Month: January 2022

Caveat emptor

The Storage Papers review

Production Company – Grinner Media/Rusty Quill

Rating –

Storage Papers logo

Yet another audio drama that falls under the Magnus archives‘ papers/tapes/archives umbrella. As you’ll notice, it’s also now produced by the excellent Rusty Quill, a brilliant company that has recently snapped up a lot of the shows I’ll be reviewing.

What’s it about then?

The Storage Papers is a series following the adventures of Jeremy. He acquires the contents of a storage locker for the ridiculous price of $5, in the manner of those awful reality TV shows. Amongst the usual junk in there are boxes of what appears to be strange case files and witness statements. Shortly after reading through these, he realises his life is taking a strange turn. He starts getting paranoid that he’s being followed and he hears strange noises in his house at night. After setting an audio recorder up to capture anything that happens when he’s asleep,  he manages to record a spooky voice speaking Latin. It translates as “read, share”, and so (on this rather cliché premise) begins this bi-weekly horror podcast.

Is it any good?

This is a bit of a tough one in the same manner as The Wrong Station. The stories in this podcast are all related like The Magnus Archives, and are all well written and genuinely creepy. The main arc twists and turns and develops not only in the case files of the papers themselves, but in the “real world” that Jeremy inhabits. He makes friends and allies along the way, and enemies too.

A lot of the stories here deal with dream logic and altered reality. The people in the case files experience things that should get caught on security cameras or seen by witnesses but for some reason, despite their physicality, they don’t get recorded in the “real” world. Personally I really like this bending of what is real, it adds a strange haziness that contrasts nicely with Jeremy’s experiences.

There are elements here of lots of things I like. Obviously the premise is similar to many good podcasts. This is the “found footage” of the podcast world, and like found footage films, there are good ones and bad ones. There are also elements of the SCP Foundation too, although this series is definitely more Magnus Archives than SCP.

My main problem with it is the fact that Jeremy’s voice is so flat and emotionless that it becomes almost droning. I understand that he’s trying to tell the story of the papers in a matter of fact way, but it is very boring to listen to. Anthony Botelho’s voice acting in The Wrong Station is way better (apart from the Scottish accent). The cynical and soporific Jonathan Sims in The Magnus Archives is also better. In fact Jeremy would have done well to try and follow this style a bit closer, just to add some kind of seasoning to what is an essentially bland stew.

Final thoughts

The Storage Papers has ultimately missed the mark somewhat when it comes to a truly binge worthy podcast. While the stories themselves are well written and creepy, the narration lets it down and after a few back to back episodes you’ll find your ears turning off and you’ll be rewinding more and more often to catch bits of plot you’ve missed. It’s a shame really because there’s no way to change it now we are 66 episodes in. I mean, I did binge it and I’m sure I missed lots of stuff but after a while you wonder if it really matters. Jeremy certainly doesn’t seem too bothered by the events.

This, like The Wrong Station, was one that I abandoned for a long time. I restarted listening to review it and I’ve managed to catch up. I did enjoy it all over again, but Jeremy’s voice soon gets too much and I need a break.

Actually, I think this would be a great podcast to alternate with “The Wrong Station”. Maybe two or three episodes of that, with two or three of this. You’ll probably enjoy them both a lot more that way. Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder.

You can get The Storage Papers here:

https://rustyquill.com/the-storage-papers/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

I want to believe…

Monster Talk review

Rating –

Monster Talk Logo

The Monster Talk podcast was actually recommended to me by my first proper subscriber, and the first guy to reach out and message me, so thanks for that Mr. Vincent!

Truth be told, I don’t really listen to any science podcasts. I know that people go on about the Infinite Monkey Cage and shows like that, but for some reason I always gravitate towards audio drama. This isn’t because I’m some science denying luddite, I just like some bang for my buck during work hours. Monster Talk has plenty of bang for your buck thankfully.

What’s it all about then?

Monster Talk is a bi-monthly podcast that promotes critical thinking and skepticism in the field of cryptozoology and the paranormal in general, which sounds kind of stuffy and long-winded but is surprisingly good. Every week, the hosts Blake Smith and Dr. Karen Stollznow examine a different topic and interview people in the relevant fields.

This is like the anti-Coast To Coast AM. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of love for the late Art Bell. In fact I spent an inordinate amount of time in the early 2000’s downloading mp3’s of his show from P2P sites. My point here is that while Mr Bell would have pretty much anyone on his show that had a good story to tell (Mel’s Hole or the legendary phone call from Area 51 spring immediately to mind), there were a few occasions where he must have felt like Peter Venkman hosting “World Of The Psychic”.

