Podcasts have become all the rage within the past few years: hell, even I have one. There are shows for pop culture, true crime, cooking, fictional stories, traveling, finances, and so much more. A couple years back, I found a podcast that combined two things I love: history and the supernatural.
Lore is an anthology podcast that views historical events through the lens of folklore to showcase how dark humanity can really be. It is written and produced by Aaron Mahnke and currently has over 70 episodes available.
What’s special about this show is that Mahnke takes myths and creatures we are already familiar with (such as zombies, werewolves, changelings, and more) and provides historical context. He researches meticulously to find anecdotes in the past that speak to the origin of the creature or story and that may provide some explanation as to why we still discuss them today. It also helps that Mahnke has one of the smoothest voices since Barry White; really, listening to him is like spreading butter on a warm biscuit.
In creating historical context, Mahnke provides for a different kind of fear—one that is tangible, which can be even scarier. I find some of the stories he presents to be very chilling, even more than watching a modern-day horror film. This is not because he discusses gore and blood, but because he finds real evidence for the unexplainable. And honestly, that’s what is centered in fear: the things we know happen, yet cannot explain.
On October 13th, Amazon Video premiered the TV adaptation of Lore. The show follows the same anthological format of the podcast, and features some of the stories already shared, but provides visuals that we as listeners have never had. Mahnke and the creative team behind the TV show use different formats like animations, re-enactments, historical media, and more, to bring the stories he narrates to life. Season 1, which contains 6 episodes, is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
If you have never listened to the show, one of my favorites is Episode 15, “Unboxed,” which also happens to be one of the featured stories adapted for season 1 of the show. This episode discusses lore about Dolls, focusing on the history of the Isla de las Muñecas in Mexico, famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his odd relationship with his dummy, and the real story of Robert the Doll. Growing up, I was extremely scared of Chucky. Watching Mahnke’s telling of the story of Robert the Doll put me back in my unreasonably scared 7-year-old self. Just imagining tiny footsteps around the house sends shivers down my spine (even though I’m fully aware I could now just punt kick the thing if I saw it).
The supernatural parts of his storytelling are what we as fans tend to focus on when listening to the podcast, but Lore’s unsettling tone, and focus on how these legends have impacted human behaviors and actions, is what will keep us watching the show. The disturbing nature at the roots of these stories, with knowledge that the events Mahnke has highlighted are based in historical fact, makes the show all the more frightening to watch, as it appeals to our morbid curiosity.
A potentially troublesome thing about listening to podcasts is that I often find myself losing track of what I’m imagining, particularly if I’m doing other things, like cleaning or driving, while listening. Having a Lore show allows fans to fully focus on the story being told. There’s also the fact that each episode on Amazon spans about 45 minutes each (as opposed to the podcast’s average 20-30 minute length), so we’re receiving a lot more content and historical background than we do on the original podcast. This is a treat for longtime fans, especially when we can’t pinpoint if we’re watching brand new material or something we missed when hearing the podcast’s version.
The biggest drawback I could find would be that the television show covers some of the same material that was presented in the podcast, though I found that having already listened to their juxtaposed podcast episodes did not take away from enjoying Mahnke’s visual representation. I will also say that the acting is a little stiff, sometimes reminding me of the poor quality re-enactments you’d find in shows like Snapped or anything true crime on Lifetime, but Mahnke does still give us a beautifully researched and structured narrative.
Both formats have their pros and cons: the podcast allows for the flexibility to listen whenever and almost however, while the TV show let’s us have more time with the themes and stories we crave. Regardless, Aaron Mahnke has developed something enjoyable and truly unique during a time when Hollywood is mostly rebooting, adapting, and remaking.
Lore has succeeded in doing what many horror directors have been trying to re-establish since the days of The Exorcist (1973) and The Shining (1980): providing chills in the dark and “hearing” noises with minimal effort. Mahnke always ends his podcast with a word on how tales of lore affects us as people. He states that Lore reveals how our horror legends—such as vampires, witches, and body snatchers—are rooted in truth.