Is there a word that describes nostalgia for something that isn't a part of your personal past? Because that's what I feel when I see pictures of families in the '50s huddled together around their radios.
There's something about everyone gathered, sharing an experience stripped of every sense but hearing. Maybe it's the intensely personal imaginations of each listener all blossoming in the same space from a common source. Maybe it's an echo of far more primitive times when gathering around fires gave birth to oral traditions. Whatever the reason, listening to my new favorite podcast (one I refuse to binge on because there are only seven episodes in this season, and I want a few in the queue to look forward to) conjures this primal feeling of being so sucked into a story that the world shrinks to the glow of its flame.
Family Ghosts is a Panoply-produced podcast that tells the true stories of families' deep, dark mysteries. The characters are vividly painted and interview snippets with people caught in the web of enigma make the stories jump off the page, so to speak.
The show is created and hosted by The Moth Grand Slam winner Sam Dingman. It is expertly edited and stitched together with a storytelling prowess that takes full advantage of its medium.
Here's the show's description:
"Every house is haunted. In each episode of "Family Ghosts," we'll investigate the true story behind a mysterious figure whose legend has followed a family for generations. Grandmothers who were secretly jewel smugglers, uncles who led double lives, siblings who vanished without a trace...these specters cast shadows over our lives in ways that might not be immediately obvious. But we are all formed in part by our familial collections of secrets, intrigues, and myths. By engaging with each others' legends, perhaps we can see each others' realities more clearly."
Each episode is not only utterly absorbing (like, edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting good), but like all good art, touches on universal feelings and themes: human resilience, trust, loyalty, betrayal, how well can any of us ever know each other? The show slowly lifts a mirror to the listener's face and I've gasped out loud at the twists, turns, and simple questions that invite a surprisingly deep introspection that lasts far beyond the hour-long show.
You've got to try it.
Listen to Family Ghosts online from Panopoly, or search for "family ghosts" wherever you listen to podcasts.