Thursday, February 22, 2018

Caught in Serial Podcasts

It’s been over 10 months since I discussed podcasts in a post. I'm still listening to them, many have been recommended by others. Unlike some of the podcasts I've posted about earlier, those listed in this post are serial podcasts that ended after the last episode.

CAUTION: If  you choose to listen, be advised that Dirty John and S-Town contain obscenities and strong language that many people will find offensive including myself. However, as those speaking the words were central characters in the stories, I put aside my sensibilities to listen to the podcast in its entirety. You may not feel the same.

S-Town hosted by This American Life producer Brian Reed, is short for S***t Town. It tells a story of John Brooks McLemore who despises his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. In 2012, Reed started reporting the story when This American Life got an email titled: John B McLemore lives in Shittown AlabamaMcLemore wanted someone to investigate an alleged murder in Woodstock, a place he claimed to despise in subsequent interviews. After a year of email exchanges and months of phone conversations, Reed went to check out the story.

Reed investigate and finds that no murder took place. McLemore, regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent horologists (horology is the scientific study of time, specifically measuring time and making clocks) was outspoken with very strongly held opinions. Reed records conversations with him and others in Woodstock. In June 2015, while the podcast was in production, McLemore unexpectedly committed suicide by taking potassium cyanide. This happens in the second episode; remaining ones explore McElmore’s life through interviews with those who knew him.

Many of those interviewed considered him a genius who planted an elaborate hedge maze complete with locks and who claimed to know the only correct exit.The podcast reveals that he was also lonely, troubled, obsessed with climate change, pierced and extensively inked (despite avowing that he despised tattoos).

The seven chapters of the S-Town podcast were released on March 28, 2017 and within 4 days, it was downloaded a record-breaking 10 million times.

The true crime podcast Dirty John starts with the reading of an autopsy report describing stab wounds from a homicide in the summer of 2016 with no details given on the victim or assailant. 

The podcast then backtracks two years to 2014 and centers on the relationship between a successful 59-year old Newport Beach, CA interior designer and businesswoman, Debra Newell, and handsome 55-year old John Meehan, who she meets on an online dating site. He tells her he’s an anesthesiologist, who owns multiple houses and spent time in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. Meehan’s rugged good looks capture Newell who is (too) soon charmed by the attention and compliments he gives her.

Newell's yearning for romantic companionship is her downfall. The podcast reveals she’s been married and divorced multiple times and is looking for love. After a 2-month courtship, the couple secretly marries in Las Vegas. This is no happy romance. Newell’s family begins to suspect there’s more to Meehan’s background than she know and it's all very bad. Family members try to intervene with often disastrous results.

The podcast is narrated by Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard, who spent seven months reporting the story for a print feature, then another three months writing and recording the podcast. Told in chronological order, the podcast leads to a dramatic end in the seventh and final episode. 

The Heavens Gate podcast is presented by Glynn Washington host of the popular Snap Judgment podcast. This 10-episode series shares the story behind the cult whose 39 members took their own lives in March 1997. Washington talks to family members and former group members. The same question surfaces over and over: Why?

Heaven's Gate was an American UFO religious cult based in San Diego, CA. It was founded in 1974 and led by Marshall Applewhite (1931–1997) and Bonnie Nettles (1927–1985) until their deaths. Those who participated in the mass suicide hoped to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following the Comet Hale–Bopp.

The group started in the spring of 1975 in Los Angeles, CA. Nettles learned to make astrological charts and participated in séances to make contact with the dead. She met Applegarth in 1972 and the pair believed they had a spiritual connection. Within a year, she divorced and left her family to travel with Applegarth. They believed they were figures mentioned in the Book of Revelation who were on a divine mission and that spaceships would carry away their spirits. 

Applegarth and Nettles went by the nicknames Bo and Peep, Do and Ti, or just "the Two," and convinced followers to abstain from sex, alcohol and tobacco and to leave their families behind, which they did. The podcast explains that many who joined Heaven’s Gate included "ordinary" people consumed by a desire for spiritual enlightenment.

Whether or not you decide to listen to any of these podcasts is your choice. All deal with strong subject matter and perhaps more disturbing is that ALL are based on true stories. 


Sandra said...

i have never listened to a podcast. i don't listen well at all. i find it difficult to listen to someone reading a book, as in audio books, or listen to a sermon in church. that means no podcasts. but i know many who love them, my friend drives to visit her kids several times a year, 10 hours at a time, she listens to books

Emma Springfield said...


William Kendall said...

Admittedly, I haven't listened to podcasts, but thanks for pointing these out!

Erika N said...

I've listened to S Town, not the others. I find that they are addicting to listen to, but scary and sad that they are all true. Thanks for the recommendations for the other 2 podcasts.

Anvilcloud said...

I will forward this link to Sue who likes to listen to both books and podcasts.

Ana Radulovic said...
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Lynn said...

I haven't gotten in to podcasts, although I have an app on my phone for that. One of my printing clients has podcasts about fountain pens - he loves beautiful pens and makes a living from supporting materials for pens.

I'll keep these suggestions in mind! Listening to podcasts might be a good activity for when I'm walking in the park.

Ginnie said...

I'm one of those who's never listened to a Podcast too. All this tech stuff just leaves me confused. My greatest way to relax is still with a book ... the real thing, not a Kindle.

Connie said...

I've never really listened to podcasts, but I know many who do. Knowing they were based on true stories would be disturbing.

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