Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Friday the Thirteenth, Blair Witch. It seems the woods make a great backdrop for scary stories, but why? Are we hardwired to fear the forest? Or, let’s throw it out there, do ghosts just like hanging out in the thickets? Sam goes on the trail with paranormal experts and talks with Lore’s Aaron Mahnke to find out what makes the woods so terrifying, and tests his own beliefs along the way.
Meet our paranormal experts
Rich Damboise is a nature photographer, screen printer, and ex-moto cross racer. He traded in his bike for an EMF reader and now speeds around New England investigating the paranormal.
Jerry “The Candyman” Seavey is a former pro-wrestler who hopped in the ring alongside Randy Savage, The Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels. He now gets his adrenaline rush chasing ghosts.
Rich and Candyman, along with a few other friends, run Adventure Cam-Paranormal, a YouTube series which investigates New England’s most haunted locations.
Rich and Candyman met the Outside/In crew at Vale End Cemetery in Wilton, New Hampshire which, according to the internet, is wicked haunted.
No ghost hunting expedition would be complete without the following tools.
...or electromagnetic field meter. This handy little tool can be easily purchased on-line and detects fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. If there are sudden bumps in activity, watch out! There could be a ghost, or power lines, near by.
It’s always good for a paranormal investigator to have a voice recorder on hand because some ghosts want to be heard rather than seen. These ghostly recordings are known as EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon. A shotgun mic is a sure bet, but there are many recorders out there to suit any budget.
Photography is a must when capturing spirits who prefer to be seen and not heard. Things to look out for: orbs, aura, mist, spirits. Rich is a seasoned photographer with a professional camera, but budget models will work in a pinch.
Of course there are many other tools that Rich and Candyman use including camcorders, infra-red thermometers, flashlights, motion detectors, and a teddy bear called BooBuddy.
Our paranormal investigation didn’t turn up any spirits, but it did bring us to a beautiful New England cemetery rich in history. Plus, Rich and Candyman have promised to take Sam to a haunted house and they assure us things WILL go bump in the night.
The Shadowy Side of the Outdoors
Former extreme athletes Rich and Candyman say that the adrenaline of paranormal investigations is a good substitute for the heart-pounding moto-cross races and wrestling matches. There is a logical connection between fear and adrenaline, but what’s causing the fear? Why are we scared of the dark? Why are so many spooky stories set in the woods? To get those answers, Sam spoke with a man steeped in the stuff. Aaron Mahnke, host of the podcast Lore.
Why can the woods be so frightening?
I think for a very long time the wilderness represented the unknown to us. I know we like to feel like we have a full understanding of what’s out there, we’re modern humans after all, but I think we’d be lying to ourselves if we said there was nothing left to learn or explore. Sometimes I tell people, go find a photo of the New Jersey pine barrens or forests of the northwest. There are places in this world that are so huge that we can’t say with confidence that we’ve mastered them completely. I think that’s where the fear comes from. We fear the things that we can’t control. The great outdoors are a beautiful place, but they also hide a lot from us.
"I think for a very long time, the wilderness represented the unknown to us...I think that’s where the fear comes from, right? Because, we fear the things that we can’t control. The great outdoors are a beautiful place, but they also hide a lot from us. And I think that’s how the wilderness casts that spell of fear over us." - Aaron Mahnke
Why are people drawn to spooky stories?
I think we really want to believe that we’re not alone. Yeah, there are 6.5 billion of us on the planet, which shouldn’t make us feel alone , but we do live pretty solitary lives. We got through things in our lives, like loss and separation, I think, to some degree, people believe in stories of ghosts because it gives them hope that there might be something more, that there might be a way to stay connected to the people to the people that they’ve lost. But I also think there’s an entertainment value to it. The things that ghosts might do, the noises they might make in the house, it makes a good story.
Do you believe in ghosts?
So what I tell people, even the preface makes me sound like I’m dodging the question, but I tell people that I believe the stories. I believe that people really believe that these things happened. I believe them and there’s value in listening and sometimes there’s value in repeating those stories. I try to ride the fence. It makes for a better storyteller when you don’t fully believe in one side or the other.
Outside/In was produced this week by:
Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.
Music for this episode is from Uncanny Valleys.
Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder.
If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.