Disclaimer: This was written on very little sleep. Damn you, creepypasta!
I’m not one to scare easily, but last night I broke one of the cardinal rules of the internet. Namely, don’t indulge in creepypasta after dark.
You mean that’s not one of the cardinal rules? You sure as hell could’ve fooled me!
Now, I’ve always been a fan of horror as a genre, especially when it gets mixed up in urban fantasy, but I’ve also simultaneously hated horror as a genre. I’ve always been a fan of contradictions.
As a genre, horror tends to be hit and miss for most people. What strikes dread into the heart of one individual wouldn’t phase the next. I personally find myself bored by torture porn, and feel lukewarm regarding most zombie media. Stories of ghosts and other supernatural entities, on the other hand, are more likely to leave me spooked. Psychological horror is much more appealing story than visceral horror, in my mind. I’ve talked to people that feel that exact opposite reaction to film.
This leaves me to the Black Tapes Podcasts. I listened to it on the ride downstate to visit family at the suggestion of a friend. I initially protested, noting that I’m not prone to listening to podcasts. I tried to listen to Welcome to NightVale when it first aired, and while I thought it was cute I had trouble listening through the episodes until I stopped altogether.
To my surprise, I went headfirst down the rabbit hole.
The premise of the podcast reminds me more of a radio play. It uses the storytelling device that gives it the feel of many Alternate Reality Games, in that the story is presented as reality. The plot follows a podcast host, Alex Reagan, and her plan to explore fascinating occupations.
Her initial concept unravels quickly when she shadows a ghost hunter. This experience leads her to Dr. Richard Strand, an infamous academic debunker of paranormal phenomena. Dr. Strand (in addition to being delicious voice porn) has offered a million dollar prize to anyone that can prove the paranormal exists. While he’s managed to solve most of the cases sent to him, he has a smaller collection of evidence contained in several old black VHS cases, which Alex calls the “Black Tapes”. She manages to charm her way into gaining access to these tapes and starts to investigate their contents.
I’m not going to lie, at this point the show had my inner anthropologist and folklorist all asquee.
The show is well researched, weaving history and folklore into the narrative. There’s also evil math (and music theory), mysterious monks, and more sinister shadow people than anyone should be comfortable with.
The sound production is incredibly well done, and in one of the latest episodes I couldn’t help but laugh when someone in the show tried to explain demon noises away as a cat yowling. “You call that a cat?”
My favorite part is the dynamic between the main characters. Alex and Dr. Strand have great chemistry, and I love hearing the banter between them. They’re both very real and flawed individuals, and this is the cause of the bulk of interpersonal conflict in the program.
I admit that I really connected well with Alex. She has a curious and tenacious mind that propels her through most mysteries with no regard to outcome. This leads her to dig deep into Dr. Strand’s past despite his wishes and allows her to draw connections between the cases in the Black Tapes. Speaking of his past, Dr. Strand has some mystery in his past revolving around a missing wife.
Strand, on the other hand, is a skeptic to the point of being utterly close-minded.
Robert: (pause) You were supposed to help us.
Strand: There is nothing paranormal about those shadows. Your wife chose to believe something else. It’s a choice, I can’t force her to believe me.
Robert: Please. Stop. Talking
Alex, on the other hand, is able to call Strand out on this quality, to the point of challenging him at the end of season one.
- ALEX: No. Oh no, you are not waving this one away like you always do.
- STRAND: What do you mean?
- ALEX: You always have an answer for everything! You have this ability to talk your way out of any corner, not this time! We’re following this line until I say we’re finished.
This led to last night, when I listened to episode 2×04, Voices Carry. The series had been on a delightful slow burn until the point, and then everything escalated quickly.
I found myself spooked to a point where I wanted to turn on every light in my apartment.
Actually, for full disclosure, I turned on every light in my apartment. And then my friend Gabby came over to watch Game of Thrones to help me calm down. I’ll let the irony of using Game of Thrones as a calming influence (but I can watch that asshole get pushed out the Moon Door any day).
So, yeah, this show has been one of the rare media that has managed to scare me. This isn’t something that happens often, so I’m not really sure how to deal.
I am eagerly anticipating the next episode, to say the least.