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Features Archive:

2006 Archive:
The Winchester Mystery House - Ghost Chronicles
December 28, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Investigating Jane Doherty - Ghost Chronicles
December 20, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Shadow People - by Lee Prosser
December 16, 2006

Column - regular feature

The Westford Knight - Ghost Chronicles
December 15, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Haunted Real Estate by Richard Senate
December 13, 2006

Traditions Behind Christmas By Vince Wilson
December 8, 2006

The Haunted Dibbuk Box - Ghost Chronicles
December 6, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Have Ghosts? Will Travel: A Ghostgeek's Guide to the RMS Queen Mary By Jen Brown
December 4, 2006

Thanksgiving: A Day of Forgiveness - by Lee Prosser
December 1, 2006

Column - regular feature

America's Stonehenge - Ghost Chronicles
November 29, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC) - by Jeff Belanger
November 16, 2006

Ghost Hunt Seminar - Ghost Chronicles
November 15, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Ghost Photography: Orbs by Robbin Van Pelt
November 9, 2006

Pet Ghosts - Ghost Chronicles
November 6, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Ghosts Haunt the Inn by Richard Senate
November 3, 2006

Japanese Woman Artist - by Lee Prosser
November 1, 2006

Column - regular feature

The Ghosts of the Windham Restaurant - Ghost Chronicles
October 30, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

The Salem Witches - Ghost Chronicles
October 23, 2006

Ghostvillage Radio - podcast

Homan House, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: A Preliminary Report by John Sabol
October 20, 2006

What Does Halloween/Samhain Mean to You? - Compiled by Jeff Belanger
October 16, 2006

That is the Way of It - by Lee Prosser
October 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Fooling the Ghost Hunter by Richard Senate
October 11, 2006

Jack Kerouac - by Lee Prosser
October 2, 2006

Column - regular feature

Civil War Re-enactors and the Ghost Experience - by Jeff Belanger
September 15, 2006

Who Goes There in the Shadows? - by Lee Prosser
September 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Engagement and Data Analysis in Symmetrical Field Investigations by John Sabol
September 11, 2006

Occult Warfare by Richard Senate
September 6, 2006

Cats and Other Critters From Beyond the Grave - by Lee Prosser
September 1, 2006

Column - regular feature

Chicago's Strange Angles and Haunted Architecture by Ursula Bielski
August 25, 2006

I Have a Hunch: A Look at Psychics, Mediums, and Clairvoyants - by Jeff Belanger
August 16, 2006

Geof Gray-Cobb - by Lee Prosser
August 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Orbs: Have They Become that Boring? by Tuesday Miles
August 14, 2006

A Night on Char-Man Bridge by Richard Senate
August 7, 2006

Five Union Soldier Ghosts - by Lee Prosser
August 2, 2006

Column - regular feature

A Visit With Author and Witch Kala Trobe - Interview by Lee Prosser
July 26, 2006

Perceptual Stratigraphy: Making Sense of Ghostly Manifestations by John Sabol
July 24, 2006

The Trouble With Witches - by Lee Prosser
July 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

A Look at Our Haunted Lives - by Jeff Belanger
July 13, 2006

An Active Ghost Hunt at a Haunted Bed and Breakfast by Richard Senate
July 7, 2006

Lee Prosser, 1969 - by Lee Prosser
July 4, 2006

Column - regular feature

My Theory on Spirits by Edward L. Shanahan
June 28, 2006

Ethnoarchaeoghostology: A Humanistic-Scientific Approach to the Study of Haunt Phenomena by John Sabol
June 19, 2006

Christopher Isherwood & Lee Prosser in 1969 - by Lee Prosser
June 16, 2006

Column - regular feature

ESP, M&Ms, and Reality - by Jeff Belanger
June 15, 2006

A Duel on the Airwaves by Richard Senate
June 5, 2006

Marjorie Firestone and Her Dream Predictions - by Lee Prosser
June 1, 2006

Column - regular feature

Until Death Do Us Part? by Rick Hayes
May 31, 2006

Part Four: the Conclusion: Primrose Road - Adams St. Cemetery - by Marcus Foxglove Griffin
May 22, 2006

Column - regular feature

Folklore, Folklore, Folklore with Dr. Michael Bell - interview by Jeff Belanger
May 16, 2006

Swami Chetanananda and Lee Prosser - by Lee Prosser
May 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Theatre, Sance, and the Ghost Script: Performances at Haunted Locations by John Sabol
May 5, 2006

