Every year on Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world go to bed with the expectation of waking up to a house full of presents on Christmas morning. The bearer of gifts? A portly, white-bearded old man in a red suit with a cheery disposition and a herd of magical flying reindeer.
Santa Claus. Father Christmas. Kris Kringle. Jolly Ole’ Saint Nick. He’s a legendary figure with many names in many cultures, and the star of many a Christmas story.
The figure of Santa Claus, as we know him today, is a pure blend of history and lore. His origins can be traced in part to a real-life, 4th century Greek Bishop St Nicholas of Myra, who was known for giving gifts to the poor.
Santa’s story is also a blend of British, Dutch, Belgian and German folklore about a gift-giving (or in some cases, gift-withholding) spirit that came out around Christmastime. Those tales reflect a mix of religious and pagan traditions.
Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk joins us again on this episode with another story: How a dour old bishop became a jolly old elf.
Why is a baker’s dozen 13? There are multiple theories as to how it started. Some say it was a 13th century thing, when English King Henry the Third was annoyed by small loaves of bread. Some say the convention has more modern origins. Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk joins us once more to offer another take on the origin of the Baker’s Dozen, in the old Dutch colonial town of Beverwyck, just in time for the holidays.
There are historical markers all over the world. They are typically signs, placards or statues denoting some important bit of history that occurred in a particular place. But in some places, history and lore are heavily intertwined. New York State is trying something new to reflect this powerful connection.
If you’ve traveled across New York State, no doubt you’ve seen at least some of the blue and yellow signs peppered across the region. Now, you may have the good fortune to see similar markers in red. These call out bits of lore that define the place or region as much as its history.
We spoke with Ellen McHale, folklorist and executive director of the New York Folklore Society about it’s new initiative to mark lore.
It hasn’t been a great season for those with a fear of clowns. What with the slew of typical horrifying clown masks parading around town on Halloween, and also with a remarkable number of creepy clown sightings making headlines and circulating on social media. On this episode of Listen with the Lights on, we wanted to get to the bottom of this fright…So we talked to a clown.
Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. It’s not an official phobia—it’s not recognized by World Health Organization or the American Psychiatric Association. But some people are just terrified by them. Clowns are supposed to make us laugh. Why do they inspire fear instead?
The fall of 2016 has been a rough one for coulrophobics. Several US cities have experienced a number of menacing clown sightings. In some cases law enforcement was called. The news spread like wildfire on social media. Major news outlets covered it.
Some experts say this type of evil clown panic happens every few years, driven by hype from pop culture. We’ve brought in an actual clown to shed some light on the phenomenon. Meet Ragliacci a working clown out of Troy, New York.
Do you have a fear of clowns? Do you have another type of fear? Tell us about it! Email us at LightsOn@wamc.org.
According to an Associated Press Survey from 2008, 34 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts. Other surveys, like a Gallup poll from 2005, report similar results–about one third of America thinks ghosts are real. But given the immense popularity of “ghost-hunting” reality series that have hit TV ad the internet in the last decade or so, it seems that it’s no longer enough to just believe in them. Seeing (or hearing) is believing.
Why are we as a culture so obsessed with finding spectral evidence of life after death? We try to answer this big question as we tag along with the Tri-City New York Paranormal Societyas they investigate West Hall at RPI.
Listen to our previous episode, The Hauntings of West Hall, for more about the building’s popular lore.
On this episode, we delve into the legend surrounding the 19th-century New England Vampire Panic.
Ever wonder what lives in the cavernous storage rooms of a museum? Crates of artifacts, mixed with mummified remains and taxidermy? Or is there something even spookier?
We visit the “Something Scary” exhibit at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield Massachusetts in this episode of Listen with the Lights On to unearth a few creepy delights.
What lurks in the shadows in Griffintown, Montreal?
In the late 1600s, a group of French protestant families—Huguenots, as they were known—settled in New York’s Hudson Valley. Looking for religious freedom—they were heavily persecuted in their French Catholic homeland—they built small stone houses and formed a community in and around what is now the town of New Paltz.
More than 200 years later, the descendants of those Huguenot families worked to preserve the homes and legends, which are still toured and told on the street today. The modern Huguenot Street is a busy thoroughfare, lined by shops, restaurants and the historic Huguenot homes. It has a rich history, and it is considered to be very haunted.
AJ Shenkman is the historian of Historic Huguenot Street, the organization that manages the 10-acre National Historic Landmark District. He’s also a high school history teacher and the author of Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More. He joins us now with stories of the Deyo House on Huguenot Street.
While there are common threads in lore throughout the world, nearly every country and culture has its own distinct tales. In the United Kingdom for example, many stories revolve around mystical creatures in the rolling hills and mists that are characteristic of the landscape. In the United States, we talk a lot about Bigfoot, who allegedly roams our forests and mountains.
In Canada, snow and winter imagery play a large role in legends there. On this episode of Listen with the Lights On, we explore a French Canadian tale from Montreal.
As you enter the campus of McGill University in the heart of Montreal, you see students mingling about buildings that display a mix of modern and gothic architecture. But beyond the bustle of a busy campus, looming on the horizon, is the voluminous Mount Royal. The city’s namesake. And the setting for one of Montreal’s most haunting tales.
Donovan King leads Haunted Montreal ghost tours, and authors the Haunted Montreal blog, where he shares scary stories from around L’Ile de Montreal. He shares the legend of Simon McTavish—a tale he says is one of the creepiest ghost stories in Canada.
Are UFOs and alien encounters the stuff of science fiction, or are we really not alone out there in the universe?
