Brittany cracks the archives and pays a special tribute to Orson Welles. And Sampler’s senior producer Sarah Abdurrahman plays Brittany some spooky stuff!
**Warning, this episode contains adult language.**
Episode #11 features clips from the following episodes (please click below for hyperlink to full episode):
This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman and Brittany Luse.
It was edited by Peter Clowney and Annie-Rose Strasser.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Marc Phillips.
The show was mixed by Matthew Boll.
Ministry of Supply (Use offer code ‘Sampler15’)
Audible.com/Sampler (Get your first book free!)
BRITTANY: Hi, I’m Brittany Luse and welcome back to Sampler, the show where we play you hand-picked moments from podcasts you just have to hear. I hope you’re ready to get freaked out, because this week, we are gonna hear some scaaaaary stuff. Just so you know, when I get scared I get a bit of a pottymouth — and we’re going to be playing some freaky stuff—so if you’ve got young kids in your midst, now’s the time to send them out of the room or save this episode for later. So I challenged my senior producer to bring me some scary, suspenseful podcast moments—and we’re going to hear those later in the show. But first—we are going to take a look back at the suspenseful audio of yesteryear.
Today’s story actually begins in 2015, with me. The date was Friday, August 7th and I had just been offered a job—this job— here at Gimlet. I could finally step down from my title of World’s Worst Marketing Manager and do something I really enjoyed. And I was thrilled! So I did what any sensible twentysomething would do to celebrate a life-changing job offer: I went out at 6pm, had one drink, and dipped out early to watch 4 episodes of The Twilight Zone on Netflix. I’ve been kind of obsessed with The Twilight Zone since I was eleven years old, and I’ve seen just about every episode— or at least I thought I had. That night, I happened upon an episode that, despite my intense fandom, I had never seen before.
So something to know about me, I suffer from whatever type of narcissism makes a person think that a Twilight Zone twist awaits, just around every corner. If a doll started speaking to me, or if everyone in my life sprouted pig snouts overnight, I would be the very last person surprised by any of it. And that mild paranoia is actually what makes watching The Twilight Zone so much fun for me. But that night, watching this episode I’d never seen before, I really had the feeling, this one was actually about me. It was about a woman named Nan who was like me, 27 years old and, like me, lived in New York. She was an independent young lady with a fancypants job just like the one I was about to start. Nan was on a cross-country drive from New York to California— and I don’t want to give anything away, but things don’t exactly turn out great for her. I loved watching that episode, but still it felt like a bad omen, casting a dark shadow over my recent good news.
So, ok. Let’s flash forward — to months later. I was sifting through clips for Sampler, I realized that the story of Nan from that episode of the Twilight Zone had found me yet again— this time in audio form. And I’m gonna play that audio for you now in a new segment we’re calling From The Archives. In this segment, we’ll share audio from the past — things that might not have originated in the podcasting world, but are finding new lives there. Today’s feature is from a podcast called Orson Welles On the Air. It’s one of a number of podcasts that bring old time radio dramas to modern audiences.
So, for our first from the archives segment I’m going to share with you the tape I heard that day. It’s from a podcast called Orson Welles On The Air. Orson Welles — most people know him for Citizen Kane, the movie, and War of the Worlds, the radio play that everyone thought was real. But in the 1930s and 40s, he did many, many radio plays — including the one you are about to hear. We’re going to play you an abridged version. It’s called the hitchhiker, written by Lucille Fletcher. Years later, it was adapted for that very same Twilight Zone episode. Oh, but one notable difference — the main character in the TV version was a woman named Nan, but the radio version’s protagonist was a guy named Ronald.
ADAMS: My name is Ronald Adams. I’m thirty-six years of age, unmarried, tall, dark with a black mustache. I drive a 1940 Buick, license number 6Y175189. I was born in Brooklyn. All this I know. I know that I’m at this moment perfectly sane, that it’s not me who’s gone mad — but something else, something utterly beyond my control.
BRITTANY: OK so I know it’s old-timey, but trust me this guy is good. You start listening and you’re hooked.
So Ronald proceeds to tell his story. It begins 6 days prior, as he’s about to head out on a cross country drive from New York to California. His mother, naturally, is worried about the long journey:
<<Clip from Orson Welles On The Air>>
MRS. ADAMS: Ronald, I wish you weren’t driving.
