My grandparents used to tell me about radio shows back in their day. Being a child of television, I never paid them much mind. I didn’t get the appeal of listening to something when I could see AND listen to it on the screen. When I grew up, I ended up in a job which put me on the road away from screens for long periods and in order to pass the time, I began to listen to college classes and books on tape. Later I graduated up to podcasts and eventually I got it. There is something appealing about listening to a good drama and filling in the visuals in your own head. I don’t travel as much anymore but I still listen to courses and podcasts every time I’m in the car.
One of my new favorites is ‘The Black Tapes’ by the fictional Pacific Northwest Stories Radio. ‘The Black Tapes’ starts with an uninspiring case – the narrator, a very engaging Alex Reagan, starts off investigating a paranormal debunker and his collection of ‘Black Tapes’ – cases which he is unable to find a rational explanation. I started off thinking this was going to be something cheesy in the ‘Ghost Hunters’ style but the story quickly moves into dark and interesting places. As a life-long fan of the X-Files, I love a good slow burn conspiracy story and ‘The Black Tapes’ delivers with a great one with more than a few twists.
The show is helped by extremely good production values. When you listen to enough podcasts, you can run into stuff which sounds like it was done in someone’s basement but no worries here. The show’s music and sound effects are movie quality and the format – they are emulating the very popular ‘Serial’ – works given Reagan’s commitment to maintaining a convincing character who makes you believe the events she is narrating are really happening. The real star though is the writing. In two seasons, they have seamlessly woven a pretty scary story out of an entire array of occult and demonology topics.
The second season just concluded so there are twenty thirty-minute long episodes ready to go right now on ITUNES and I cannot recommend them highly enough. The show has grown wildly popular and I expect there will be more seasons to come – they already have a companion story called ‘Tanis‘ which is every bit as good. If you liked Nightvale but wished they were a bit tighter on the storyline, or if you like a good serialized ghost-conspiracy story – I cannot recommend this one enough.