I have been listening to podcasts for a few years now. I subscribe to a select few because let’s face it, not all of them are good. 2020 has been a nightmare of a year and to be honest, listening to podcasts has helped a lot to keep my mind off of all of the negativity in the world. Each edition of this series will feature a podcast that I not only highly recommend, but it is also one that helped me stay sane this past year.
One of the most prolific podcasts out there is WEIRD DARKNESS, hosted by Darren Marlar. It began in September of 2015 as a YouTube video series. It became a two-video-a-week series, focusing on subject matter such as ghosts, unsolved mysteries, true crime, conspiracies, and anything else that is strange, dark or bizarre. A year later it was decided to offer the video show in podcast form and though the video show was slow to grow, the podcast version took off. Another year later and Darren decided to go full on podcast.
The podcast did so well in fact that it became a daily show, with each episode running about an hour. In doing so, WEIRD DARKNESS generated over one-million downloads in the first six months immediately following the October 2017 change. It continues to grow even more quickly today with no hint of slowing down. As of September 2020, WEIRD DARKNESS had reached 9-million downloads, receiving over 750,000 downloads per month.
My girlfriend and I found this podcast by actually hearing another podcast talking about it. We fell in love with Darren’s storytelling and subject matter and now try to listen to each new episode as it comes out. Immediately his voice reminded me of Dan Aykroyd and I actually had trouble picturing another face to go with the voice for the longest time.
The shows are edited nicely and the use of Midnight Syndicate music is such a great added touch. We recognized it immediately as we are big fans of theirs. I also love the fact that at the end of many episodes, Darren includes bloopers that he edited out, which can be just as entertaining as the shows themselves.
One of the things that I like the best about the podcast in Darren’s honesty. He doesn’t hide the fact that he is Christian but at the same time, is not preachy. In addition to the great stories, he also supports those with depression. All profits from his merchandise goes towards it and you also can donate to The International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression, an organization that helps those that are depressed. We were very happy to buy items from his store as well as donate.
As you will find out, each and every podcast takes quite a bit of time to complete and the fact that he has a new episode each day is quite the undertaking. Because of this I am very appreciative that Darren took the time to do an interview with me!
David: How did your interest in the paranormal begin?
Darren: I’m not exactly sure, because I was so young. My birthday is the day after Halloween so every year when celebrating with gifts and blowing out candles, I had spooky decorations surrounding me. I’d guess that’s probably where it started – I was just conditioned to feel good around spooky imagery. I remember in grade school on a sketch pad drawing the Grim Reaper over and over again trying to make it look more realistic each time simply because I was fascinated with the way he looked. I remember one Halloween, I couldn’t have been older than five, my dad took us trick-or-treating and one of the houses in our neighborhood really did it up scary on the front lawn, had live actors in the driveway playing monsters, and even had some kind of spooky soundtrack playing with either music or sound effects – I don’t remember exactly, only that it scared the tar out of me. I didn’t have the courage to walk up that neighbor’s driveway – I couldn’t do it. Dad told me to go up with my mask and growl at the scary man at the top of the driveway and I’d scare him off. I was wearing a Mickey Mouse costume, not the most intimidating character on the store shelves to pick out, but I’m a tiny kid and my dad told me to, so I did. I slowly walked up to that guy and GGGRRRROOOWWWLLLLL!!!! He pretended to be scared and ran off, and I still remember that. I overcame my fear of a monster that Halloween so that probably helped solidify the creepy in my life.
David: How long does it take to complete each podcast and do you do them ahead of time or is each one done right before it goes live?
Darren: Each episode takes between six and ten hours to complete depending on length and content. Closer to ten if I’m inserting sound effects into a story or if I’m using special processing to make a certain character sound different – like a demonic voice, or an alien, or a robot, etc. Layering of sound effects can also take up a lot of time – creating the ambiance in a scene like a babbling brook, wind in the trees, crickets or frogs nearby, then adding the mood music on top of it. Typically I post the episodes the instant I’m done producing them. I wish I was forward-thinking enough to get them done in advance but that’s never been the case for me. I seem to work well when under the gun.
David: How did you get involved with your efforts to help those with depression?
Darren: It was a gradual thing. When I first started the Weird Darkness podcast, I knew it would draw in people who naturally had dark personalities – so I wanted to be sure there was somewhere people could go to find help if needed. At first I was giving out the Suicide Helpline, but I realized that not everybody is on the verge of suicide who needs to talk to someone. Some people are just hurting. I struggle with depression myself, although it’s under control thanks to medication – but I remember in high school how isolated I felt, and how isolated I made myself. So I started looking online for some kind of resource that could help with those who struggle with depression – and sadly, it took forever to find even one organization that specifically focuses on depression, which is the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression. Through them I also learned about 7 Cups. So, I put them both on my website, and I chose to just play a kind of public service announcement once in a while in the podcast to say, “Hey, if you’re depressed, you’re not alone, check out this website”. I didn’t think much of it, but the moment I did that people started emailing me, thanking me for letting them know they’re not alone, for bringing about awareness of depression, for opening up about my own past, etc. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t get at least three emails (usually more) from people talking about depression and how the podcast has helped them. I would never have guessed that a podcast that focuses on dark content would help people living in the dark to feel a bit lighter. God works in mysterious ways.