ADAMS: Oh, mother. There you go again. People do it every day.
MRS. ADAMS: I know, but — you’ll be careful, won’t you? Promise me you’ll be extra careful. Don’t fall asleep or drive fast or pick up any strangers on the road.
ADAMS: Gosh, you’d think I was still seventeen, to hear you talk.
MRS. ADAMS: [chuckles] oh.
BRITTANY: His mother was right to worry about strangers on the road. Pretty soon, Ronald has his first encounter with the hitchhiker…
ADAMS: Crossing Brooklyn Bridge that morning in the rain, I saw a man leaning against the cables. He seemed to be waiting for a lift. There were spots of fresh rain on his shoulders. He was carrying a cheap overnight bag in one hand. He was thin, nondescript, with a cap pulled down over his eyes. I would have forgotten him completely except that just an hour later, while crossing the Pulaski Skyway over the Jersey Flats, I saw him again. At least, he looked like the same person. He was standing now with one thumb pointing west. I couldn’t figure out how he’d got there, but I thought probably one of those fast trucks had picked him up, beaten me to the Skyway, and let him off. I didn’t stop for him. Then, late that night — I saw him again. It was on the new Pennsylvania Turnpike between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. It’s two hundred and sixty- five miles long with a very high speed limit. I was just slowing down for one of the tunnels — when I saw him — standing under an arc light by the side of the road. I could see him quite distinctly — the bag, the cap — even the spots of fresh rain spattered over his shoulders. He “Hallooed” at me this time.
HIKER: [ghostly echo] Hellooo! Hellooo!
ADAMS: I stepped on the gas like a shot.
[car engine, faster]
ADAMS: It’s lonely country through the Alleghenies, and I had no intention of stopping. Besides, the coincidences, or whatever it was, gave me the willies.
BRITTANY: Shaken up, Ronald pulls into a gas station, where he starts to make small talk with the attendant:
ADAMS: …What about hitchhikers?
ATTENDANT: [chuckle] Hitchhikers? Here?
ADAMS: What’s the matter? Don’t you ever see any?
ATTENDANT: Not much. If we did, it’d be a sight for sore eyes.
ATTENDANT: Oh, a guy’d be a fool who started out to hitch rides on this road. Look at it.
ADAMS: Then — you’ve never seen anybody?
ATTENDANT: No. Maybe they get the lift before the turnpike starts. I mean, you know, just before the tollhouse. But then it’d be a mighty long ride. Most cars wouldn’t want to pick up a guy for that long a ride. And, you know, this is pretty lonesome country here, mountains and woods. You ain’t seen anybody like that, have you
ADAMS: Oh, no. Oh, no, not – not at all. I was just — Ah, uh, a technical question.
BRITTANY: With that information from the gas station attendant, Ronald decides to forget about the hitchhiker, and spends the night in Pittsburgh. After he wakes up refreshed and with his head on straight, he hits the road. But at a stop on the road, he sees the hitchhiker, walking toward him.
HIKER: [from a distance] Hellooo! Hellooo!
[Car engine turns over but won’t start]
ADAMS: [nervous, calls out] No, not just now, sorry!
HIKER: Goin’ to California?!
[car engine starts]
ADAMS: No, no, not today! The other way! Going to New York! Sorry!
[car drives off, tires squealing … engine continues]
ADAMS: After I got the car back on the road again, I felt like a fool. Yet the thought of picking him up, of having him sit beside me, was somehow unbearable. At the same time I felt – more than ever – unspeakably alone.
BRITTANY: Caught between a rock and a hard place, Ronald makes a decision
ADAMS: knew I’d see him again. Maybe at the next turn of the road. I knew that when I saw him next — I would run him down.
BRITTANY: Desperate for some company and some sense of normalcy, Ronald picks up a woman hitchhiking on the side of the road. She tries flirting with him a bit, but her designs on romance are soon interrupted. Ronald sees the hitchhiker and tries to run him over, which naturally freaks out his female passenger. Especially since Ronald seems to be the only one who can see the hitchhiker.
ADAMS: There, look there!
[Tires squealing as the car swerves off road and clatters to a stop… woman pulls helplessly at car door]
WOMAN: [panics] How does this door work?! I – I’m gettin’ outta here!
ADAMS: Did you see him that time?!
