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When I was 27 I stayed in a house in Florida for a few weeks. On the first day I walked around the house, getting a feel for the place and picking out my bedroom. One of the doors I opened on the ground floor led to the garage.
Almost as soon as I opened the door I was met with an intense feeling of unease. It was in the middle of the day, but this dark and empty garage was unwelcoming and almost actively oppressive. It was as if the house was full of joy and light, but nothing hopeful could survive in that garage.
I distinctly remember saying to myself “OK, you never need to go in there again”, shutting the door, and feeling relieved.
I love having the crap scared out of me. Honestly, if I thought there were enough horror podcasts around that met my standards, I’d write solely about them… and probably become very disturbed and difficult to talk to at parties.
This week’s podcast is called The Witch Farm. It comes from the BBC, but it’s a real podcast, not something you have to get a special app for. When picking the shows I cover, I try and think about what independent creators without massive budgets can learn from them. And I think the two biggest things to take away from this show are “use your imagination” and “swing for the fences”.
As you’ll no doubt have guessed, it’s a horror podcast. But it’s not fiction. Well, it’s sort of not fiction. OK, I’ll reset. It’s a paranormal investigation series, covering “Britain’s most haunted house”, a converted barn in the Welsh countryside that from 1989 experienced more paranormal phenomena than you can wave a Proton Pack at.
Each episode advances the story a little, with host Danny Robins playing paranormal Poirot, aided by a couple of parapsychologists and featuring real-life interviews with surviving witnesses, eg: two of the people living there at the time.
But what sets this apart, and what warrants my two takeaways, is that The Witch Farm features dramatic reconstructions of the phenomena covered in the case. Danny and the production team write and produce scenes based on written and verbal accounts. They’re wonderfully sound-designed, and the acting is mostly not too BBC Radio, so it usually doesn’t get in the way of the scaries.
And speaking of the acting, they’ve got proper people in this thing. Joseph Fiennes who you may remember from The Handmaid’s Tale, and Alexandra Roach, who I remember from the Channel 4 series No Offence… plus, I think, the guy who does the Deliveroo ads here in the UK, but that’s another matter.
Dramatic retelling aside, what I also appreciate is the sense of pace. It doesn’t feel like a historical retelling, but an active investigation. There are a couple of update episodes where Danny and the parapsychologists take questions from the public, and they’ve been keen to keep that conversation going.
If scary things scare you, then don’t listen to this show. But if you’re up for some jumps, the minute I’m bringing you this week is from episode 6, around the
4:48 mark in my copy. It speaks to a fear I think we can all relate to. I mean, don’t tell me you haven’t at one point in your life gone for a wee in the middle of the night, and had to talk yourself back to bed so you don’t freak out. Anyone? Hello!?
One other brief note of praise: I finished the series on Wednesday night, but I can still hear the theme music. It’s wicked.
Thanks to my mate Caroline Beavon for clueing me into this exceptional show. Since binging it, I’ve moved on to its spiritual prequel, The Battersea Poltergeist, which is made along similar lines. It’s highly enjoyable, but you can hear how the team’s craft has advanced since then.
And one other quick note. I highly enjoyed this show but I had no idea it existed, and probably wouldn’t have found out about it at all, had it not been for Caroline. This is why word-of-mouth trumps everything.
So that’s our first week of January down. Well done everyone, I’m proud of us. Let’s keep that energy up for the next 51. You take care of yourself, keep listening, and I’ll do the same. And stay out of that garage. Also don’t have nightmares. OK bye. x