Willard David Firestone and the River Ghost - by Lee Prosser
May 1, 2006

Column - regular feature

When the Spirits Held Sway at the White House by Richard Senate
April 25, 2006

Part Three: Investigation: Primrose Road - Adams St. Cemetery - by Marcus Foxglove Griffin
April 20, 2006

Column - regular feature

Talking Reincarnation with Dr. John Gilbert - interview by Lee Prosser
April 17, 2006

Billy Bob Firestone and the Ghosts of Pythian Castle - by Lee Prosser
April 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Cryptobotany: the Search for Lost Plants by Richard Senate
April 7, 2006

The Mysteries of Druidry Book Excerpt Part 4 of 4 by Dr. Brendan Cathbad Myers
April 6, 2006

Vedanta and Durga - by Lee Prosser
April 2, 2006

Column - regular feature

The Mysteries of Druidry Book Excerpt Part 3 of 4 by Dr. Brendan Cathbad Myers
March 30, 2006

Ritual, Resonance, and Ghost Research: The Play in the Fields by John Sabol
March 27, 2006

The Mysteries of Druidry Book Excerpt Part 2 of 4 by Dr. Brendan Cathbad Myers
March 23, 2006

Celtic This, Druid That, Saint Patrick Hit Me With a Wiffle-Ball Bat - by Marcus Foxglove Griffin
March 21, 2006

Column - regular feature

The Mysteries of Druidry Book Excerpt Part 1 of 4 by Dr. Brendan Cathbad Myers
March 16, 2006

Christopher Isherwood, Time Loops, and Ghosts - by Lee Prosser
March 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Druids - by Lee Prosser
March 3, 2006

Column - regular feature

Natural Selection and the Involution of the Gettysburg Ghosts by John Sabol
February 28, 2006

Part Two: Investigation: Primrose Road - Adams St. Cemetery - by Marcus Foxglove Griffin
February 20, 2006

Column - regular feature

Lights, Camera... Action! by Brian Leffler
February 16, 2006

Divination and Geomancy - by Lee Prosser
February 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Spirit Messages from a Murderer by Richard Senate
February 8, 2006

The Ghosts of Springfield, Missouri - by Lee Prosser
February 3, 2006

Column - regular feature

The Ghost Storyteller: A Dinosaur Among Lemmings? by Charles J. Adams III
January 23, 2006

The Fools Journey: A Magickal Roadmap to Life - by Marcus Foxglove Griffin
January 20, 2006

Column - regular feature

Tarot and Spiritual Alchemy - by Lee Prosser
January 15, 2006

Column - regular feature

Demons from the Dark by Chip Coffey
January 9, 2006

Spooky - by Lee Prosser
January 3, 2006

Column - regular feature

May 16, 2006

Folklore, Folklore, Folklore with Dr. Michael Bell

Interview by Jeff Belanger

Dr. Michael Bell photo by Cyril Place If it's been passed around, exaggerated, or whispered about, Dr. Michael Bell wants to know about it. He is the author of Food for the Dead, the single best book available on the subject of New England vampires, and he is a regular lecturer on the subject of folklore, oral history, and the supernatural. caught up with Dr. Bell to discuss the nature and nuances of folklore.

What is folklore?

Dr. Michael Bell: Professional folklorists use the term "folklore" in several different ways:

-Folklore is a dynamic process found in all cultures whereby the past is continually brought into the present, characteristically by people interacting together in small groups.

-Folklore is also the traditional body of knowledge, beliefs, practices, art, and literature that is passed down informally through generations by word of mouth and imitation of customary examples.

-Folklore is a form of culture or communication that is distinguishable from other forms, notably popular or mass culture (which is spread via mass media, changes rapidly, and has a short lifespan) and official or formal culture (which is sanctioned by established institutions and taught in structured contexts, such as schools and churches). Folklore, in contrast, is transmitted informally, is community based (and therefore varies from group to group), and persists over time.

You might have noticed that the descriptions above do not include some of the notions that many people may have about folklore, including that anything labeled "folklore" is untrue, uneducated, backwards, old fashioned, or dying out.

What's the difference between folklore and an urban legend?

Folklorists have divided the forms that folklore takes into various categories or "genres." Legend is a primary genre of folk narrative, and urban legend is one of several kinds of legend. (Others include supernatural belief legends, place legends, and heroic legends). Legends are conversational stories set in the recent past that include details, such as places and names, that give them the aura of history. Legends occupy that gray area between fact and fantasy, so telling them usually leads to debates about their facticity (or "truthiness" as Stephen Colbert might say). Urban legends are contemporary stories usually attributed to a FOAF (friend of a friend). The term "urban" is misleading since the subject matter or setting is not necessarily urban, although the stories do incorporate current themes of modern life (often city or suburban) such as crime, celebrities, technology and current events. As with all legends, urban legends need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine how much of their content, if any, is based on fact.

