I gravitate toward the strange and gothic—I blame my upbringing on the edge of New Orleans, a place more haunted than most. I like to get good and scared, especially in the safety of my own home, surrounded by those I love. But nothing has captivated me quite like Lore, whose creator—novelist Aaron Mahnke—does little more than collect and retell some of recent history’s most treasured myths, legends, and folktales.
Mahnke’s enthusiasm for the tales he tells—he’s got the fanboy charm of an aging comic book and X-Files geek—is part of the podcast’s appeal (so contagious that Lore is now being developed for television by the creators ofThe Walking Dead). Though he says that he is, above all, a realist, it’s clear from episode one that Mahnke isn’t out to debunk these stories or to prove them as true. Instead he wants to know why so many have believed them and how what we believe reveals our most deeply rooted fears and desires.
Mahnke’s podcast also does justice to the wildness of America, and that ongoing subplot is equally compelling. We may think we’ve paved over any indigenous magic with freeways and strip malls, but here, there be monsters, just as the medieval maps warned. If you never leave the interstate, this country appears deceptively tamed. And yet it is the birthplace of the Jersey Devil, an enormous winged creature that haunts the Mid-Atlantic region; and of flashing lights that lure people into the woods, never to be seen again; and of serial killer H. H. Holmes, whose evil seemed supernatural in proportion, though he was all too human.
“So much of the world is beyond our control,” Mahnke says in Episode 13. “If we were to leave the trail, we’d be stepping into the unknown. Anything could be living out there, anything.”