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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

On November 16, Explore Haunted Folklore with Jeff Belanger

Oct 28, 2020 12:32PM ● By Brendan Zimmerman
Although the spooky Halloween season is past, writer Jeff Belanger will bring the allure of folklore and legend to the town of Norfolk on November 16. Hosting virtually from the Norfolk Public Library, Belanger will present his “Ghosts and Legends” program to attendees interested in local supernatural history.
Drawing from research found in his books, podcasts, and television appearances, the event will be a virtual tour through some of Belanger’s favorite New England haunts and will also explore local ghost stories and legends. Belanger also wants the event to be interactive, so the audience will be able to ask questions through Zoom’s chat box feature during the event.
To give attendees an idea of what to expect, Belanger’s background is prolific. And it all stems from a lifelong fascination with the supernatural.
“I grew up in New England and had friends from a young age tell me their homes were haunted,” said Belanger. Soon, they’d be using Ouija boards at sleepovers to test the waters.
This early interest in ghosts led to him becoming a writer, and he began writing newspaper features exploring local legends. Belanger’s successes with feature writing would turn into a career dedicated to investigating the paranormal through several books and television appearances on shows like “Ghost Adventures” and “New England Legends.”
Though his line of work focuses on supernatural stories and local haunts, it also allows him to explore the intersection of history and folklore. According to Belanger, he often finds that what is now deemed superstition or haunted legend was originally a culture’s way of navigating the unknown world.
Massachusetts in particular holds centuries worth of supernatural history, from whispers of witchcraft in the woods to the terrors of settling an uncharted world. To Belanger, New England folklore is a tradition of storytelling and a connection to our past, as a region and a culture.
“New Englanders keep things around,” said Belanger. “Maybe it’s our cold winters and sometimes extreme weather that force us inside to spin yarns around the fire; maybe because we have a buffet of landscapes from forests, to mountains, to the ocean, in which to draw stories.”
When investigating different locations for a story, his research usually incorporates a few methods. He interviews locals, digs through newspaper archives and libraries, and pours through online archives to find the backstory to legends.
Though his research methods involve simple, sometimes mundane activities, the world of paranormal investigating has developed a deceptive aura over the years. According to Belanger, paranormal investigators aren’t ghostbusters.
“There’s really no way to ‘clear’ a house of ghosts” said Belanger. “An investigation is really about trying to figure out if the activity is paranormal, or something else.”
There are a few challenges involved with investigating locations as well. It’s usually tricky getting access to a specific place, along with finding first-hand accounts of ghosts to talk on-record.
Once he has enough testimonies, and his research has given him enough detail and background, he then faces the challenge of structuring all of his raw material into a narrative. Belanger’s knack for storytelling helps him shape these legends into different narrative formats, whether through a book, a podcast episode, or a TV episode. The material dictates the structure.
“I know these stories are important and have great value to those who let the stories ooze into their brains and souls. When talking about ghosts we’re really pondering one of the biggest questions humans have ever asked: What happens after we die?” said Belanger.
With his background and interests, it came as no surprise when he said that his favorite scary movie was “The Exorcist,” a film centered around a supernatural haunting and the eternal questions of faith, the afterlife, and of good vs. evil.
With New England’s steep history of folklore and supernatural heritage, attendees will have much to experience at “Ghosts and Legends.”
What’s next on the radar for Belanger? Continuing with his love of adventure and visiting different locations, he has a new memoir called “The Call of Kilimanjaro: Finding Hope Above the Clouds” coming out in March 2021, which will cover his trek up to Mt. Kilimanjaro’s peak in 2017.
Belanger’s “Ghosts and Legends” event will be held virtually on November 16 at 7 p.m. The event is free. Register online through the Norfolk Public Library events calendar, or on Belanger’s website at jeffbelanger.com.

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