What got you interested in the subject?

Several intersecting factors lead me to folklore. Growing up hearing stories -- especially the personal experience stories of my grandmother and my father that were sometimes supernatural and sometimes just funny, but always worth hearing again and again -- led me to appreciate storytelling and to wonder about things beyond my understanding. For example, how could my great-grandfather, who had been dead for a year, come back to save his daughter and her son (my father) from certain injury and perhaps death? After getting degrees in anthropology and archaeology, I decided that it was really the archaeology of memory that I wanted to pursue. I gravitated toward the intersection of belief and legend as my research interests began to take shape. When Im able to choose topics to develop, I havent strayed too far from this area.

Considering our modern world with inexpensive and portable cameras and recording equipment, with thousands of newspapers and magazines, 24-hour news channels, blogs, and surveillance cameras in so many public buildings capturing every moment of our lives, does folklore still have a place in our modern society?

Of course it does. Informal communication of unofficial culture will never cease. The channels may change. For example, the Internet (especially e-mail) is now a significant channel for transmitting folklore. And, for that matter, even with the advent of the Internet, face-to-face interaction does not seem to be a threatened channel of communication. As long as people join other people to form small groups, folklore will continue.

What role does folklore play in the propagation of religions?

Most of the world's religions arose in pre-literate eras, so they are based largely on oral tradition. In that sense, you might say that current religious traditions are based on folklore. Of course, that does not mean they are false. Looking at the many variations that all religions manifest seems to reinforce the notion that, in the early years, at least, they were created and then circulated via word-of-mouth.

How are legends born?

Legends take shape in conversation, when someone tells about something he heard or experienced that seems worth passing along to others. If the narrative is interesting or seems worth repeating, then others who heard it will keep telling it. As the story becomes part of oral tradition, it is altered by people (both purposefully as well as unintentionally) and the variation that is a hallmark of legends (and all folklore, for that matter) becomes evident. Legends and belief are inextricably intertwined. For example, if a story is totally believable or unbelievable, its chances of becoming a legend are very small.

Your book, Food for the Dead, explores New England vampire accounts and incidents throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. You've explored how people have dealt with the consumption epidemic in very non-traditional ways. What drew you to the subject of vampires?

I heard a family story about a vampire incident and it sparked by interested because it had all of the ingredients that I find attractive in folklore. Did it really happen? What beliefs underlie the vampire practice? Under what circumstances could one see these practices as reasonable? When I began to ask these kinds of questions, a fascinating world began to take shape: a New England that most historians either have ignored or were not aware of, one that was open to a magical worldview that was alien to the Puritan New England that we tend to extrapolate to the entire regions.

In Food for the Dead, it's obvious many of the families who resorted to supernatural means in dealing with their "vampires" were in desperate situations. Considering all of the media attention the bird flu has been getting, do you think portions of our society could resort to the supernatural again should another pandemic strike?

People whose lives are in danger, and who have very few official resources available to meet that threat, will try whatever alternatives exist at the moment. In the case of life-threatening danger, people react in ways that they might normally consider irrational and superstitious. When our very existence is at stake and rational choices seems to lead to a dead end, we will look elsewhere. The fact that we still have a host of diseases that have no cure should give us some humility when we judge those who came before us. Given our own eras failure to conquer disease, perhaps we are can appreciate the fear and uncertainty that tuberculosis embodied a century ago.

What role does folklore play in the realm of ghosts and haunting?

I think that our huge reservoir of supernatural folklore provides ways of culturally interpreting phenomena that otherwise would be inexplicable. Ghosts and hauntings are commonplace occurrences in our folk tradition, so we have a ready-made canon of interpretation when we encounter something that seems to have no rational explanation.

Food for the Dead by Dr. Michael BellDr. Michael Bell has a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University at Bloomington, an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology and Archaeology from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and since 1980, Dr. Bell has been the Consulting Folklorist at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission in Providence, Rhode Island. He's the author of Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires. Visit his Web site at:

2014 Haunted New England Wall Calendar by Jeff Belanger photography by Frank Grace
Check out the 2014 Haunted New England wall calendar by Jeff Belanger and photography by Frank Grace!

Paranormal Conferences and Lectures
Don't miss the following events and lectures:

Jeff Belanger and “The Bridgewater Triangle” at Dedham Community Theatre - April 6, 2014 9:00PM

The Spirits of the Mark Twain House - Hartford, Connecticut - April 12, 2014

Paracon Australia - East Maitland, New South Wales, Australia - May 10-12, 2014