Monster Talk isn’t like that. All of the guests are experts in their fields, and (so far) they are charming and witty. The conversation bounces back and forth with ease and is very entertaining to listen to. As I said in my review of Mark Rees’ show, I believe that you are more likely to retain facts if they are presented in an engaging manner. Hopefully if more people listened to this show then more people would question pseudoscience despite the buzzword of “cognitive dissonance” (yes it does work both ways all you conspiracy theorists).

Is it any good though?

I’d have to say yes, it is very good. I’ve started from the beginning, as I always do, and there are a few niggles. You have to remember that the first episode was 12 years ago, so the audio quality here is pretty low. This isn’t so bad though, and gives these early episodes a cosy feeling that takes me back to those halcyon days of illegally downloading the aforementioned Art Bell shows over a dial up connection (ask your parents, kids). There’s only been one episode so far that’s been close to unlistenable, but that was due to the phone connection with the guest rather than the overall audio quality. 

Blake is very funny, as are the other hosts, but knowledgeable enough not to fill each episode with inanities and pointless jokes just for the sake of it. The questions they ask are also just at the right level for me. I’ve had an interest in a lot of this stuff for many years, but I’m by no means an expert. I certainly learn something new in every episode without having to resort to googling strange jargon and esoteric terminology so beloved of experts in niche fields.

Final thoughts

This has instantly become one of my all time favourite podcasts, easily in my top 5. Seriously, I’d give it an 8 or 9 brain rating if I could. Like Hypnogoria, I’ll be listening to this all day every day for a while yet, and loving every minute.

At the time of writing, there are 242 episodes! I’m on episode 27, so I’ve got some catching up to do. Thankfully this is a totally binge-worthy podcast and I can really see myself having to make an effort to listen to other shows just to keep this blog going.

The paranormal seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance in the last decade or so that it hasn’t had since the 1970s. Unfortunately the modern shows seem to lack any sense of balance. They will always side with extraterrestrials or demons rather than more mundane explanations. I understand that, I mean if you don’t get the ratings, you don’t have a show. And we all know nothing will get ratings than saying “it was aliens”, you’ve seen the memes.

This is a refreshing change to all the crazy haircuts, shaky cameras and huge leaps of imagination. It’ll be a real shame when I eventually catch up and have to wait 2 weeks for a new episode.

You can get Monster Talk here:

https://www.monstertalk.org/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Welcome to the real world

Darknet Diaries review

Rating –

Darknet Diaries logo

A bit of a departure from the usual horror fiction and folklore here, for these stories are all real. I can’t really call Darknet Diaries a traditional “true crime” podcast, because although a good portion of the stories are of people who fight crime all over the world, an equal amount are those of criminals. So buckle up with Jack and step into the world of cybercrime, those who commit and combat it. It’s one hell of a ride.

What’s it all about then?

Darknet Diaries is an ongoing bi-weekly podcast, where the host Jack Rhysider interviews a cross section of the heroes and antiheroes of cyber security, hacking, and online fraud. If you don’t know much about this area (as I didn’t), these interviews are almost unbelievable. Want to hear about how people rob banks legally? Or how someone managed to fund a multi-million dollar fake banknote business? Or maybe how a team of people managed to stop a computer virus that had cost global companies billions of dollars. As I said, it’s remarkable and highly gripping stuff.

But is it any good?

Judging by this synopsis, it may sound like the domain of nerds, but the stories are all told in an interesting way with very little technical jargon. It’s this accessibility that really makes this show shine. Since getting into this, I’ve been listening to other shows on similar subjects and they make your head spin with their weird computer tech slang. Don’t get me wrong, there is jargon aplenty here, but Jack usually explains it well enough for you to understand. If you don’t know what “zero days”, “red teams”, “OSINT” or “bad actors” are then you soon will, and you’ll feel like Mr. Robot.

My personal favourites are the stories of “penetration tests”, where security personnel actively try to break into buildings, hack computers and literally rob banks to test security. It’s like the best ingenious crime caper but all legal and (relatively) safe. In the interest of authenticity, not even the police know about these tests, so the security personnel can get arrested for real.

On the flipside from the good guys though are the criminal element. There are really two types of stories here. One is the nation state, government sanctioned hacking groups. These are the people who write viruses, get into powerstations and rob banks. These guys aren’t always Russians, Chinese or North Korean. There’s quite a few stories here of Americans using ingenious ways to disrupt things for hostile nations. I included that last bit because the idea of “good guys” and “bad guys” depends on whose side you’re on.

