‘From the National Radio Alliance and Minnow Beats Whale, it’s The Black Tapes Podcast, I’m Alex Reagan.’
And just like that and with the first ‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN’ I fell in love…With Alex (haha). But in all seriousness, and ‘full disclosure, I love ghost stories’ so this podcast is as they say, just my cup of tea. I was recommended this podcast series by a friend who also loves podcasts.
*WARNING THERE MAY BE SOME MILD SUBJECT/THEMATIC SPOILERS IN THIS BLOG POST ON THE BLACK TAPES PODCAST, SO IF YOU WANT TO GO INTO LISTENING TO THIS PODCAST COMPLETELY BLIND, TURN AWAY NOW*
The Black Tapes Podcast (TBTP) is unlike any other podcast series I have listened to. My past favourites have been Serial, Lore, Stuff you Should Know, Generation Why and Someone Knows Something. Why is TBTP different to these? It’s fictional…but in the sneakiest way possible. Throughout eps 1-3 I had a sense of there being something different in the tone, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, turned out that it is fictional and at least partially scripted. This does NOT however, take away from the emmersiveness of it or the enjoyability, it just makes it different. But what really sets TBTP aside from others is the extensive detail it includes in its episodes, especially when you are truly in the thick of the last few eps of S1 and going in to S2 (so much so that I’m going to pop a list of recommended reading and listening at the bottom of this post). Through the character of Alex Reagan, who represents the less demonologically, sound wave analysis, occultism and sacred geometry inclined of us, TBTP guides us through its tangled maze of myth, theology and history, some real others fictional.
During my second listening of this podcast (yes I have listened to it twice) I decided to Google a few of the things in the podcast that stood out to me, one being the mention of the Codex Gigas. At first I thought the story behind this was just a little too far fetched: a Benedictine Monk, banished into isolation after breaking his vows, challenged with the task of creating a bible to glorify his monastery in one single night, as the evening went on he became aware that the task was impossible. To remedy this he struck a deal with the devil. So there they are, monk and Satan, doing some calligraphy and scripture writing together, Satan completes the text and as a big old thank you he gets a portrait, a huge portrait in the centre of the book. Sound far fetched? Well yeah it probably is, BUT the mythology they use in the podcast is as close to the original Codex Gigas mythology as it gets. That was one surprise of many. From the Codex Gigas, the composer Scriabin (this guy is seriously interesting, find some articles on the mystery man I read in the suggested reading at the end of this post), the monastery at Glushka, Tiamat: a figure of ancient Babylonian legend, the ‘Unsound’ (based on the Hum phenomenon), the Creswell Crag Cave paintings in Bath, UK and finally back to Scriabin and his ufinished synesthetic masterpiece: ‘Mysterium’. TBTP is truly one of the most detailed, thoroughly researched, rich expriences I have ever had, films, tv and books included.
The fandom for TBTP isn’t GOT huge but they’re serious. No one talks about the podcast being fictional (sorry guys, breaking the rules), and why should they? If you’re not going to fully commit there’s really no point. I myself follow Alex Reagan and Dr. Richard Strand on Twitter – don’t judge. These characters are just as well rounded, convincing and real as any character on the screen or page, so why not loose yourself in it?
But that isn’t the only reason for my fascination and slight *coughs* obsession with this podcast and I think this will be the same for many others too. TBTP is a perfect example of our fascination with the darkness and ‘evil’ that lurks in the corners of every world mythology, religion and our own history as a human race. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of wonderful things the human race has done and moments of true enlightenment in our history, figures who have progressed our species seventhfold by their thinking, however, for myself and for many others, it is the darkness that we have obsessed over. From making monsters out of strange shadows around the campfire, cruel gods that punish and smite, malevolent spirits that torment and attack and finally demons that posess, invade and use humans as puppets to do their bidding. For thousands upon thousands of years we have been fascinated and simultaneously terrified of what may lurk in the dark.
Alex Reagan is the perfect vessel for this human atribute; raised as a christian, a logical, anylitcal mind, terrified of demons, yet at the same time admitting the unlikeliness of their existence and posessing an almost self damaging tendancy to be curious beyond the point of sanity. She personifies the experience that many of us have when thinking about these subject matters: yeah I know it probably isn’t true, but what if, and look at all these crazy things that have happened, and why would all these people lie and that thing I saw that one time really was weird and I know someone who saw this thing once and…It goes on. The thing TBTP really hits the nail on the head with for me is that it satiates this need within us, it glimpses into the dark. If podcasts like Serial are our answer to the need to become a detective then it is shows like Lore and TBTP that are at the forefront of providing those round the campfire ghost stories that have been missing from our lives. Sometimes it is in the darkness that we can truly appreciate what it is to be part of the light…
Plus, without gushing too much, Alex Reagan is one of the most wholesome, flawed, smart, funny little angels out there, so her as a presenter is just a bonus.
*A member of the Alex Reagan fan club as of April 2017*
Links to cool reading etc: