This isn’t a story. It’s a road trip.
Often I know if I’m going to enjoy a story within the first few moments. There have been exceptions. Some stories have taken time to grow on me.
Alice Isn’t Dead isn’t one of those stories. It’s the kind of story that starts out like a best friend whispering, “You want to hear something bad?” Of course you do. Who says no to that?
This podcast is like that. It’s not loud. It’s not grab you by the throat exciting. It starts out quiet. It starts with a woman watching a man eat an omelet at a truck stop.
On the surface, the story is about a woman trying to find her lost wife, Alice. She’s taken a job with a company called Bay and Creek shipping to enable her to drive all around America to search for her. But it becomes so much more than that.
There are strange things in this world. Little pockets of horror or confusion that most people never see. They never want to see. There are towns that are dying, that we can’t seem to stop driving through even when we’re sure we left them behind hours ago. There are men who age before our eyes, ever alone. There are children lost on the road, with no home and no hope other than vengeance. There are stories we’ll never hear, because there’s no one left alive to tell them.
Brought to us by one of the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, this podcast brings all the creepy mid American gothic sort of feelings you’ve come to expect from that. But it brings so much more. The writing in this story is rich, deep. It’s poetic and lyrical, beautiful. And that beauty makes the terror, because of course there is terror, so much worse.
I was really compelled by the talent of the voice actress, Jasika Nicole. She does the vast majority of the voices in season one, with the exception of one character. And she does a fantastic job. She jumps from accent and different inflections in a moment, seamlessly. And she conveys a difficult and realistic array of emotions like she’s really living this road trip.
I listened to this first season in the span of two days. Granted, the episodes are only about twenty minutes long. But if they’d been hours long each, I would have finished it just as fast. The story was gripping, wild, terrifying. And the ending was just what you’d want from a season one. Questions were answered, sure. But many more were left unanswered. And a couple new ones were added.
I’m loving Alice Isn’t Dead so far. And I can’t wait to dig into season two.(5 / 5)
Dr. Death Season One
If you’re having surgery anytime soon, you might want to give this episode a pass. It might make you rethink that decision.
Hosted by Laura Beil, the voice of True Crime, Dr. Death tells the tale of neurosurgeon Chris Duntsch. And it’s a bloody tale to tell.
This is the true story of a man so infatuated with himself that he murdered and maimed almost every patient unfortunate enough to come under his shaky scalpel. A doctor so terrible at surgery that a fellow doctor thought he was an imposter.
We begin with a description of two surgeries at a Dallas hospital. Surgeries that, to put it mildly, didn’t go to plan. As a warning, there are vivid descriptions of horrific medical mess-ups, right from the start. Duntsch manages to lose a screw in a patient’s muscle. He severs the nerves of another patient, putting them in a wheelchair for the rest of their life.
The descriptions of the botched surgeries are horrifying. As are the descriptions of Duntsch himself. His drug addictions and lack of self-control are horrifying to imagine in a person whose job it is to open people up and work on them. But what’s even more terrifying is the response of the medical community around him. Because most of the hospitals and higher-ups in Texas just didn’t want to get involved.
As Duntsch crippled or killed person after person, no one who should have stepped in did. It wasn’t until a fellow doctor, Dr. Henderson, was called in to clean up one of his messes that anyone acted. Dr. Henderson is the hero of Dr. Death. He was the first to report Duntsch to the Texas Medical Board. And when they didn’t act fast enough to get Duntsch out of operating rooms, Henderson got the police involved.
(Want to hear about another psychotic killer podcast? Check out my review of Transmissions from Jonestown.)
It’s horrifying to hear about a man who had so little regard for other people that he would ignore his own ineptitude and keep right on hurting them. It’s worse to realize how little protection people have against doctors who just don’t care who they hurt. And this season of Dr. Death makes this clear.
I was terrified by this podcast. Beil interviewed survivors, family members, nurses, and doctors who worked alongside Duntsch. She dug into this situation and told the bloody story with such passion that I was left shaking. And I can’t recommend it enough.