WOMAN: No, I didn’t see him that time! And, personally, mister, I don’t expect never to see him! All I want to do is go on livin’! I don’t see how I will very long, drivin’ with you!
ADAMS: Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t — I – I don’t know what came over me. Please, don’t go.
WOMAN: So, if you’ll excuse me—
ADAMS: You can’t go! Listen, how would you like to go to California? I’ll drive you to California! WOMAN: Seein’ pink elephants all the way?! No, thanks! Uh uh! Thanks just the same!
ADAMS: Listen, please, just — just one minute, please!
WOMAN: You know what I think you need, big boy? Not a girlfriend, just a good dose o’ sleep. ADAMS: Please!
[Woman opens car door]
WOMAN: There, I got it now.
ADAMS: Now, you can’t go, please!
WOMAN: Leave your hands off o’ me, d’ya hear? Leave your hands off me!
[She jumps out of car and runs off… the cows continue to moo]
BRITTANY: She runs away. And Ronald is alone once again — well, except for the ever-increasing appearance of… the hitchhiker.
ADAMS: For now he began to be everywhere. Wherever I stopped, even for a moment — for gas, for oil, for a drink of pop, a cup o’ coffee, sandwich — he was there!
BRITTANY: Ronald is desperate. He can’t escape this hitchhiker. He’s reached his wit’s end.
And then, in New Mexico, he stops to use a pay phone and — well, I’m just going to let Ronald take it from here…
ADAMS: I had the feeling that if only I could speak to someone familiar, someone I loved, I could pull myself together.
[Coin deposited in pay phone]
OPERATOR 1: Your call, please.
ADAMS: Long distance.
OPERATOR 1: Long distance? Certainly.
OPERATOR 2: This is long distance.
ADAMS: I’d like – I’d like to put in a call to my home to Brooklyn, New York. I’m Ronald Adams. Um, the number is Beechwood two-oh-eight-two-eight.
OPERATOR 2: Certainly. I’ll try to get it for you.
OPERATOR 3: Albuquerque.
OPERATOR 2: New York for Gallup.
[A couple of beeps, the line is opened]
OPERATOR 4: New York.
OPERATOR 3: Gallup, New Mexico calling Beechwood two-oh-eight-two-eight.
ADAMS: I’d read somewhere that love could banish demons.
ADAMS: It was in the middle of the morning. I knew mother’d be home. I pictured her tall and white-haired, in her crisp house-dress, going about her tasks. It’d be enough, I thought, just to hear the even calmness of her voice.
OPERATOR 1: Will you please deposit three dollars and eighty-five cents for the first three minutes? When you have deposited a dollar and a half, will you wait until I have collected the money?
[Six quarters deposited in phone, coins drop]
OPERATOR 1: All right, deposit another dollar and a half.
[Six quarters deposited in phone, coins drop]
OPERATOR 1: Will you please deposit the remaining eighty-five cents?
[Three quarters and dime deposited in phone, coins drop]
OPERATOR 1: Ready with Brooklyn. Go ahead, please.
MRS. WHITNEY: Mrs. Adams’ residence.
ADAMS: Hello? Hello, mother?
MRS. WHITNEY: This is Mrs. Adams’ residence. Who is it you wish to speak to, please? ADAMS: Wha—? Who’s this?
MRS. WHITNEY: This is Mrs. Whitney.
ADAMS: Mrs. WhiTney? I – I don’t know any Mrs. Whitney. W-w-where’s my mother? Where’s Mrs. Adams?
MRS. WHITNEY: Mrs. Adams is not at home. She’s still in the hospital.
ADAMS: The hospital?
MRS. WHITNEY: Yes. Who is this calling, please? Is it a member of the family?
ADAMS: What’s she in the hospital for?
MRS. WHITNEY: She’s been prostrated for five days. Nervous breakdown. But who is this calling?
ADAMS: Nervous breakdown?! Well, my mother never was nervous—
MRS. WHITNEY: It’s all taken place since the death of her oldest son, Ronald.
ADAMS: Death of her — death of her oldest son, Ronald?
MRS. WHITNEY: It’s all been very sudden. He was killed just six days ago — in an automobile accident on the Brooklyn Bridge.
OPERATOR: Your 3 minutes are u sir…Your three minutes are up, sir.
