I’ve listened to a lot of fictional podcasts. Liked a lot of them too. The Black Tapes, Tanis, We’re Alive, The Bright Sessions, Within The Wires, Night Vale, Knifepoint Horror, NoSleep. But while I enjoyed them, there are areas where I felt they could often suffer, especially when they’re going for dialogue and conversations rather than reading prose like Knifepoint.
But it’s the writing that has made Magnus Archives my favorite horror fictional podcast. The show masterfully delivers mystery. These stories are often from a limited perspective, so there isn’t really an explanation for why things happen or what the happenings are. We’re not trying to solve what’s going like in Black Tapes. The people telling the stories aren’t figuring what happened through ancient texts or folklore. These eerie things just happen and we’re left in the dark just like those people. Because of that, the story in Magnus Archives have such a great sense of creepy unknown.
The series’ premise is reminiscent of Archive 81, here the archivist of an organization that investigates otherworldly occurrences is reading the transcripts of those archives. The stories descend into lovecraftian/SCP-esque territory, weird horrifying happenings that eschew explanations for the terror of the uncertain and unknown.
I like how even from the first episode, the voice acting is consistently good. I have unreasonably high standards for voice acting in audiodramas; most of the time, the conversations and pace of the dialogue in them feels so fake and stilted (Archive 81, I’m looking at you). But the main narrator does such a good job from the get-go; his delivery is a big part of why the series succeeds as well as it does. The first episode “Angler Fish” works really well as a first episode and primer for the series. Short and sweet and just enough details to let you imagine things but not enough to lose the sense of creepiness. It instantly presents this sense of a normal world where unknowable and insidious things lurk just in the shadows off main street. The setting isn’t some creepy house or some haunting or an isolated cabin. It’s a city street corner and some guy walking home. If you’re not safe there, if something like this could happen in such an innocuous place during such an everyday moment…what else could be out there? Magnus Archives sets that foundation with episode one.
I can’t recommend this series enough.