Month: August 2022

Terror never sounded so good

Uncanny Japan review

Rating –

Uncanny Japan logo

I love folklore, and (as I have said before) living in Wales there is plenty on offer. Because of this, I am often drawn to the more mysterious style podcasts. Whether actual folklore or fiction inspired by folklore, I just can’t get enough. Maybe it’s because of my love of J-Horror or Anime, but Japanese folklore has captivated me for years. When I stumbled across Uncanny Japan I immediately subscribed and pressed play with baited breath.

So what’s it about?

Each episode, the host, Thersa Matsuura explores a different aspect of Japanese Folklore. Don’t expect to yawn through well trodden tales of the Kappa, Urei and Yokai so beloved of western audiences. This series also covers the lesser known traditions, festivals, and mythical beings said to lurk in the shady corners of the country. These episodes are what you could call “bitesize”. Most podcasts on folklore tend to run at one hour plus, so these 20 minute gems are very short in comparison. I think there have been a few even shorter!

The episode starts out with a brief introduction with the beautiful binaural recordings, and then Thersa starts telling the stories. Not all of these are discovered from ancient sources, although many are. There are some modern day cases that crop up too, and in the later episodes there are similar tales from all over the world. While this does technically leave the Japanese side of the stories, I don’t mind. All stories have a shared source, and drawing these parallels are great fun.

Is it any good?

Definitely. Thersa expertly covers so much ground in each relatively short episode, yet it never feels rushed. The fact that a 20 minute episode can feel much longer could be used as an insult for a review of a lesser show, but here it is absolutely a compliment. This is partly due to her amazing calm voice and the use of atmospheric recordings of her surroundings. The incessant piping of frogs or chirping of cicadas could be somewhat Lovecraftian in the bleak heaths of New England. Here though, it really brings her stories to life.

These sound effects coupled with Thersa’s soporific voice would lend itself to be the perfect sleep aid, although I can’t guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep from some of the content here! There are some very creepy tales indeed, and the thought of having some of these dark denizens of the Japanese countryside invade my dreams isn’t something I’d relish.

Final thoughts

This is one of those shows that you don’t have to be interested in the subject to enjoy. Thersa is a joy to listen to and her knowledge of her subject matter is immense. She has also published books of fiction based on Japanese folklore as well (we are occasionally treated to some excerpts of these on the show).

Where other folklore shows have fallen by the wayside, either through the podcast coming to an end, or me getting bored, this one has got real staying power and is always great to listen to. Do yourselves a favour and give this series a go. You can thank me later.

This is also one of two podcasts on Japanese folklore that I had subscribed to, and the only one I am still subscribed to. Truth be told, I only ever listened to two episodes of the other one and gave up on it. Thersa has set the benchmark for Japanese culture!

You can listen to Uncanny Japan here:

uncannyjapan.com

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Enter the echo chamber

Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason review

Production Company – Good Pointe

Rating –

Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A freemason logo

Due to my recent acknowledgement that I really need to be on Twitter more to try and  build some semblance of an audience, I have been on a real voyage of discovery with regards to new shows. I had got to the end of a rather mediocre series, when the first episode of this was previewed. Mainly due to the cast (who I shall get into later) I subscribed and started on this strange and hilarious journey.

So what’s it about?

Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason is a comedy show dealing with conspiracy theories and social media. It follows the adventure of two struggling flat earth YouTubers named Dunning and Kruger (yeah, yeah, I know), who decide that in order to stand out from the other flat earth YouTubers (who are gaining more views than them) they need to do something dramatic. Cue the premise of the show’s title.

Whilst I’m sure that certain sections of the conspiracy world are as silly and misguided as this series portrays, I’m not so sure if the Freemasons are. Although maybe they are. They wouldn’t say so either way would they?

The disappearance of one of their own throws the Freemasons into a panic, and the game is afoot to try to figure out just who would be audacious enough to do this, and recover their brother.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. The story is very well written, and silly without being inane. The production values are high, and the characters are (mostly) all well acted. Speaking of the cast, there is some stellar talent here:

David Ault needs no introduction on this blog. If you’ve read my previous reviews then you’ll know I have immense admiration for his work, and his mere inclusion in a podcast is usually enough to get me onboard.

