What is legend tripping? 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? What about hearing there was a monster lurking in that old abandoned building and wanting to check it out? Or reading 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's also so much more. 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. In Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Backyard, you'll learn how to find, explore, and document these amazing, and often paranormal, occurrences. And you don't need expensive equipment or training, because this book will show you how to have an incredible adventure in your own backyard this weekend. Bring your open mind and your sense of wonder. Get ready for legend tripping!
Interview with Jeff Belanger
Lee Prosser, author of Missouri Hauntings, interviews Jeff Belanger about his new book, Picture Yourself Legend Tripping.
Jeff, it is a pleasure to interview you about the topic of legend tripping! You have certainly written an intriguing book. The research involved must have taken some time... Did you find the research more involved than for your previous books?
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping has been many years in the making. This is not a new idea, of course. The concept goes back for thousands of years. The idea is to actively pursue legends. Folklorists have been using the term "legend tripping" for many years. It originally meant ostension--to sneak out, break the rules, and try to tempt something paranormal. I'm redefining the meaning. This time we do have permission, we're not breaking rules, but we are still having a bold adventure.
The concept of legend tripping is the evolution of my views on the paranormal, having studied this field for 15 years now. I was getting frustrated with the drama and problems I saw becoming so prevalent in the paranormal community. Legend tripping is my own return to all of the elements I love most about this subject: the story, the legends, talking to others about their brush with the unexplained, and my own experience once I'm inside the legend.
What inspired you to create this special, highly readable "guide"?
I want legend tripping to be a movement. Something that resonates with a lot of people, that spurs them to get out and dive into the legends that are lurking everywhere. Every movement needs a starting point, so the book is that. Plus I launched a new Web site to support the movement. The response so far has been incredible. My hope is that other authors will write books about legend tripping, that television shows will form around the concept, and people will be proud to identify themselves as legend trippers. I can't make a movement on my own. The book is just the first step in an endless journey.
Were there some parts that sparked your interest from past investigations?
Sure. All of my past investigations helped shape who I am and what I believe. I thought a lot about my first time exploring the Catacombs of Paris, France. How I went in alone. No ghost hunting gear, just me, the history, the sights, the sounds, smells, and the human experience. And I actually saw something. I want most of my legend trips to be like that... and there's no reason they can't be. I get excited by looking for this stuff.
You have a knack for coming across all things macabre and curious. Were you born with this talent, or did it develop along the way?
I've always had a love for the weird. But I'm especially interested in the human experience--my own and that of the eyewitness. After doing this for a bunch of years, I've developed an eye and ear for these kinds of stories. Plus people know I'm out there doing this and so I've become a magnet for strange stories. I think I have the coolest job in the world.
You would say, then, that everybody can become a legend tripper, if they wish?
If people are reading this far, my guess is they already are legend trippers. But yes, anyone can be a legend tripper. Just look into a mirror and repeat after me: "I'm a legend tripper." There you go, now you're in the club.
Anyone who has ever even watched a paranormal television show is legend tripping, albeit the most passive form of the pursuit. To discuss a legend or to study its origins is still legend tripping. But for the full experience, you need to get out there and walk where Bigfoot was said to walk, you need to crawl through that creepy haunted building, and you need to talk to the witnesses. Finally you need to breathe in the legend for yourself and see what happens. No equipment is necessary beyond what you have on you right now.
To me, personally, chapters two and five held great appeal because they concerned ghosts and UFOs. Did you find UFOs a difficult section to research, or was there an abundance of material available?
UFOs have always fascinated me because it poses a big question: Are we alone in the universe? There's an abundance of research out there, so finding the information was not that difficult. But redefining the quest for UFOs within the realm of legend tripping took some work.
For the book I interviewed some folks from MUFON--the Mutual UFO Network--which is an amazing and organized group. BUT... while I applaud their thoroughness of data collection, I feel like they sometimes miss the point and overlook the story, the legend, and the human experience. I love stories of UFOs and abductions. I want to see the photos and videos. But I also want to go to the landing sites and talk to the witnesses myself because the legend of that sighting doesn't end when the flying object disappears. The legend goes on for as long as we talk about it.
