We start out with the standard bio / background on Chris Balzano and how he got interested in the paranormal. From there, Chris gives us a thumbnail look at Freetown and the Freetown State Forest, for the listeners unfamiliar with this area. This segues into a discussion on the mood of the town in contemporary times, as they have tried to downplay the region's bizarre history. We find out if Chris has faced much resistance from the townspeople as he attempts to document Freetown's paranormal incidents. We also touch on the unique aspect of the area that sees a distinct lack of commercialization of the esoteric elements of the area. Chris tells us about some of his personal adventures while investigating the forest.

Taking a look at the history of the area, we discuss the original conflicts between the Native Americans, who called Freetown home, and the English settlers who arrived and clashed with them. Chris details the "praying Indians" movement and how that came about in the area. We then find out about King Philip's War, which was a barbaric, year-long battle between the English and Native Americans. This segues into a discussion on how the plight of the Native Americans in the area can't necessarily be considered the "source" of the paranormal activity there.

Jumping ahead to one of the strange stories documented in "Dark Woods", Chris tells us about a variety of zombie reports in the Freetown State Forest during the last 15 years or so. Chris shares his theory on what the zombies may be.

Moving into the next odd creature reported in the State Forest, we talk about the Pukwudgies, troll-like beings that have been reported in the area for centuries. Chris describes the Pukwudgies' appearance and tells some of the local Native Americans' stories of Pukwudgies. He also delves into the strange situation of Pukwudgies using orbs to attract people. Chris shares information on how Pukwudgie sightings have been reported from elsewhere in America and also in various Native American and European histories. To show that it is not a historical artifact, Chris tells of some of the contemporary Pukwudgie reports he's gotten from the area. We also look at how, despite their evil connotations, the Pukwudgies enjoy a high level of popularity in the area.

The next story we talk about is the "Witch of the Woods" tale that Chris documents in "Dark Woods". Chris goes through the story in amazing and chilling detail, including a weird element with a cat walking around on its hind legs. This leads to a side discussion on how much of the paranormal phenomena in the Freetown State Forest falls outside even the "mainstream of esoterica" and how the diversity of phenomena in the FSF flies in the face of specialization of esoteric genres.

We jump back, for a bit, to the Pukwudgies to get Chris's perspective on whether they are flesh and blood or spiritual creature. We look at elements of the Pukwudgie story that suggest something supernatural to the reports.

Moving into the second half of "Dark Woods", we cover some of the "true crime" aspects of the the Freetown State Forest, notably its high concentration of cult activity in the forest during the '70s and '80's. He talks about the concept of how "if you can see the cults, you're not really seeing the true cult". He profiles his main source on the cult activity in Freetown, Alan Alves. This turns to a discussion on the James Kader case and why Chris thinks there are cult elements attached to it. We tackle the issue of whether or not the cult activity is a cover for other nefarious activity. Chris details what exactly is "cult activity" found in the Freetown State Forest. Chris describes how, much like the classic theory, cattle mutilations may, in fact, be cult related.

We next talk about the Carl Drew case, which was an infamous, potentially cult related, case from the area. Chris speculates on who may have truly been behind the Carl Drew killings. He also shares how much reaction he has heard from some of the players in the story. Next we cover the still-unsolved "Highway Killer" serial killer case in Massachusetts and how Chris feels it is related to cult activities. Chris talks about some of the problems that thwarted solving the "Highway Killer" case and the latest developments in the case. We also have a brief discussion on Alan Alves's "mystery suspect".

Talking more about the cult activity, we discuss the potential hierarchy of the Freetown cults and how diverse the demographics of the cult were. He also talks about the vast migration of the cults in the area over the years. This segues into a discussion on whether or not Chris has ever felt threatened by his work researching the cults. Drawing back on the paranormal element to Freetown, we ponder the rhetorical question of which comes first, the crime or the paranormal activity and if there is a connection between the two.

Looking at some other big picture things, we discuss the explosion in the paranormal scene, from a micro level, looking at just Massachusetts. Chris compares the area to some of the other regions in America and points out the diversity of influences in Massachusetts. He also has some great observations about the differences of investigation between the regions within Massachusetts. Chris also talks about the rapid rise in popularity for paranormal groups and how he's seen it affect the area. Chris reflects on the sociology of the group mentality in esoterica and what he recommends people avoid when joining a group.

Heading towards the close of the interview, we talk about Chris's experience of writing a book and going from an investigator to an author. We find out what's next for Chris Balzano as he has three more books due out in 2008 and he previews them.

Christopher Balzano is a teacher and folklorist living in the Boston area. He has been investigating the unknown for twelve years and running Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads, a website dedicated to the paranormal and local folklore of Massachusetts, for more than five years.

His writing has appeared in such respected publications as “The Haunted Times” and “Mystery Magazine” as well as “Unexplained Paranormal Magazine.” His investigations have been covered by “The Boston Globe”, “The Boston Herald”, “The Standard Times” and “Worchester Magazine” and he has been asked to speak about urban legends and the paranormal at conferences throughout New England.

He is a regular guest on several paranormal radio shows and has appeared in documentaries and television specials on the supernatural. He was one of the featured writers in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places and contributed to the collection Weird Hauntings and the soon to be released, Weird Massachusetts. His writing and research have also been featured in Thomas D’Agostino’s Haunted New Hampshire and Haunted Massachusetts and the recently released Ghostly Tails from America’s Jails.

His first book Dark Woods: Cults, Crime, and the Paranormal, is an examination of the supernatural and the criminal activity in a small Massachusetts town. His second, also out in March is Ghostly Adventures: Chilling True Stories from America's Haunted Hot Spots. He is currently finishing up his third book, an account of the ghosts of the Bridgewater Triangle.

His website is www.masscrossroads.com.

topics discussed:
2 Hr 2 Min.
Chris Balzano