Alex: Hello, Wayne Coats? I understand you have some shocking revelations about Richard Strand's youth, secrets that he would refuse to tell me and details that he would be loath to have broadcast to the public, and I was wondering if you'd care to share all of those intimate details with me, my tape recorder, and our thousands of listeners!
Wayne Coats: Why, I'd love to tell you all about my childhood friend, Richie Strand! First, you have to understand that he was always the quiet type, never dramatic, never calling attention to himself. Second, you should know that he was absolutely fearless and totally loyal. Finally, you need to remember that he gained terrible psychic powers through some dark pact with an infernal entity intent on channeling the forces of the apocalypse through young Richie's soul.
Alex: Could you go into a bit more detail about that?
Wayne Coats: Sure! See, there was this one time when some bullies knocked me down and tried to steal my bike, but Richie, who was like five years younger and outnumbered ten to one, stood up to them, never blinking, refusing to back down! Even when he was a kid the guy had cantaloupes the size of, well, cantaloupes.
Alex: No, I mean the inexplicable powers obtained through dark magics.
Wayne Coats: Oh, of course! Silly me. Well, you know about the Boy in the River, right Bobby Maimes, who was kidnapped and murdered in our home town? Well Richie had this terrible dream, a dream that showed him the ghost of a boy and a fork in a river, but that was all a metaphor. See, the ghost boy was a representation of our innocence, and the fork in the river was how our destinies were all being changed by this terrible event. But it was also pretty literal, because a demon named Tall Paul whispered terrible secrets into Richie's ear while he slept, telling him how Bobby died and where the body was hidden.
Alex: So ... PNWS boom?
Nic Silver: PNWS boom.
Nic Silver: Hi Alex! I just got another mysterious email, this one from
firstname.lastname@example.org, containing a sound file called
unsound_take_3_this_one_will_really_end_the_world.ogg, which we will of course be playing for your audience, and a secret code of letters and numbers, meaningless to anyone but the most autistic of math savants, which we will not be playing for your audiance!
Alex: Fortunately I'm great friends with an autistic math savant, and he told me that the secret code is actually map coordinates pointing to the Chattahoochee National Forest, just outside Atlanta, Georgia!
Nic Silver: And I, using an advanced investigative technique called "Google", have determined that there have been no mysterious murder cults active in that area for weeks!
Alex: Here at PWNS, we're asked to quickly become experts in new and exciting fields. Just this week, Nic has asked me to look into Masonic Symbolism in Architecture and Geography, Lovecraftian Archetypes in Neo-Jungian Psychology, and something called "Ethics in Journalism," which I'm pretty sure he just made up.
But regardless of what you're studying, be it spectral photography or illusory morals, The Great Courses Plus has a series for you. And if you join now, our listeners will enjoy a special bonus: a secret, satanic message embedded in each video, which you can hear by ingesting a heroic amount of LSD and playing the recording backwards.
The Great Courses Plus: free the tattered remains of your once-sane mind.
Alex: You see them everywhere. Dressed in blue, driving vans with the steering wheels on the wrong side, and carrying bundles of important information all across the country. They're your friendly local postal worker.
But did you know that the US Post Office hides a dark secret? Each post office, even the one in your home town, was built on top of a once-sacred burial ground. The desecration they caused was no accident. No, it was all part of their grand plan, a scheme designed to unleash and harvest the phantasmal energy of the restless dead and channel it toward the downfall of our current reality.
But you can avoid these cursed halls of the damned by using Stamps.com. With Stamps.com, not only do you avoid long lines, but you also avoid having your soul tarnished with the suffering this nation's forgotten, abused natives.
Stamps.com, because Poltergeist wasn't supposed to be a how-to.
Alex: ... and then they're going to use the bones of all the nannies they've murdered to construct a demonic harpsicord, which they will use to play Scriabin's Mysterium, which will free Hastur from his eternal prison and initiate the collapse of the universe and usher in the reign of the shadow men! So what do you think?
Richard Strand: I think that it would be extraordinarily difficult for a group of Satanic musicians to carry their unholy instruments up a 17,000 foot mountain. I also think the very concept of a soundwave capable of unravelling the quantum bonds that hold our reality together is on its face absurd, since sound requires a medium through which to propagate, and even the strongest resonance frequency would meet a hard limit at the edge of the atmosphere. Of course, that presupposes a link between acoustic and subatomic--
Alex: Look, Richard, that's fascinating and all, but we really know that this conversation was just a pretext for me to ask about how you used your psychic powers to lead Wayne Coats to the body of Bobby Maimes.
Richard Strand: Alex, if I truly possessed uncanny mental abilities, granted to me through an unholy union with Tiamat and the shadowy demons lurking at the edges of our reality, don't you think I would have foreseen your constant intrusions into my personal life, and simply not involved you in the Black Tapes to begin with?
Alex: Speaking of the Black Tapes, I've been working on a theory. Now, to validate my hypothesis, I'm going to need you to take a polygraph and write a two-thousand word essay on the nature of your intimate relations with Corallee, as well as--
Richard Strand: Goodbye, Alex.
Alex: You can close the door on me, but you can't close the door on the truth!
