Alex Reagan: This episode of The Black Tapes is brought to you by mother!, the upcoming psychological horror that poses the terrifying question: what could possibly make Jennifer Lawrence sleep with Javier Bardem? Has she been drugged? Blackmailed? Possessed by some vile demon of lust and spite? Or is she just making a play for an Oscar, like Charlize Theron in Monster? There's an answer somewhere out there, an unlike some people (cough Nic cough) this movie only has 90 minutes to get to the final revelation.
Alex Reagan: From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, it's The Black Tapes Podcast. This season we're continuing our investigation of the enigmatic Richard Strand, who is a supernatural-denying psychic given the ability to remotely view murders via a terrible sacrifice made by his crazed father to the vile demon Tiamat, who is currently targeted for death and/or ascension into godhood by a cult of devil worshipping monks from the Ukraine who seek to unleash the end of all things by playing a forbidden symphony at the top of the world.
... You might want to go back and re-listen to the first two seasons. There's a lot going on here, and it's been a while.
Alex Reagan: Welcome back to The Black Tapes Podcast. I know you have a lot of questions, like "what happened to Simone Reese," "are you still being hunted by the Order of the Ceonophus," "did you entirely drop the Charlie Strand angle," "Jesus, it took an entire year for you people to hash through your contract negotiations," and "um, shouldn't someone have told the police about the group of Satan-worshipping nannies that are sacrificing entire families to the arch-demon Fahl in order to create an aperture between this world and the endless darkness existing just outside of reality," and don't worry, we're going to get to all of those questions and more. But first --
Wait, come back! I'm going to talk about Richard! And how absolutely nothing has happened over the past year!
Alex Reagan: Richard Strand spent a year with his daughter Charlie, and due to budget restraints we don't have any audio recordings from that visit. We do, however, know that this visit revitalized Richard, giving him fresh energy with which to deny all of the irrefutable evidence of patently obvious demonic activity surrounding him, me, and this podcast.
To be clear, Richard fully admits that there a crazed cult has been tracking his every move since the time he was a child, acknowledges that multiple dozens of innocents have been murdered in order to fulfill their arcane rituals, and that the ultimate goal of this blackened horde is to unleash a hellish orchestra of demonic doom upon the earth. He just thinks that there's a nice, scientific explanation for everything.
Alex Reagan: Okay Richard, I know you don't think there's anything actually demonic happening, but don't you think the very real cult of murderers stalking you, your family, your friends, and even your acquaintances requires a certain urgency to our response?
Richard Strand: Look Alex. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently being run by a science denier, The Department of Energy is being run by a guy that didn't know his agency is responsible for protecting our nuclear technology, and head of the Department of Justice is a Keebler Elf that got kicked out of the treehouse for marching with the KKK. If anything's going to end the world, it isn't a bunch of guys in halloween robes playing Hastur Rising records backwards while bathing in cat blood.
Alex Reagan: As you will no doubt remember, I have in my possession a number of journals belonging to Richard Strand's father. While large sections of these journals suffered convenient water damage, and other sections are written in the indecipherable language of the tormented damned, the ink made from the blood of sinners and the papers formed from the tanned skins of the unrepentant, I did manage to find some very interesting material. I convinced Richard to read it to you, because we all know his voice is half the reason you're all subscribed:
Richard Strand: Ahem. Dear Diary: Mathematics is a lie, truth is an illusion, and wisdom is folly. The monolith has cracked, the final trump has sounded, and the end of all things is upon us. If only we could find the Light, that precious and vibrant Light that will turn back the darkness and unlock the answers of our salvation. The Light, we must seek the Light!
Alex Reagan: Oh my god Richard! I've figured it out! I know the answer!
Richard Strand: Yes?
Alex Reagan: Your father's handwriting is so shitty because he was writing in the darkness! If only he had a spare box of lightbulbs, none of this would have ever happened!
Richard Strand: ...It's good to have you back, Alex.
Alex Reagan: That section of the Howard Strand journal came from a time when Howard was hospitalized in Italy, suffering from dengue fever caught from a plague rat in Vienna. Howard Strand was searching for a monolith marking a "very significant religious site," which is almost certainly not the axis mundi sought by the demon-crazed monks that have haunted my dreams these past two years, and playing the Mysterium at this location will almost certainly not destroy the fabric of reality as it currently manifests in this continuity. Probably.
It's also probably a complete coincidence that Howard Strand spent that summer at the Abbey of Thelema, a kind of ramshackle monastery set up by the followers of Alister Crowley. The fact that Benito Mussolini drove Crowley and his followers out of Italy for the black-magic murder of Raul Loveday most likely has no bearing on this investigation. And the fact that Howard Strand found a so-called "monolith" inside of the abbey, and the fact that the very sight of this unholy construct, this dark portal to an unknowable hell, this towering obelisk to the occult, drove him into a fevered state that required three months hospitalization in an Italian asylum, is most likely irrelevant to our interests.
Richard Strand: Hey, I found a photo of my dad standing next to the monolith!
Alex Reagan: Is he doing that whole "pretend to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa" thing?
