Those two words are familiar to anyone who has tuned into Rusty Quill’s horror fiction podcast, The Magnus Archives (MAG). The weekly anthology series is produced by Rusty Quill, directed by founder and CEO of the company Alexander J Newall and written and performed by Jonathan Sims.
If Lovecraftian horror and the universe of the SCP Foundation had children, one of them would be MAG. The series follows protagonist Jonathan Sims, newly appointed head archivist of the Magnus Institute, an organization that researches the paranormal and weird, as he sifts through a disorganized collection of supernatural statements in dire need of a categorical upgrade.
Despite initially dismissing these statements, Sims, his team and the listener start to realize as the series progresses that something is not quite right, and that something may even be lurking within the archives.
Each episode opens with a haunting violin tune accompanied by a brief introduction to the series and the episode title followed by a brief loud banging sound. The listener then hears the iconic clicking sound of a tape recorder as Sims introduces the episode’s statement.
These stylistic choices are some of the series’ strongest points, making the listener feel like they are hearing a pre-recorded tape of a real archivist somewhere in London. My favourite kind of podcast is a horror podcast, yes, but especially one that transports its listener into its world through clever use of the podcast form. Despite having no imagery or visuals, MAG creates another world through its masterful use of audio.
For example, near the series’ season one finale, episodes are still presented as recorded tapes, but not just of statements. They are instead conversations between archive staff, or an interruption caused by an incident inside the institute that exposes the listener to the perilous fates of Sims and his coworkers, ending on a cliff-hanger.
I have often found myself completely immersed after such an escalation occurs. More times than I can count, I have shot up to attention at the sound of yelling, or when I’ve heard something in the room that Sims himself has yet to notice. It is for this reason that I cannot recommend MAG for studying.
Too many times I have fallen victim to procrastination due to this podcast. It is too engaging too frequently to zone out to and despite being a weekly anthology series, the overarching plot involving the archive itself is littered throughout each episode in some manner that will come full circle in later episodes and seasons.
One could listen to it while doing a mindless task like washing dishes, knitting or taking the bus, but the ultimate listening experience for MAG is in bed at night with the lights off.
Will you get any sleep? No, absolutely not. Will it be worth it despite the eldritch nightmares falling asleep to an episode might bring? Yes.