David: What is your favorite topic to cover, and why?
Darren: That’s a tough question. Whenever you listen to an episode of Weird Darkness, you are hearing stories and topics that I chose not only because I thought the audience would find them interesting, but because I did as well… at least most of the time. Some of the true-crime stuff gets a bit too dark for me, but I use it because I know it’s hugely popular. I couldn’t care less about UFO sightings – but if you throw in an actual close encounter of the third kind, it suddenly becomes interesting to me. The cryptids are a lot of fun – particularly werewolves, skinwalkers, and the like. Also, stories about demon possession and/or oppression always get my attention, likely due to my Christian faith. But I also get a lot of requests for demon stories too – people are just fascinated by it. The most fun thing to narrate though are the creepypastas, or short horror fiction stories, where I get to step into the character of someone else – or several someones – and become a voice artist/actor on top of being a narrator. It’s a great challenge and I’ve always enjoyed acting, ever since my days in grade school.
David: Are you a believer in the supernatural, despite your Christian background?
Darren: Absolutely. Jesus’ disciples in the bible believed in the supernatural; they thought Jesus was a ghost when they saw him walking on water, until he got close enough for the to see it was their Lord, not a spook. Heck, Jesus himself said, “Touch me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have.” He appears to acknowledge the existence of ghosts. I believe ghosts are real, but with an asterisk. There’s a story about Saul going to the Witch of Endor, wanting her to raise the spirit of Samuel so he could seek advice from him. The witch is successful, Samuel actually does rise as a spirit – or, a ghost – and Saul is crushed with bad news from Samuel because Saul had not listened to the Lord’s commands. That’s the asterisk – Samuel’s ghost had to be summoned. I think that’s the only true type of ghost that might be able to exist, which is why messing with spirit boards, or Ouija boards, or holding a seance, or anything of that nature is a very dangerous thing to do. There’s a reason God forbids it in the bible. Outside of being summoned, I think things we see as ghosts could be dimensional echos of past events that simply have yet to be explained by science, or maybe are demons masquerading as ghosts to try and confuse us about the truth of eternity. I think some kind of demonic influence might also be what is behind black-eyed-kids and sleep paralysis. Possibly also shadow people, although I’m also willing to entertain the idea of another dimension for that phenomenon. Of course, demons themselves are considered supernatural, as are angels. Poltergeists are looking more and more like they aren’t ghosts at all, but more likely psychic disturbances unwittingly caused by someone in the vicinity, often an adolescent under extreme pressure. As for cryptids – some I believe could exist, others I don’t buy for a second but they are still fun to think and talk about. Bigfoot – possibly exists, maybe even likely. Nessie – possibly exists, but probably not. Chupacabra – I don’t think it exists. Vampires – lifestyle vampires we know exist, psychic vampires might exist, Dracula style vamps, no. Werewolves – despite being my favorite movie monster and cryptid, I don’t think they ever existed outside of those who suffered from the delusion of thinking they were werewolves. Mothman – as much as I love the stories about him, and as much as I want those stories to be true, I think the real explanation has yet to be found – and it’s not a man-sized moth-like creature. Jersey Devil / Leeds Devil – I don’t think it exists
David: What is the process for a typical podcast for you? How do you choose the topics?
Darren: I subscribe to dozens of email newsletters, and I have over 100 websites that I check for new stories. I look for stories I think would work well for the podcast and archive them. Of course I can never use all the stories I find, but having a lot of stories to choose from is a great problem to have. It allows me to flip through stories and skip them if they don’t feel right for that day and use them in the future instead. I’ve got stories as recent as this week and as old as the early 2000s still waiting to be used. I have a template document that I use and when I copy/paste the text of the stories I want to use into the template, I can see how long the document becomes to determine approximately how long the episode will become. I know 12 pages will be about 1 hour in length – give or take a few minutes. I make sure I have sources for each story, I try to come up with a sentence or short paragraph for each story to use in the beginning of the episode to tease what is coming up. I then narrate the episode from start to finish, edit out my mistakes, and process the audio to remove any background noise and to level out the volume as best I can so that certain areas aren’t too quiet or too loud. I know many people are listening in places where they cannot use headphones, and this kind of processing helps the voiceover punch through the music and sound effects to be heard easier through small speakers like on a smartphone or laptop. Once that’s done I head over to the multi-track mixer to add music, sound effects if needed, etc., and then mix it all into a single file that becomes the podcast MP3. Before uploading it though I create the artwork for the thumbnail, and similar artwork that I’ll be using on the website and on YouTube for that same episode. All in all, six to ten hours from start to finish and you see and hear the end result in your podcast player!
Thanks again to Darren for everything he does. His podcasts are very entertaining, his work with depression is admirable and he is genuinely just a nice guy. Listen to WEIRD DARKNESS today on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Don’t forget to listen to other episodes in my BASEMENT’S PODCAST REVIEW series.