Lore creator Aaron Mahnke wouldn’t necessarily label himself the voice of Halloween (or the month of October), when many fans of all things horror seek out new and classic thrills. But in the third year of the podcast, featuring non-fiction stories about the dark side of human nature about everything from haunted houses to witch hunters narrated by Mahnke, it’s become something of a phenomenon.
“It does feel like people are treating this like a piece of pop culture,” he tells ET of people having listening parties and enjoying it around campfires during October, which he says is the biggest month for downloads of the podcast. (In total, the podcast has accumulated over 96 million listens.) “It’s a pretty surreal feeling.”
This year, Lore, which has now released over 70 original episodes, is even bigger thanks to the expansion of the brand into a book series, The World of Lore, which launched with Monstrous Creatures on Oct. 10, and a six-episode Amazon TV series, which premiered on Friday, Oct. 13. Then add all the promotion, a book tour and Comic-Con appearances, and Halloween -- or October, rather -- is something like Christmas for Mahnke.
While Halloween is certainly an apt time to take in some of Mahnke’s twisted tales about real-life horrors, it’s easy to get sucked into the creator’s calm delivery backed by composer Chad Lawson’s simplistic yet eerie piano stylings. Each episode starts simply enough, with Mahnke offering to explain the story behind a longtime superstition before the story takes unexpected turns. “Lore is a deceptively simple podcast,” the creator explains, revealing there are several components – historical context, smaller tales used to illustrate the larger point and little lessons – that make it both inviting for audiences but easily adaptable for the screen.
Combining animation, found footage and filmed sequences featuring actors like Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood), Adam Goldberg (Fargo) and Holland Roden (Teen Wolf), the TV series adds a visual component that Mahnke says make each episode a more distinct experience.
Launched in March of 2015, Lore was only a few months in when the idea for a TV adaptation became a reality. By the time it went into production, there were over 50 episodes of content to choose from. “It’s an unusual problem to have when you’re making a TV show: an overabundance of things to use,” Mahnke says, revealing that they ultimately chose to focus on stories that didn’t have too unique of concepts or would have required too much explanation for audiences to understand. As a result, they settled on fan-favorites including a story of a family whose home appears to be inhabited by a spirit from the other side; a German village that hunts for a murderous creature; and “Unboxed,” the tale of a boy given a doll that seems to have a sinister life of its own.
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It’s a popular episode made even scarier onscreen with what Mahnke describes as a “really freaky-looking doll.” As for why it’s is a favorite among fans (and appears on the podcast, on the show and in the book series), he says it’s simply for its fright factor. “This idea of a doll that seems to be alive and haunting a house – people love that freaky of a story,” Mahnke explains.
But why Lore resonates across so many platforms and with so many fans may be because of how these stories about the dark side of human nature reflect upon society. It’s partly the subject matter, but it’s also partly “how little you realized we’ve changed as people,” Mahnke says, especially of episodes like “Familiar,” about a witch hunter in the 1600s. “We still take hate and we still use it as a weapon against people we don’t like. It’s funny, we experience it in our everyday lives. People do really bad things with hatred as the root cause and you’d think after 400 years we would have learned our lesson, but we haven’t.”