Davids Basement of the Bizarre

THE BASEMENT’S PODCAST REVIEW: “New England Legends Podcast” with Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger

I have been a fan of Jeff Belanger ever since I read his books “The World’s Most Haunted Places” and the “Encyclopedia of Haunted Places.” I have also been a follower of GHOSTVILLAGE.COM, his website of all things paranormal and supernatural. Just recently, I also started listening to his NEW ENGLAND LEGENDS PODCAST and couldn’t be happier. Being a Rhode Island native, most of the places that he and co-host Ray Auger visit hit really close to home. It is also really nice that I can visit many of these locations in a relatively short period of time.

Most of the NEW ENGLAND LEGENDS PODCAST episodes run 10 to 15 minutes, making them very easy to listen to at almost any time. A lot of information is crammed into each episode, not wasting time of fluff. They get right to the point, presenting the best background information on each location. At the time of this writing they have over 180 episodes, but it is a series that you definitely want to start from the beginning and with the time lengths, you will catch up in no time.

Another thing I have been enjoying is Jeff’s weekly virtual shows. Each week he has a live Zoom, broadcasting everything from ghost stories to book promotions to NEW ENGLAND LEGENDS stories. They usually last about an hour and are free. It is interactive and you can ask questions, that he will answer live. It’s a nice break from the stresses of life each week. Jeff is a great story teller and his presentations are very entertaining as well.

Another fun thing that you can get is the NEW ENGLAND LEGENDS app. With this app you can locate the very places he talks about on the podcast. Not only are all of the locations shown on the map, you can get directions to go explore yourself! If you know of a legend that he has not covered, you can report it. It is very fun to use and if you are into these things, it is a must have. It is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Jeff’s latest book, “The Call of Kilimanjaro: Finding Hope Above the Clouds,” comes out on March 9. Though not a book on the supernatural or paranormal, it promises to be an exciting story. After his brother-in-law Chris passed away, Jeff made the decision to take the trip of a lifetime, both in honor of Chris and in pursuit of clarity about his own life and goals. “The Call of Kilimanjaro” is a day-by-day record of Belanger’s ascent to the peak of Africa’s highest mountain.

By turns contemplative and irreverent, joyful and thoughtful, boyish and wise, this is a book for all ages – from 10 to 100 – and a memoir for armchair travelers with an interest in spirituality. By example, Belanger teaches us to take stock of our accomplishments, eye the lofty goals we’ve placed in front of ourselves, and push higher than we’ve ever dared, turning an honest eye toward past, present, and future, through the end of life and beyond.

With everything Jeff is working on, he was kind enough to make some time to do an interview with me. I cannot thank him enough for this.

David: How did your interest in the paranormal begin?

Jeff: I grew up in an old New England town, and from a young age I had friends who told me their houses were haunted. I was intrigued! I’d con my way into sleepovers at their homes. We’d break out the Ouija board and try and make contact with whatever was there. What blew me away the most was that this was nothing like a Hollywood movie. It was more matter-of-fact.

As a kid I loved reading about haunted places, UFOs, and anything else on the “fringe.” Ever since I’ve been focused on things out-of-the-ordinary.

David: What is your earliest memory of the paranormal?

Growing up, I having paranormal experiences and I didn’t see my first ghost until I was an adult. I remember how I felt when my young friends told me they’d seen a ghost. I believed them!

My first experience came in 2003 when I was in the Catacombs of Paris, France. I was in the bowels of the city. It was dark and quiet in the old network of tunnels, and I was surrounded by millions of human bones that were placed down there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I was walking down a narrow corridor lined with bones when I saw a figure the size of a man move from the right side of the tunnel, to the left, then back again before he vanished. There were no other side tunnels, and no one else down there with me. If not a ghost, I have no other word for what I saw.

David: Growing up, what was that one book on the subject that you could just not get enough of?

Jeff: The Ghostly Register by Arthur Myers.

David: What was the most bizarre encounter you have had?

Jeff: I don’t have a lot of personal encounters that I would label paranormal. But I’ve been in some weird places. I recall being in an abandoned asylum outside of Philadelphia. It was dark and late, and I was on the second floor of an abandoned building with two other people. As we’re walking down the hallway, there was an old, heavy, solid-wood door leaning against the wall. Just after we passed it, the door was knocked to the floor. It was as loud as a grenade. We all jumped! I shined my flashlight in the area and saw the biggest raccoon I had ever seen lumber through.

