Category: Paranormal

Sleep Tight

Haunted review

Production company – Chalk and Blade/Panoply

Rating –

Just a quick note before I begin. This review has lain half written for a long time, hence the opening paragraph below. This week though, Danny has announced the release of the sequel to The Battersea Poltergeist. This will be starting the day after this post is published, so I figure it’s a rather apt time to get this thing finished. I guess I’m no longer a completionist, at least until the end of the month anyway!

Consider me a completionist. I’ve now completed the Danny Robins trilogy of podcasts. I’d actually looked for this one back when I first heard The Battersea Poltergeist and couldn’t find it. Probably because I thought it was also released by the BBC. Thanks to a Facebook post, I found it and eagerly downloaded the whole series, ready to binge.

So what’s it about?

In a similar vein to the previously reviewed Uncanny, each episode features a different true story of ghosts and hauntings. People contact the show and get to tell their own creepy stories of the paranormal.

As with Uncanny, these aren’t run of the mill cliché type ghost stories. The stories told here are next level in the creepiness department. And the tension really ratchets up as the series progresses. The final story of the series is truly terrifying, and one that wouldn’t really be matched until halfway through Uncanny.

This series also features legendary Parapsychologist Ciarán O’Keeffe, a somewhat stabilising influence, as he has been since trying to lend legitimacy to the TV series Most Haunted. His critical mind usually finds some possible mundane explanation, and my personal thoughts on this aren’t really relevant. I’m not a Parapsychologist, so what do I know! His take on things though is always interesting, particularly his comments on false memories. I also just realised I’d always spelled his name wrong! I’ve now corrected this here, and in the Uncanny review. Sorry Ciarán!

Is it any good?

Absolutely. Danny Robins knows how to make a good podcast. His genuine amazement at the stories is infectious and really adds to the atmosphere. He also walks the fine line between believer and skeptic with great skill.

The main difference between this show and Uncanny is the lack of audience interaction, whereas Uncanny had lots of listeners contacting the show with extra information about the cases. This is probably because it was a totally new show and (please forgive me if I’m wrong), but Danny Robins was a rather unknown quantity when this podcast was released. It also means he has to trawl through library records to research the cases rather than crowd source it.

Final thoughts

Listening to this series after hearing Danny’s more recent work is like discovering the early albums of a favourite band. You can hear all of the familiar elements you know and love, but the production is not quite as polished and there is more of an “attitude” that changes as the band gets more established. But enough of the tenuous music analogies. This is another great podcast from Danny Robins, and as I’ve said before, I can’t wait to hear what’s coming up next. His involvement in a series is enough for me to immediately subscribe.

In the interest of getting my damn facts straight, I decided to listen to this series again. So I did. The whole thing in a day. It’s still as creepy as it was the first time I listened. If that’s not recommendation enough, then I don’t know what is.

You can listen to Haunted here:

https://www.dannyrobins.com/haunted

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Be open to all to all possibilities

Dark Air with Terry Carnation review

Production company – Imperial Mammoth, Audioboom and Kelly&Kelly

Rating –

Dark Air logo

As you will have no doubt read in last week’s review. I’m a huge fan of Rainn Wilson’s curmudgeonly radio host Terry Carnation. When I discovered that he had his own show, I immediately subscribed. I wasn’t disappointed, and I don’t think you will be either (unless you don’t like the guy, but then I can’t help that).

So what’s it about?

Terry Carnation is a haunted man. An “expert” on the paranormal and the occult, he had his own late night radio talkshow that offered him some success. After the death of his wife, he had a breakdown and lost the only other thing he loved. The radio show. Now however, he’s back. He has a new intern, the puppy dog like uberfan Jeet, and he’s ready to answer any mysteries the callers can throw at him.

