Podcast Review #3: “The Black Tapes”4.5/5 Stars

If you’ve ever binge-watched a television series using a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu then you are familiar with what I call “TV Time-Loss.” You begin with Season 1 Episode 1 of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime Instant Watch one wintery night, and the next thing you know its a week and a half later and you are surrounded by empty cereal bowls, dirty laundry and a fair amount of shame. While this time bending guilt ridden consumption is addictive, I can show you a way to harness your little problem into a helpful pastime.

Driving for several hours will drain the best of us without fail. I have spent some time traveling recently, and I have found that downloading and listening to new podcasts has really made these trips more bearable. The fictional podcasts have especially grabbed my attention, and I don’t feel like such a bum after binging out.

You start in your driveway with episode 1 and discover a serialized plot surrounding a protagonist searching for the truth in a satanic related conspiracy. Suddenly it has been 4 hours and you are across the state. Or maybe you use airport WiFi to download some episodes following a comedic trio of Medieval tavern patrons, and suddenly you are grabbing your bags from the conveyor belt… in another city. Trust me, you get hooked.

One of these binge-worthy online radio shows is another podcast out of Pacific Northwest Stories. “The Black Tapes” is a bit more traditional horror than its counterpart “Tanis” and seems to evoke a different sense of storytelling. It feels like it is written by a different set of hands despite it’s similarity in form as a serialized docu-drama. Even if you aren’t sure about this medium, the supernatural folklore driving it’s plot brings enough familiarity to the table to satisfy even the worst “The X-Files” junkies.

You want Ouija Boards and demonic possession? You got it.

Horrific death and decapitation? It’s here.

Maybe you are into monastic composers attempting to bring about death and the apocalypse with their atonal music. Guess what.

The show follows Alex Reagan, an investigative journalist based out of Seattle, as she looks into a number of unsolved cases set aside by an enigmatic skeptic named Dr. Strand. Strand is the most prominent paranormal investigator in the world, with his own scientific institute devoted to the debunking of otherworldly claims. His stance that supernatural phenomena are simply things technology and science has yet to explain, alongside his demeaning tone towards just about everyone, make him despised within his own field of study.

This unlikely pair grabbed my attention in the first episode and haven’t let go.

Nic Silver (from “Tanis“) also appears somewhat regularly on “The Black Tapes” as a helpful producer assisting Alex Reagan. Her job is to parse through both the outrageous claims of the supernatural and Strand’s dismissive attitude in order to find the truth. Sometimes these parallel lines of thought get crossed, and the cases they investigate come to an impasse. Rest assured, enough of these frustrating questions get answered to keep you interested and listening.


4.5/5 Stars

Find “The Black Tapes” here or on your favorite podcast app.

Check out Pacific Northwest Stories website as well.


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