Tag Archives: ghost adventures

152 – Haunted History in New England: A Conversation with Jeff Belanger

Jeff Belanger is one of New England’s premier haunted historians. Well known for his work with Ghost Adventures (he was one of the guys who found the haunted places and looked for witnesses willing to discuss their experiences), Jeff also hosted the online show Thirty Odd Minutes, has written fourteen books on hauntings, and was Emmy-nominated for his work on the PBS series, New England Legends (now available to watch on Amazon Prime!)

jeff belanger ghost adventures
Jeff Belanger looking like a total badass!

Growing up in Connecticut near Ed and Lorraine Warren (he even got to hang out at their house!), Jeff found himself fascinated with the paranormal at an early age. He started the popular ghost story site, Ghost Village in 1999 which is easily one of the largest paranormal resources on the Internet. Since then, he’s been writing books, hosting TV shows , and even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (which we get to in this episode).

Jeff Belanger 30 odd minutes zombie t-shirt
Jeff on 30 Odd Minutes, with an awesome t-shirt!

In this conversation Jeff shares his first real-life ghostly encounter in the Catacombs of Paris, some of his favorite New England ghost stories and legends, the inspiration behind his mountain climbing in Africa, and why Sandy Hook Truthers are sadly mistaken.

One of the stories that Jeff told us that really resonated with me was the story of Mercy Brown, a girl who died of tuberculosis in Exeter, Rhode Island in 1892. Her mother and older sister also died of tuberculosis and  then brother came down with it, so the people of Exeter believed that there was a vampire that was cursing the family. They dug up the bodies to see, but since it was wintertime and Mercy was being kept above ground (they had to wait for the ground to thaw to bury her), she was not as decomposed as they thought she should be. Also, as her body was more fresh so it still had blood in the liver and heart, which made them believe she was a vampire.

jeff belanger mercy brown vampire ghosts
The grave of Mercy Brown

They believed that they could end the vampiric curse and save her brother by ripping out her heart, burning it, and feeding him the ashes, so they did. And it didn’t work, two months after eating his sister’s burned heart, Edwin Brown succumbed to the disease as well. That seemed like an excellent inspiration for a track, because looking at it from today’s perspective, the whole adventure seems so misguided. All they did was drag Edwin and poor Mercy’s father through Hell by digging up the bodies of the people he loved and make him believe that his daughter was a hellish abomination. Let the dead rest. Things are better left buried in the past. Mercy’s father went through all that turmoil, he made his son eat his own daughter’s burned out heart and it was all pointless anyway. That’s the inspiration for this track, “Digging Up The Dead”.

Rusty nails and rotten wood
And earth in every seam
I spit the dirt out of my mouth
I wake up from a dream to
Be thirsty like I’ve never been
A constant agony
With the black dog that walks at my back
And damns my memory.
Lord grant us mercy from afar,
forgive the prayers we should have said,
Oh you can burn up my heart,
and eat the ashes that are left,
But you’re just digging up the dead.
You’re just digging up the dead.
The things that should be left alone
They’re not for man to touch
The past is just a shallow grave,
That’s best left in the dust.
We keep kicking the pale horse,
’til the blood just turns to rust.
No, you can’t beat the Devil,
By remembering too much.
Lord grant us mercy from afar,
forgive the prayers we should have said,
Oh you can burn up my heart,
and eat the ashes that are left,
But you’re just digging up the dead.

99 – Strange Town: Billy Driver And Mark Morrow Talk Texas Ghost Hunting

One of our favorite bumper stickers for a long time said “Keep Austin Weird”. Austin is a lot like our current city of Madison (except a WHOLE lot bigger and warmer) with the capitol and state’s flagship university keeping things interesting. They’ve also got a lot of hippies, just like us. We’ve been going to perform in Austin at least once a year since 2002 and it’s one of our favorite cities (in fact, we were just there in March!)