BRITTANY: What an ending, am I right?! The exact same thing happened to Nan from the Twilight Zone! Which is why I’m probably going to hold off on any cross-country solo drives for possibly the rest of my life, especially any that require crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. And that brings me to an awesome thing about podcasts — it was scary when I saw this story play out on television, sure, but something about Orson Welles bellowing took my mind to a place where the terror I imagined for Ronald was far worse than anything I’d seen on screen. It was a much more menacing experience, and, in this case, that made it all the more fun. The magic of audio narratives is that they still leave a bit to the imagination, which I think, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling would say, is a much more horrifying place than anywhere in reality I can think of. Are you on the edge of your seat? I know I am, because up next—my producer is about to come in here and freak me out.
———— AD BREAK ——————
BRITTANY: This week’s episode of Sampler is brought to you by Audible. Audible provides over one-hundred-eighty-thousand audio programs from leading audiobook publishers.
One of my top five audiobook recommendations is The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
I love it because it’s super suspenseful and so much fun.
It’s the kind of book where you’re listening to it and you get so engrossed that you forget where are and, like, miss your subway stop or just wish your commute was actually longer.
[Snippet from The Secret History]
It’s called The Secret History and it’s by Donna Tartt…And you can find it at audible.com/sampler, where you can get a free 30-day trial today. That’s audible.com/sampler.
BRITTANY: Sampler is brought to you by Sonos. Sonos is the smart wireless speaker system that allows you to stream your favorite music — and podcasts — to any room or every room in your home. And this week, we decided to consult some serious podcast experts…
ZIZI: My name is Zizi and I am 12 years old.
OTTO: My name is Otto and I am 10 years old.
BRITTANY: Zizi and Otto love podcasts and they listen to a ton of them. Every night, before bed, they decide on a podcast to listen to together over the Sonos Play:1 speakers in each of their bedrooms. And so, being the host of a podcast all about podcasts… I had to ask them for recommendations…
ZIZI: Um, I really enjoy Note to Self.
BRITTANY: Note to Self, that’s a good one
OTTO: I like How to Do Everything.
BRITTANY: How to Do Everything.
ZIZI: Burnt Toast by Food52.
BRITTANY: Oh, Burnt Toast! Oh I love Food52. I like to follow them on Instagram.
ZIZI: When time is short we’ll listen to Barack Obama’s weekly address.
BRITTANY: [laughs] You guys like to stay well informed.
ZIZI: Diane Rehm
OTTO: Fresh Air
BRITTANY: I better up my game or pretty soon these kids are going to have my job.
OTTO: Planet Money
ZIZI: Wait Wait Don’t Tell One
OTTO: This American Life.
BRITTANY: I’ve heard of that one.
BRITTANY: To learn more about Sonos and how you can listen to your podcasts over your wireless Sonos speakers… go to Sonos.com-slash-Sampler, that’s S-O-N-O-S.com-slash-Sampler.
OTTO: Back Story
BRITTANY: That’s a good one.
—————————END AD BREAK —————————-
BRITTANY: Welcome back to Sampler. So, some people around here thought it would be fun for me to get scared on mic. So my senior producer Sarah Abdurrahman found a couple suspenseful moments from modern day podcasts to play for me today.
SARAH ABDURRHMAN: Hey Brittany.
BRITTANY: Hi, Sarah…
SARAH: You seem nervous. Don’t you like scary stuff?
BRITTANY: I like scary movies. I don’t like gory ones because I just think it’s unnecessary, but I love feeling the stress of fear. Like stalkers, serial killers, murderers, people coming in your house. All that sort of stuff. My greatest fears, I love watching.
SARAH: Do you get really into it? Are you like heart pounding…
BRITTANY: Yeah I’m like crazy. I look at everything through my fingers.
SARAH: Do you really?
BRITTANY: I really, I really do.
SARAH: I always wondered who actually does that.
BRITTANY: It’s me… I’m always like, Oh my god. The stress. But I love it.
SARAH: Do you listen to a lot of suspenseful stories in audio form?
BRITTANY: Sometimes I do… I’m a big fan of Limetown. Limetown is like this serialized, scripted, like really old-timey, like it almost feels like a real old time radio play, like radio drama, that’s about like the investigation of this like entire city of people that just like disappeared. And the first time I heard it… I was getting my hair braided, which for those of you who have never done this, or if you don’t know anyone who has ever done it before, it’s an excruciatingly painful experience, that takes hours, like six hours. And so I’m sitting in this braid shop that’s playing these like terrible Nigerian movies in the background, and I turn on the episode of Limetown, and I’m just like, this is so crazy.
