Podcast of the Week: SPOOKED
Alright, I’ve got something that’s either going to perk up your ears or have you running for the hills: an NPR horror podcast. It’s that time of year again, when a chill is in the air and something’s always lurking in the dark, so I’ve been in horror overload. Although I’ve covered horror podcasts on the show twice before, the past few weeks have seen me doing a deep dive in an attempt to discover ones that are worthwhile. SPOOKED is certainly a different beast than most, as it feels far more polished and loses a touch of the DIY, campfire-story vibe in the process, but for those looking for chills and thrills that are just a touch more wholesome, you’ve found a happy home here.
SPOOKED is structured around the premise of firsthand accounts of true-life supernatural experiences. It’s a fairly common concept across the medium of horror podcasting, but since it’s WNYC and NPR-affiliated, the key appeal here is production value, production value, and production value again. As much as I hold them near and dear, CREEPY is often subject to the occasional bout of iffy mixing or a cheesy effect, and while NO SLEEP is the grandaddy of them all, it pains me to say I still have trouble standing the voice of host David Cummings, as much as I respect the veritable empire he’s established. Although the (in)famous “NPR voice” gets a lot of derision, it’s a breath of fresh air coming from host Glynn Washington. Affable and warm, the general experience of SPOOKED is one of a lighthearted Halloween tale from a friendly uncle, not a decrepit crypt-keeper trying to scare the daylights out of you.
That’s not to say that SPOOKED doesn’t serve its intended purpose. Perhaps because it’s generally “friendlier” than its peers, the creeping sense of dread that still manifests in its better tales is all the more effective because of it. A good episode to start off with is Episode Five: “Possession.” The first tale flexes the show’s pedigree by getting a genuinely unique story and interviewee in the form of Haryo Bhama, a producer on an Indonesian reality show that got more than he bargained for when ancient spirits began to possess the members of his crew on a deserted island. This one’s a lot of fun, and is definitely something no other horror podcast could have organized. But the star of the show ends up being the second tale, “Daikon,” detailing the travails of a woman and her dog living in an old Victorian in New Orleans. Lulled into a pleasant sense of fun through Washington’s interstitial narration and Bhama’s enjoyably good-natured retelling of the events, “Daikon” sidearms you with a tale of gory terror involving a ghost that most certainly did not come out to socialize. It proves that this dog’s got teeth, even if its belly is really soft and fun to pet.
For those who aren’t looking to live every second of their lives in fear of the dark, SPOOKED is a good horror podcast to cut your teeth on. It’s clean, it’s professional, and it’s a far more lighthearted interpretation of fun than many others. Topped with a jazzy, hip hop-derived backing score, SPOOKED is nothing like any other horror media out on the market, and that’s always worthy of some consideration.