Graham Rowat is brilliant as the Alex Jones-alike radio host Newsham. I recognised his voice instantly from his other work. He also played my all time favourite podcast character, Sir Henry Blackwood (a.k.a. SCP 1867. I highly suggest you search for this particular episode and give it a listen. You wont be disappointed)*.

Josh Rubino also deserves an honourable mention for turning Isaac Newton into Steven Toast. Whether intentional or not, it makes for a very entertaining interpretation.

The only real criticisms I have are that there are times when the background music is too intrusive. This is usually when the characters are listening to The Newsham Hour. I may be missing a joke here, I mean I am at work when I listen to this, so maybe I’ll go back through one more time. Also, there are a few of the voice actors who aren’t quite up to the level of the main characters.

These are really pretty criticisms really, and they are the only downsides to an otherwise perfect series. I think it shows the quality of the podcast that I’m really struggling to find fault with it.

Final thoughts

This is a great, genuinely funny show. It’s one that makes a refreshing change from the horror and drama, both fictional and real, that fills my ears for 8 hours a day. I think you’ll love this show, unless the characters are a bit too close to home. In that case I advise you to adjust your tinfoil hat and follow this podcast’s advice for negative reviews.

As I was searching for a copy of the logo to use, I see that this show has also been made into a TV show. This seems to be something of a trend nowadays, and I can’t wait to see if it’s as good as the original. Truth be told, I was disappointed with the adaptation of Limetown.

I would also like to point out that whilst I am a fan of long titles (My old band had one of the longest album titles since Marc Bolan released his first album), this podcast has played havoc with my SEO settings. Do I use an acronym or not? I vote not. To hell with Google’s algorithms this time!

*The character of Sir Henry Blackwood was so beloved to me that I actually named one of my Call Of Cthulhu investigators after him. Although I brought him forward to the 1920s and made him a bit more “Terry Thomas”, the DNA was there though, and I’ll love the mad old sod forever.

You can get Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason here:

https://pod.link/1582700456

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

This seems to be another one of those podcasts that doesnt have a proper website. The above link is to listen, the production company and podcast site is here:

https://goodpointepodcasts.com/

The Usborne Legacy

As Yet Unexplained review

Rating –

As Yet Unexplained logo

I first heard of this podcast from Richard Daniels (of The Occultaria Of Albion fame). Unfortunately it wasn’t originally available on every podcatcher and in the interest of fairness, I avoid reviewing such shows. The reason for this is that not everyone has Amazon, or iTunes or Spotify, so I don’t want to review shows that not everyone can enjoy. However it seems that it’s being shared on all apps now, so with great eagerness I subbed and settled down to binge on the whole thing as quickly as possible.

So what’s it about?

This is probably best described as an audio version of the now beloved Usborne books on the unexplained. These were very popular when I was a child and are now experiencing something of a renewed popularity (by people my age, as it goes).

Each episode looks at a different subject. They range from ghosts to UFOs, and from folklore to strange military cover ups from the East and West. There are some very creepy stories here indeed and they are all very well narrated.

Whether intentionally or not, Westley Smith’s narration lends itself to the vintage patina of the show. I can almost imagine him like James Burke on some windswept moor accompanied by a hungry cameraman as he investigates ancient burial chambers, or strange lights in the sky. Also, his voice reminds me of a mix of the character James Hunter from Haunted: An Audio Drama and Jonathan Sims from The Magnus Archives.

Is it any good?

I love this show. The whole thing has a very retro feel. From the logo to the soundtrack, this is a very good pastiche of classic mystery books and shows from my childhood. To be honest, there won’t be any new information here for anyone with an interest in such things, but that really doesn’t matter. Westley Smith does such a good job telling the stories that you almost forget that you know the stories and get sucked into the tales being told. Surely that is a mark of a great orator.

Despite the lack of new information, there are some genuinely creepy moments in the series. The haunting of 50 Berkeley Square will never not be scary, but there are other tales to chill your blood too. The ghosts of Charterhouse, the San Pedro Haunting, and the stories of Russian Cosmonauts drifting off into space are terrifying. The latter especially so, because despite the transmissions being classified, there were people around the world who happened to stumble across them. 