During his first show, he receives a strange call from someone who he believes is his dead wife. This sets him off on a mission to solve the mystery. Is she dead and calling from beyond the grave, or is she alive and being held hostage somewhere? He travels all over the country (within reason) desperately looking for clues.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. As I said in the Radio Rental review, Terry Carnation is a genius character. This show really expands on it though. In Radio Rental, he was just introducing each “tape” and passing judgement on some of the stories, my comparison to Crypt Keeper in Tales From The Crypt was justified I think. Here, he is a fully fleshed-out eccentric. The characters are brilliantly realised too, from the strange callers and the even stranger employees at the radio station. His nemesis (and ex-intern) Wes Popovitz now has his own radio show too. Wes is best described as Alex Jones turned up to 11 (if your brain could even fathom that). It’s a spot-on parody of right wing conspiracy shows so beloved of a certain section of society.

You will happily follow Terry as he upsets everyone he meets, tests the patience of his long suffering therapist, makes illegal adverts in exchange for out of date food, and generally acts like a tornado of profanity and bad habits. Despite this, there is (occasionally) a genuine pathos to him. He is a man adrift. He’s lost the only person he ever loved, and he’s lashing out at the world trying to stay relevant (and sane), despite the efforts of the world to knock him down continually.

Final thoughts

This is a show that I can’t recommend highly enough. It is laugh out loud funny (if you have a reasonably dark sense of humour) and it’s very well produced. As I said, the voice acting is top notch, as is the sound design.

As I had mentioned in my review of A Voice From Darkness, this is the opposite (and yet equally perfect) mix of darkness and humour. That is 90% humour, 10% darkness. It’s really a mirror image of that show, and also of Radio Rental. Very few podcasts have that ability to warrant more than one playthrough. This is one of those.

Just do yourself a favour and subscribe to this right now.

When I was looking for the logo image and some production company info, I visitied his website. I only mention it because it is such a perfect design for a man like Terry Carnation that it really deserves a mention (and a visit too). You can find it here.

You can get Dark Air With Terry Carnation here:

https://audioboom.com/channels/5046661

Or wherever you get your podcasts

Stranger than fiction

Radio Rental review

Production company: Tenderfoot TV

Rating:

radio rental logo

This podcast was recommended to me by a work mate, so thanks Sam! To be honest it had been languishing in my “unplayed” list for a while now (as so many shows ultimately do). A few weeks ago I needed a change though. I decided to take the plunge into the strange and spooky tapes of the Radio Rental video store.

So what’s it about?

Radio Rental is a series of true stories sent in by listeners. Now don’t for one moment think that these are the same tired old ghost stories that get trotted out elsewhere. These are some very strange stories indeed. I think I had to get halfway through season 3 before I actually heard a “proper” ghost story. That said, there are stories that would be decidedly less scary if it was an actual ghost responsible! There are tales of odd timeslips, deja vu, close calls with murderers, and a few stories of a very particular fear of mine (but I’m not telling you what they are!)

Each episode is introduced by the brilliant Rainn Wilson as his character Terry Carnation. He is a delightful blend of Al Ridenour from Bone and Sickle (who isn’t a fictional character), and Dr. Malcolm Rider from Voice from Darkness (who is). His dulcet tones and curmudgeonly manner add some comic relief to the rather dark content of the episodes themselves.

Unlike other similar (albeit fictional) series out there, there is no main story arc or even a Terry Carnation meta plot here. I mean, all the stories are from different people, and Carnation is simply a host. It’s a grab bag of stories, some that beggar belief.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. I LOVE THIS SHOW! Terry Carnation is a brilliant host, and has some real laugh out loud moments. So much so that as soon as I’d finished this series, I immediately subscribed to his other podcast Dark Air. This will also be getting reviewed here very soon indeed. Next week in fact.

The stories are all very diverse and it seems that the producers try not to have lots of similar stories cropping up in each episode, so they always feel fresh. The production quality is also high, and each tale gives the impression of one of those spotlit talking head type interviews so beloved of paranormal TV shows.

