There’s an arboretum in the town where I grew up. Usually on hungover Sundays, I’ll make the 45 minute drive back home to get lost in the woods. A walk through the trees is my panacea for too much indulgence. The deeper I go, the trees get denser, the temperature drops, and the crowds thin out. I keep going until I'm finally alone. Surrounded only by sweet and creepy silence.
That’s when I plug in my earbuds and listen to Spooked. Hiking alone under the cool shadows of towering giants, my skin shivers and my breath shakes. I walk a little faster and dart my eyes around my surroundings. Solitude causes stories of the supernatural to be especially reactive.
Spooked is the spinoff to the public radio show Snap Judgement. It's a weekly true-life podcast focusing on stories of the paranormal and unexplainable. In its second season, the return of Spooked marks the aptly numbered 13 week countdown to Halloween.
The episodes are short — around 30 minutes long. A few stories are a bit predictable and don’t quite deliver that craved rush from being scared.
But most of the stories are fun. They rattle me and energize my curiosity for what we can't see. Even days after listening to an episode, these stories seep back into my brain and ignite my fear. The latest episode to do this, "The Wraith," tells the story of a sinister message Teresa Moorleghen kept receiving from the other side.
I’m a huge skeptic of ghost stories. I think there’s usually a reasonable explanation involving someone trying to capitalize on faith in the afterlife. Google John Edward if you think I'm just being incredulous. My natural millennial cynicism tells me Spooked is just the product of excellent fiction writing.
But I'm starting to think differently. Maybe there's more truth found in this podcast then I originally believed. These stories aren't told to sell books or tap into the fear centers of religious folks. Spooked is built on the foundation of normal people telling their story of encountering something they can't explain.
Regardless of validity, Spooked is incredibly effective at doing what every good ghost story should do. It strengthens a believer's argument, and challenges the most hardline of skeptics.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.