Danny Robins Says "We Really Need Ghosts As A Society" Ahead Of The Season Finale Of 'Uncanny'
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Tomorrow evening the season finale of 'Uncanny' will drop on BBC Sounds, ahead of its release we spoke to its host, Danny Robins, about the success of this supernatural podcast series.
Back in episode one, Danny, who describes himself as a skeptic who wants to believe, made the bold claim that he hoped the series would be the biggest investigation into the paranormal ever and judging by the response, he may well have achieved that goal.
With tales like Ken's story of hauntings in Room 611, the story of journalist Hannah Betts haunted childhood home, the gripping report of a haunting in the Highlands at Luibeilt, and the ghost of Elizabeth Dacre in Rottingdean, 'Uncanny' has dominated the paranormal landscape over the last few months.
A strong community has formed around the series, which concludes with its 15th episode tomorrow. There are literally thousands of investigators all around the world digging around into the cases featured in each episode. On this website alone there has consistently been at least five pages related to Danny's podcast among the 20 trending pages for the last month, at most there's been nine pages about the podcast trending on a single day.
Speaking ahead of the final episode, which will see Danny reveal new evidence relating to Room 611, Danny told us why it is so important to share ghost stories, like those featured in 'Uncanny'. He said, "we can argue for a long time about what ghosts are and whether they are the spirits of the dead or whether they are environmental factors or psychological factors that generate these experiences, but people are being haunted, people are having these experiences and to a degree where they have profound life-changing experiences."
From Ken in Room 611 to Hannah Betts, 'Uncanny' has introduced us to cases which have tested the belief systems of those who experienced them. As Danny recalls, "some of the people we've heard from this series have never got over this moment, and certainly all of them have never forgotten it."
He says it's for this reason that it's important we take reports of this nature seriously, adding "I think we as a society have become quite bad about talking about these things. It use to be far more acceptable to talk about ghosts and hauntings. I think there is a reason why ghost beliefs has persisted for so long, either they definitely exist or we really need them as a society."
Many countries around the world celebrate their ancestors and the dead, such as Mexico which observes Día de Muertos annually. As Danny points out, much of the western world aren't so good at dealing with death, "there are other cultures that are much much better at processing death, they're much more in tune with the idea of ancestors and death, and we have a real problem with it I think in the UK and in America, particularly where ghost hunting, that idea of chasing ghost is so prevalent."
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"I think we really need ghosts as a society, we're kind of obsessed with them and have to keep discussing them."
The discussion comes to an end in the final episode tomorrow night at 9pm. Danny will be hosting a live listen-along on Twitter that evening, which you can get involved with and share your thoughts and theories using the hashtag #UncannyListenAlong. Expect updates on some of the series' most captivating cases, including the curse of Luibeilt.
Each of these gripping cases are told first hand by the person who experienced them. Danny has been bombarded with stories since opening the floodgates with his hugely successful podcast series, 'The Battersea Poltergeist' last year. With so many supernatural tales to read through, just what does it take to get featured in an episode of 'Uncanny'? Danny tells us, "I think the thing that sets my pulse raising is that line, 'I don't believe in ghosts, but I've seen a ghost.'"
He continued, "I think it's very easy to spot ghosts if you go looking for them. There are people who go ghost hunting every weekend and are constantly putting themselves in situations where they might encounter something that they think is a ghost, but if you're somebody who is living your life as a skeptic and then suddenly you have this bizarre and terrifying experience, then for me that is so intriguing and I love probing those experiences."
Danny likens a good 'Uncanny' case to a horror movie. He told us, "I'm always trying to seek out stories that have that sort of beautiful three-act narrative structure that feels like a real-life horror film, sort of real-life stories from real people that play out like Stephen King novels."
The one thing that makes 'Uncanny' stand out in a sea of other paranormal podcasts is how open and honest Danny's guests are when they talk about their experiences. Danny admitted that it's a delight to have people send him stories that they describe so eloquently and openly, "it's interesting how many times the person hasn't told the story to other people, or certainly not widely anyway because I think there is now this sort of stigma around saying you've seen something."
Danny said he tries to create a safe environment for them to share their experiences with him, "I think people, particularly now coming in, if you tell me a story now you kind of know that you are entering into an environment that's non-judgemental and supportive and kind, I guess. So I think that that all helps, but I do think that the eloquence of people stems from the profundity of the experience, from the fact that it makes such a big impression on them, they are able to describe it in incredibly clear and vivid terms."
There's no denying the pull these vivid stories have had on the podcast's audience, but part of the reason for the show's success is it's ability to enthral a wide audience. Danny said, "it's quite unique in that sense, generally paranormal shows either play to an audience of people who are all believers, or an audience of people who are all skeptics, but something about the nature of our show has bred this nice community of people with completely polarised opinions."
Talking about this community, which uses the identifies itself using #UncannyCommunity on Twitter, the podcast host said "it's amazing, it certainly reached its pinnacle at the weekend. I was in Brighton and I decided I'd pop across to Rottingdean to look at the house where the Elizabeth Dacre story happened and as I was wandering through the graveyard to look at the house, I bumped into some other Uncanny fans. They were there doing exactly the same thing."
