At the end of the day, we can’t really claim to know the people around us. Most of the time, that’s just an accepted part of life. But every now and then, that mystery plants a seed that eventually grows into suspicion and fear. It’s one of our innate habits as human beings: if there’s a gap in our knowledge, we’ll invent anything to fill it. But that’s also the problem. Because while the vast majority of these whispers turn out to be nothing more than fiction, every now and then they are the shadow cast by something bigger than we could ever have imagined. Some rumors, it seems, just might be true.
Episode 144 of the Lore podcast pays a visit to a tavern (or “ordinary,” as such places were known in the late 1700’s) with an unsavory reputation. Host Aaron Mahnke focuses most of the narrative on the Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania, establishment of a man named Matthias Schaumboch. Perennially distrusted by the locals for his grim demeanor and eccentric behavior, this improper proprietor also is alleged to have murdered many of the guests who sought respite at his tavern (the theft of their goods doesn’t cover the subsequent transgression, either). Mahnke associates Matthias with “the classic villains of folklore,” but in his horrid inhospitality he can also be seen to prefigure a real-life nemesis such as H.H. Holmes and the modern fictional psycho Norman Bates. No doubt, a central theme of the episode (“When we travel,” Mahnke warns, “we step out of the safety of the known, and put ourselves at the mercy and chaos of the unknown”) leads straight toward the territory of the American Gothic.
In a quintessential Lore maneuver, the closing segment offers a curious anecdote (concerning a con man’s putative “perpetual motion” machine) that ultimately involves a famous historical figure. All three parts of the episode–intro, main section, and conclusion–prove quite entertaining. Eschewing extensive exposition, Mahnke delves right into the telling of some gripping stories. Devoted listeners of the podcast will definitely want to target “Birds of Prey.”