yourself Legend Tripping, “They are born, they can travel, spawn offspring, and they can die. For millennia humankind has told stories of ghosts, creatures from distant planets, monsters, and religious legends to each other as a way to connect with the past and explore the future. These legends can be experienced almost anywhere, and oftentimes they are based on more than just stories.”

Any television program you’ve ever seen that explores haunted places, ancient mysteries, UFO sightings, or strange creatures is legend tripping. First there was a story: a legend that was born and grew because people had unexplained experiences and shared what they saw, heard, and felt.

Belanger draws on over two decades of legend tripping experience to show readers how to find these legends close to home or in their travels. When a person stands where the legend is said to have stood, when they interview eyewitnesses, there’s a transformation that often takes place: stories become real, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you catch a glimpse of something paranormal.

“The journey is everything with legend tripping,” Belanger said. “Imps, fairies, aliens, bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Bloody Mary, ghosts, demons-it’s time to start believing.”

In addition to the new book, Belanger also announced today the launch of a new Web site: LegendTripping.com — an online resource for legend trippers that includes a directory of paranormal legends from around the world. Belanger said, “The goal of the Web site is to have legend trippers everywhere submit their local legends and tell our readers about their own experiences while out hunting the paranormal.”

About the Author
Jeff Belanger (www.jeffbelanger.com) is one of the most visible and prolific paranormal researchers today. He is the author of a dozen books on the paranormal (published in six languages) including the best sellers: The World’s Most Haunted Places, Our Haunted Lives, Who’s Haunting the White House (for children), and Weird Massachusetts. He’s the founder of Ghostvillage.com, the Web’s most popular paranormal destination according to Google.com, and a noted speaker and media personality. He’s also the host of the Cable/Web talk show, 30 Odd Minutes. Belanger has written for newspapers like The Boston Globe and is the series writer and researcher for Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. He’s been a guest on more than 200 radio and television programs including: The History Channel, The Travel Channel, PBS, NECN, Living TV (UK), The Maury Show, The CBS News Early Show, National Public Radio, The BBC, Australian Radio Network, and Coast to Coast AM.

About Picture Yourself Legend Tripping
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Back Yard (ISBN: 1-43545-639-4, pages: 228, DVD, price: $24.99) includes a DVD featuring the author and other paranormal experts and is published by Course PTR (a subsidiary of Cengage Learning) in July of 2010. The book is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and many other booksellers.