A picture of you holding a picture of me

Abandoned spaces fascinate me. For some reason, I always picture long, echoey hallways, peeling paint in muted colours, sunlight somehow feeling like it’s intruding as it gets into all the empty nooks and crannies that should be taken up by human bodies.

In my late teens I came across Session 9, a psychological horror set in an abandoned mental institution. One of the characters had nyctophobia – fear of the dark – a fear that pokes its head out every so often and reminds me that I’m not so much an adult as three toddlers in a trench coat.

Anyway, we’re not here to list things that scare your editor; we’re here to talk about podcasts!


I’m pleased this week to bring you a podcast that blurs the boundaries between things imagined and things solid. Abandoned: the All-American Ruins Podcast explores spaces lost to capitalism. In episode 9, The King of Letchworth Village, host and writer Blake Pfeil takes us gently by the hand and walks through an abandoned psychiatric hospital.

We don’t just visit this space as it is in 2022, but take a wander back to its “hay day”… if that’s the right term. The gradual filling-in of the skeleton – as people and things from the past slowly materialise – reminded me of those scenes from The Shining when Jack meets the barman and other staff from the Overlook hotel’s bygone era.

But what begins as maybe a little eerie ends with a beautiful, and very real moment between Blake and his new imaginary friend Carl, pictured in the photo that accompanies this issue.

The minute I’m bringing you starts at 23:12 in my copy. It’s beautiful, tender, with vivid word paintings and gentle sound design. It might have helped that I was walking in nature when I heard it, but I really felt a sense that I was there, and enjoying this bittersweet moment, and what felt to me like the end of a short-lived love story.

To me, this demonstrates what separates good narrative podcasts – fiction, non-fiction, or somewhere in-between – from mediocre ones. Everything has to hang on the writing. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it’s the first and most important thing. Music, sound effects, and performance are vital ingredients, but are all in support of the words.

Blake got in touch to tell me about his podcast, and I’m glad he did. You can too, if you have one you’re working on.

And if you’d like to hear from Blake himself, the Big Minute podcast goes behind the scenes and into the writing of this episode, with an interview that is – in keeping with the theme – a minute long. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and for listening. I’ll keep doing the same. Have a tremendous week, and we’ll catch up again next Sunday.


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