By William Devlin
(c) Connecticut Explored Inc., Winter 2022-23
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Mike Allen has that radio voice. The kind that makes you want to listen. That lets you know you’re in the hands of a real storyteller.
That’s hardly surprising for someone who’s recently retired after a long career in broadcasting and other forms of communication. Today he’s using that voice and experience to showcase Connecticut history in a new medium. His weekly Amazing Tales podcast features Connecticut-centered stories that are meant to illuminate interesting but sometimes overlooked corners of state and local history.
Allen starts with what he thinks sounds like an intriguing or little-known incident, person, or event originating in a Connecticut town. He records interviews with an expert or experts on the topic, then adds research of his own to round out the short pieces, which usually run about 15-30 minutes. His subjects have ranged from P.T. Barnum and Mark Twain to the Hartford Circus Fire, the Rochambeau Trail, and Danbury’s Sandemanian religious sect. The format intersperses quotes from experts he’s interviewed with Allen’s engaging narration.
“I’ve always felt in my bones that people like history,” he says. “It’s storytelling. People love good stories that bring history to life. That’s the kind of history that people like and want to listen to.”
Allen brings a wide perspective to his new enterprise. He grew up in New Canaan and studied journalism at Boston University. While a student there producing documentaries for the Boston University station WBUR, he recalls, he was the first reporter to capture an interview with presidential candidate Jimmy Carter after his unexpected triumph in the New Hampshire Democratic primary in 1976.
After graduating he moved back to Connecticut to become news director of WINE/WRKI, an FM station in Brookfield, where he stayed for 10 years. He later served as press secretary for two Danbury mayors and as environmental commissioner for Rockland County, New York before beginning a corporate career in communications and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry, which had him and his family living in Switzerland for seven years.
After he retired in 2020 Allen was contacted by former colleague Ethan Carey at the I-95 FM radio station in Brookfield. According to Allen, Carey wanted to make the station’s focus “more local.” Mike began a 10-minute weekly radio program called “The Place You Live,” which was recently discontinued. His curiosity in local history piqued, he set about solving the challenges of putting together a podcast. Amazing Tales From Off and On Connecticut’s Beaten Path debuted on Podbean in September 2021. Its development was a family effort: Mike’s son Christopher contributed the podcast’s theme music, and his daughter Ashley designed its logo. In its first eight months the podcast racked up more than 12,000 downloads from 28 countries and from 48 states.
Amazing Tales From Off and On Connecticut’s Beaten Path appears weekly on https://AmazingTalesCT.Podbean.com. It’s also available on Spotify, Amazon, Apple I-Tunes, and Google.
William Devlin is a former history teacher and an adjunct instructor of geography at Western Connecticut State University. He is the author of books and articles about southwestern Connecticut history.