<<CLIP from Limetown>>
SPEAKER 1: …There are others who’ve died?
SPEAKER 2: So many others.
SPEAKER 1: What happened?
SPEAKER 2: Before the panic started, I left the town. I walked right out. I don’t know why. We were sleeping. Then I was not sleeping. Then I was walking away. The next day was the panic. He kept me safe and I don’t know why. I haven’t been able to find anyone since. I tried to listen but it’s so quiet.
BRITTANY: I was completely transported. Like I was… like… with the investigative reporter, like in the city, like talking to people. Like I was told, like it was like my brain filled in everything that I couldn’t see.
BRITTANY: And it’s creepy.
SARAH: It’s very intimate.
BRITTANY: I think it makes it so like, you have to more intentional when absorbing the information, so you have to listen harder. You’re listening for recognizable voices. You’re listening to hear footsteps. And like, a pause, do you know what I’m saying? A pause is like the scariest thing when listening to something like this, where there’s no one talking, there’s no one breathing, there’s no one moving. It’s sort of just like, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. You have so much less information to go off, it makes what information you do have so much more precious.
SARAH: Well I have this challenge…
SARAH: To try to really make you feel some suspense today. So get ready to be anxious.
BRITTANY: I’m always ready to be anxious… wake up, ready to be anxious.
SARAH: So, the first clip I’m going to play for you is from a podcast called The Truth. Their tagline is that they make movies for your ears, so they’re really good at like, layering all that sound, and like, getting you that feeling that you mentioned of being there, that intimate feeling. So they do stories, like, sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re sad, sometimes they’re scary. So the one I’m going to play for you today is called… Don’t Touch A Thing.
SARAH: Its written by Lewis Kornfield. And it’s about this woman named Tina. What you need to know is that Tina and her husband are visiting her mom in the hospital…
<<CLIP: Don’t Touch A Thing>>
MOM: Why are you doing this to me? Dragging strangers into my business.
TINA: Larry’s not a stranger. He’s my husband. He’s been my husband for a decade.
LARRY: We met at your Aunt Marie’s 100th birthday.
MOM: Yeah I know about husbands… I don’t want him here.
TINA: Well that’s too bad.
MOM: I want to go home.
TINA: Larry has generously offered you to come move in with us… in Cleveland.
LARRY: We both want you to…
TINA: So, how bout it?
MOM: I want to go home…
TINA: Well that’s not happening.
LARRY: Do you realize how bad your house is?
TINA: The paramedics said it was unfit for human life.
MOM: I want to go home. My home.
TINA: Well okay…
LARRY: We can help you go through your things though, and we can salvage within reason.
MOM: Over my dead body. Vultures, thieves, you don’t know anything about it… you’re not sensitive. Don’t you touch a thing… don’t touch any of my… NURSE. NURSE. Not a thing, don’t touch any of my… get out of my room. Don’t touch a THING.
BRITTANY: [laughing] I’m like sitting here pregnant with anticipation, like… and… and what?
SARAH: Do you want more?
SARAH: Alright, so we hear the main character and her husband driving at this point, and we get a little background. Tina obviously has a fraught relationship with her mother. You hear a little bit about her father, who she feels like she should be mad at because he left years and years ago… But at the same time she kind of understands why he would leave because of the the crazy situation she grew up in. In this next clip, you will hear some flashbacks. But first we are going to pick up when they get to the mother’s house.
BRITTANY: Oh they’re going to go to her house?
BRITTANY: Terrible idea… that’s such a bad idea. I wouldn’t do that.
SARAH: Are you ready for this?
BRITTANY: Yeah I’m ready.
LARRY: Oh this isn’t bad.
TINA: [laughs] Just wait until we get inside… oh… watch your step.
[Keys jingling, going inside]
TINA: Alright, you ready? Scare away the rats…
LARRY: Oh my god… the smell…
TINA: Ohh…okay… ohh… that’s rotten food, or rotting meat.
LARRY: First thing I’m going to do is get rid of this okay?
TINA: I don’t know where to start… I don’t know where to start…
TINA: Watch out for the cats!
