Aaron Mahnke, host of the Lore podcast, is a campfire storyteller you can fit in your pocket. Mahnke, a graphic designer, author of supernatural thrillers and podcaster, started Lore earlier this year to examine the scary stories that have traveled around the globe and through time to make up our collective folklore. The podcast has proven so successful Mahnke recently stopped his design business to focus exclusively on it, and his attention has been paying off in the form of highly entertaining, unpausable stories.
Some of the stories are more grounded in actual events than others, but all have some kernel of truth to them. Mahnke has covered the origins of the supernatural tales of werewolves, vampires, fairies and elves, which are as enlightening as they are entertaining. But Mahnke’s most unbelievable and harrowing tales are those most rooted in reality. Take Episode 8, for example, in which Mahnke recounts the story of H.H. Holmes, a doctor and scam artist who opened a labyrinthian boarding house in Chicago in the late 1800s known as “The Castle.” Mahnke’s descriptions of the boarding house and what the police found after a year of Holmes carrying out horrific acts of torture and murder inside its walls is the stuff of nightmares. Almost as horrifying is Episode 6 in which Mahnke discusses the history of the Danvers State Hospital, a once state-of-the-art mental-health hospital in Massachusetts, and the early practice of transorbital lobotomies developed by Dr. Walter Freeman as a quick cure for mental illness. Unfortunately, as Mahnke notes, that “cure” resulted too often in death or significant mental and physical disability for the patient. Mahnke’s cold description of the tools and procedure Dr. Freeman used will leave you cringing, sick and stunned by how slightly removed in time we are from the practice.
Mahnke’s podcasts are well-thought out audio essays, backed by a pitch-perfect soundtrack that will get the hairs on the back of your neck paying attention. Mahnke clearly does his research ahead of time so each episode comes across as a fully formed story. Add to that Mahnke’s soft, echoing voice and timing that must come from his experience as a writer, and you feel as if you’re sitting at the campfire watching him with a flashlight in place under his chin. Mahnke’s voice is so well matched to his scary stories that even the advertisements he reads at the end of each episode can’t help but sound a little eery.
Mahnke releases new episodes of Lore once every two weeks, but if two weeks feels like an eternity to you, you have options for getting more Lore. Mahnke has a Patreon page where you can go to directly support the show, and depending on your level of support, you can get extras like show transcripts with links for Mahnke’s source material and bonus mini episodes released during the podcast’s “off weeks.” On top of that, Mahnke is compiling all of the transcripts from this year’s shows into a single anthology. According to Mahnke, the anthology will be available in February 2016 in both paperback and ebook formats.
Still not satisfied? Well, if you live in the New England area, there’s a chance you can now see Mahnke perform his podcast live. Starting in October, Mahnke is scheduled to perform Lore at theaters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and New Haven, Connecticut. According to Mahnke, he is looking at possibly doing more live shows in the spring and will be posting updates on his website as he adds new shows.
If you enjoy a good hair-raising story told by a gifted storyteller, add Lore to your podcast queue and go grab a blanket and some marshmallows. If you’re already a fan of Lore, please leave a comment letting me know if there’s anything you love about the show that I’ve missed or if you have your own favorite episodes.