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What's lurking in Vermont? A Halloween special on cryptids, ghosts and unexplained phenomena

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Today's Vermont Edition unearths a few good ghost stories — and some of the science behind why we enjoy being scared.

Bigfoot, lake monsters, ghosts in the attic: To some, these are just fantastical made-up ideas. For others, they are very real.

Vermont Edition's Halloween special featured the head of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine, as well as a ghost hunter from Rutland and plenty of paranormal stories from Vermonters. Finally, Jane Lindholm of the podcast But Why stopped by the studio to talk about a recent episode all about why some people like being scared.

Cryptozoology is the study of hidden or unknown animals, said Loren Coleman, founder and director of the Maine museum. Coleman said the work combines folklore and evidence to look for new species — including sightings of the Champ or Memphre lake monsters in Vermont and even animals like anacondas and armadillos that are spotted way outside of their natural habitat.

"Most of us in cryptozoology are from a pretty straightforward scientific background — and I, too, am looking for the most logical, skeptical explanation," Coleman said. "It's always good to listen to people first before jumping to conclusions."

Coleman said sightings of black panthers or other big cats are prevalent in Vermont, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.

His museum contains 20,000 artifacts, plus live-sized versions of Big Foot, a sea serpent, a Gill man and a giant salamander.

More from But Why: Why do we like being scared?

In Vermont, unusual cryptid sightings sometimes find their way to the Paranormal Investigators of New England, a volunteer group that investigates paranormal activity and UFOs.

Investigator Lindsay Stevens describes herself as "an administrator during the daytime and then a ghost hunter at nighttime." She said she got into the work because of an experience of a past family member in her own home — and has looked into a wide range of phenomena over the last decade.

Stevens encouraged Vermonters to use a voice recorder to gather evidence if they think they've noticed paranormal activity in their own home, but to ask for help because it can become an obsession that ends up "drawing something."

"Beware," Stevens said, "and if you end up, you know, finding yourself becoming obsessive over it, then you need to step back."

Broadcast at noon Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or check us out on Instagram.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
As Director of Content Partnership, Eric works with individuals and organizations to make connections leading to more Vermont stories. As Producer of the Made Here series, Eric partners with filmmakers from New England and Quebec to broadcast and stream local films. Find more info here: https://www.vermontpublic.org/show/made-here
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.