Ever done any legend tripping? I bet you have, even if you’ve never heard the term before. Folklorists define legend tripping as an adolescent rite of passage: a nocturnal visit to a place considered to be haunted or associated with a gruesome event like a murder. Participants go to test their luck and to prove their bravery to their peers or impress boyfriends or girlfriends.
I did my fair share of legend tripping as a kid. My friends and I would take late night trips to a local state park to visit the ruins of a tiny town that had been devastated by Yellow Fever. An old church and tiny graveyard was all that was left. Walking those dark paths while dodging sinkholes and crooked tombstones with just the stars to guide us was a spooky experience, even if all we ever saw was an errant armadillo or two.
I wish I would have had Jeff Belanger’s new book, Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Backyard, when I was growing up. Belanger expands the definition of legend tripping to include any investigation into unexplained phenomena, and offers plenty of good advice to get would-be sleuths headed in the right direction. Belanger maintains a playfully agnostic tone regarding the existence of ghosts and other things that go bump in the night while offering practical tips on interviewing witnesses, writing up documentation and using special equipment like thermal cameras. He also strongly cautions would-be legend trippers to get permission from property owners and local authorities before any investigation and to always operate within the law.
Additional short chapters are devoted to popular paranormal quarry like the Chupacabra, vampires and UFOs. Like the rest of the book, Belanger provides the stories as they are reported, but doesn’t attempt to prove or disprove whether these things are real. There’s even a section of the book for children, offering advice on how to investigate Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Parents, I’m sure, might find this to be an interesting exercise…
Belanger’s “leave no trace” investigative philosophy and open-mindedness make Picture Yourself Legend Tripping a perfect choice for any person curious about the paranormal, and a must-have for any would-be investigator into the unknown. A bonus DVD featuring interviews with leading paranormal experts and authors is included with the book, making this already modestly priced title a real bargain.