A reimagination of what a paranormal TV show could be. That’s what Michelle Belanger and her team are envisioning for their new project called New Blood.
A long time veteran of cable paranormal TV, Michelle is striking out on her own (with some help from her friends) to create a diversely casted and crewed show which focuses on communicating with entities and spirits from a non-judgmental point of view.
You can go to https://www.newblood.tv/ to find the links to support the Kickstarter and to watch the trailer for New Blood.
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This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.
JIM HAROLD: Welcome to the Paranormal Podcast. I am Jim Harold, and so glad to be with you once again. Well, we have one of our favorite people with us. I’m talking about Michelle Belanger. Michelle, you know her as a prolific author. I think it’s something like over two dozen nonfiction books on the paranormal. You know her from Paranormal State. You know her from Portals to Hell and many other appearances on paranormal television. And that’s just scratching the surface of the things that she has done.
And she remains at the forefront with a new program that is coming soon, with your help. It’s called New Blood, and I’m looking here at the Kickstarter page. It says “New Blood: A Double-Dose of Weird Paranormal TV – with Michelle Belanger!” Michelle, welcome to the program as always, and congratulations on this new project.
MICHELLE BELANGER: Thank you. We put a lot of work into it. Did over 100 hours of filming last fall and definitely have a lot to share.
JIM HAROLD: I guess to talk about where you’re going, maybe we can talk a little bit about where you’ve been. To me, it seems like paranormal TV for you, just looking from the outside, has been good in many ways, and I’m sure has raised your profile in many ways, and I’m sure you’ve had a lot of great experiences in many ways. But like any time when – and we’ve talked about this before – the creators don’t really have full control, you run into certain guardrails and limitations on things you could do. Could you speak a little bit about your experience on paranormal TV, good and bad?
MICHELLE BELANGER: My first rude awakening was in Paranormal State, because I had this assumption that if you were the production company making a paranormal reality TV show, at some point you were actually into the paranormal – that you believed it, you were passionate about it, as passionate as the cast who are actually on the show. I learned pretty quickly that that’s not the case. [laughs] Production companies make what they think will sell. And while there may be a “I was really into ghosts as a kid,” it’s not nearly as up the chain as one might think.
So my first comeuppance was realizing that people behind Paranormal State didn’t necessarily believe in what we, the team, were doing. Especially my psychic stuff. Most of them assumed it had to be faked one way or the other, so it was a shock to them when we wouldn’t fake things that they asked us to. I think that is, in a nutshell, the problem. You’ve got these dedicated teams who are really passionate about what they’re doing, and then you’ve got the production company, you’ve got executive producers, and you’ve got the network, all of whom have very different ideas of what they think should be happening and what will sell.
JIM HAROLD: Have you seen a change over the years with paranormal TV? How has it evolved? Because you’ve been there since this latest iteration over the last 20 years or so. You’ve been there for most of it. Have you seen it evolve and change in any way, for good or for ill? Or is it basically the same script over and over, so to speak?
MICHELLE BELANGER: I’ve seen it go in two different directions. On one hand you’ve got more people behind the scenes – like Jack Osbourne, who’s got the heavyweight Osbourne Media, and Jack is legitimately into this stuff. One of his purposes is to throw his weight around as someone who’s Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne’s son and can be like, “This is the stuff I want to explore.” He has the name to be able to push back.
JIM HAROLD: The clout, yeah.
MICHELLE BELANGER: He’s got that clout and he is not afraid to use it. On the other hand, you’ve got this other thread. So the first hand is there are definitely people who saw the problem and are on the ground, trying to fix that problem, trying to be at every level of making this show, someone is passionate about this topic.
And then you’ve got what really starts to feel like stuff that’s catering to a weird Satanic Panic revival. It’s just the scare factor, and everything is about fear and everything’s about demons and the lowest possible hanging fruit of sensationalism that doesn’t necessarily make for genuine paranormal TV, but it does make for popular paranormal TV, especially when you realize that a lot of production companies and networks view paranormal TV as simply one more branch of the horror genre.