TINA: It’s a nightmare. Is this a nightmare or this real?
LARRY: Is this how it was when you were growing up?
TINA: This is even worse than I remembered.
TINA: Mom, hello, are you hearing me… do you think this animal looks healthy?
MOM: I’m nursing them…
TINA: You’re killing them you psycho…
DAD: What’s going on?
TINA: What do you care? Go back upstairs and play with your toys…
DAD: That’s not nice.
TINA: Have you looked in the freezer dad? There are dead cats in the freezer.
MOM: I’m going to bury them.
TINA: This is psychotic behavior….
MOM: Look at how she’s talking to me Joe… does that sound familiar to you, huh?
DAD: Tina, your mother is going to be burying them, she just has a hard time letting go, she’s grieving, you have to respect that.
TINA: This is your response? This is how you’re going to… you guys are both animals!
MOM: You little bitch.
[Meowing, then a slap]
LARRY: Hey, what about these chairs?
LARRY: If you clean it up it’ll look nice.
TINA: It’s garbage.
LARRY: Garbage, so it’s all garbage.
TINA: I don’t know… maybe we could keep the magna box?
LARRY: Hey, we gotta keeper pile…
TINA: I don’t even know if it works.
LARRY: Here let me try to turn it on.
[Turns on, TV plays]
DAD: Tina honey?
DAD: The Fly’s on, channel 22 downstairs. What are you doing?
DAD: Where are you going?
TINA: Away from here. Anywhere.
DAD: This late at night?
TINA: Dad… what does it matter?
DAD: Tina I know that your mom can be a little… difficult. But she’s very sensitive inside. She feels so much that she doesn’t know how to cope with it, and if you just can respect that and sort of stay out of her way…
TINA: She’s out of control. Why do you let her get away with it? You let her walk all over you.
DAD: That’s not nice.
TINA: Well it’s true.
DAD: I’ve had my moments where I’ve thought about what life would be like if I just…
TINA: You should leave. I’m leaving. You should leave too.
DAD: Do me a favor. Just, sleep on it… just tonight?
TINA: I don’t want to…
DAD: Come on, just come downstairs…
TINA: Dad, I don’t want to…
DAD: Honey, let’s go watch The Fly…
[TV plays: “NARRATOR: I’m counting on you not to lose your nerve. For only you can help me… I’ve had a serious accident. But I’m not in danger at the moment, although it’s a matter of life or death. Andre.]
LARRY: Hey, Tina? Tinnnnnnna. Tina. You gotta check this out. Huh? I don’t really… what do you want?
LARRY: Check this out… these are finished copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland. Look… we got the mummy, you got Bride of Frankenstein. This is classic. Your mom’s got great stuff up here.
TINA: This is all my dad’s stuff. She would never even come up here.
LARRY: I know some people that would be very interested in all of this.
MOM: [speaking via phone] Have you spoken to your father?
TINA: No, mom, I haven’t…
MOM: When he calls, tell him I don’t want him here anymore… he’s not welcome back.
TINA: What are you talking about?
MOM: He left. How about that?
TINA: What do you mean he left?
MOM: He left, he just walked out…
LARRY: Check out this mannequin…
MOM: That’s your father, Tina. Your best friend. What do you think, Tina, is that a man?
LARRY: This is like an authentic movie prop. This is like a corp from a Mario Bethel movie. So real. This is amazing.. Thi…
TINA: I know that sweater, on that mannequin… I know that sweater.
LARRY: Spookalong was actually awesome…
TINA: No honey. I know that sweater. I know that… that isn’t a mannequin. That’s him [crying/yelling]
BRITTANY: Oh my god… when he was like, oh this looks like a real prop from a film, I’m like, oh my god?
SARAH: Yeah you caught onto that really quickly. And you freaked out when you figured it out.
BRITTANY: I did and I was like this is some real crazy shit. Oh my god, it’s sad too, because she really loved her dad. [imitating voices] YOUR BEST FRIEND, THIS IS YOUR DAD, SOME TYPE OF GUY. I’m like, oh my god, this whole time he didn’t even leave her even though she was a crazy hoarder… he stayed with her… well, I mean he stayed with her forever.