On this episode of Listen with the Lights On, we visit a UFO Conference in Kingston, New York, where a few dedicated individuals are devoted to unearthing the truth behind this popular modern lore.
Unidentified flying objects have fascinated humans for centuries. We didn’t have an official name for them until about 1953, when the US Air Force coined the term UFO.
By the Air Force’s initial definition, a UFO is “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.”
A.k.a., a flying saucer.
The Mutual UFO Network, the largest privately funded research center, says it received over 8,000 reports of sightings in 2014. MUFON and another reporting body, the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) each claim to receive as much as a thousand reports per month.
New York’s Hudson Valley has been known as a hotbed of UFO activity—a famous series of sightings took place in the skies over the region in the 1980s. Unsolved Mysteries dedicated an episode to them in 1992.
Symbols of nature takes various forms in the myths and legends around the world. But some of them… have common themes. Today Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk joins us as we explore one of the most common ones in a tale from the Catskills in New York’s Hudson Valley.
A moonlit garden on the grounds of Union College in Schenectady plays host to one of the oldest ghost tales in the country. Forbidden love. Blind, murderous rage. And a lost soul. We explore the tragic tale of Alice Van Der Veer in this episode of Listen with the Lights On.
Visit any college or university campus in the world, and you’re likely to find at least one tale of a ghostly presence amid the hallowed halls. West Hall is the oldest building at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. And it’s also the most haunted.
West Hall was built in 1869, as the Troy Hospital. Operated by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, the hospital would take in anyone in need of care. In 1923 it became a Catholic high school. And in 1953, it was incorporated into the RPI campus, where it now houses the school’s arts and humanities programs.
Students and faculty have reported many ghost sightings and strange happenings there over the years. Its supernatural street cred is so robust that it’s even mentioned on West Hall’s Wikipedia page. One of its most notable ghosts is Nurse Betsy, a nun thought to have cared for patients in the late 1800s.
In this episode of Listen With The Lights On, we visit West Hall, where we talk to Paul Nooney of RPI’s Office of the First Year Experience and Albany lore expert Maeve McEneny. Together, they lead The Original Albany Ghost Tour, and regularly take folks on ghost tours of the RPI campus.
In this episode, we bring you another terrifying tale from the heart of New York’s Hudson Valley. Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk joins us again with a story of ghosts, a haunting and the horrors of indentured servitude in Colonial times.
Mt. Greylock is the tallest natural point in Massachusetts. At 3,491 feet above sea level, it rises above the Berkshire county town of Adams, bisected by a portion of the Appalachian trail. The peak and its historic monument are constantly shrouded in mist and fog, and often beset by unpredictable weather. And the quiet summit possesses mystical qualities that have inspired great American writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Well now, it seems, it has inspired a very famous British writer—and now plays a very pivotal role in the expanding universe of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
An urban legend is a popular story passed around that’s allegedly true, but can’t quite be confirmed. It’s the kid who ate PopRocks and drank soda and his stomach exploded. It’s the unfortunate tweeners who turned the lights out at their sleepover and called into the mirror for Bloody Mary. Or the poor sap who woke up sans kidneys in a bathtub full of ice. We’ve all heard them, and probably even told a few ourselves. They’re modern folklore. Contemporary legends. In this episode of Listen With The Lights On, we explore an urban legend in Albany, New York, with local lore expert Maeve McEneny.
If you’ve ever taken a trip down the shores of the Hudson River, no doubt at one point you’ve witnessed its hallmark mists rising from the waters. They have a ghostly quality about them, and not surprisingly there is an abundance of lore based on apparitions witnessed within them. We bring back Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk, who will tell us one such tale—the tale of the ghostly rower.
Is the devil in the details? On this episode of Listen With The Lights On, we explore how to capitalize on basic human fear to compose a creepy narrative, examine scary tropes, share our favorite spooky reads and try to come up with a spine-tingling tale of our own…in two sentences or less. Novelist and writing instructor Barbara Chepaitis, author of “The Amber,” joins us.
On the last episode of Listen with the Lights On, Maeve McEneny of the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau was giving us a tour of Albany’s Ten Broeck Mansion. We ended in the foyer in Part I, looking out the imposing front doors. Now we’re going upstairs, where many a psychic and ghost hunter has claimed lies the epicenter of supernatural activity in the almost 230-year-old house.
Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany sits just north of the city’s downtown. Views from the historic home’s gardens and from its elegant windows look out over row houses, industrial buildings and US Route 787. But it wasn’t always this way. In 1789, when it was built by Abraham Ten Broeck, it was farmland as far as the eye could see, and a casual glance from the window would produce an unimpeded view of the Hudson River. There’s a lot of history here, and a lot spirit–literally. On this episode of Listen with the Lights on, we take a peek inside.
A mansion. A portrait. A haunting? Dive into this week’s edition of Listen With The Lights On, where we talk to Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau Education Coordinator Maeve McEneny about lore in Albany, New York, and the mysterious happenings at the colonial estate at Ten Broeck Place.
President Abraham Lincoln’s connection to Capital Region is more than just fairy tale, in fact, he has quite a few. One of which is the story of New York Senator Ira Harris’ daughter Clara, and her husband, Union Army Officer Henry Rathbone. On the night of April 14th in Ford’s theater, the two were the esteemed guests of Abraham Lincoln…
We delve into the story of the Heer of Donder-Berg, a story from Jonathan Kruk, loreteller from the Hudson Valley.
Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or myth? Seth Breedlove and his new film, Beast of Whitehall, premiers in Whitehall, New York on April 2nd. We explore the idea of the mythical creature in the pilot episode of our soon-to-launch podcast, Listen With The Lights On.