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THE B-LIST: When truth is stranger than fiction

A list of 'Lore' to kickstart the season

With the recent drop in temperatures, I'm really feeling that fall hunger. I'm beyond ready for sweater weather to return and, of course, the best holiday of the entire year: Halloween.

(Only 56 days to go, as per my desktop countdown calendar.)

But a single month just isn't long enough to properly celebrate all things spooky and weird. Among my friends, Halloween is all of October, not just Oct. 31. Which makes the month of September Halloween Eve.

To get us in the monstrous mood, here's a recommended listening list of my favorite episodes from the podcast "Lore," a weird, history-based series created, written and narrated by Streator native Aaron Mahnke. (NOTE: All of the following can be found at; there's also a two-season TV show from Amazon Prime.)

1. "THE BLOODY PIT" (Episode 2). During the building of Massachusetts' Hoosac Tunnel in the mid-1800s, a terrible accident claimed the lives of over 200 workers. Ever since, people have experienced dramatic paranormal activity — headless apparitions, agonized moans and floating lights — that suggests the dead aren't resting easy.

2. "A DEVIL ON THE ROOF" (Episode 9). Everybody's heard of the Jersey Devil. But did you know he's been seen by Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother) and Stephen Decatur (a naval hero once on the $20 bill)? Or that, in 1909, a flurry of sightings culminated in police actually shooting at the monster?

3. "HALF-HANGED" (Episode 12). In 1685, in the Puritan community of Hadley, Mass., a respected civic leader fell strangely ill. Convinced the cantankerous old woman Mary Webster was a witch cursing him, the good townspeople hanged her. Only, they didn't quite finish the job. (BONUS: Follow this episode with her descendant Margaret Atwood's poem "Half-Hanged Mary.")

4. "UNBOXED" (Episode 15). Forget Chucky — Robert the Doll is far creepier. This little figure in a sailor suit, once the beloved and lifelong companion of Florida painter Robert Eugene Otto, is connected to a variety of violent occurrences.

5. "COVERED MIRRORS" (Episode 16). In this incredibly eerie episode, Mahnke unfurls the theory that the axe murderer responsible for the unsolved Villisca, Iowa, massacre of the Moore family and Stillinger sisters in 1912 was the same man who terrorized Illinois the year before. In all the murders, there was a nearby train station, oil lamps missing their glass chimneys — and covered mirrors.

6. "ON THE FARM" (Episode 27). A German variation on the ominous cabin in the woods, the murders at the Hinterkaifeck farm remain unsolved almost a century later. To add to the mystery, there were strange events noted before the killings and the murderer lingered at the farm for days afterward, going so far as to feed the animals.

7. "LOST AND FOUND" (Episode 31). Mahnke touches upon several gruesome discoveries, including: Who put Bella in the Wych Elm; Elisa Lam and the Cecil Hotel; and Kate Webster's brutal disposal of employer Julia Martha Thomas (whose skull was finally uncovered in David Attenborough's backyard in 2010).

8. "THE MOUNTAIN" (Episode 38). Just what really happened in Dyatlov Pass in 1959? Were the Ural Polytechnical students killed by a secret Soviet experiment, or by something paranormal? As Mahnke notes, the indigenous Mansi people had for centuries called the place "Mountain of the Dead."

9. "TAKE THE STAND" (Episode 39). Zona Heaster Shue holds the distinction of being the only murder victim whose testimony was admitted into a U.S. Superior Court trial; after appearing to her mother in a series of dreams, the young woman now known as the Greenbrier Ghost was exhumed and her true cause of death was determined: strangulation. Husband Erasmus "Trout" Shue was convicted of murder in 1897, and Zona was never seen again.

10. "MISSING THE POINT" (Episode 47). The greatest cryptid of all time, the Mothman, is at the heart of this episode as Mahnke examines the series of strange occurrences that plagued Point Pleasant, W.V., from 1966 to 1967.

11. "THE RED COATS" (Episode 67). Like the more famous Bermuda Triangle, the Bennington Triangle of Vermont is well-known for strange disappearances. And, for some truly bizarre reason, many of those who disappeared on Glastenbury Mountain — a place the local Native Americans refused to set foot on — were wearing red coats.

12. "ROAD TRIP" (Episode 87). Betty and Barney Hill just wanted to get home. Unfortunately, their road trip was rudely interrupted by an alien abduction that changed the course of their lives. And the course of popular culture, too: many of the things experienced by the Hills — a stalled car, frozen watches, missing time, bright lights, telepathic communication and probes — have become standards in sci-fi and horror, influencing everything from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to "The X-Files."

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at

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