ESSEX — Visitors can spend the day immersed in the Myths and Legends of the Connecticut River Valley, a symposium and exhibit opening Sept. 21, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Experts will provide a scholarly and entertaining approach to exploring the significance of these myths in both word and song. Guests for the day include keynote speaker Professor Walt Woodward, Connecticut State Historian and an Associate Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut. A former hit country music songwriter and performer, Woodward’s knowledge, sense of humor, and richly illustrated PowerPoint presentations have made him one of New England’s most sought after public lecturers.

Michael E. Bell was awarded a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University at Bloomington, where his dissertation topic was African-American voodoo practices. He also has an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Archaeology from the University of Arizona, Tucson. For more than 25 years, Bell was the Consulting Folklorist at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission in Providence, Rhode Island.

Peter Dendle teaches English, folklore, and philosophy at Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto. His research focuses on cultural constructs of the monstrous in historical and modern society. He is the author of books such as Demon Possession in Anglo-Saxon England and articles such as “Cryptozoology in the Medieval and Modern Worlds,” and editor of collections such as “The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous.”

Sharon A. Hill is an independent researcher of natural anomalies, paranormal themes in popular culture, and the influence pseudoscience in society. She is a geologist in Pennsylvania and author of Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers. Ms. Hill’s topic is Modern Paranormal Investigation: From Spooky Stories to Sciencey Spectacles. This presentation describes the assumptions and techniques of paranormal researchers as they claim to extract new information to validate the reality of legends and ghost stories.

Two musical additions to the day include the Band of Steady Habits as well as Joseph Morneault and David Littlefield. Both bands use their talents to create a new kind of public history presentation. Rachel Smith, Teagan Smith, Jeremy Teitelbaum, Walt Woodward, and Duke York from the Band of Steady Habits use banjo, guitars, violin, recorders, bass, percussion, and beautiful harmonies to perform songs which accompany stories by state historian Walt Woodward. Joseph Morneault and David Littlefield share a common love for the sea and the music of the men who work it, and encourage audiences to sing along.

The Myths and Legends of the Connecticut River Valley exhibit is made possible in part by CT Humanities, The Kitchings Family Foundation, The Community Foundation of Middlesex County, The River View Cemetery Fund, The Sallie and Robert Boody Fund, and the Dryfoos Foundation.

Registration is $35 and includes a box lunch and light refreshments. Students may register at a rate of $25 and an optional Onrust sail is $30. To register, go to This program is an extention of the museum’s Myths and Legends exhibit which explores centuries of folklore that have defined the Connecticut River Valley.

The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street in Essex and is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The museum, located in the historic Steamboat Dock building, offers exhibits and programs about the history and environment of the Connecticut River. For a full listing of programs and events go to or call 860-767-8269.

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