the tales they tell, stephen gencarella, folklore, connecticut, history, spooky trails, tall tales,

About the blog

The Tales They Tell is a letter of appreciation to New England and its people. As a professional folklorist, I have long wanted to share the traditional stories of the region with the general public. I launched this blog in September 2019 to help accomplish that goal.

I plan to post twice a week, usually on Monday and Thursday. The first post will be a brief essay on a topic of New England folklore or an interview with a storyteller or folklorist. The second post will be a shorter piece that reproduces an original document, or that announces media coverage of New England folklore, or that recommends a place associated with interesting lore. 

I will also add regularly to different sections on the website. The Reviews section recommends books, films and related media, museums, tourist destinations, and the occasional restaurant or business. The Local Interest section provides an expanding list of interesting sites that engage the folklore of New England. The Events section announces appearances by yours truly or associates and friends.  

The initial focus of The Tales They Tell are folk narratives such as myths, legends, folktales, jokes, rumors, anecdotes, and songs, but as this website evolves, I hope to consider festivals, folk arts and crafts, and other aspects of expressive culture. 

Although this is a letter of appreciation, I intend to examine some of the darker aspects of these tales and their history, including aspects of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Some content may not be appropriate for young readers.

If you have examples of folklore from your hometown or from travels throughout the region, please reach out to me. And please contact me if you have corrections, updates, suggestions, stories, images, or posts that would benefit our understanding of the folklore of New England.

I welcome your comments and dialogue. I ask that all comments be respectful of others. I reserve the right to restrict problematic comments and content. 

Welcome and happy reading!

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Stephen Olbrys Gencarella

I am a tenured professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I am a folklorist whose research examines the myths, legends, and cultural traditions of New England. I also teach classes on humor and comedy studies and on the global folklore of alcoholic beverages.

My new book has been released by Falcon Guides, a premier publisher of outdoor recreation guidebooks. This book introduces readers to the folklore of Connecticut and associated hikes. 25% of its royalties benefit The Friends of CT State Parks. I am now writing a second book in the series, on Massachusetts.

I have also published a book with Globe Pequot Press on New England's historical and folkloric eccentrics. It was positively reviewed in Connecticut Magazine. All royalties benefit youth and education programs at the CT River Museum.

I am working with the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, one of CT's most beloved tourist attractions, to develop programs drawing from New England folklore.

From 2014 until 2019, I served as the resident folklorist for the Connecticut River Museum. I produced two exhibit scripts during that time. The first was The Thirsty River: 400 Years of Drink, Life, and Reform in the Connecticut River Valley. The second was Myths and Legends of the Connecticut River Valley.

I am finishing a book manuscript tentatively entitled The Moodus Noises: A Cultural History of a Connecticut Legend. I recently published an article on legends of the Connecticut River for the magazine Connecticut Explored.

I often work with iCRV Radio to produce shows on the folklore of New England.

I was born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, and have lived in New England my entire life except for a few years of grad school in Indiana. I'm an alumnus of Providence College (B.A. Humanities), Tufts University (M.A. Classical Studies), and Indiana University (Joint Ph.D. Folklore & Communication and Culture). I currently live in Lyme, Connecticut, with my wife Winnie and our four children.

I am happy to consult with organizations concerning the folklore of New England or the folklore and history of alcohol. I am readily available for public talks, lectures, presentations, and guided hikes. 

Moodus Cave 2019
Moodus Cave 2019