While a show like The Occultaria Of Albion wears its hauntological badge with pride, that show represents a fictional 1970s UK. This is more like the actual late 70s TV shows and books. In the episode on ancient UFO sightings, he’s describing woodcuts that I had studied as a child in my parents’ books on such things. That only reinforces the nostalgia factor, for me at least.

Final thoughts

I really can’t recommend this show highly enough. It’s easy to digest and very well produced. As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t any groundbreaking revelations here, but that’s ok. You can enjoy the show for what it is, and what it is is excellent. Almost immediately, this rose to the top of my favourite podcasts on such subjects.

***NOTE***

I apologise for the constant comparisons to Richard Daniels’ show, but they come as something of a package deal. Indeed, after every episode, that dastardly Richard Daniels manages to inject a subliminal advert for TOoA just to further his own nefarious agenda!

You can get As Yet Unexplained here:

https://asyetunexplained.wixsite.com/home

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Bloody Hell Harold

The Battersea Poltergeist review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Battersea Poltergeist logo

I know I’ve already reviewed Uncanny, but this was my introduction to the brilliant Danny Robins. It cropped up in the recommendations in BBC sounds and it sounded interesting, so I gave it a go. As soon as the first episode started, I knew this was something special and I knew I was going to love it.

So what’s it about?

Everyone has heard of the film Poltergeist. Fewer people have heard of the real life case of The Enfield Poltergeist. Even fewer have heard of The Battersea Poltergeist. This is unfortunate, the Battersea case was somewhat overshadowed by the more infamous events at Enfield. While Enfield was certainly interesting, Battersea was equally terrifying and equally unexplainable. It was also nearly 20 years before Enfield.

This is probably the reason why it’s almost forgotten. By the 1970s, Britain was paranormal crazy. There were books, TV shows and films all cashing in, but in the post war society of the 50s there was a more pragmatic or sceptical approach to such claims.

In 1956, 15 year old Shirley Hitchings and her family started experiencing strange phenomena that would last an incredible 12 years. I say incredible, because the events at Enfield only lasted a few months. The case starts innocuously enough, as poltergeist cases usually do. Shirley found a silver key on her pillow, one that didn’t fit any locks in the house. Soon the whole family is being constantly terrorised, and the playful nature of the early events is gone.

The spirit (known as Donald) was responsible for moving furniture, throwing things and even starting a fire in the house. As the series progresses, it’s also heavily hinted that it was responsible for the death of Shirley’s Grandmother.

The podcast is a dramatisation of the events in question, interspersed with narration by Danny Robins. It follows the borderline obsessive investigation of the case by Harold Chibbett, played by the incredible Toby Jones. Dafne Keen, who has a long list of credits for someone so young, plays Shirley.

Is it any good?

Anything with Toby Jones is going to be excellent. I don’t think he’s done anything that was sub par. Also, anything by Danny Robins seems to be well worth your time too. As you’ll no doubt remember from my earlier review, I’m something of a fanboy.

Danny Robins actually has boxes of Chibbetts’ original case files and notes, and this is the basis of the series. During the course of the series Danny is holed up in his shed, surrounded by all the papers, and just like Chibbett decades before, the obsession is somewhat contagious. At one point Danny himself complains that his family are missing him due to the time he spends poring over the evidence.

The production values are high enough that you really get an immersive experience, and all the actors are doing an amazing job. The cast features lots of familiar voices, not just Jones’ and there is as much tension here as any good TV show or film. Actually there is more tension here, mainly because there aren’t any good TV shows or films being made. It seems that if you want a genuinely creepy experience nowadays, then you need to look towards podcasts and radio shows.

As well as the horror of the events, there is a real pathos here as well. There are a lot of people living in the house, and all the family members are put under an immense amount of stress. This is also very well portrayed by the cast, as is their suspicion of Harold when he first starts investigating. Poor Harold has to not only figure out exactly how to try and find out about the spirit, but he also has to try and gain the trust of some of the family.

Final thoughts

As with all BBC productions, it’s a joy to listen to. As is the case by now, Danny Robins’ excitement is contagious, as is his disbelief at the phenomena that occur.

If you’re interested in ghost stories, then you’ll love it. There is nothing not to like here. This is a great investigation into a little known (or rather, little known when this was originally released) case of poltergeist activity.

You can get The Battersea Poltergeist here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0940193

Or wherever you get your podcasts

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