Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Radio & Podcasts
1 November 2023

Ghosts in Barratt Home Britain

The phenomena in Uncanny mirror more quotidian troubles: break-ups, bereavement, even a wicked step-parent.

By Peter Williams

Since it debuted in 2021, Uncanny, the BBC podcast about the paranormal, has itself become a phenomenon. Created by Danny Robins, the man behind The Battersea Poltergeist podcast and the play 2.22: A Ghost Story, Uncanny has earned millions of listeners and spawned a live show, a book and a TV programme.

Yet it is the podcast, now in its third series, that works best, thanks to the intimacy and imaginative free rein of audio. Each episode features Robins interviewing a contributor about an eye-poppingly eventful, usually terrifying, experience. There are no spurious knocking sounds or half-heard footsteps here, but rather assault by poltergeist, chats with apparitions, time slips and, in one case, a demonic boar.

[See also: The fatal flaw in the “final” Beatles song]

Whether you take these accounts seriously is by the by (although the trauma these experiences have caused, or maybe the trauma that caused them, is real enough). At its best, Uncanny crafts them into masterful narratives of escalating suspense and fear. Some episodes, such as “Harry Called” and “The Return of Elizabeth Dacre”, compare with the finest ghost stories – if it transpired that these were actors performing scripts, you might only admire them more.

The interviews are punctuated by a discussion with a sceptic offering rational explanations and a “believer” who provides a supernatural one, and usually gets the last word. As in ghost fiction, the phenomena often mirror the subjects’ more quotidian troubles: break-ups, bereavement, loneliness, even a wicked step-parent. Some are in classic ghost story locations – gloomy Victorian houses, monasteries – while others situate the unreal in the anti-gothic landscape of Barratt Home Britain.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at morningcall.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Ghost stories tap in to some of our deepest questions and anxieties: about the limits of our physical senses and that which we cannot see; about the fear that nothing happens after we die, and the fear that something does. Uncanny might reacquaint you with them all.

Uncanny
BBC Sounds

Content from our partners
Planetary perspectives: how data can transform disaster response and preparation
How measurement can help turn businesses’ sustainability goals into action
How UK ports are unlocking green growth

[See also: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s thought experiment]

Topics in this article :

This article appears in the 01 Nov 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Labour Revolts