Having Terry Carnation present each story, and adding his own little skits between really helps too. He’s like a less cadaverous (though no less humourous) version of the Cryptkeeper from Tales From The Crypt.

A (very minor) criticism is that the concept of a video rental store is a weird one. Each story is a “video tape” played by Carnation, and these tapes are the “under the counter” type illicit tapes not shown the the general public. I wonder if there would have been a better way of doing it, especially as Terry Carnation is a radio host. I suspect that the only reason is to use the cockney rhyming slang of the title (radio rental = mental). I’m not even sure if there were “radio rental” stores in America like there were here in the UK.

Final thoughts

My only problem with this show is whether some of these stories are actually true or not. These people either get in touch with the podcast directly or are found on Reddit. Now I can believe that someone had a close call with a murderer, or met some creepy person, but my Skeptic-O-Meter® starts to beep when people have the stranger, matrix like glitches in reality. None of these particular stories can be proved one way or the other and so have to be taken on face value.

Don’t let this put you off though. I don’t think there’s a single story that hasn’t totally gripped me, and now I’m caught up I really can’t wait for the next episode to launch.

You can get Radio Rental here:

https://radiorentalusa.com

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Like She, that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread…

Haunted Road review

Production company – Grim And Mild

Rating –

Haunted Road Logo

Another spooky one this week, and one that I feel follows nicely from last week’s foray to the other side. This week though we’ll be travelling to the other side of the pond to review an American paranormal podcast.

Paranormal tv shows have been something of a guilty pleasure for over twenty years now. From videotaping episodes of Most Haunted every week, to the demonic hyperbole of Ghost Adventures, I’ll watch (almost) any ghost show out there. I know it’s all put on, I’m not an idiot, but I enjoy watching draughty windows and motes of dust get misconstrued.

When I saw that Amy Bruni, of Ghost Hunters and Kindred Spirits fame was releasing a podcast, I knew I had to listen. So is it worth you listening? Well read on and find out.

So what’s it about?

In each episode of Haunted Road, Amy Bruni discusses a well known paranormal hotspot in the USA. She starts out with a history of the location, then recalls some of her experiences there. The second half of the episode is an interview with someone (usually) connected to the place. Here, they take more of a deep dive into the ghostly goings on. They also debunk some of the more popular myths that get retold by lazy researchers.

These locations can vary wildly. From the usual haunted hotels, prisons and asylums to ships and even entire towns. I mean, it’s probably harder to find somewhere in Gettysburg PA that isn’t haunted.

Her research is well done and thorough. It’s also nice to hear someone who will call out and disregard the more far fetched stories that can be the bread and butter of lesser podcasts. The Alcatraz episode springs to mind here, as almost every story that people know about the place is shot down. Having said that, the actual true stories of the place are even more unbelievable than the fictional ones.

Is it any good?

On the whole, yes. There is one thing I don’t like though. I almost feel like a bastard for saying it, but here we go. In the first half of the episode when Amy is recounting the history of the location, she’s obviously written everything out first, which is fine. The thing is is that she has that sing song way of reading out loud that is so cliché of Americans. Imagine the way that people say the “30 days hath September” rhyme, and you’ll be close. As I said, I feel bad for criticising this as the habit can’t be helped. Much like Australians ending sentences as though they are asking a question and people starting answers with “so”. It does start to grate a bit when you listen to three or four episodes in one go, like I do. There we are , I said it. Sorry Amy!

Honestly though, this really is the only thing I can fault here, and it’s not even a big deal. Especially if you’re an American I guess. It’s surely a show of appreciation that the only fault I can find is something so nitpicky as that.

The interviews themselves are very interesting. On the TV shows, these are often pruned down to a few juicy soundbites before the team uncover “demonic entities” or some such Hollywood influenced nonsense. Here though, the people are given more room to discuss the location and the phenomena in more detail, and this is where Amy comes into her own. She is charming and her genuine interest in the subject really comes across.

