We caught up with “Lore” host Aaron Mahnke to chat about his latest book, his research process, and of course, his addictive, mind-blowing podcast.
SHAWN SPEAKMAN: Can you tell us more about “Lore” and how you arrived at its creation?
AARON MAHNKE: “Lore” is primarily a podcast—so, a regular audio program you can download for free—that discusses true stories from the darkest corners of history. As a podcast, “Lore” has won awards and accolades, and built an audience of nearly a million listeners. And that’s allowed for some spin-offs. Amazon makes a television show based on Lore (now in its second season), and of course, there are the books.
The books are thematic collections of stories from the podcast, along with brand new tales, all presented in a beautiful hardcover with hauntingly delicious illustrations. It’s perfect for the “Lore” super-fan, for folks who enjoy reading over listening, and for anyone who wants these dark historical tales to live on their bookshelf.
What We're Reading This WeekGet recommendations for the greatest books around straight to your inbox every week.
Dreadful Places is the third installment in the series, and brings together stories about some of the most bizarre and haunting locations in history, where people have left a mark that can still be felt today. Monstrous Creatures is a collection of stories about the mysterious “things” that walk through our work, and Wicked Mortals explores historical humans with a darker side.
SS: Dreadful Places is exactly that — those dark places in the world that seem to be more than what is on their surface. Do you get the “willies” when visiting places like this? Feel something that you can’t explain?
AM: The secret behind most of “Lore” is that I never get to visit these places. If I traveled for every story, it would take up all my writing time. Thankfully, you can explore all sorts of places through books, papers, reports, and the like.
That said, many of my location-based stories end up become inspiration for my listeners. I hear from many who have listened to a particular story and then headed off to see it for themselves. Sometimes they send me postcards, and sometimes they post pictures on social media. It’s always a joy to know that my stories are giving other people a spooky experience.
SS: I know writers who absolutely abhor research when it comes to their writing. But it seems to me the bulk of the work you do on these volumes and your podcast is research, research, research. How much do you enjoy the research part of it compared to the writing?
AM: I love history, and research is part of that. The process of digging deep is satisfying to me. I don’t always have the chance to use 100% of the details my team and I discover, but the journey is fun regardless. These days, I split my time between writing and recording multiple podcasts, so I have a team of researchers who are working behind the scenes to bring me new tales to tell. It’s a blast.
SS: Is there a “dreadful place” out there that you didn’t get to write about but which you’d love to visit? If so, where and why?
AM: I never talk about future topics, but if I can take the hypothetical route, I would love to have been able to visit the Murder Castle of H. H. Holmes, the notorious Chicago serial killer. It was a maze of body chutes, trap doors, and secret rooms, but it sadly burned to the ground before the police could do a full investigation.
SS: What are you currently working on right now? Title? Release date? Do tell!
AM: Right now, Lore is still an ongoing project, but I also write and produce two other shows: Unobscured, which is a long-form documenary podcast that covers one topic for twelve episodes, and Cabinet of Curiosities, a twice-weekly bit of historical trivia that’s reminiscent of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story.