David: What is the scariest encounter you have had?

Jeff: I was walking through an abandoned cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It was mostly dark, but I had my flashlight turned off. I find once your eyes adjust to the dark, it’s easier to move around. As I got to the middle of one of the cell blocks, I suddenly felt petrified. I could see nothing out of the ordinary. I heard nothing. But I felt scared. Really scared, like my life was in danger. I walked back to the center of the complex where the guards used to keep watch, and I was fine. To this day I can’t explain what I picked up on, whether old emotions of former inmates, or something all in my head.

David: What would you consider to be the most haunted place in New England?

People ask me that a lot! It’s an impossible question to answer. They also ask what my favorite haunt would be. I struggle because every story, every legend, every location is unique. There are places I’ve been where someone had the scare of their lives, but I experienced nothing. Here’s a link to a map with about 200 of my favorite New England locations: https://ournewenglandlegends.com/legendary-locations/ I invite you to pick one that sings to you!

David: Is there one case that you want to investigate that you just haven’t been able to?

Jeff: Over a decade ago I got to go to the White House as part of my research on my first children’s book: Who’s Haunting the White House?. I got to interview some of the staff, and take a tour. It was an incredible experience! My dream is to check out the Lincoln Bedroom, but alas, the only way up there is by invite of the First Family. I tend not to hob-knob with people at that level. But if the president ever calls, I’m ready!

David: What tools do you normally use while conducting investigations? What is your opinion of the spirit box?

Jeff: I use a notebook, a pen, a camera, and an audio recorder. I had all of those gadgets you see on TV, but don’t use them when I’m on my own investigating. I’m there to capture the story as best I can. The equipment gives too many false positives for my taste. The Spirit Box makes a lot of noise, and I know we hear some weird voices and words come out of those things, but when I’m investigating, I like to remove chaos, so I leave the gear at home.

David: What are your thoughts on cryptids? Is there one that you are pretty sure is real, more than any other? What do you base this on?

Jeff: I love stories of cryptids! Lake monsters, Bigfoot, the Dover Demon, you name it! These stories stick around for a reason. Someone sees something they don’t understand, and they have to put a label on it. There’s something to the story, because it survives and moves around. Though I’ve never personally had an encounter, I’m not going to call someone a liar who has.

The actual house where The Conjuring story took place.

David: What are your thoughts on UFOs and aliens?

Jeff: I’ll give pretty much the same answer I gave about cryptids. It’s silly to think we’re the only intelligent life in this vast universe. But how and why would intelligent life come to our little planet? That’s a big question. I’ve heard earth has the best pizza in the universe. Though I haven’t tried pizza from other galaxies, I’m inclined to believe ours is indeed the best.

David:. What is your process of putting each New England Legends podcast together? How long does each episode take to complete?

Jeff: The New England Legends podcast is a labor of love. The research is usually 8 to 10 hours per episode. Then there’s recording, editing, and uploading. Each one is at least 20 hours of work.

The process is the best part. At this point we have a big enough audience that we’re constantly getting emails and messages saying: Hey, have you heard about this weird story from my town? I keep a spreadsheet of all of them. Sometimes I hit a dead end with the research, or there’s nowhere to go with the story, so we move on. But if we can find old newspaper articles, a witness, or a building that’s still standing, then that’s usually a story worth pursuing.

Actual grave of Rhode Island’s “vampire,” Mercy Brown.

David: We thoroughly enjoyed being a part of your recent Paranormal New England: 10 Legends from the Virtual Campfire. Are there plans to do more of these in the future? Perhaps in person?

Jeff: Thank you! Yes, I have dozens of these virtual programs booked. And as of right now the plan is to get back to in-person programs in the fall if city and state governments will allow it. You can find a full list of upcoming events on my Web site here: https://jeffbelanger.com/events-list/

David: How has the pandemic affected what you do?

Jeff: I do dozens of in-person programs and events per year. I love sharing these stories with a live audience. Sadly, all of that has been cancelled. I’m grateful to have booked even more virtual programs. Though it’s not the same, it’s the best we can do right now. I also miss traveling a lot. I’m not able to move as freely as I used to for my research. I think we’ll get on the other side of this pandemic soon, and we’ll all have a story to tell!

To order any of Jeff’s books, please click on the images below. The New England Legends podcast can be heard anywhere you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to read others in my series THE BASEMENT’S PODCAST REVIEW.

~David Albaugh

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