The other type are the “bedroom hackers”, online scam artists and counterfeiters. These are usually young guys who got into hacking in the early days of the internet, and started out trying to get free stuff, or filling gaps in various markets (fake ID cards for example). One of the mind blowing things that this show uncovers, is the fact that a lot of the criminals interviewed here were all so young when they started. For someone who only learned to write HTML and CSS five or six years ago and still is a code novice, it amazes me that these kids just seemed to understand how to do all this so quickly. Maybe it’s just my old Gen X brain that is too worn out. I mean, just figuring out how to use WordPress to do this blog did my head in!

Final verdict

“I accidentally robbed the wrong bank last time I was in Beirut”

Darknet Diaries S1 Ep6

When I was coming up with the name and tagline for this blog, the “ripping yarns” part was specifically about this series. That’s exactly what each episode is. You may find the cocky, hyperactive young men slightly annoying. If that is the case, then the “pen test” stories will definitely be more your wheelhouse.

While I prefer the latter, there is something about the former that is compelling. Some kid starts selling fake IDs to his classmates, ends up doing so well he outsourced that to China. While doing this, he was also admin of a dark web marketplace selling vast amounts of drugs to people online. I don’t think there’s a single story where the criminals didn’t get completely out of their depth, mainly through greed and vast egos.

Some of the stories are very dark too. There have been two recent episodes that are similar (so similar in fact I thought that there had been a mistake in the uploads). These stories are about the lengths some people will go to to get their hands on unique usernames for social media. I can’t imagine how the victims coped with such harassment from anonymous people online, but it must have been a living nightmare. It is also a sobering alternative to the edge of the seat tales that are the main meat of this series.

Anyway, this is a brilliant podcast and one of the few I actually look forward to new episodes of. A new episode automatically gets played, even if I’m halfway through something else.

You can find Darknet Diaries here:

https://darknetdiaries.com/

or wherever you get your podcasts.

Sinister, Dexter

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward Review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Case Of Charles Dexter Ward Logo

This podcast series has a lot to answer for. It was the first podcast I listened to, and if you’ve read my first review, this was the one that fooled me with all the meta storylines. It really did have me searching for things that didn’t exist (which is fine by me really). Although I’m using the title for the first series, this podcast by the venerable BBC actually comprises three different stories by the “Old Man Of Providence”, H.P. Lovecraft. I suspect a fourth will be in the pipeline after the way series three ended.

What’s it about?

The first series as mentioned, is a reimagining of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. It’s been updated to the present day, slightly rewritten and expanded. It follows podcaster Matthew Heaward and his associate Kennedy Fisher as they investigate the disappearance of Mr. Charles Dexter Ward from a psychiatric hospital. This is a treat if you’ve never read the original story because HPL’s writing can be… (No, not racist, I mean it can be but) “purple”. It’s rather florid and verbose (rather like me), and difficult for younger people to understand (also like me). Even if you have read the story before then this is possibly the best adaptation out there.

In updating the setting the writers have been able to significantly expand on the universe. A universe that now incorporates Charles Manson, Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley as parts of the Mythos. It also takes place in both America and the UK. As the series progresses they manage to build on that lovely paranoid feeling you get watching films like Rosemary’s Baby or The Wicker Man. You are under no illusions as the story progresses that there are operators in the shadows conspiring against Matthew and Kennedy.

Is it any good?

The weaving of fiction and historical fact together is really well done and never feels contrived. I mean let’s be honest, so many historical occult societies and conspiracies are often strange enough to be works of fiction. The first series deals a lot with the power of belief. The point is not whether something really happened or not, or is real or not, but if you believe in something enough then you can effect changes in reality. Thinking about that as I write, it makes me wonder if this could be some kind of hypersigil like The Invisibles by Grant Morrison was. Maybe that’s just me being a nut.

Rather than three standalone stories, all the three series link together, much like a campaign in an RPG. As I said, series one retells the Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. Series two was based on The Whisperer In Darkness, and the third series was The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Throughout the series you’ll hear references to other Lovecraft characters and locations. These little easter eggs are great fun to spot, one I’d originally missed was that the podcasts production company is called Red Hook.

Final thoughts

The characters are very well written and superbly acted, but then this is a BBC production and they have the advantages that most smaller drama podcasts don’t (production funds mainly). Beside that though, you’ll soon have favourite characters and you’ll be following each twist and turn with baited breath.

