If there’s anything the hit podcast “Serial” taught the world, it’s that the human psyche is naturally interested in mysteries, and that it is our instinct to question what’s deemed “normal.” Serial set a high standard for engaging storytelling and has exploited the medium’s true potential.
This is the kind of power that podcasts have on listeners. With this kind of narrative authority, several counterculture-themed podcasts are beginning to get noticed with the diversity of discussions that the human mind can explore.
With the help of diversified channels such as Audioboom, Stitcher Radio, and iTunes, listeners get access to the offbeat podcast realm. From topics ranging from conspiracies, the occult, and even the unknown lives of cultural icons, listeners now have a chance to listen to an eccentric mix of podcasts out there. Below are some of these podcasts:
1. Out There Radio
Hosted by journalists Joe Nolan and Raymond Wiley, Out There Radio is probably one of the most popular counterculture podcast channels. With three seasons already out and more than 300 episodes, Out There Radio discusses a wide range of topics that are usually unavailable in mainstream media channels. Just by visiting their website, listeners can see the kind of offbeat-slash-intellectual content that this channel offers.
Examples of famous episodes include an interview with Alan Moore and one featuring the “psychedelic torchbearers,” Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna. Some episodes touch on current events with news that are usually banned from local channels.
2. Welcome to Night Vale
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.”
Just by the opening line alone, the narrative is already presented as something mysterious. Each morning, the people of the sleepy desert town of Night Vale are greeted by the eerie voice of radio announcer, Cecil Gershwin Palmer (voiced by Cecil Baldwin) who reports about the realness of conspiracies and mysterious creatures lurking around.
As a result, the people are tangled in fear that leads them have all kinds of beliefs. Created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor in 2012, Welcome to Night Vale is more of a fictional work rather than a counterculture podcast. But its entrancing storytelling that taps real life situations has allowed it to gain a cult following around the world. The podcast is a good metaphor for how an influential show can shape the mindset of people—much like how podcasts are doing to listeners in real life.
One of the story lines explored in the show is the post-9/11 paranoia based on multiple conspiracy theories. Cranor spoke to NPR about this particular episode, and said that though a societal paranoia exists, Cecil tries to calm the listener in a way that the listener will be more scared: by confirming that a dystopia is real.
“The paranoia, taking that level of panic and internal angst … and turning it into the norm in society, I think that’s one of the things we love about the character of Cecil [the narrator]. He gives a dry, radio journalist approach to the news most of the time, and he gives a sense of, like, that this is a normal way of society, that this isn’t trying to create sheer panic in the reader or the listener, that we’ve entered dystopia,” said Cranor in an interview with NPR about the storyline.
3. Higherside Chats with Greg Carlwood
Higherside Chats is an interview-based podcast that feature guests who are experts in fringe theories. Conspiracies and paranormal activity are the two main topics discussed in episodes that are uploaded weekly. Some of the more talked about discussions include The Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, alternative history, alien abductions, mind control, transhumanism, psychedelics and fractional reserve banking. It’s like the documentary “Zeitgeist,” only in audio form, where researchers and authors sit down with Carlwood.