JIM HAROLD: It’s interesting what you said about people who are into it – you talked about Jack Osbourne – and then the other people who couldn’t give two hoots in hell, so to speak. It’s just another line item, it’s just another profit center. What I used to say when I worked in radio – I was around a lot of people who were passionate about broadcasting and passionate about music and passionate about their content, but if you go a little bit up the chain, I always said in radio that literally many of these people would broadcast the sound of somebody gurgling 24/7 if they could sell spots against it and make a profit. [laughs]
MICHELLE BELANGER: It’s 100% true. That is true across all entertainment media. I have worked in the music industry, I’ve worked in the publishing industry, I’ve worked in podcasting, I’ve worked in TV now, and the thing that I see that they all have in common is you’ve got these passionate creators, and they’re the ones who make the content. It doesn’t exist without them. But they usually don’t have a really good head, or even the will, for marketing and the structured nuts and bolts that has to go into the back end of things. Some of them are really good at it, but they’re like lightning in a bottle.
So you’re beholden to these suits who are in many ways completely divorced from what this stuff actually is. They really are about the bottom line, and they truly would not care what the content was as long as it sold. There’s a point where when you are the content, that’s incredibly dehumanizing.
JIM HAROLD: It makes sense. So we’ve talked about the condition; what do you think the prescription is?
MICHELLE BELANGER: Honestly, at this point, more indie stuff. It’s been a solution in the publishing industry – getting away from the Big Three and having to dance by the unofficial rules of “it has to be sensational but not in this direction.” There’s so many boxes you have to check.
To give you an idea, I’ve got a fiction series, and when I was pitching it, one of the first things was, even though it was urban fantasy, so gritty noir, horror, they were like, “Is there romance in it yet?” I’m like, “That’s not – I don’t want – why?” Or a couple of things where they tried to “normal-wash” – “This person’s a little too chubby for people to find them attractive. Could you cut that language out?” They start to put things in boxes for what they think people do. Independent publishing, independent creation, independent everything – I may have to pause and let the cat out.
JIM HAROLD: That’s all right. That’s what we have here on the program. We do the shows basically live to tape, so sometimes you have to take the cat out. There’s no problem with that. No problem with that whatsoever.
Michelle is back after attending – what is the cat’s name, by the way?
MICHELLE BELANGER: It’s Bliss. She’s my familiar and writing companion. Normally she’s just happily asleep in her basket, but today she wanted to get involved in things.
JIM HAROLD: There you go. That’s okay. We are leaving that in. But back to the topic of independence and making your own way.
MICHELLE BELANGER: We’re in this amazing time when we have, as independent creators, access to tools and to distribution that we never did before. You and I are old enough to know that if you wanted to do your own book, own TV show, own radio thing, the amount of money, just initial investment that you would need – and then trying to get it out to people, you were beholden to the platforms, and there were only a few that would carry anything. And usually they were very negative at the idea of carrying independent anything. Pretty huge stigma.
But now, it’s very different. There is a democratization that the internet has brought us and streaming services have brought us. So I think the future to changing the script is people doing things themselves. We get told all the time, “If you don’t like it, do it yourself.” And that’s a tall order. That’s asking a lot. Not everybody has the time, and it’s still a fair investment of money and equipment and everything else. But it’s more possible now than it was 20 years ago or even 10 years ago.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, that’s true. It’s true, and you see things like Seth Breedlove and his Small Town Monsters, you see independent podcasters like Astonishing Legends or like me. And the same with publishing. There’s people who have been far more successful independent publishing than they ever would’ve been going through the traditional system. It’s like this whole group of people who have the ability to create content for people who are entertained by it, they’re informed by it, they’re energized by it, and it’s this symbiotic relationship.
And for that to happen, really, there needs to be a two-way exchange. Because I’ve got to say, I couldn’t do what I do without my audience being very supportive in multiple ways. But when you’re taking this step as an independent creator, if you want to create content that is visually equal to the content – and in many cases, superior to – that you’ll see on paranormal television, that still takes money and resources, doesn’t it?
