Ready to be scared during a virtual campfire?

WESTFIELD – Who doesn’t enjoy hearing scary stories around a campfire?
On July 15, the Westfield Athenaeum hosts a unique program titled “New England Legends” featuring storyteller Jeff Belanger, beginning at 7 p.m. on a Zoom platform.

The Westfield Athenaeum will host a “virtual campfire” event featuring storyteller Jeff Belanger. (FRANK GRACE PHOTO)

“Stories are a big part of how children (and all of us) learn,” said Becky Blackburn, public services librarian, adding, “Who doesn’t like an interesting story told by someone who is really good at it?”
Blackburn added there are 100 Zoom “seats” available for the presentation which is being called a “virtual campfire” event.
“We will give out Zoom access until July 14, or until the 100 seats are gone,” said Blackburn. 
Registration can be made by visiting www.westath.org or calling (413) 568-7833. Participants will be given a login via email for the presentation.
Belanger explained that the New England Legends program is based on his television series and weekly podcast of the same name.
“Since I’ve covered so many stories over the years, I change this program every time I give it,” he said. “I usually tell about eight to 10 stories each time. I’ll definitely be covering some Western Massachusetts legends.”
Belanger’s program will run approximately one hour and he will wrap up the evening with a question-and-answer period.
What makes his program unique is the “real magic” that takes place on the screen while he shares a variety of stories that can include ghosts, monsters, ancient mysteries, weird history and roadside oddities.
“I have many images, videos, and sounds to share with the legends,” said Belanger. “In some cases, I have voice actors speak the lines of some of the historic people I quote in each story, in other cases there are sound effects and music to accompany the story.”
Belanger noted that the program is targeted for adults, but added, “There are plenty of kids who are interested in these subjects.”
The stories would likely “be over the heads of those younger than 10,” he added.
“I’m on a mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time,” said Belanger. “From monsters and ghosts, to odd history and the just plain weird, I love how these stories connect us with our communities, our history, and each other. There’s a reason the vampires, ghosts, and strange beasties of New England still haunt us.”
Kate Deviny, director, Westfield Athenaeum, encourages area residents to take advantage of this fun evening.
“For over 20 years, Jeff has been exploring the unexplained,” said Deviny. “He seeks out history, folklore, ghosts, monsters, and legends all over the world and in your backyard. The bizarre is closer than you think!”

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