The Austin Chronicle

Laying Down the Lore

By Richard Whittaker, October 15, 2017, 3:00pm, Picture in Picture

Folklore. Fairytales. Tall tales. That thing that happened to a "friend of a friend." Aaron Mahnke's award-winning Lore podcast has collected and collated stories of changelings and ghosts, vampires and abductions, from around the world, and now Amazon adds shadows to his campfire stories with the Lore TV show.

Fittingly, the new series debuted on Friday the 13th, on Amazon Prime, as well as receiving special screenings at Halloween attractions around the nation like Austin's award-winning House of Torment. For Mahnke (who also just released his first Lore book), that communal viewing experience is one part of the power of creepy tales. He said, "They were born to be told around a crackling fire in the darkness."

Austin Chronicle: So why make the jump from the podcast, where you have complete creative control, to working with Amazon?

Aaron Mahnke: Basically, this is all about storytelling, and what's great is to see how the stories play in similar and unique ways, depending on the format that they're put in. You've got the book that you can read through, and story comes across in a different way on the printed page. Same thing for audio. The oral storytelling has a different feel. But some of these tales really benefit from the visual aspect, so we're able to grab the ones that do, and bring them to the small screen, and that's been fantastic.

AC: The podcast format harkens back to where these stories originated, which is as oral traditions. So when did you go: I can take these back to where they began, as a spoken tale?

AM: Just from the very beginning, it was the format that fit my interests, that fit my lifestyle. I do most of my reading through audiobooks. I listen, or at least before I did it for a living, I listened to a lot of podcasts. Audio is just a big part of my content intake.

AC: Where did the format come from of, not necessarily outright explaining something, but the "blind men describing an elephant" way of reaching a truth, that there's something that binds together these stories.

AM: There's the cliche in the scholarly world that when you take the text out of context, you're left with the con. The idea is to back things up with contextual information. In the age of the internet, things get misquoted, or you can take one second of an interview and really misrepresent somebody by taking them out of context. So context is really king for me. It's part of my personality. I really feel the need to explain the details around a story.

Say I want to sit down and tell you about "Passing Notes," which is one of the TV episodes and is on the podcast and in the book. It's the story of a family who's experiencing some unusual activity in their home after one of them conducts a seance. It's helpful to talk about, what was spiritualism? Why were people doing this? And what is a seance, and how prevalent was it? Was it common, was it not? And then when you have those details and that context, you can go into the story a lot more equipped to really appreciate what's going on.

It's like being given 3D glasses before walking in to see a 3D film. The movie comes to life. So for me, my goal is to always ensure that I'm providing enough context to let the story really be powerful.

Lore is streaming on Amazon Prime now.

The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke (Del Ray, hardcover, $28.00) is available now. Volume 2, The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals, will be available in 2018.

Listen to the original podcast at

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