Amalia: Hallo Alexandra! Hallo Nic! Am having interesting news from Bulgaria! Is turning out that your friend Keith Dabic is not throwing himself off of building after all! You see, corpse being found by tourists is actually--
Nic Silver: --And then the message just cuts off.
Alex: Cut off? You mean like Keith Dabic' face was cut off and sewn onto the head of whoever was in that photo
email@example.com sent us?
Nic Silver: Wait, what?
Alex: Yeah, see? If you zoom in and enhance, which are two terms I learned from the Great Courses Plus class on digital forensics, you can clearly see a seam and stitches, where Keith's face was cut off and sewn onto another person's head!
Nic Silver: ... and you're just bringing this up now?
Alex: I didn't think it was relevant! I mean, it's not like the face was on upside down or anything crazy like that.
Amalia: Hallo again Alexandra! Last message being truncated was due to spotty Russian cell phone network, and not because evil cult of malevolent math majors and satanic song writers are preventing me from telling you truths and secrets! Anyway, man with Keith Dabic' face stapled to front of head if former monk known to police as convenient scapegoat! Also, face is being sent out for Russian DNA testing. Soon, very smart science man will look at face, scratch chin, and mutter "da, it appears that this face has DNA." Hope this is helping!
Nic Silver: Hey Alex! I have some incredible information about the cult of Tiamat and the Gnostic Gospels! I'm sure this information is truly earth-shattering, but we'll need the insight and wit of Dr. Richard Strand to truly grasp it's depths and complexities!
Alex: Yeah, so, about our working relationship with Strand ...
Nic Silver: Oh, I just talked to Strand on the phone, and after a twenty minute dissertation on the meaning of trust, respect, integrity, valid sources of information, the frailty of human memory, especially after several decades, and the limits of something called "epistemological closure," Strand agreed to meet with us, providing we agree to leave his personal life out of our investigation.
Alex: You had your fingers crossed when you made that promise, right?
Nic Silver: What do you think this is, the Washington Post? Of course I had my fingers crossed.
Richard Strand: The document Nic uncovered is a fragment of the Gospel of Thomas, which begins with the statement "these are the hidden words that Jesus spoke, and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote them down," though of course scholars debate the truth authorship of the document.
The Gospel of Thomas is, like so many other writings, a Gnostic text, which claims that knowledge, not faith, is the key to salvation, and paints Jesus not as a sacrificial lamb, nor as a prophet, but instead as a teacher, sent to lift the masses out of their ignorance and bestow upon them the blessings of clear thought and right thinking. True salvation, this text claims, comes from freeing one's mind, not from bending one's knee.
Alex: That's great, but is there anything spooky in the Gospel of Thomas?
Richard Strand: Sure, something about a jar that contains all the woes of mankind and a ritual to break open the five seals, thus unleashing the end of days, but what's really interesting is that this Gospel doesn't portray Jesus as a supernatural figure, but instead as a mortal man, using nothing but his intellect to--
Nic Silver: Hey, is this photo from the archeological dig where they found the Gospel of Thomas?
Richard Strand: It is.
Alex: And is that the Seal of Tiamat over the door to that tomb? You know, the symbol etched into the wiring of the Exorcismatic 500, and the sigil carved inside the wedding ring of your missing wife Coralee?
Richard Strand: ...Nothing but his intellect to free himself from purgatory, which he defined as ignorance, not sinfulness. Of course you can see how this infuriated the Church, who launched a campaign of violence to root out this heretical ...
Thomas Warren: Hi, is this Alex Regan? The host of that podcast which is constantly making defamatory statements about me, my company, the products we make, and our plans to, quote, "usher in the end of days through an unholy combination of abominable acoustics, infernal geometry, blasphemous technology, and the wanton slaughter of dozens of children and their caretakers," unquote?
Thomas Warren: Great! How would you like an exclusive interview?
Alex: I'd love one!
Thomas Warren: Fantastic. What I'm going to need you to do is meet me in an abandoned warehouse in the bad part of town, on a dark and moonless night, wearing shoes that are difficult to run in. Now, there's no cell reception at this place, so you might as well leave your phone at home. Also, the garage is very tiny, so don't bring anybody with you. Oh, and you won't be meeting with me personally. I will be at a very public place with a very credible alibi while you're ... seen to.
Alex: Great! I have a hair appointment at 4pm, but I'm free any time after that!
Thomas Warren: Oh, and if Richard Strand happened to wander into his untimely demise, that would be just swell.
Alex: Perfect! I'll go make pouty eyes at him until he agrees to my every whim and wish!
Alex: Hey, why is that large group of heavily armed men running toward us in a threatening manner?
A Mysterious Woman from the Distant Past: Come with me if you want to live!
Richard Strand: Alex, meet ... Coralee.
[PNWS BOOM BOOM BOOM]
Alex: The Black Tapes is a production of Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, recorded by Alex Reagan, mixed and produced by Nic Silver. Join us next time, when HOLY FUCKING SHIT CORALEE IS BACK SHE'S ALIVE AND SHE'S BACK JESUS FUCKING CHRIST THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING SHIT SHIT SHIT OH MY FUCKING GOD SHE'S BACK AND RICHARD KNEW ABOUT IT HOLY FUCKING SHIT! I'm Alex Reagan, and we'll be back in two weeks.