Medina County Spirits 7

Author Michelle Belanger discusses growing up psychic

Michelle Belanger has always known that she wanted to be an author. Having been born with a ventricular septal defect, she had several heart surgeries before the age of five. Lacking the ability to be physically active during much of her youth, she found herself taking refuge in books.

“The first spirit that I am aware of seeing was actually encountered at the Hinckley Library,” she recalls, explaining that she grew up nearby and would walk there on pleasant summer days.

“I did not realize for years that she was actually a ghost. When I went to the Highland Local School District, everybody believed in ghosts. Most people had experiences to recount.”

The Medina resident is well-known in the paranormal community for both her work as a researcher and psychic on A&E’s Paranormal State and her wide range of published work. Though her work as a psychic comes second to her writing career, growing up sensitive in a community with a long history and a ghost here and there would inevitably influence and become intertwined with her writing.

Belanger, who graduated from Highland High School in 1991 as one of two National Merit Scholars, was raised mainly by her grandmother in Hinckley. Belanger grew up aware that she was a psychic, and she flourished under her grandmother who encouraged her to keep an open mind, but to never assume that she was always right. Aside from loving guidance, Belanger received another important gift during her upbringing.

“My family is Irish extraction, and as such they are natural story tellers. I grew up hearing stories of family history and the history of the places which my family came from.”

Belanger’s childhood was filled with a love of history and stories, and she discovered in herself an appetite for knowledge that would follow her into adulthood.

“Both the Highland High School library and the Hinckley Library are amazing. Through those I had access to all kinds of books. Paranormal, parapsychology, mythology, folklore, and history. I devoured whatever I could get my hands on. From the time I knew words, I knew I wanted to be an author. I still believe knowledge is power, and educated is better-armed than being ignorant. In my career, I have been able to help spread knowledge as well as stretch the academic side of me, particularly with my studies of the Book of Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Equipped with a degree from John Carroll University in English and Religious Studies, Belanger today can boast of nearly 30 published books. Though she is most well-known for the folklore and mythological aspect of her work, she has also published poetry, analyses of energy and psychic work, and most recently, urban fantasy.

“Urban fantasy is a lot like film noir with a little flash and dazzle of magic. Last year I released Conspiracy of Angels, the first book in the urban fantasy Shadowside Series, and we celebrated its launch at the Medina Library. It is set out here in Northeast Ohio. It’s seeped in a lot of the history of Cleveland, where it takes place. A major part of the setting is the city that it is in, and the city almost seems to become a character. I could not think of a better place than Northeast Ohio, which is such an underrated area.”

And, she adds, it is an area seeped in seemingly paranormal activity. Medina County in particular is rich with unusual local lore and whispers of hauntings. It certainly has a long history—early records show land in the county being purchased as early as 1795, eight years before Ohio even became a state.

“Hinckley was a pretty haunted area to grow up in,” says Belanger. “I have a friend who thinks the hauntings could be tied with the Great Hinckley Hunt.”

The Great Hinckley Hunt brought an estimated 600 men and boys together in 1818 to “exterminate” game that had been devastating settlements and farm land. Allegedly, veterans from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were among the hunters, who hailed from as far north as Cleveland and as far south as Bath. The hunt took place in the winter, and when spring came, buzzards flocked to the area to pick at the remains. Legend has it that they continue to return to Hinckley because of the lasting impact of the hunt. She explains that a lot of “weird” local legends seem to connect paranormal energy with the land, and some of those stories are Native American and predate Ohio’s founding. Belanger has even heard suggestions that ley lines, or spiritual alignments of geomorphic features, contribute to the reports of local hauntings.

“Regardless of if the area has a history of paranormal energy, there is a lot of local lore that I really enjoy. Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Valley City has the infamous Witch’s Ball, which does not actually have a woman buried under it. It is a family plot marker, but the whispers of a witch being buried in the cemetery probably has ties to a real-life story of a poisoner. Many of her victims are, in actuality, buried in that cemetery. Many buildings in Medina Square allegedly have their hauntings, which is perhaps related to the fires that devastated the area in the 1800s or a cholera epidemic. A lot of local houses seem to have their own hauntings, too. It is worth digging into the history of your hometown. Sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction.”

While Belanger’s latest works in the Shadowside Series are fiction, she has been able to infuse pieces of her own background into the story. From local lore that she has absorbed to her experiences as a paranormal investigator, she insists that some stories make better fiction than reality.

“In the international world of publishing, many people are completely unfamiliar with this area. People unfamiliar with Ohio assume it’s all just cows and corn, but there is so much beyond that. There exists such a diversity in places like Medina County, and in my works of fiction I am able to infuse experiences to explode misconceptions about what the Midwest is. I find that even people living here have much to discover.”