I have read on certain Facebook groups that a lot of people didn’t like this podcast. Upon reading the reasons for this, it seems that they completely missed the point that it was not only updated, but was a podcast about a podcast. I was amazed at this, and it is certainly no reason not to like it. TV is full of shows that do this kind meta story and get lauded for it. I guess this show did it a bit too well and fooled a lot of people.

I think you’ll like it though, you’ll plough through the episodes in no time and you’ll be waiting for series 4 like an excited child at Christmas (just like I am).

You can listen to it here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06spb8w

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Heeeeeeello Folks

Podcast Title – Hypnogoria

Rating –

Hypnogoria logo

Thankfully, I don’t have to review podcasts on an episode by episode basis or I’d be here a loooooong time with this Hypnogoria review. When I listen to a podcast series, most of the time I don’t listen right from when it first airs, maybe I’ll be a series or two behind (occasionally it’ll be a really old one that has long finished by the time I discover it). With Hypnogoria I joined it about nine years after it started NINE YEARS! This the longest running British Podcast on horror and suchlike. Hell it might be the longest running British podcast full stop. It’s also one of my favourites, which is why I’m waxing lyrical about it here.

So what’s it all about then?

Hypnogoria is a true labour of love by Mr. Jim Moon, a literal oracle of all things horror, folklore and geek culture. I do not use that term lightly. He really is a font of knowledge on pretty much any subject you care to mention. He has a lovely jovial tone, mixing great humour with a deep understanding of his chosen subjects that will at once remind of that nice English teacher or favourite Uncle. I first heard about him after he had done a reading of a classic horror story on a different podcast. Once I heard him read, I had to find out more about his show and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.

The episodes vary greatly in content, and as such the show has diversified over the years into:

  • Hypnogoria – The main show that covers various pop culture and folklore topics (books, films, comics etc.)
  • Microgoria – Short, off the cuff shows that don’t always warrant full episodes. Despite the name and Jim’s best intentions, these have the habit of sometimes running longer than actual Hypnogoria episodes!
  • Tomegoria – Book review episodes, where a new book is discussed every episode
  • The Commentary Club – Where Jim and his wife watch a film and discauss all manner of trivia and interesting tidbits.
  • The Great Library Of Dreams – In which Jim reads a classic horror story.

That sounds like a lot of stuff…

The main Hypnogoria episodes will either be a one off episode, maybe a review of a film or TV show or a whole series of episodes covering a single topic (some of the earlier ones covered the 2000AD comics, the history of Batman, Zombie films, Christmas folklore and classic Universal monster movies) and I really  think that’s what makes this show stand out. You may not be entirely interested in 1970s British kids TV shows or Vincent Price, but that’s ok. Just skip to the next episode and I guarantee you there’ll be something to enjoy.

But is it any good?

Now having said all that, it may sound like Jim may be spreading himself a bit thin by covering such diverse topics. However, that’s not the case at all. Each episode has an incredible amount of research involved, and the facts that get uncovered can be very obscure indeed. I always get caught out when he doesn’t include some obscure fact that I know, and I have that moment of glory before he mentions that exact thing and expands on it. I guarantee that even if you’re a massive fan of H.P. Lovecraft, or even Father Christmas (yes really), Jim will dig up some remarkable nugget of knowledge that’ll blow your mind. The fact that each episode has so much work involved shows that he really does have a deep love for all that he does, and he wants to share it all with us.

Final thoughts

A decade’s worth of shows looks a bit daunting when you first hit “subscribe”, but don’t be discouraged by the quantity. You don’t have to listen to them all in day long binge sessions (like I did), just find something you like and dive in. I suspect you’ll even find some new areas of interest to follow (like, I don’t know, 1970s Spanish zombie movies *ahem*). Since first discovering this podcast, I have found an appreciation of comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (in fact, all of Matt Holness’ work), the Father Brown mystery stories, the novels of Adam Nevill, and the aforementioned Spanish zombie films.

I must confess that I haven’t listened to every single episode. I have listened to over 95% of them though, even ones on subjects I already know about. As I said, he’ll uncover some amazing bit of trivia, or debunk some well held belief, and make your world all the better for it.

Hypnogoria is a podcast that easily joins the more traditional folklore type podcasts with pop culture shows like some podcast colossus (allow me the hyperbole here).

Everyday’s a school day with uncle Jim!

You can listen to Hypnogoria here

http://hypnogoria.com/

Or on your podcatcher of choice.

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