Photo: © Danny Robins
He added, "it's lovely hearing people say that they sit listening with a notebook and pencil writing notes down and then kind of go off and do their own digging online. It just really seems to have captured people's imaginations, there's certain stories in particular like Hannah Betts, or Elizabeth Dacre, or particularly Ken that have really set people on fire."
With a community made up of believers and skeptics, Danny says it's important that the show represents the two sides of the argument, "I think it's really important that I'm not coming from a particular point of view of wanting to push an agenda. I'm not somebody who's had experiences, so I can't push that agenda and as a skeptic I want to believe, so I'm not actively pushing the skeptic agenda either."
He continued, "I think if I'd had my own experiences, you know for instant if I had seen a ghost, I don't think I would be able to be the objective presence that I need to be for this show. I think it is incredibly important to straddle both camps."
Helping Danny keep that balance is of course his brilliant panel of experts including Haley Stevens, Deborah Hyde and David Clark. Danny said, "when you're listening to the show, you've got your skeptic expert in the form of a Ciarán O'Keeffe or a Chris French, you've got your believer expert as in Evelyn Hollow or Peter Laws, and I'm in the middle. I'm all those people probably like the majority of listeners, who aren't sure and I think that's really important."
Photo: © ichbinsnur123
But of course, fans of the podcast aren't just debating the existence of ghosts. 'Uncanny' has also explored guardian angels, premonitions and the fascinating Todmorden UFO case. We asked Danny if this means 'Uncanny' could venture in to other more unusual paranormal cases in future. He replied, "I think as we move forwards there's loads of other things I'd like to explore."
Danny added, "I find myself keep going back to ghosts because I find them so fascinating myself, but the UFO story has opened up a whole new avenue for me. I've looked at UFOs a little bit in the past for other projects, but it was really nice to get into that and find that that's something that connects massively with people as well."
Cryptozology is a branch of the paranormal that deals with reports of unusual or unsubstantiated animals, such as big cats or yetis. Danny said this is something he'd love to explore, "we've been chasing certain stories on that and got some interesting potential stories that didn't quite crystallise enough for series one, but I'd definitely like to do something on that."
So perhaps we'll hear from Danny as he's crouched in long grass on the hunt for Sasquatch in a future episode of 'Uncanny', but is Danny likely to leave the safety of his studio, or garden shed, and embark on some field research? Perhaps head to Luibeilt to conduct a ghost hunt?
Photo: © Sandy Stevenson
Danny says this is something a lot of people ask him about, but explains "the thing that limits us mostly is budget and time." He added that the show is "incredibly labour intensive and quite low budget, so the idea of going and spending the two or three days it would take to go up to Scotland is tricky on the schedule and time we have."
However, it is something Danny would like to do and given the popularity of the podcast, perhaps he'll get his chance. Danny said, "if we were lucky enough to adapt this for television, then clearly that sort of thing would be brilliant, introducing that visual element to be able to see the places."
So does this mean a television series is on the cards? Well Danny told us "there's lots of people interested in adapting it for TV and so we're having those chats, and that would be lovely if it happens, but we will see."
While 'Uncanny' is presented as audio, Danny feels there's no burning, desperate need to visit the places featured in the stories, this is because Danny believes the cases are more about the people than the place. He said, "I think so many ghost hunting shows revolve around going to a haunted pub or a haunted castle or whatever, and spending the night there and seeing what happens and soaking it up. I think 'Uncanny' is the flip side of that' It's about somebody that wasn't going looking for ghosts having these experiences."
So, what's next for 'Uncanny'? Although a second series has not yet been confirmed, Danny said, "we will come back and there's other projects as well lined up, we're going to do another case like 'The Battersea Poltergeist' where we explore through multiple episodes, through drama and documentary."
Danny says it's really nice to discover new cases that feel rich and as deep, like the case of Shirley Hitching, but says he wouldn't rule out re-opening the Battersea case file, "we've had some people contact us, new witnesses coming through that we were able to feature and mention in the live show we did in November, and so I think we might come back to that and do a bonus episode."
New evidence is also likely to be worked in to the upcoming television adaptation of the Battersea case - Danny is working on the pilot scripts for this at the moment. The project was announced last year and will be produced by Blumhouse, who are best known for their supernatural movies including 'Paranormal Activity', 'Insidious' and 'Ouija'. The television project has also acquired the rights to the life story of Shirley, who is now in her 80s and living on the south coast.
The final episode in this series of 'Uncanny' drop's a day earlier than normal on the night of Tuesday, January 25. Danny will be hosting a live listen-along on Twitter that evening at 9pm. You can get involved and share your thoughts and theories using the hashtag #UncannyListenAlong.
Expect updates on some of the series' most gripping cases, including the curse of Luibeilt and the evil that lurks in Room 611. If you've missed any of the episodes so far, you can listen back to them all now on BBC Sounds.
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