TAUNTON — We have cryptozoologist Loren Coleman to thank for naming the mysterious 200 square mile area of Massachusetts and beyond known as the Bridgewater Triangle.
But in the decades since, a handful of current and former paranormal investigators, folklorists and “legend trippers” have stepped up to further the legend.
These dedicated writers have devoted their time as hobbyists to recording and investigating reports of UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon in the area in an attempt to help themselves and others understand these strange occurrences.
Sometimes they will go “legend tripping,” simply going out to places where hauntings and sightings have been reported with little equipment hoping to see something. While other times they will conduct full-blown investigations, using apps and equipment to try to pick up signals from the unexplained.
Many also record the experiences of others, turning them into books, TV shows or blogposts. And some, like Tim Weisberg, 42, digital managing editor of WBSM radio and host of Spooky Southcoast, even do live investigations on radio, devoting an entire episode of his show to investigating the Bridgewater Triangle once a year.
But despite what you might assume about so-called “believers,” their relationship with the paranormal is … complicated.
Many of these investigators’ interest in the paranormal stems from their own unexplained experiences.
Andrew Lake, 56, of Greenville Paranormal Research, said he was 11 when he encountered a ghost at a family friend’s old house in Scituate. One night while he was staying over, he woke up in the middle of the night while everyone else was asleep to hear the sound of someone in the kitchen directly below him.
“No lights on but going about moving chairs, opening cabinets, moving crockery and silverware,” he said. “But yet there were no footsteps accompanying it. And it happened two nights in a row and exactly the same time — 2:35 a.m. — with no lights on and nobody coming back upstairs.”
Weisberg always had an interest in ghosts, but said he also experienced them himself. He said often as a child he would see an image of an old hag in the wall and would often get the feeling there was someone else in his room. He also believes his aunt and uncle’s house in Halifax was haunted, having heavy steel doors to the basement swing open and closed on their own and faucets turn on and off with no one there.
Paranormal investigator Kristen Evans, 50, said that as an adult she moved into a haunted house in Hanson where she would hear people moving around when she was the only one home. And folklorist Chris Balzano, who has written several books on the Bridgewater Triangle, lived in the famously haunted Charlesgate Hotel building in Back Bay while he attended Emerson College, which owned the building at the time. He said his particular experiences are some of the most quoted.
“How many coincidences does it take before you go ‘something unusual is going on here?'” he said.
But other investigators simply followed an interest. Paranormal investigator Chris Pittman, 41, started investigating UFOs in high school when he joined some UFO study groups, which eventually led him to start investigating other types of phenomena in the Triangle, believing that they were connected.
“I think there is a lot of hubris in the assumption that we know everything about the world around us, especially when people in every community are consistently reporting experiences that seem to fall outside of our understanding,” he said. “There is something compelling about claims of the paranormal, even if we don’t believe them. The fact that the witnesses insist their fantastic-sounding accounts to be factual is itself worthy of attention.”
Jeff Belanger, 46, writer and researcher for The Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” and co-creator of PBS’s “New England Legends,” got into the paranormal as a newspaper reporter seeking out feature stories about hauntings. He said he was quickly hooked, and moved into working for TV, as well as writing books and podcasting about his research.
“Investigating the paranormal means asking the biggest questions humans have ever asked: What happens after we die? Are we alone in the universe? Do we know every creature who walks the earth with us?” he said.
But no matter how they got into the paranormal, all of these investigators ended up seeking out like-minded people, often finding one another’s books and websites. Many of these investigators have gone out to investigate the Bridgewater Triangle together and have tag-teamed following up on reports.
It may surprise you, but most of these investigators don’t care whether or not people believe in the Bridgewater Triangle. They’re more interested in helping people understand their strange experiences and exploring the unknown for themselves.
“If someone doesn’t want to listen to any account of paranormal phenomena that lacks iron-clad proof, I can’t blame them for that,” Pittman said. “These mysteries blur the line between reality, imagination, and maybe more than that. It takes time and effort to sort the fact from fiction. Not everyone is going to be interested enough to try.”
In fact, many say it takes a personal experience to believe in the paranormal and the Bridgewater Triangle.
An experience like the one Bill Russo had approximately 30 years ago to the day when he was walking his dog on Cynthia Street in Raynham after working a midnight shift at Raynham Ironworks and he came across something strange.
Samantha, a German shepherd-rottweiler mix, started “shaking like a washing machine.” At first Russo couldn’t see or hear what was bothering her, but then it reached his ear. “Keer, Keer. Ee Wan Chu,” is what he said it sounded like.
“It was a dark night, but that street lamp made a big circle on the pavement, a circle of white light, and into that circle came this creature,” he said. “Three feet tall, maybe four feet tall. Kinda like a stuffed animal — think teddy bear. …hundred pounds or so with a potbelly. Eyes a little bit too big for his head. I always say think of a cat…And then was motioning to me, beckoning me with its arm or paw or whatever.”
At first, Russo said, he thought it was a kid in a Halloween costume. But he tried to talk to it and it just kept repeating its nonsense words. He said he wasn’t scared, being so much larger than it, but Samantha was, so he decided to leave and go home.
When he got back, he thought long and hard about the incident, and eventually came to the conclusion that the creature was trying to speak to him in English. He believes it was trying to say “Come here, we want you.”
“I am not a paranormal guy. I don’t look up in the sky. I don’t watch UFO shows. I had no connection to them. Nor do I now, to the paranormal,” he said. “I was just the guy out walking with my dog who saw something that stretches credibility.”
Russo said he’s still not sure what happened to him, but many paranormal investigators believe Russo may have encountered a Pukwudgie — a legendary creature said to lure humans into the woods to their deaths. But many investigators are also not quick to use labels, using the idea of legendary creatures like Bigfoot and thunderbirds as a reference point to talk about what was experienced.
“When we talk about things like another dimension or aliens, we’re just kind of explaining a mystery with another mystery,” Pittman said. “And so the reality is, nobody really knows and I don’t know if anybody ever will really know.”
And most investigators say they do question their belief in the paranormal. Belanger and Lake said they question it all the time. Pittman said he’s not even sure if the word paranormal is even appropriate for what he investigates.
But one thing they all agree on is that regardless of what the Bridgewater Triangle is or how it got there, there is something strange going on in and around it. While some like Belanger and Pittman have never experienced anything strange, many others have.
Weisberg said he has been thrown against a wall and down the stairs by spirits multiple times in the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River after daring them to do so. Lake said he has seen phantom fires at Anawan Rock, as has Balzano, who has also experienced lots of other strange happenings in the Triangle, including losing two hours of time for apparently no reason.
And as long as people keep experiencing strange phenomena in southeastern Massachusetts, these people will be there to see if it’s an everyday occurrence or something that needs further investigation.
Reach Susannah Sudborough at email@example.com