Richard Strand: Yeah. There's also one of him kissing the Sphinx, crossing Abbey Road, and making a heart with his hands while the sun sets over the Grand Canyon. We kinda stopped going on vacation with him.
Alex Reagan: Support for today's episode comes from Audible. One of the most frustrating aspects of paranormal investigation is the language barrier. Dusty Latin, ancient Aramaic, and crusty Chaldean are just a few of the countless, impenetrable languages you'll encounter while searching through the tomes that tell tale of doom awaiting us all.
And even if you manage to translate these forbidden books of accursed lore, you're still going to struggle with pronunciation. How can you expect to win the attentions of the vile god Klatu if you don't even know how to pronounce his name? Why would the fiendish denizens of third hell answer your black prayers if you can't even get the cadence of the Rite of Suffering down?
But when you listen to a soul-shredding grimoire of absolute emptiness on Audible, you can be sure that a world-class vocal talent is carefully pronouncing each damnable name and reciting each wretched sacrament.
When you listen to an accursed ritual on Audible, you know you're listening to the best.
Support also comes from Casper, home of an obsessively engineered mattress at a shockingly fair price. With just the right sink and the perfect amount of bounce, you won't even notice the steel talons of the fell demon Pzuzu raking across your flesh as you sleep, fitful and scared, though the endless, moonless night.
Try Casper for a hundred nights free, and if you don't love it, they will come to your home and find out exactly why. Why, Elizabeth? Why don't you love our mattress? Is there something wrong with the foam? Isn't it supportive enough, Elizabeth? Or is there something wrong with you? Yes, you know that's true, don't you? You ungrateful wretch, you faithless apostate. You know what you did, and that truth eats away at your soul, doesn't it? It keeps you up at night, tossing and turning and begging for a release from this terrible secret that even your lover does not know. It isn't our mattress, Elizabeth, it's your own haunted conscience. But it's all right, Elizabeth, Casper will make it all go away ...
Use the offer code "BlackTapes" and you'll also receive fifty dollars off your order. Casper.com/blacktapes, because your body can rest even when your mind is screaming.
Alex Reagan: The pillar was tall and thin, and seemed to lean over us like a great, hungry animal. And atop the pillar was a familiar sign, a line over two circles, the sigil of the upside down face.
Richard Strand: Actually, Alex, the tendency for people to see faces where there are none is called pareidolia, which one could argue is actually a superset of more general apophenia. This is likely an evolutionary adaptation, since seeing a face where there is none would offer little in the way of disadvantage, but failing to see a face where there was one, such as the face of a predatory animal lurking in the bushes, would be a distinct--
Alex Reagan: Hey Richard? Could you maybe just shut up for a second? Thanks.
Richard Strand: And in this Black Tape, you can see the familiar group of black-clad monks, barefoot, their faces shrouded in shadow, and hear the guttural, pre-Latinate chanting that comprises their liturgy. What's interesting is the angle from which this video was recorded. It's very high, and --
Alex Reagan: Oh my god Richard! Tall Paul bought a GoPro!
Nic Silver: Tired of losing all evidence of your supernatural encounter? Worried that your visit with Muldred the Malevolent might fade from the shattered remnants of your mind? Or do you just want to see what that odd, vaguely-human shadow in the corner of your bedroom does when you finally fall asleep at night? You need a camera built to withstand all the shocks, bumps, and tortures of hell. GoPro.com/SatanicWorship. Record evidence that not even Richard Strand can deny.
Richard Strand: Actually, video evidence if often tainted by--
Nic Silver: Oh Jesus Christ.
Alex Reagan: The chanting grows in intensity. Odd bolts of light fly between the monks. And then, in the middle of the circle, as if materializing from the very shadows, a figure appears, a tall, dark figure, and the men who summoned him ... just die. The figure is clearly Tall Paul.
Richard Strand: Alex, let's not be ridiculous. Tall Paul, with his somewhat goat-like features, is an ungulate, while this dark monstrosity clearly has digitigrade foot morphology. Ergo ...
Alex Reagan: Okay, fine. But what about the unexplained appearance and the sudden death of these dark monks?
Richard Strand: I mean, these cases are called the Black Tapes, Alex, not the Perfectly Explained Tapes with Concrete Solutions to Everything. Oh, and if you'll look closely at those monks on the ground, you'll notice that their necks have been snapped and their heads twisted around a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees.
Richard Strand: So I feel like I should explain the "million dollar prize" my foundation offers.
Alex Regan: No, I get it, you're dirt poor.
Richard Strand: Alex, no. I have the money, it's just ... illiquid.
Alex Regan: illiquid?
Richard Strand: Invested.
Alex Reagan: Invested? In what?
Richard Strand: indistinct mumble
Alex Reagan: I'm sorry, what was that?
Richard Strand: I bought a bunch of Dogecoin and invested in Blockbuster right before Netflix got big, all right? I'm a scientist, not a hedge fund manager. Besides, it's not like anyone has proof of the supernatural.
Nic Silver: Actually ...
Richard Strand: Look, Nic. I will give you one million dollars right now if you can explain to me, in a thousand words or less, what the hell happened to you last season, without saying "it's complicated" or "more on that later."