BRITTANY: And as soon as they walked in, I was like.. this is a dead body. They walked in and I was like, oh smells like cats in here… and I was just like.. you guys…
SARAH: I love that you… like… I felt like I was in that… like I could imagine that house. It was like I was stepping on those soda cans and like papers, and you could just like smell it.
BRITTANY: Yeah the buy-in, I mean I’m sold. Like literally like, from jump, I was like OH MY GODDDDDD. I just love it… I’m like give me more, like more.
Ok what’s next, what’s next?
SARAH: Alright so, this one that’s tailor-made for you Brittany. It’s from a show called the No Sleep Podcast.
BRITTANY: No, my god… this already sounds scary.
SARAH: Well yeah, it’s trying to keep you up at night.
BRITTANY: Oh god… I’m scared already thinking about me not-sleeping later.
SARAH: So the people who make this podcast call it a horror fiction podcast that’s not for the faint of heart.
BRITTANY: I’m probably faint of heart.
SARAH: So each episode has, you know, half a dozen stories that they tell, and this particular one is called “Morning Mail.”
SARAH: Don’t you like getting packages?
BRITTANY: I get all my packages delivered to Gimlet…
SARAH: Yeah, we share a desk space.
BRITTANY: I know…
SARAH: Sometimes they’re on my desk… I know you get all your packages delivered to Gimlet. Which is why I know this story will speak to you, directly.
SARAH: So this story is written by Karen Torrey. It starts off with this woman going out to get her morning mail, and she notices a package on her doorstep.
NARRATOR: I didn’t think anything of it really; I shop online all the time… and though I didn’t recognize the return address, I thought it was probably something I ordered. After tearing through the brown paper, the first thing I noticed was that the box was an Adidas shoe box. I love Adidas… they are my favorite shoes and I’ve been wearing them since I was ten years old. Maybe my husband ordered these for me as a gift? What an awesome guy! Anyway, with the thought ‘New shoes!’ running through my brain and obscuring all other thoughts, I wasted no time pulling off the top of the box… and guess what? Yay! Shoes! But… I quickly realized…these were not new shoes. Now, they didn’t look ratty or worn; they were in fantastic condition in fact: supple dark red suede still soft to the touch, the sides of the soles, the Achilles protector in back, and the three leather stripes on both sides, still super bright white. They were classic Adidas Gazelles, really awesome I thought… and it’s no wonder I like them so much… because the shoes that I just got in the mail; they were my old shoes. I bought these shoes brand new fifteen years ago when I was a junior in high school, using the money from my first real paycheck. They cost half my two week take home pay, and that was one of the reasons I was so completely bummed when I lost them at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, a week later.
SARAH: So here she recalls how she lost her shoes. It was after work one night. She was taking a shortcut home — through a park.
NARRATOR: It was almost always deserted there after dark. I had no reason to think I would run into anybody on my way home that night. About halfway through the park, just as I began to cross through the middle where the little kids playground was… I noticed somebody sitting on one of the swings looking in my direction. He (I assume it was a he, honestly though, I’m not totally sure) was dressed all in black, wearing a black knit cap with a full face mask, black gloves, and black shoes. He swayed slightly. He sat in on the little rubber seat; hands at his side, sorta hunched over and leaning on the left side chain. He seemed to be looking straight ahead… I knew he could see me from there. It was really creepy. Since I was in the middle of the park at this point, no other way out would have been quicker than to just keep going on my normal path. I kinda “went wide” trying to avoid walking nearer to the playground without looking like I was trying to avoid walking near the playground, but I hurried. My mind was racing with all the possibilities of who that person could be, how they were going to kill me, and what they would do with my body. I was almost fully past the playground; I could just start to see the neighborhood streetlights over the little hill, and I threw a quick glance over to the stranger; he didn’t seem to be looking at me at all, his line of sight hadn’t changed. I felt relieved, but only for a second… and then I heard the unexpectedly loud sound of the rattle of the chains on the swing which caused me to jerk my head over in time to see him leap up from the seat. In what seemed like a millisecond, and with full force, he was running directly at me. I took off. I never considered myself a fast runner, but I swear at that moment; I was flying. I wasn’t sure how close he was, but I could hear clearly the pounding of his footsteps behind me, and his loud heavy breathing. It sounded like a growl; vicious, almost inhuman. I heard him make a grunting noise, and I felt his hand wrap around my hair…
BRITTANY: Ugh, it was like my stomach was in my butt… I felt so terrible. First of all… Personally, I would not have passed through this park in the middle of the night. I don’t do that. Something that I do: I will always take the long route, and like…
SARAH: Well yeah people in scary stories aren’t supposed to make smart decisions.