Keep Austin Weird

So, when we heard about Strange Town, a cool Austin-based ghost hunting show with two musicians as the main investigators, well, hot damn, we knew we had to have them on the show. Mark Morrow and Billy Driver are the two paranormal investigators who form the core of Strange Town.

Mark Morrow and Billy Driver of Strange Town
Mark Morrow and Billy Driver of Strange Town

First meeting while crewing a TV production in Austin, Mark and Billy found their conversation turning towards ghosts and supernatural phenomena. With both of them having a penchant for the paranormal as well as skills in media production, it was only natural that the next step would be to get together their own ghost-hunting show based around haunted sites that they knew about in Texas.

So far, they’ve completed two seasons of the show (and even more impressively, as a two-man investigation and production operation!), and it’s shown on Austin’s PBS Station , KLRU-TV (as well as online, where you can watch ALL the episodes right here). But they’ve also been featured on Destination America’s Ghost Brothers earlier this year as special guest investigators at the site of a famous hotel.

A lot of the fun of listening to this podcast is to hear to the Spirit Box EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) that Mark and Billy get while they  are doing the investigations. They shared some of their best evidence with us for this episode.

If you don’t know what a Spirit Box is, it’s an electronic device that quickly scans through radio frequencies randomly and the hope is that the spirits in the room can use the energy of the radio frequencies to speak through the white noise. Mark and Billy certainly got some excellent EVPs from their investigations and one of the best was at the Magnolia Hotel in Seguin, Texas.

magnolia hotel seguin texas
The Magnolia Hotel. Do you think they offer room service?

Seguin, Texas is about 50 miles south of Austin near New Braunfels. The Magnolia Hotel was originally built by Texas Rangers in 1840 (we’re not quite sure if Chuck Norris was part of the original team.) Its most famous story is about a pharmacist that was staying there in 1874 by the name of William Faust.

Faust became infatuated with his wife’s sister and decided that the only way he could have her was by murdering his wife. She was staying with some friends in New Braunfels when Faust snuck into their home and took an axe to a figure on the floor of a bedroom that he thought his wife was staying in, but it wasn’t her. It was Emma, the daughter of his wife’s friend. Faust was able to get a couple whacks at his wife before he ran, blinding her (and she never would testify against him, saying that she never actually saw who attacked her), but the suspicion eventually led to him and he was executed for the little girl’s murder.

Mark and Billy got some awesome EVPs at the Magnolia and it sure does sound like they talked to Emma, who’s watching over the room that her murderer escaped to after killing her brutally, if accidentally.

Strange Town is DIY-ghost hunting with awesome production values but not the sensationalism of most cable ghost shows. It’s so authentic you can feel the Texas heat as well as enjoy the enthusiasm of this supernatural duo.

And if you want to check out some music, Billy plays with the excellent Gooding, a great rock band we’ve seen several times when they’ve toured through Madison in the past (which is a really fun coincidence!) And speaking of music, this week’s Sunspot track is inspired by our conversation and the saga of poor Emma, the girl whose murdered spirit still haunts the Magnolia Hotel.

Emma, it’s time to go to bed,
Tonight you share your room with your mama’s friend
It was a quiet and peaceful night in 1874,
Oh Emma, you weren’t supposed to be on the floor.
Oh Emma, you weren’t supposed to be on the floor.
Emma, I just pray that you never opened your eyes,
And I just wish you gave that bastard some kind of fight.
Cut down by the axe of some no good druggist,
Oh Emma, you died in the Texas dust.
Oh Emma, you died in the Texas dust.
Faust saw what he did and he ran terrified,
But before that he took his blade to his wife’s eyes,
And she said she never saw who committed the crime.
Oh Emma, the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sorry Emma, the wrong place at the wrong time.
But he never got that far.
But he never got that far.
Emma, I hope you got your revenge,
That you’re the one guarding his soul’s prison.
They say he’s trapped forever and he’ll never leave the room.
Oh Emma, sometimes we still hear you,
But Emma, sometimes we still hear you.