Category: Strange, but true

Calm down dear

American Hysteria review

Rating –

If there’s one thing the Americans love, it’s a good kerfuffle. I’m not being prejudiced, it just seems that from a UK perspective (which is my perspective), Americans just seem to love getting stirred up about something or other. There could be many reasons for this, it’s not for this British, atheist, lefty, non patriot to possibly comment on.

Thankfully, American Chelsey Weber-Smith is on hand to do just that. So let’s take a deep dive into the numerous things that get those pitchforks raised and those torches burning shall we?

So what’s it about?

The podcast title is rather self explanatory. Very self explanatory in fact. Each episode, Chelsey looks at stories that have caused major outcries over the years. There are many urban myths and controversies dissected here. Some I was aware of, some not.

She lifts the curtain on subjects as diverse as the Satanic Panic, Furbies (yes, Furbies), The Illuminati and even Hipsters. A lot of the exaggeration and downright lies are exposed and countered with in depth research. I guarantee you’ll learn something new in at least one episode. Actually, I mean you’ll learn at least one new thing in every episode.

Is it any good?

This is a great show. Despite its mostly rather dark subject matter, Chelsey keeps things pretty light-hearted. I think this is mainly because most of these stories are rather silly at heart. The problem is that once you convince someone that something is true, then they are incapable of seeing how silly it is. Take your pick of conspiracy theories there.

This is a truly bingeworthy show that is easy to spend many days on. Even if there are subjects you would normally avoid for whatever reason, I would encourage you to listen. The truth behind the stories are often more mundane than you’d imagine, and therefore possibly not as upsetting.

As someone who is a smart-ass pedant, and a sponge of useless information, there is nothing I like more than correcting people (ask my family). This podcast is perfect for that. There are a great many facts now locked away in the 3lb hard drive that sits atop my shoulders, just waiting for someone to worry about the dangers of trick or treating, or “the war on Christmas” (only because we are quickly approaching that time of year).

Final thoughts

I heartily recommend this podcast to everyone. I don’t think that anyone would be worse off from listening to this brilliantly researched show. In a world where social media clickbait has become a major source of “news” and “research”, the danger of ill informed panic and conspiracy spreading is worse now than when we only had a few TV channels and newspapers for information.

It does beg the question though that why do people not look for the truth when these stories break? I don’t mean “DO YOUR RESEARCH SHEEPLE” type research, but there are things here that even I knew, but which seem to get glossed over in light of more salacious, or untrue revelations. I think I’ve probably answered my own question there.

You can get American Hysteria here:

Under Presho

The house that vanished review

Production Comapny – BBC

Rating –

The House That Vanished logo

This series followed on as part of the excellent BBC dramas I’ve reviewed in the past. The title captivated me immediately, and I was expecting something like The House On The Borderland. I was in for something of a shock though. Rather than something spooky and mysterious, what we have here is something purely grounded in reality, yet no less mysterious. 

So what’s it about?

Rather than the fictional dramas of previous series, this story is true. It follows the remarkable and heartbreaking story of Irish filmmaker Neville Presho. In the 1970s he made a documentary about the loss of traditional Irish ways of life. Whilst filming on the remote Tory Island, he falls in love with the rugged beauty and simple way of life on the island and buys a house overlooking the sea. Whilst not “born of the island” and truly a local, he integrates into life on the island, and is quite literally living the dream.

As is usually the case though, things change and Neville ends up moving to New Zealand. Tory Island though, always remains in his heart and he knows that one day he’ll return.

That day comes round, and as his family are on the ferry to Tory Island, Neville is eagerly telling them about the wonderful view of the harbour from his house, and how it’s the oldest house on the island. As the ferry rounds the headland something is wrong. The harbour is there, but the house is not. Maybe he remembers it wrong. It’s been years since he was here after all. Deep down he knows he’s not wrong. The house should be there, but it isn’t.

Just what the hell is going on?

Is it any good?

It’s an interesting story for sure, but I’m not sure it resonates on the same level as other true life podcasts on my list, and it lacks the excitement of the fictional stories on this BBC series of shows.

Being a BBC series, you know there’s no expense spared regarding production value. The dramatisation is very good, with all the actors on top form. You really get to sympathise with poor Neville and his long suffering wife.

Unfortunately that’s as far as my emotional responses can stretch. Ultimately, Neville’s life choices did him no favours, and whilst the obviously criminal actions of the antagonists are inexcusable, I feel Neville could have pursued matters differently. I’ve not been in that situation though, so take that with a pinch of salt if you like.

Final thoughts

As I mentioned above, this is certainly an interesting and unbelievable tale. Stranger than fiction in fact. You can’t help but feel sorry for Neville and the way an entire community turned their back on him. Unfortunately, I can’t give the series full marks because it’s just missing something for me.

The main thing I took away from this, is that you should never take your loved ones for granted. Even they have limits, and the person I feel most sorry for is Neville’s wife. She obviously didn’t sign up for any of this, and Neville’s deteriorating mental health and alcoholism stretched her love to breaking point. That is the tragedy here. Neville put a house (albeit a really nice one) above someone who loved him unconditionally.

You can get The House That Vanished here:

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Let’s twist again

Run, Hide, Repeat review

Production company – CBC

Rating –

run, hide, repeat logo

As you may no doubt have noticed, I’ve been on something of a true crime binge recently. This one cropped up and the trailer sounded interesting, so off I went and subscribed. What I got wasn’t anything like what I was expecting though. Despite how I have tagged this post to improve those dastardly SEO algorithms, I wouldn’t call this a strict “true crime” podcast. By the time I was about halfway through the series, I knew that this review was jumping the queue of half written ideas in Google docs, and being the next post on this blog.