BRITTANY: And that’s the thing.
SARAH: That’s why they run upstairs when a murderer is running after them.
BRITTANY: Yeah they’re like I’m going to go to the part of my house WITH NO EXIT. Like… what a great plan. Another central strain of joy for me watching like suspenseful stuff is being like, these people being so stupid… like these people…
SARAH: Are you, are you blaming the victim, Brittany?
BRITTANY: [laughing] I mean on one level, like, they don’t know, they don’t know they’re in this story, this podcast, whatever.. but on another level it’s just some of the same it’s like YOU GUYS, you HAVE to know some things. I’m wearing Adidas right now. And you will recall when you first started working here, I ordered some sambas online, because I always wanted those shoes when I was a little kid and my mom said no, and I was like I’m grown I can get my own sneaker I can do whatever I want… but like… if I opened a box, and I saw that it was Adidas, especially an Adidas original box, and I opened it and I saw some Gazelles inside I would be like, oh great.. but like… yeah I’d like freak out obviously if I saw that they were my shoes that I bought 15 years ago… like! And lost them! She said she lost them in the hospital?
SARAH: Yes. Do you want to know how?
SARAH: So she keeps running, she gets hit by a car…
BRITTANY: Holy shit. And then she ends up in the hospital… well that’s better for her getting hit by a car than getting caught up with that guy.
SARAH: Well is it? Because her sneakers go missing, and that’s you know, how they reappear to her this many years later.
BRITTANY: Oh my god this person found her.
SARAH: She reaches inside the sneaker.
BRITTANY: OH MY GOD SARAH.
SARAH: She finds a note…
BRITTANY: [loudly] OH MY GOD… WHAT DOES THE NOTE SAY??
NARRATOR: Six words only, harmless words in and of themselves; but knowing who wrote them, wondering how he got my shoes that night, understanding that he’s kept them for fifteen years, tucked away somewhere, trying to figure out how he knows where I live now, and for how long he’s known… imagining what on earth he could be planning, and where… and when… the note read “You are going to need these.”
SARAH: Annnnnd that’s it.
BRITTANY: [sighing]… It’s like, my blood pressure is up. Oh my god.
SARAH: I’m so sorry Brittany. Thanks for sitting through this.
BRITTANY: No, this is good. I like this feeling. I just like being creeped out.
SARAH: Why do you think it like simultaneously feels so good and feels so bad?
BRITTANY: You get to be close to this thing that is terrible but you’re really curious about, without having to actually bear any of the consequences… like there’s a relief in that, I think like… is satisfying, or that people find… en… enjoyable.
SARAH: Why do we do this to ourselves?
BRITTANY: I don’t know… why do we do anything? People like jumping out of planes, people like bungee jumping. I think it goes without saying that I don’t like those types of activities. But people like to push limits… I’m not necessarily one of them, but people like to push limits.
SARAH: I mean you’re one of them, because you like to push limits in terms of the things you consume…
BRITTANY: Yeah, I mean I like to push limits from the safety of my bed.
SARAH: So like, listening to suspenseful podcasts is like the safest way, to… to be a daredevil…
BRITTANY: Yes… consuming stressful media is like, this is me walking on the wild side. I don’t need to experience suspense in real life… like I hate that shit, I just need to… I like to be at home, safe… drinking water… my door is locked.
SARAH: But what these stories tell you Brittany… [whispers] is that you are never safe.
BRITTANY: Why would you say that to me oh my god? [laughing] Oh I just thought about the woman again… with her dad’s corpse. Ohhhhhhhhhhh
BRITTANY: So today you heard the tale of the The Hitchhiker from Orson Welles on the Air, you heard a bone-chilling snippet of Limetown, our hoarder haunted house came from The Truth and the reason I’ll never buy Adidas Gazelles was brought to you by The No Sleep Podcast.
This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman, Chris Neary, Caitlin Kenney, Matthew Nelson and myself.
It was edited by Annie-Rose Strasser and Alex Blumberg.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Mark Phillips.
The show was mixed by Austin Thompson with music production by Matthew Boll.
Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.
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