MICHELLE BELANGER: Yeah. That’s the thing. Independent stuff lives and dies by its audience, by word of mouth, by the people who it is being made for. There is a little bit more of a close-knit relationship between the creators and the people that they’re creating for. On one hand you don’t have the interference of those suits, but also you don’t have their support, so you need to get that support from the people directly. Which is why you see a lot more crowdfunding and a lot more stuff like this, and why Kickstarter is even a thing.
JIM HAROLD: Along those lines, you’re working on this new project, New Blood. Explain to us, what is New Blood?
MICHELLE BELANGER: New Blood started out as only one, and it hived off into two distinct paranormal shows. The story behind New Blood – a director reached out to me in a private capacity, Fen Alankus. Fen had read my book The Psychic Vampire Codex, basically had a friend toss it at them, and they were going through what can broadly be called their personal initiatory experience. They have a podcast called Follow the Woo. They’ve always been into all this stuff, but they were having a lot of deeply personal, very revelatory experiences that tied into some of my own belief system and practice.
Lots of people reach out to me with this, and normally we meet or we Zoom and everything and I teach them and whatnot. Fen was like, “Hey, kind of the way that I relate to things – I’m a documentarian. Would it be okay if I documented this, if I made a thing out of it?”
It is a deep dive into not only my personal practice, which you don’t really get to see on any of the shows, but a deep dive into the journey of paranormal investigation and our questions that we raise about the paranormal. Most of the shows, the focus is on going to a location and trying to get evidence, “Is there a ghost here? What do we think about that?” But that process is deeply personal for every person who engages with it. Our beliefs are part of it. We have experiences that change the way we look at the world.
So New Blood is about the people going through the journey of asking the questions about the paranormal. How it hived off into two different shows was Fen had a team and they were doing your fairly standard paranormal investigations, and there started to be synchronous crossover events and dream entanglement and some very weird stuff that happened between the team and locations, so these are these two things that weave in and out of one another – one which is here in both my physical home and Inspiration House with the team, just dealing with our stuff, and also then, for me, remoting into these locations that are scattered around a four- or five-state area with the extended team.
JIM HAROLD: We’re talking with Michelle Belanger all about New Blood, and we’ll be back with more after this.
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If you love the Paranormal Podcast, be sure to check out Jim Harold’s Campfire, where ordinary people share their extraordinary stories of ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and terrifying encounters. Find it for free wherever you listen to this podcast. Tune in to Jim Harold’s Campfire today. Now, we return to the Paranormal Podcast.
JIM HAROLD: We’re back on the Paranormal Podcast. Our guest is Michelle Belanger. We’re talking all about New Blood. One thing that I saw – because I watched the trailer to prepare and have a sense of the show, and everybody should check that out. We’ll give people the information where they can go to do that. But one thing was that if I understand correctly, on other paranormal TV shows, it’s basically “Let’s contact the spirit; then we’ll send them to the light,” or “We’ll make some kind of resolution” or those kinds of things. But you all are doing it a little bit differently, aren’t you? With a little bit different philosophy there, right?
MICHELLE BELANGER: It’s a philosophy that I’ve always held, but it’s one that, because it doesn’t fit the script, you don’t get to see a lot. We’re not about kicking things out of spaces. We’re not banishers. We want to go and experience; we also have a belief that spirits have as much of a right – in some cases, more – to the spaces they inhabit than we do. A good portion of our work as people communicating through paranormal means would be to find ways to coexist rather than to kick things out, clear them out.
Now, I still have a hard line for things that are being actively malevolent and hurting people, especially kids. But broadly speaking, our first impulse is to go with the possibility that this is a friend.
JIM HAROLD: Interesting. What are some of the different modalities that you use to make contact in these episodes?
MICHELLE BELANGER: We definitely have some aspects of tech that will be familiar to people. I get to do my very first Estes session, which was kind of fun. The blindfold was nothing new, but the other stuff was different for me. We really make our best effort to have a blend of a lot of things, so we’ve got people with a great number of different personal practices. There’s a lot of magic ritual and occult that gets folded into what we’re doing.
