If you’ve read my original post about how to get into podcasts, you may have been anxiously awaiting a follow up post where I give you all some recommendations on where to start. Given that Halloween is in the air and, as luck would have it, I have three very solid podcasts that fit in the horror genre , I’ll be spending the next few entries of this series reviewing them until Halloween. So grab you headphones, turn down the lights, and get ready to listen.
Every other week, Manhke shares the historical stories or explanations of urban legends, ghost stories, mythology, and other spooky stuff. The format of the show often begins with an explanation of the overall theme of the week, a detailed account of one, two, or three historical reflections on the given theme, and ends with insight into the how theme plays out in modernity or where Mahnke uses the subject of the episode to provide a brief cautionary warning. Started in March of 2015, Lore just released its 18th episode and is still being produced by only one person. The insight is deep, the stories are familiar, and the show is all wrapped up in perfectly paced production which includes fantasic music behind the dialogue. Lore has this great ability to take what’s familiar and puts just the right amount of a spin to keep you coming back. It is considered a short form podcast and each episodes wraps up within thirty minutes and always leaves you wanting more. One of the first episodes, an episode about werewolves, works in just about every thread of the myth and does so without feeling overstuffed, tedious, or like the theme is being stretched. It is definitely a show that I can’t help but recommend to anyone with interests in history, folklore, mythology, the unexplained, and all manner of scary stuff. If any of this interests you, this is a great time to jump into the podcast. Just for this month, Mahnke is planning to skip his usual pattern of two episodes a month to bring four brand new episodes for the entire month of October.
Where to find this show?
Where to start?
Since this is the first podcast review on this blog and the first one I’ve ever written, my plan is to provide you, the reader, two episodes you absolutely must hear. Since Lore has a number of really great, standout episodes, this was no easy task. My knee-jerk suggestion is to start at the beginning and hear the show evolve with every new episode. It is still a fairly young show and the episode isn’t as overwhelming as some of the other shows I’ve discovered this year. For those strapped for time, start with these two and then go back to the start and listen to everything this show has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.
Episode 1: They Made a Tonic
I had been listening to podcasts for quite some time and kept suggesting to Aly that she needed to dive into it and share my obsession. We talked for quite some time about which shows might be best for her and, finally, she decided she would take the plunge. After an episode our two of 99% Invisible, she decided to see what else was out there. Aly found Lore. It was strange because, less than a week before, she and I talked about how much we would love to read a blog or listen to a podcast about local urban legends and here was this shows that provided exactly what we both wanted and had just started. She sent me a text about Lore and, less than a full day later, I had listened to every episode that was available at the time. The show is that good.
Episode 1 of Lore, begins fittingly, with vampires. Mahnke uses this episode to tackle the history of vampires starting with Vlad the 3rd (Vlad the Impaler) all the way up to the vampires in the Twilight series (the most recent use of popular vampire myth). He starts with Revenants, Western Europe’s animated corpses that terrorized the living. The term comes from the Latin word for “to come back”. As the myth evolved over time, Revenants were specific people who had a past and a history and were said to come back to torment living relatives and neighbors. While the myth of Revenants sound a lot like zombies, the one distinguishing fact is that they weren’t mindless and faceless.
From Revenants, he moves to Norse mythology. Specifically, the Draugr. The Draugr were resurrected corpses with super human strength that could enter the dreams of the living. They would leave objects in the world of the living to remind the dreamers that their dreams were more real than they believed. His focus then turns to Greek Mythology and uses two myths to provide more backbone to the vampire myth which is something I’ll let the listeners hear from themselves.
One of the episode’s cores is rooted in the modern development of taphophobia, the fear of being buried alive. The fear of being buried alive consumed the living. In Bulgaria, several ancient graveyards were discovered to have several plots with metal poles driven through the dirt into the chest of the corpses buried there for fear that the body was either not completely dead or could come back to life. Some grave yards had alarm systems in place so that the buried could alert the living should they still be alive in their graves. The fear was so real that, in 1822, a medical doctor named Adolf Gutsmith invented a “safety coffin” that allowed him to be buried alive. While buried, he was fed meals through a tube until he was dug up after testing the coffin. Timothy Smith was another paranoid inventor that created a crypt that had a plate glass window in front of his body’s head so that passersby could alert someone should he still be alive in his tomb. While he didn’t wake from the dead and was definitely dead when he was buried, the townsfolk reported that there was a clear view of his rotting head until condensation obscured the view forever. So creepy.
The episode then turns towards the medical explanation of the vampire myth. He starts with a rare blood condition known as porphyria, which is a disease that doesn’t allow oxygen to be sent through the blood. Most folklorist reject this disease as a link to vampires and believe that it stigmatizes those who suffer from the disease. Rabies was also used an explanation for the rise the vampire myth. It has a surprising number of similarities such as sensitivity to light and garlic and altered sleep patterns. He then suggests that tuberculosis was also used to explain the vampire myth even though there are very few symptoms that are similar to the mythology.