A Look Inside Picture Yourself Legend Tripping
Legend Tripping Equipment
No, you don’t need thousands of dollars in gear and fancy equipment to go legend tripping. You don’t need night vision, nor do you need handheld meters that measure electromagnetic forces—that stuff looks cool on TV, but it weighs you down. Bring this:
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- Backpack (you don’t need a briefcase--you’re a legend tripper, not a lawyer)
- Camera (film, digital, video, whatever you have will do)
- Audio recorder
- Bug spray
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Some great music for the car ride
- Your favorite caffeinated drink for those late nights
| Here's a popular version of the "Bloody Mary" story: |
Many years ago, a beautiful young woman named Mary Worth suffered a horrible accident that left her face completely disfigured. Her family feared she wouldn't be able to handle the sight of her own reflection so they hid all of the mirrors in the house. One day Mary's curiosity got the better of her and so she went looking for a mirror. When she uncovered a hidden looking glass and saw the face before her, she screamed in horror. She wanted her old image back so badly that she walked into the mirror to search for it, and vowed to attack and disfigure anyone who should ever go looking for her.
That's just one account; there are many others. Spend an evening reading some of these accounts before attempting your own summoning of Mary Worth. Though none of us would expect anything to happen, I defy you to tell me it didn’t at least cross your mind that you might see a disfigured face coming toward you from the other side. These stories are powerful and touch nerves deep inside of us.
The Bloody Mary urban legend has been around since roughly the 1960s, but it speaks to issues that date back centuries. The "sin" of vanity, of loving one’s reflection too much, of summoning spirits, and exacting revenge on the innocent all hover over the Bloody Mary legend like a morning fog.
Joe Ferriere was in Cumberland, Rhode Island, around 6:30 PM on July 3, 1967. For three days prior, he had been fielding three or four phone calls per day about a large cylindrical UFO in the area of the Pawtucket Reservoir, so he had to look for himself. With camera in hand he pulled in to an area west of Diamond Hill Road. He walked along the trail beneath the power lines. According to his written account in Probe magazine, Ferriere found a clearing about 700 to 800 feet from the road and began searching for physical evidence of something out of the ordinary. He admits he didn't know what he was looking for and that he could have walked right over something and not known it. Forty-five minutes in, he was about to call off his search when he turned northwest and froze in his tracks.
He saw a large, cigar-shaped craft moving silently toward his position. He estimates the craft was 75 to 100 feet in length and flying about 150 to 200 feet above the ground (given that the tallest trees in the area were about 60 feet tall). He described the object as being a drab gray in color, and it had four circle-shaped lighter spots running along the length of the craft. He also observed a "piston-like apparatus" that slowly moved in and out of one end of the craft. The third distinguishing feature was a trap-door-like form on the bottom.
Ferriere got to work taking pictures with his camera. Clicking a picture, advancing the film, then sometimes running (and almost falling) to another position to try and take more photos. While he was watching this silent craft, the hatch opened and he saw a shiny object launched from inside at a high rate of speed—faster than any jet plane by his estimate. Ferriere clicked more photos of the cigar until it accelerated and passed out of sight over the hill. Then he saw a disc-shaped object that had been ejected from the main craft hovering above the tree line. He also captured a photo of that craft before it quickly accelerated in the same direction of the larger ship.
Ferriere said: "As I recall I was rather calm about the whole thing. There wasn't a feeling of fright or anything, it just felt perfectly normal for this to be here and for me to be watching this [he laughs].
"This was one of many many sightings that took place in the whole East Woonsocket area in 1966 and '67. In fact there were busloads of people who would come down from Boston and points north to sky watch. That's how many UFOs were being seen.
"There was a mindset of that time: All things are possible, the impossible just takes a little bit longer."