We also throw the technology toward what we’re doing. I think that’s something that stands out a little different. A lot of teams will go in and they’re trying to measure the phenomenon at the location, whatever has been reported. But we’re part of that. As investigators, as psychics, we people who don’t think of themselves as psychics, our experiences are also interacting with that, and that is often measurable. So we go in with the assumption that we are also paranormal. We are part of that, and we measure our own experiences, we run experiments to test what we can do, so that we’ve got a better idea of our strengths and our limits as we apply them to the investigation.
JIM HAROLD: Another thing I think is important to note is that you’ve really gone about saying “we are going to have a diverse cast and crew,” and that’s something very important to you.
MICHELLE BELANGER: Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but I think we can draw a pretty clear view of what most of the television shows front for their teams. With a few notable recent exceptions, like the Ghost Brothers, it’s white guys. It’s just white dudes. The funny thing is, ghost hunting effectively wasn’t even started by Hans Holzer. If you go back to Night Side of Nature and Catherine Crowe and all of the work that was done in the 1800s, it’s not been the exclusive purview of just random white men shouting at ghosts.
I think I remain the only visibly out intersexed person working in paranormal television in the U.S., possibly in all of U.S. television. I don’t know of anybody else who’s intersexed specifically. AP Stylebook actually let everybody know, “This is not the same as trans, please don’t mix them up.” You can look that up; I don’t want to get into the weeds with it. But our cast is almost exclusively queer people who identify in different ways and are across a number of different cultural backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds. We just got the people who fit for us.
There was a little hesitation, given how queer our group was, the core group, when we were trying to hire other people – because it does take a lot of working parts. We needed sound, we needed an extra camera person. And we’re in Northeast Ohio. [laughs] We’re like, “So we’re looking for somebody who’s professional in this area, and also you need to be okay working with a lot of queer people and people of color, and oh, by the way, witches. You might be witnessing rituals, if you’re okay with that. And vampires.” Just a whole lot of stuff. Our rider and our contracts probably had some of the weirdest wording anybody had ever seen. [laughs] Like, “I am signing off to these experiences, sure, let’s go.”
But it meant that we got really, really neat colorful, open-minded people, and I love that.
JIM HAROLD: Having a crew that is different than what you will see and hear on paranormal TV – do you think that helps with the richness of the results? Maybe you’ll actually get responses from the other side that you may not have gotten with somebody else from a different cultural perspective?
MICHELLE BELANGER: I’ve got two answers to that. The first thing, of course, is coming at things from as many different perspectives as possible gives you the open-mindedness to hear the answers, even if they don’t fit in the box that you’re applying to what you’re doing. A simple thing is if you’re Ed and Lorraine Warren, everything that isn’t a human ghost is a demon. They’re not open, and were never really open, to the idea of fae spirits, land spirits, something that was nonhuman could possibly be beneficial. They would just apply that box without ever really sacrificing their rigidity, because that was where their comfort zone was.
If you allow for the possibility that there are multiple ways of looking at reality, you open yourself up to so many unique experiences that I think other teams might discount if they’re firmly entrenched in only applying one worldview.
The other answer to that question is it’s been my experience that people who have something different about them, who’ve had to go through their life and make peace with the fact that they don’t fit in with what is considered mainstream normal tend to also be more open to their own internal weird. So when they have a strange sensation or a strange experience, they’re more inclined – or I should say that their lived experience has already equipped them with the ability to say, “This sounds really strange. My neighbor down the street might say this is crazy… and what if it’s not?” There’s a willingness to explore beyond the boundaries and beyond what is normally accepted as “this is normal reality” when your very essence, your daily lived experience, is not what other people call normal.
As an addendum to that, I think it also is why we’re not so inclined to quickly judge things and call them evil just because they don’t look like what we expect them to look like, just because they’re different from us. Because that’s been thrown at us our whole lives.
JIM HAROLD: Something else I noticed in the trailer is there seems to be some significant interpersonal dynamic going on. There was the one scene where it was something along the lines of “I don’t know if I can trust you,” that kind of thing. So it seems like you get more of a peek behind the curtain in this style. Everything has to fit within 20-something minutes on a half-hour cable TV show, and we have to get in, we have to get out. We don’t have a lot of time to explore relationships and those kinds of things. Sounds like that’s going to be a little bit different here.