The episode concludes with Mahnke telling the story of Lena “Mercy” Brown and the New England Vampire Panic. Mercy Brown’s family was killed off one by one by a disease, then called consumption, that was later to be revealed as tuberculosis. It started with her mother, then sister, and then her brother, Edwin, fell ill. Shortly after Edwin moved back home, Mercy Brown became ill herself and the tuberculosis wreaked havoc on her body faster than it had on the rest of her family. She died very quickly and the New England townsfolk were worried that something supernatural surrounded her death. Edwin, still fighting off the disease, had a member of town convince him that either his mother or one of his sisters were draining his life force from beyond the grave. He and the townsfolk, with the permission from the father of the family, dug up all of their graves. They were checking to see if any of the bodies had decayed in an unnatural way. When they exhumed Mercy’s body, they discovered her body in a remarkable state of preservation. This wasn’t due to anything other than that she died in the winter and her body was kept in a freezer until it could be buried during warmer months. With the body exhumed, the superstitious townsfolk cut out Mercy’s heart and liver, burned them on a nearby stone (the stone is still there in the cemetery), and mixed the ashes with a tonic that Edwin drank in the hopes that Mercy’s organs would cure him of his ailments. The tonic didn’t work and Edwin died two months later. Since her death, Mercy has been considered America’s first vampire.
The Best Episode
Episode 15: Unboxed
A few weeks back, Aly and I began the daunting task of painting our entire house. While she worked diligently upstairs, I was tasked with painting our entryway and the bottom of our stairwell. In an effort to keep my mind active and my body awake, I listened to several podcasts. Out of all of them I heard that night, Lore‘s 15th episode is the only one that has the honor of chilling me to the bone. It is, quite honestly, the best episode in the series so far and its myth went on to inspired the horror film series, Chucky.
Unboxed is a cautionary tale about our love for our possessions. It begins with a man in Florida finding a human skull in a man made pond that he was hired to dig. When taken to the medical examiner, they discovered that bones belonged to a three year old girl and were almost 7000 years old. She was buried by her parents in the shallow grave that also included her toys. Toys that were this old were rare since most children were relied upon to grow up much quicker than children today. The toys were usually in the form of religious icons, animals, or something that was important to the culture. Among all of the toys that have existed through the ages, there is none like the doll. The doll is a miniature representation of ourselves and, because of this, people often get attached. What follows is the the story of a young boy who was given a doll by one of his family’s house servants and became attached in the most haunting of ways.
In 1900, Robert Eugene “Gene” Otto was born in Key West, Florida to a well off family capable of having several servants, cooks, and most importantly, a Jamacian nurse for baby Gene. This nurse gave Gene a large doll that was about the size of a four year old, stuffed with straw, and dressed in a sailor’s uniform. Gene named the doll “Robert” after his own first name and carried it everywhere with him. The family made the doll a part of the family and even had a place at the dinner table where Gene would feed Robert scraps of food and he would always bring the doll to bed with him. Things got weird when they would hear Gene talking to Robert in his room. The family would hear Gene’s sweet and normal voice talking to someone but then would hear a second voice that would sound different and insistent. Gene’s responses would always sound flustered. Gene’s mother would often hear these conversations and eventually decided that she would, without warning, barge into the room in order to surprise Gene and see what was happening behind the closed door. She would often see Gene cowering in the corner of the room while Robert sat on the boys bed or chair. It seemed to her that the doll was glaring at the boy. From there, the Otto’s would be awaken at night by the sound of Gene screaming. When opening the door to the boy’s room, they would discover that his furniture was overturned and his belongings were strewn about the room. Gene claimed that Robert was to blame. They would fine toys that were mutilated and broken, hear giggling from somewhere else in the house at night when Gene was supposed to be in bed, dishes and silverware were thrown about on the dining room floor, and clothing was found shredded and mangled through the house. Was Robert to blame? Servants would find Robert in different parts of the house than where he was left before and guests that arrived would claim that they would see the doll blink. Gene’s aunt claimed the doll was cursed and wanted to prove to the family that he was behind all of the recent disturbances. She visited the house, suggested that Robert be put in a locked box in the attic, and to wait a few days to see if the disturbances stopped. The next morning, Gene’s aunt was found dead. The official story was that she died of a stroke but the Otto’s, so terrified that the doll did it, retrieved the doll and gave him back to their son.
Was it Robert that murdered Gene’s aunt? What happened to Gene when he got too old to carry his doll everywhere with him? Where’s Robert now? If you’ve got a fear of dolls that rivals Aly’s fear of spiders, you may want to skip listening to the rest of the episode to find out. For those that will pretend that we don’t find dolls creepy, Mahnke’s conclusion to this episode is something you don’t want to miss.
This will not be the last time you hear me gush about Lore. I strongly feel the show keeps getting better with each new episode and has a ton of information to offer that you normally wouldn’t learn in history class. As I suggested above, you should probably start with the first episode. If you like that one, you won’t be disappointed in any of Mahnke’s other offerings. As always, if you like what you hear, consider liking the podcast’s Facebook page, subscribing in iTunes, or subscribing in your favorite podcast app.
Do you have a favorite Lore episode or any other folklore inspired podcast you enjoy? Let us know in the comments.