People love ghost stories as a scary escape from the day to day, but Glynn Washington, host of the popular podcast Spooked, says there can be much more meaning to these stories than just a ghost floating above your head.
“You can have an experience that makes you question reality, makes you question your place,” Washington said. “It’s about wonder. It’s a storytelling show that says ‘you know what, there’s still magic left in the world and here’s a little bit of it.’”
A project of Snap Judgement – another popular podcast – Spooked aired its first episode in September of 2017. It’s now in its sixth season, which includes 26 episodes. Those who subscribe to the Luminary channel on Apple Podcasts can listen to new episodes as they are released.
Both shows feature “storytelling with a beat.”
“We try to find the rhythm of people’s natural cadences,” Washington said. He credits the production staff for their work in scoring the show.
“Every one of our stories has an original soundscape developed just for it,” Washington said. “They come alive in a different way.”
And while hours of interviewing will go into a single 15-minute tale, the sole focus remains on the one telling his or her story, Washington said.
“We want to make sure we’re getting every breath, every sigh. We want our listeners to actually hear from that person as best as we can.” Washington also said the show’s team is “pretty serious about sound. If it doesn’t sound good, we can’t use it.”
People write in if they have a story they want to share. What the show looks for are stories from people who have been changed by their particular supernatural experience, Washington said.
“This is an exploration through people’s supernatural experiences. Every person, every culture, every region has their own monsters. The stories are often deeply personal and it’s the supernatural element, while important, is almost incidental to the person’s arc through the story.”
Every episode opens with a story from Washington himself.
“I grew up the second favorite grandson of a woman who, she wouldn’t have called herself any sort of supernatural practitioner of any type, but people went to her, from all around the area we lived in in Detroit, for aid,” Washington said. “When the doctor couldn’t help, when the preacher couldn’t help, when the pastor couldn’t help, they went to her.”
The listeners have become so engaged in the stories, they end up seeking out real world places mentioned on the show. Washington refers to an episode from Season 1 of Spooked titled, “Time Warp Saloon.”
“It references a mural in a Wisconsin bar,” Washington recalled. “A lot of Spooksters took it upon themselves to find that place and find that mural.” He said listeners have sent in pictures of that mural to the show’s staff. “I love that these stories have engendered that type of energy – ‘I want to track this down. I want to walk where they walked and I want to see if I can see what they saw and be able to find the steps, find the marks.’”
Listeners have been clamoring for new episodes of Spooked year round, although the series mostly airs during the Halloween season.
“We kind of discovered people don’t just want it just at Halloween. People like this stuff all the time,” Washington said. “We are going to try to give the people what they want.”
After the current season wraps, the show will be on a biweekly basis, Washington hopes, from that point on. “I won’t promise, but that is what we are working for.”
Meanwhile, the show has really struck a nerve with people, and Washington said the effect of these stories isn’t just about getting scared.
“These stories are emotional. I think that everyone has a different monster and there are so many of these stories where people go deep – they tell what this meant to them.”
Washington believes that the format allows people to ponder the question of what happens to us when we die and people use ghost stories as a vehicle for these conversations.
“Every single ghost story, every single story about the supernatural is an alternative map of the universe. ‘It doesn’t work quite the way I thought it did. I saw something that should not have been there and it questions my whole sense of how these things fit together.’ And that’s really, really powerful,” he said.
Washington first learned about the power of stories when he was a child growing up in a religious cult, which he left in his late teens. “They often say that people who are sensitive, let’s say, to seeing things in a spiritual realm, often had to pay for that sight – often had to go through something that was maybe difficult, a trauma at any early age in order to see it.”
He added that while there was an abusive element in this type of religious organization, he did come away with a talent for storytelling.
“Story kept people coming back every week, story kept the community together, story was our glue and inadvertently, I guess I had absorbed along with all the bad stuff – I got a sense of story from that as well,” Washington said.
He added that the Spooked staff wants to hear from people who think they may have a story that can be featured on the show.
“We’re always looking for monsters, always looking for stories that matter to you, stories where people had an extended relationship with whatever the entity, force or person may be that they think is sort of bending the rules of natural law. Whatever it is that is going on, we want to hear it,” Washington said.
Spooked and Snap Judgement both feature the best kind of story, one which usually is the story people may not want to tell, he said.
“Sticking your neck out and being vulnerable and telling these stories is a big part of Spooked, a big part of Snap Judgement,” Washington said. “I am truly over the moon that the audience has responded so positively to the stories we tell.”