So what’s it about?

Run, Hide, Repeat is a true story told by CBC journalist Pauline Dakin. Told over five episodes, this is a small yet perfectly formed series you could binge in a day easily.

The situations she experienced during her childhood were almost beyond belief. I would go so far as to say “singular”, but by the time the series ends, it seems to be a more common occurrence than anyone could guess.

After her parents divorced, Pauline’s mother met a preacher called Stan Sears. A man who seemed to offer comfort and counsel to the family. Before long though, things change and Pauline’s brother and mother, together with Stan are moving across the country, never staying in one place very long.

While young kids are quite happy to go along with whatever their parents say without question, after a while questions are asked, particularly when things stop adding up, and the answers are shocking. The reasons given are enough to shake the family to its foundations, and nothing it turns out is as it seems. That is twist number one. At this point in the story it is a very gripping tale of cat and mouse, and stress levels on the family are obviously very high indeed.

You may notice I said “twist number one”. Believe me there are more twists to come. Yes, I am being deliberately vague here. I don’t want to give anything away at all, not that you’d believe me if I told you.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. If this was a work of fiction, it would be brilliant, and yet unbelievable. The fact that this actually happened is both gripping and tragic. Not tragic in the way you may be imagining as you read this, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Each twist brings its own tragedy, and yet Pauline and her brother made it through. 

Final thoughts

As I write these blog posts, I’m not sure how many people actually go and listen to podcasts based on my reviews, or whether they read these after listening so they can scoff and call me a moron. By rights, this review should be about 150 words longer than it is, but I don’t want to give any clues or spoilers at all.

If you haven’t listened to this one yet, then do so. Immediately. It’s an outstanding story and I guarantee you’ll love it.

You can get Run Hide, Repeat here:

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.


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:

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Its got to be HEROIC

How To Burn A Million Quid review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

How To Burn A Million Quid logo

In the entire history of music, there have been few artists that have genuinely pushed boundaries of their genre. The KLF are one of the even shorter list that pushed the boundaries of reality itself. So unbuckle your brain, jump in your ice cream van, and prepare for a story that proves truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.

What’s it all about?

The KLF (aka The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, aka The JAMS, aka The Timelords, and many other projects and pseudonyms) was the brainchild of Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond. Long story short, they started making electronic music that proved very popular, something that was at odds with their love of Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminatus! Trilogy. Despite trying to prove that pop music was dead and going out of their way to be as unpopular as possible, they still became one of the biggest acts of the late 80s/early 90s. As fans of the trilogy will know, the universe has a dark sense of humour and is not averse to throwing a curveball your way just to be annoying.

From burning their albums outside ABBA’s studio, to firing machine guns at the BRIT awards. From wanting to build a giant pyramid from the ashes of their fans, to the stunt that gives this series its name, there isn’t much they didn’t try (or haven’t tried) in their mission to satisfy their artistic manifesto and discordian destiny. In 1994, they performed their final gesture ( the one that gives this series its name) and pretty much disappeared. 23 years later however, they reappeared with a few new, and no less remarkable projects.

I’m skimming over an awful lot of detail here because I really don’t want to spoil any of the insanity and hijinx. If you are my age or older, you’ll no doubt not only remember the music, but some of the stunts they pulled too. Thankfully, most of them get covered in this series, so you won’t miss out at all.

So is it any good?

100% yes. Despite really trying to make music that people would hate, The KLF were very good. The Illuminatus! Trilogy is very good too (but that’s something for a different blog), and the total commitment of two guys to put their careers in the hands of chance is bordering on unbelievable.

As anyone who’s ever read R.A.W. will testify to, there is no such thing as coincidence, and signs and clues are everywhere. Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond are two exemplars of that. Also, as anyone who’s read R.A.W. will testify to is that doing this is the sure way to “chapel perilous”. Something that Cauty and Drummond are also two exemplars of.

The production values are high, this is a BBC podcast after all, so you know it’ll be quality. The acting is great too, with the voice talents of Paul Higgins as Bill Drummond, Nicholas Burns as Jimmy Cauty and Jeremy Stockwell as the narrator Ken Campbell. I won’t go in to where you’ve seen (or heard) these guys before, because they are all very prolific, but you’ll recognise their voices straight away. Google is your friend in this case.

Final thoughts

I suppose that if you aren’t familiar with the band, or these stories, then you could just scoff and call bullshit. I mean, they are funny and ridiculous, and (almost) unbelievable. What they definitely are though is amazing, in the literal sense. This is a very funny series indeed and I will definitely recommend it to anyone whether you like the music or not.

I think what makes Drummond and Cauty so endearing here is that they are two ordinary guys bouncing from one stunt to the next without really being in control. They know they must do something “heroic”, and that it will probably all work out fine. There are times when that trust is tested though, as is usually the case in these spiritual journeys. There is no malice here, they arent nasty arseholes trying to get one over on people, it’s just that their idea of how reality should work is at odds with most of the other people they encounter.

I’ve actually listened to the whole thing three times and it never gets boring. There’s only one or two other series that I can say that about, so make of that what you will. It’s a testament, not only to the top notch writing, but the acting talent here that makes it hold up to multiple plays.

It’s also nice that on the BBC sounds app, most things are available for a month or two and then (just like in the days before Sky+ or even *gasp* video recorders) you have to wait patiently for a rebroadcast. This one is apparently available indefinitely. So now you’ve got no excuse not to check it out have you?


You can get How To Burn A Million Quid here:

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Stranger than fiction

Radio Rental review

Production company: Tenderfoot TV


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:

Or wherever you get your podcasts.


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