Hobbies are fundamental aspects of ourselves. They help define who we are as individuals. They are the things we choose to immerse ourselves in with what little free time we have. This column aims to explore the vast range of unique and interesting hobbies and pastimes hidden within the Lawrence community, and grant insight into what makes each Lawrentian unique.
Podcasts have become a cornerstone of the digital age. What was once limited by the exclusivity of satellite radio has become as easily producible by artists as it is accessible by the public. Whether it be a group of comedians sitting in a dingy room cracking jokes or a cast of professional voice actors playing “Dungeons & Dragons,” all that is needed to make a podcast is a microphone, a Wi-Fi signal and an idea worth putting out there; all that’s needed to listen are a pair of headphones and your time worth spending. Junior film major Nicole Bacher finds her time worth spending listening to the horror-mystery podcast “The Magnus Archives.”
“’The Magnus Archives’ is a fictional podcast that combines the psychology of horror with the more traditional aspects of the horror genre,” Bacher said. “Some might describe it as Lovecraftian, but I would say it brings a lot of new stuff to the horror genre — it doesn’t invoke the same old tropes.” She continued, “What’s nice about it is that the scariest thing lurking in the dark is actually a monster; it’s a step away from the real-life horrors we see and deal with every day.” She also enjoys how the show deals with questions concerning what we fear, why we fear them, and how we act when we’re afraid.
The Magnus Institute is a fictional institute in London that investigates paranormal incidents. Bacher referenced Hideo Kojima’s “Silent Hill” when comparing its aesthetic to other works of art. The format of the podcast is such that the main narrator, Jonathan Sims, reads and recounts reports of supernatural incidents, recording the accounts on cassette tapes. The crackly sound of the older technology invokes nostalgia and adds to the podcast’s uniquely bleak and eerie atmosphere.
Bacher used the podcast to overcome her fear of spiders and has found personal connections by listening to and interacting with its community. “First off, the community is wonderful and connecting with it has been fantastic,” she said. “This podcast definitely reaches out to the LGBTQ+ community. The main characters are queer in their own ways, but are treated like normal people.” She continued, “While other podcasts portray the queer community unrealistically — fun, but unrealistically — ‘The Magnus Archives’ represents it extraordinarily well.” She mentioned one character in particular who embodies this. “Johnathan is asexual and is also in many ways coded as autistic,” she said. “My sister is both those things. He’s very relatable.” She continued, “He’s smart but makes mistakes; he tries hard but focuses on the wrong things and often interprets the wrong messages; he’s impulsive and doesn’t care about tactfulness. Anybody who feels social anxiety will find John to be a really relatable narrator.”
Bacher described “The Magnus Archives” as a breath of fresh air. She said, “What I find satisfying about this podcast is that it doesn’t rely on jump scares, like the slasher thrillers you see in popular media; it relies on storytelling.” And, with each episode between 15 to 25 minutes long — the “perfect length,” as she put it — she found it incredibly easy to get into. “Experiencing other peoples’ fears really makes you more familiar with fear as an emotion,” she said. She continued, laughing, “But, in the end, you don’t really know what fear is, except that it’s powerful and horrific.”
Bacher also noted that the podcast has inspired her artwork. “It got me drawing again,” she said. “It’s gotten me enthusiastic about horror.” She proceeded to show pictures of her “Flesh Cube,” a small cube made of thin, warped wire with translucent liquid latex stretching over its distorted frame. It was painted with sickly yellows and bloody reds to portray the emotion of disgust.
Bacher reassured those worried about getting into something that would dominate their life. “This podcast is low investment, high reward,” she said. “I think it is a good balance. It holds your interest, but also encourages you to experience the world around you.” She continued, “I’d love to see more people appreciating it and talking about it, because it’s truly a diamond in the rough.”
In closing, Bacher said, “I couldn’t recommend this podcast enough. Obviously, there are certain things you have to look out for — if you’re not into horror, it probably won’t be your thing.” She continued, “But, if you have a hard time with a certain fear, it handles everything so well that it engages you within a space in which you’re safe. There’s nothing within it that’s unapproachable.”
Bacher mentioned there is a content warning before each episode if listeners are skeptical. “The Magnus Archives” is available on all streaming platforms, including Spotify, iTunes and YouTube. A new episode airs every Thursday, written by Jonathan Sims and produced by the Rusty Quill in London.