Nic Silver: ...well, there's this thing that Cameron Ellis calls the Breach, but it's complicated, so ... dammit!
Richard Strand: Hey, have you heard anything from Percival Black?
Alex Reagan: Strangely enough, after we accused him of being the focal point of a satanic plot to unleash hell upon the earth through the dark powers of his iniquitous compositions, he hasn't been returning our calls.
Richard Strand: Have you tried ... sending a letter? PNWS Boom
Alex Reagan: Here at The Black Tapes, we alienate a lot of people. From frantic mothers whose only child has been stolen by a mysterious, shadowy figure only they can see, to a Sheriff desperately trying to stitch together a logical narrative of the blood and horror that surrounds my increasingly inexplicable life, through world-famous composers who have written the fall of god and the rise of That Which Should Not Be in C#, we've had a lot of people stop returning our calls.
Fortunately, there's Stamps.com. Whether you're mailing evidence of a vast demonic conspiracy, buffeting a poor Midwestern Sheriff with Freedom of Information requests, or hounding a devoutly religious madman with accusations of murder and blasphemy, Stamps.com makes it easy. Click, print, and harass, all from the comfort of your home. Visit Stamps.com and enter "TheBlackTapes" today.
And since you can print postage at home, there's no reason not to do so clad only in your underwear. Other things that can be done in your unmentionables include listening to an Audible book, sleeping on your Casper mattress, or racing through the dark woods, fleeing the lonely cabin in which you sought refuge, pursued through the night by what may be a demon or what may be the crushing weight of your own failures, manifested as a terrible break from reality, a vision of your own dark soul made flesh. Also, they have people in their underwear on their website, so visit MeUndies.com/BlackTapes, and don't forget to go incognito before you do.
Nic Silver: So I've been trying to track down Simone Reese, and I've had leads in Alaska, Argentina, and his Aunt in Albuquerque, but none of them panned out.
Alex Regan: At least your investigation is alliterative! Also I'm feeling overwhelmed and lost and terrified and I wake up at night in a cold sweat with my heart pounding and I can hear the sounds of a once-trusted friend whispering my Name, my true Name to the black thing that will come and consume me, body and soul, and I know that I could break the spell if I could just cry out, but my voice is gone and my lungs refuse to take air and then there's just darkness, darkness and falling, down a hole that's so, so deep, and then I wake up and it's morning and it's time to come in to the office and start the whole process over agin, and --
Katiss Intern Sally: Hey so I wanted to let you know that a long-dormant volcano has awakened, a flock of blackbirds crashed into the South wall of the Vatican, killing themselves, and somehow the sun failed to rise over Baghdad this morning, but other than that I didn't find any signs of the apocalypse, so I'm gonna head home and catch up on The Great British Baking Show.
Alex Regan: Hey look, if you plot Richard's hidden Black Tapes on a map, it forms an upside down pentagram covering a quarter of the world's surface, and centered over Rome!
Katiss Intern Sally: Oh hey! Rome is where they found that secret Pagan basilica dedicated to worshiping a dark god with its face on upside down through the application of arcane mathematics, forbidden geometry, and the intonation of a secret sound that would pry open the bars of reality, allowing Lucifer to escape his eternal prison and unleash ruin upon the world!
Alex Regan: Hey Sally? Next time you come across an article that indicates archeologists have discovered the hiding place of the evil cult of devil-worshipping musicians that have sewn chaos and strife across the world, maybe mark the email as "important?"
Somewhere in Seattle, the last working payphone in the world rings. When it is answered, a voice, harsh and cracked from disuse, speaks:
Simone Reese: People are watching you, Alex, interested parties, but the who is not as important as the why, the why of it all, the why of nothing. You see you're getting too close, too close to the end, the end of everything, only seven more episodes to go and then it all comes crashing down, you're being primed, being prepared, but there is so much to cover, so many threads in this tapestry, and they're all being torn apart, torn lose, so make sure you remember the Five Movements and the Five Gates and Deva Corporation, and know that they were looking, the when was recently, the where was everywhere, and the who was Howard Strand.
The Guy Who Answered the Phone: Hello? Who is this? I can't believe this thing is even hooked up anymore. Jesus, it costs fifty cents to make a call now? What is this, Communist Russia? And who the hell is Howard Strand?
PNWS Boom Boom Boom
Simone Reese' Phone click click click
Nic Silver: Hey, I did some audio processing on that tape of the mysteriously dying monks, and I found another noise that will summon a demon to murder all of our listeners, which I'm going to play now with no warning. Also, I enhanced the footage and discovered that this was filmed not in a cave, but in a tunnel.
Alex Reagan: And that means ...?
Nic Silver: Well, it's complicated.
Thomas Warren: Hello, Alex. Tell me, are the lambs still crying?
Alex Reagan: The Black Tapes is a product of Minnow Beats Whale and Pacific Northwest Stories. If you enjoyed this episode, please cry out to whatever god you believe in and ask him to have mercy on our souls, and join us next time when we look for a building that has both cameras and tunnels.