MICHELLE BELANGER: Absolutely. Like I said, one of the purposes is to not simply go in and investigate, but to show what that does to you as a person. Who are you going in, and then who are you coming out? How do these experiences change us? I think that’s something people need to see. That representation of that aspect of it is so frequently trimmed out because it’s not the spooky, chunky bit where the ghost knocked something over. The camera loves that, and then we forget that there’s a human element to every one of these experiences.
JIM HAROLD: I certainly don’t want you to give anything away; I know you said you should I thin over 100 hours of video. Is there one little anecdote or story that you could share with us that would give us a flavor of the program and what we can expect, assuming that we get behind it and support it?
MICHELLE BELANGER: Well, let’s see. There was the shared dreams stuff that was happening even as we were doing things. One part of it is magic and ritual and really digging into that in addition to more traditional paranormal stuff has been a key part. We have organized several times throughout the process these group rituals performed both in person and then by everybody who was distant, noting things that would happen in tandem when we were doing that sort of stuff, to raise energy, to raise contact.
I would say this. I don’t usually get to be open on the regular paranormal shows that I’m not only a psychic medium; I work directly with spirits. I can summon them as well as dispel them. I’ve got a team that I work with. There was a point where it became necessary to introduce the team to the people that I work with on the other side, and all I did was give them names and make an introduction. And then having people have unique, personal, unprompted experiences that lined up with how I have experienced these beings was pretty darn cool and very validating.
JIM HAROLD: Well, now is the time when we can tell people how they can support this project. I’ve actually already opened up the page, and as soon as we’re done here I’m going to make my pledge to the project. Tell people how they can do the same and what the benefits are.
MICHELLE BELANGER: Where can you go? The first place to go is to the Kickstarter page. You can look for us as New Blood. We are a project Kickstarter loves, so we’re on the main page of Kickstarter. It should be fairly simple to find us. The way Kickstarter works, if you’ve never done this crowdfunding platform before, is there are different levels of support, and you get rewards for that. Very, very basic stuff can just be a thank you and a piece of digital art, but we have been working with people, both in the States and overseas, to find ways to get people cool stickers and t-shirts and make these really fun stretch goals. So there’s some neat swag that will only exist for people who back right with this project. I know with Kickstarter that’s always a big appeal for people. If you get in on it, you get cool things that you will never have otherwise.
You can also support simply by sharing the Kickstarter. The more you interact, the more you put it around on social media stuff – even if you don’t have the funds to add to it, adding the buzz is really, really a huge help.
The Kickstarter page, if you’re not sure or your search doesn’t work, just go to newblood.tv and you’ll find all the rest of the information and links that you need.
JIM HAROLD: Well, I’ve got to say, I wish you the best with it. I am so glad you’re getting into this independent content creation game in terms of the television side of it. I know you’ve been doing a lot on the publishing side, but I think it’s long overdue. And I hope that everybody supports the project. We’re always crying out for something different, “We want something different! We don’t want the same old same old from paranormal TV!” So now’s the chance for us to support that and put our dollars behind it if we can afford to do so, as you said. If we can’t, we all have a voice on social media and with our friends and those interested in these subjects, and we can certainly support in that way.
I wish you all the best with New Blood. Michelle, where, again, can people find that Kickstarter?
MICHELLE BELANGER: That Kickstarter is under the title New Blood, and you can go to newblood.tv and find all of the links. Just look us up, and we’re on the front page of Kickstarter as a project they love, which is a real big little badge of honor.
JIM HAROLD: Very good. Well, I wish you the best with it, and thank you for taking time to talk to us about the project today.
MICHELLE BELANGER: Thank you.
JIM HAROLD: Always great to check in with Michelle, and certainly please do support New Blood, her project. I really applaud independent creators. I feel a kinship to independent creators because we don’t have the big companies behind us, but we do have a vision and we’re willing to put our livelihoods on the line, our lives on the line in terms of our professional lives, by doing this. So please support independent creators. I appreciate all the support you give us, and support Michelle as well, and her friends.
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