Unless, of course, you have any upcoming doctor appointments. Then, it might be a bit much.(4 / 5)
Transmissions From Jonestown
Haunted houses, vampires and the paranormal are all well and good. But you know what’s really scary? Listening to actual people argue whether or not they should commit mass suicide.
That’s the kind of chilling thing you can expect when listening to the podcast Transmissions from Jonestown.
Created by Shannon Howard and premiering in November of 2017, Transmissions from Jonestown starts by telling us the detailed story of The People’s Temple and its well-known tragic ending.
We hear actual recordings of conversations from the lead-up to the day of the mass suicide. These include unhinged rants from Jones himself, singing from the congregation, and testimonials from those about to die.
I’m going to warn you now that some of these tapes include children screaming and crying. Given the timing, these are children who were just forced to drink poison. This is the sound of these children dying.
Before this, I had no idea that was on tape. Now, I have no Godly idea why it’s on tape. Honestly, that was a little much for even me.
Hearing the tale in this way, intermingled with conversations from those who did not live through it, was scary enough. But as I said, that’s only part of the story.
What gets ignored when we talk about Jonestown is the lasting impact it had. Not just on the loved ones of those lost. Not just on the survivors. But on our society at large.
The second half of Transmissions from Jonestown dives into those impacts. But it also talks about some of the theories people have about Jonestown. Some of these theories are just bonkers. Everyone from the CIA to Russia is to blame for the deaths. It was all an experiment that led to the aids epidemic. Jim Jones got away, it was a body double that was found dead at Jonestown.
I’m happy to say that any theory that isn’t based on verifiable facts is presented as such. So the listener gets to hear these theories for what they are. Shannon is clear that she wants us to think for ourselves and make our own judgments.
I loved this podcast. Every episode was chilling and riveting. If you’re a fan of cult theories and historical horrors, this is a podcast you shouldn’t pass up. Though it does lose a whole Cthulhu for including the sounds of little kids dying. That wasn’t necessary.(4 / 5)
Old Gods of Appalachia Podcast
Old Gods of Appalachia is a podcast you need to be listening to right now. It’s a recent find for me, though it’s been around since Halloween, 2019. The latest episode came out on September 8th, so it’s still going strong.
The first thing that drew me into this podcast was the actor’s voice. This would be Mr. Steve Shell. It’s like butter, laced with sweet poison. Some people consider an Appalachian accent to be a mark of ignorance. As someone who has a bit of the accent myself, that can’t be further from the truth. Hearing these tales, poetic and horrific, told with this deep accent is a delight.
Though, that does bring me to the tales. And they are so, so creepy.
The Appalachian region contains a mixture of superstition, poverty, political aggression, and environmental worry that sprouts scary stories like mushrooms in damp leaves. And those are the kinds of stories you’re getting here. Stories of people lost in mines who come back to seek revenge. Stories of towns swallowed up by the green forest. Stories that make you wonder whether Earth is keen on us living here.
I listened to the first few episodes that told the tale of Barlo, Kentucky. In it, a young girl flees for her life when her uncle comes back from the mine. Or, at least something wearing her uncle’s skin comes back. Then, throughout the tale, something much bigger comes back to claim the whole town.
Old Gods of Appalachia refers to itself as an eldritch horror fiction, set in an alternate Appalachia. But some of these tales sure feel like they might have been waiting for me to stumble into them outside my grandma’s backyard.
Those of us from the area, or adjacent, will feel at home in these stories. We’ll see magic and monsters that feel familiar. But not in a warm, comforting way. It’s the familiar way your hair raises on your arm when you walk past certain places in the forest. The way you feel when that one neighbor is on the same path as you on your nightly walk. It’s a dark, foreboding kind of familiar.
Those of you who aren’t part of that sort of community will be introduced to a chilling world that you’ll almost believe is real.
You’ll almost be right.
I cannot suggest this podcast enough. It’s easily the best new podcast I’ve listened to this year. Just don’t plan to sleep after you do, without leaving an offering.(4.5 / 5)
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