I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot of podcasts. Looking at my podcatcher, I have over seventy-five on there. I can also say, going total hipster, that I was into podcasts way before Serial. I listen to podcasts, I’ve been on podcasts, I work with podcasts. I thought I’d share some of the podcasts I listen to and maybe hit a couple that may have passed you by with the current glut out there.
Dr. Malcolm Ryder is on the air and you need his help. From his radio show A Voice From Darkness, he educates and assists his audience in dealing with the various occult occurrences happening in America. He gives you the latest supernatural threats with National Alerts, a bit of occult history from Today in Odd America, and calls from the public about various preternatural problems plaguing them. Of course, some problems are harder to solve than others and some problems involve Dr. Ryder doing a lot more than simply offering advice.
What I love about shows like this is it could have taken the premise and just created an unconnected anthology podcast. However, it builds its arc through interactions with callers and Dr. Ryder’s own recollections to build a world where occult events take out entire towns and there is even a magical college–but it’s all grounded so the show never feels ridiculous. Dr. Ryder, as a character, sincerely wants to help those in need but his obsessions mar these efforts and make him seem all too human.
Claire Sterback is that rare millennial that owns a house. She just inherited it from her biological grandparents and its a bit of a fixer upper. OK, its a big fixer upper. Like any millennial, she and her best friend Judith are going to monetize the repairs into a podcast. There are challenges like not really knowing a lot about home repair, not to mention Claire’s smothering ex-boyfriend, a realtor who is the epitome of pushy hard selling. There are also strange notebooks, strange writing on the wall, and a very strange basement. This can affect anyone and Claire has definitely been affected. They try to get to the bottom of this Parkdale Haunt without getting stuck there forever.
What I like is how the stress of dealing with a dilapidated house and finding out you have unknown family are taken to eleven when that house and that history goes into the realm of the supernatural. I also love the frame of how this started as a home renovation podcast and morphs into a podcast into what happened to them, especially to Claire. I won’t spoil what happens to her, but it is truly horrifying.
Anna Sheridan is missing. As a well known horror writer, this is a big case. But it’s gone cold. The only real evidence is a bunch of audio tapes everyone calls The Sheridan Tapes. Detective Sam Bailey has been tasked with this mess of a case. Listening to the tapes, Sam hears Anna talking about encountering supernatural locations and creatures. Sam at first thinks these are just book ideas or making a podcast pilot. But the events recorded seem a little too real. Investigating further, Bailey finds that they are very too real. Now, inexplicable things are happening to Bailey and he finds that events in his past are linked to the tapes as well. He has to continue to find Anna, even if that means his future is in jeopardy too.
What’s interesting about all three podcasts is how they take the found footage trope into different directions. We only get to hear what’s being “broadcast” or “recorded,” but they find a unique and believable frame so it doesn’t seem contrived. For this one, Anna Sheridan records on tape her encounters with the supernatural and Bailey also records his notes and his own encounters. In the second season, more of the supporting characters use recording to document the dangerous circumstances they find themselves in. I really enjoyed the creativity they put in their supernatural encounters, not an easy task with so many audio horror podcasts out there. The revelations of Anna’s and Bailey’s lives are paced well and leave you wondering what could happen next.