The Lovecraft Investigations Podcast (BBC): The Whisperer in Darkness
I have literally just come across this series of BBC podcasts and have gone out of my mind for them. Please don't be put off and think it's overdone if I tell you that they are about a podcast about true crime called the Mystery Machine podcast, and what happens when the two hosts, Martin Heawood and Kennedy Fisher, get involved in a series of adventures inspired by HP Lovecraft's stories. It is true to say that it could be seen as a bit meta because of course it does refer to the podcast they produce, but it isn't arty farty. It takes plot elements of one Lovecraft story each series, and transplants them to England, mixing in elements of the occult, folklore, history, espionage, ufology, mythology.... Trust me, if you love The X-Files you'll love this podcast, this is like The X-Files on acid. I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of weird shit and even I had to keep looking up things that they'd brought up and I had never heard of.
The podcast is available for download on the BBC website, from iTunes and a number of other podcast sites.
I must confess that in characteristic fashion I haven't heard the first series yet and have started straight in on the second, which is called The Whisperer in Darkness, have now listened to it three times and remain unprepared to start one of the other two seasons. This is because I still have so many unresolved queries. I think I will have to listen to it at least another couple of times to catch the whole plot, and have a long list of things to look up because they're fascinating. UFOs aren't really my thing but you would have thought I would know that Britain had a wood known as Britain's Roswell, wouldn't you? But I didn't.
A show which can draw on a legendary storyteller, update the stories and introduce so many elements of popular culture without coming across as purely derivative or parodic, is surely pure quality and I honestly unreservedly recommend it. This is not a criticism as such, because I'm still reeling in admiration, but I suppose you could criticise that it's got too much going on, but honestly if you like this sort of thing you don't want simple linear plots.
If I may allow myself a few examples of the weird riches contained herein.
The reason I've started on the second series was that it was referred to in a website I was looking at in the early hours of one morning about numbers stations, because they're another thing it brings in. I feel like I have a distant memory of knowing about numbers stations years ago, and in fact I know I've heard them actually on short wave radio, but I'd somehow forgotten about them in the intervening years: I suppose I had assumed they had passed out of use because of modern technology, but they haven't.
Numbers stations on short wave radio originated during the Cold War period, obviously before current communication technology. Only the Czech republic has admitted the purpose of them but it is thought they were to communicate with spies or else possibly were disinformation and pure nonsense so that enemies would waste time trying to decrypt complete nonsense. At a certain time on a certain wavelength an encrypted message in the form of numbers read out or Morse code would be broadcast. Literally all you need to receive it is a short wave radio and a single-use encyption sheet, so the messages could be meant for anywhere in the world. This is pretty perfect and in fact of the hundreds of them that are known, NOT ONE has ever been translated. You could be listening to anything from 'Kill yourself now your cover has been blown' to 'Your wife was very pleased with the bottle of 4711 you asked us to get her'. I think it's this fact that makes them creepy as hell, really spooky, incredibly eerie. For example have a listen to the one known as the Lincolnshire Poacher, which is thought to have been a British one broadcast from Cyprus:
The system continues in use because of course phone communication and computers both leave records. These could literally be for anyone. In fact I may consider using this method to transmit the blog.
The other thing which the podcast brings ups that is occupying my mind is the original of Dunwich (and incidentally anyone who isn't British who has learned that even our strange way of mourning involves forming a queue can further their English studies by learning how to pronounce Dunwich *properly* <joke>). HP Lovecraft's Dunwich is named after the town in Suffolk, which in the Anglo-Saxon period was capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles. What makes it particularly Lovecraftian is of course that most of it has been lost through coastal erosion so it is literally a town underwater, with all of the memories and lives there as well. It is an incredibly symbolic place. Its eeriness is increased by the fact that it had eight churches and was quite a prominent place, and its erosion began as early as the thirteenth century so its ruins are really ancient and spooky. I believe the picture which illustrates this post to be of All Saints church which completely fell into the sea in 1915.
The podcast also references a host of well known weird characters, of whom probably the most respectable is Arthur C Clarke. Crowley appears of course and even one of my heroes, the rocket scientist Jack Whiteside Parsons. You can tell how hysterically joyful I am at discovering this podcast that I'm putting a picture of him here. You will of course immediately notice the obvious similarity to me, and let's just say I'm not talking about his face lol.
I think you should definitely listen to this podcast immediately.
This blog is mirrored at culttvblog.blogspot.com and culttvblog.substack.com. If you want to support me and this blog, you can buy me a coffee or a box set at ko-fi.com/culttvblog.