Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
The world can be a pretty bleak place. Between mother rapists and father stabbers, mankind seems to move further away from TPTB’s light every day. Yet, despite the horrors it may bring, there is something fascinating about the dark side. Although tragic events and murderous monsters disgust us, there is a bit of spectacle and awe to them. After all, we all have our weakness and maybe, from time to time, we muse about the all-too-possible one bad day. All in all, following tales of the lowest denominator can be a study in human behavior and, if done right, therapy. Thus, I am going to share my favorite skin-crawling, macabre podcasts and audio essay series.
If you don’t think mankind is a mistake yet, this list may finally push you there. However, I hope this journey to the dark side will help you appreciate the bright side. Cheers to the best of the worst.
The Last Podcast on the Left
A wonderful and hilarious podcast hosted by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zambrowski. Last Podcast has covered a wide range of creepy including serial killers, cults, hauntings, aliens and A LOT more. The three research each topic very well, laying out the history and facts in digestible (and indigestible) bits. What starts out as a bloodbath can quickly become an interesting case study in psychology, sociology, or/and child development. With the quick wit and charm of our three hosts, the show feels like you are chilling in class with your very cool, potty-mouth social studies teacher. There is strong language and dark humor to go with the dark matter. However, the hosts are respectable overall and, if you can stomach it, I totally recommend giving it a listen. I never miss an episode and I listen while I work. I work at a children’s museum. Don’t judge me.
Swindled is a podcast run by the anonymous “Concerned Citizen”. Each episode focuses on some sort of con or grand-scale cheating. Whether that be a man hacking the lottery or a woman embezzling money from her own town, Swindled tells stories of pure, unfiltered greed. If you have ever been curious how far a person would go for a buck, this is the podcast for you. It’s truly amazing how an individual can be incredibly clever, insufferably stupid, and inexcusably horrible in one swoop. You often learn how legal and social systems have changed in response to these crazy stunts, so the podcast also acts as a fascinating history lesson in how we all live to learn collectively.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Hosted by Fredrik Knudsen, Down the Rabbit Hole is the most appropriately named video series I have ever seen. The channel pulls infamous persons, strange sagas, and bizarre occurrences from the dusty selves of internet and mass media history. Much as the name implies, each segment involves a single story that quickly escalates, twists towards unbelievable and, very often, somber ends. Many of these tales are nightmarish Don Quixote-like romps that continue to crawl on despite your constant wishing for the suffering to end. Down the Rabbit Hole acts as a history lesson for the truly weird parts of the internet and…let’s just say things really do get deeper as you go.
Nightmare Masterclass is a channel that focuses on taking a deeper look at creepy internet media. This ranges from odd internet video series to movies and games. However, unlike the previous suggestions, Nightmare Masterclass is not simply a history lesson. Although history does come up at several points, the main crux of this channel is philosophy and psychology. Each video essay uses philosophical concepts, historical backgrounds, and psychological analyses to break apart a piece of media. In the process, you end up learning a lot about some complicated concepts that would be difficult to learn otherwise. From time to time, these videos also address why the media was made and what importance it may or may not have. It really showcases how media can be used to shape minds.
Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. This podcast is “technology gone wrong”. Each episode contains a case in which some form of technology makes life difficult (or strange) for those involved. These events usually sparked from people using technology badly, poorly-executed tech, or something in between. From internet ads that haunt a widow to phishing, this podcast is a great exploration on how advancements in technology are changing us as humans for better or for worse (mostly worse).
Serial is a podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. Each season follows the justice system and its many flaws from different angles. For example, the first season involved Adnan Syed. His story focused on the many gaps and mishaps in the execution of his case. In contrast, the third season followed many cases in one courthouse. The podcast brings many details about the US legal system to light and can be an enthralling (and depressing) gateway for anyone looking to know more about criminal law.
What are your favorite podcasts? Got any more cheerful than mine? Let me know in the comments.