Final thoughts

If you have even a passing interest in the paranormal or ghosts in general, then you’ll love this show. Even if you’ve seen all the visits by all the TV shows to all the locations, Amy will unearth some interesting snippets of knowledge to whet your appetite.

I’ll be perfectly honest here, I don’t actually listen to that many paranormal podcasts. Therefore my opinions here might be somewhat ill informed. Once my list of podcasts to review starts getting a little lean though, I think I’ll have to start delving into this genre. All it usually takes is one or two good shows to set me down the path, as it did with true crime podcasts.

After listening to this show, I feel bad for not giving her new TV show a chance. I think I’ll have to change that very soon.

You can get Haunted Road here:

https://www.grimandmild.com/hauntedroad

Or wherever you get your podcasts

I know what I saw

Uncanny review

Production company – BBC Sounds/Bafflegab

Rating –

Uncanny logo

Originally, the title of this review was going to be called “Bloody hell ken”, but then it turns out the last episode was called that so I had to change it last minute to the rather less inspired one you can see a few hundred pixels above this paragraph.

This is the first of what will be a few reviews of paranormal podcasts (not all at once though, I’ve got other half written blatherings to publish first!). I know I’ve reviewed podcasts with similar themes in the past, but this is a true, all out paranormal series. It’s also very creepy.

So what’s it about?

This is the latest podcast presented by Danny Robins. He’s also known for the brilliant “Battersea Poltergeist” (which I will be reviewing here soon). Rather than focusing on one case, this is more freeform, with each episode examining a different case sent in by listeners. These range from a bizarre UFO tale, to very creepy true stories of hauntings. Each episode is usually an interview with the person concerned. As the story progresses it gets examined by parapsychologists and skeptics, (including the legendary Ciarán O’Keeffe), who weigh in on various aspects and discuss possible causes for the phenomena. Listeners also get to write in to the show with any relevant information they might have about previous cases.

Is it any good?

Yes. If there’s one thing the BBC does well, it’s podcasts. As I said, I heard about Danny Robins when the Battersea Poltergeist was released and after that finished, I couldn’t wait for his new project. As soon as the first episode dropped I subscribed and looked forward to each new case.

You can tell that Danny’s really interested in the subject and in almost every episode his mind is blown by the claims of the people he’s interviewing (hence the title of the final episode). He also seems to get creeped out very easily during the interviews. I can understand this, as two in particular are perfect horror film material in themselves.

The production quality is good, but not overly polished. This is great because it gives the episodes an air of spontaneity. It’s not poor enough to be unlistenable or amateurish, nor is it super audiophile studio production. It really does sound like Danny is just recording things as they happen, or as he thinks of them. This was especially true in the Battersea Poltergeist which had an almost “Ghostwatch” feel in places (and quite understandably so).

I honestly can’t wait for series two (hopefully they’ll make one), because this show is a real refreshing change to the usual ghost story podcasts, but more of that in future reviews. This is the benchmark for paranormal podcasts.

Final thoughts

There are an awful lot of “true ghost story” podcasts out there of varying degrees of quality. Both this one, and Battersea Poltergeist are well worth your time. Danny Robins is a great presenter, and the skeptics and believers who appear on the show are also very engaging.

I think the thing that sets this apart from other series’ is that these won’t be stories you’ve heard before. Most paranormal podcasts will focus on the famous locations around Britain, analysed and investigated for decades. Maybe this is why it’s so good. I defy anyone to still get a shudder from Leap Castle, the Tower of London or Berkeley Square etc. Poltergeist activity in a remote Scottish bothy however is fresh. And scary.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not is not for me to discuss here. But nevertheless, this show is undeniably a five brain podcast and very binge worthy indeed. Even if you listen to it, just scoff and say “yeah yeah, whatever Danny, these guys are having you on” I think you’ll still enjoy the creepy tales. I mean, a scary story is a scary story, whether it’s true or not.

You can get Uncanny here

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/m0010x7c

Or wherever you get your podcasts

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