“Welcome to Night Vale” Strikes an Eerie Chord

Joshua Perry, News Editor

An epidemic of wheat and wheat by-products ravages the population. A pack of feral dogs paints bold libertarian street art on a newly constructed bridge. A mayoral candidate who is literally a five-headed dragon writes on his blog about city government reform.

It’s all just another day in the neighborhood. Confused? You should be.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is a podcast set in the fictional American desert hamlet of Night Vale, where “inexplicable phenomena” is the new normal.

Citizens fight for their lives against supernatural forces, discover haunting secrets about their neighbors (or themselves), struggle to obey the edicts of the city council hive-mind and rush to make their PTA meetings on time. It’s like if Stephen King wrote “Parks and Recreation.”

The podcast is structured as a series of community radio broadcasts by the eloquent but enigmatic host of the Night Vale radio station.

Topics for discussion include: “local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events,” according to the podcast’s website. “Turn on your radio and hide.”

Despite the radio show’s nihilistic advertisements, deep existential undertones and high intern mortality rate, it’s ridiculously funny. But it also has an ominous, even profound, mystique.

Imagine the surrealism of “Twin Peaks” and the otherworldliness of “Stranger Things.” Then add plenty of ironic humor and a healthy dose of creepiness. That’s “Welcome to Night Vale.”

The show’s uncanny charisma is something you won’t find anywhere else. Like when angels descend to change Old Woman Josie’s porchlight, or when an eldritch deity becomes chair of the school board, or when a floating cat discovered in the radio station’s bathroom becomes the station pet. It’s entirely unique.

The podcast is ongoing with more than a hundred episodes out already, but I recommend starting at the pilot. Technically you can begin listening from any point, but most of the plot threads develop over many episodes, so you don’t want to miss anything important by skipping ahead.

“Welcome to Night Vale” constructs one of the most incredible fictional settings I’ve experienced with only the power of sound. It’s truly a must-hear for lovers of the imagination.