Are there really monsters among us? The thousands of people who have shared their experiences on the famous podcast Monsters Among Us would say yes. Now in its 11th season, Monsters Among Us is a show created by the listener.
It’s a call-in show about monsters, UFOs, aliens, the paranormal, and most importantly, the people that have experienced these things. The format might seem a little strange at first because listeners call in the form of a voicemail rather than a live interview. This allows host Derek Hayes to whittle down the story and cut out a lot of the unnecessary information, giving you a streamlined version of the story almost every time. Some of the stories Derek has received over the past five years have been just incredible.
Derek gives people who have experienced something they can’t explain a platform to share their stories while getting some input on what they might have witnessed. How did a show like this start? I will let Derek explain that in his own words.
“The long story is I’m a tinkerer. I like to build things; I like the fix things. I was in my garage building a motorcycle. I rebuilt a 1979 Honda cm 400, which is a little automatic bike with two gears. I lived near downtown LA, and I worked in Beverly Hills. So, I had to shoot across town all day, and a bike is perfect. I started building the bike, and I mean, I loved building things. I built a camper and started building all these things, but the common thread here is that I listened to every paranormal podcast you can think of in the meantime, and I’m talking like five or six a night while I’m building these things.
I love the podcasts where they would interview witnesses, but I kind of had a hard time paying attention because they would get off track and ramble on about things. Some people just aren’t good at public speaking. That got me thinking that if I got a hold of these interviews and was able to just cut them down a little bit, make them a little more precise, that they would be more engaging. If you let people talk for a long time, then they feel the need to fill up that space. So, I started thinking of all these things, and I had some free time since finishing my campers. So, I thought, I’m just going to do this and see what happens. I though a couple of friends would listen to it. Maybe a few people in the community would find it interesting. Within weeks, 10,000 people were listening to these stories. I don’t know what I did. It just happened.”
In most podcasts where people share their stories about the paranormal, there are usually only one or two guests per episode. On the other hand, Monsters Among Us shares about 6 or 7 experiences in each episode while also combining news clips of similar stories. I asked Derek if it was hard to get the podcast rolling since people don’t always like to share these kinds of stories for fear of what others might think if they found out.
“Oh yeah, for sure. Early on, I had a challenging time, but luckily I thought ahead and came up with a couple of different ways to do a show without a call. I did 911 calls at one point. I think I used a few stories I found on the internet, but my biggest thing is I just talked to people. I worked in film at the time, so I met a lot of people. In my free time, or whenever we were just sitting around chatting, I would say, have you ever had anything weird happened to you? If they did, I would kind of coax the information out of them. Once I had the info, I would say, okay, you’ve got to call. You can be anonymous or make up a name. I don’t care, but you’ve got to call the story in. That kind of got me going for the first, I don’t know, six, seven, maybe eight episodes. After that, they just started pouring in. Honestly, it hasn’t stopped since.”
A little-known fact about Monsters Among Us is that it was not always the title of the podcast. The original title was Here There Be Monsters, which had a nautical theme to it. In the second season of the show, Derek was approached by another podcast saying that his show’s title was very similar to their show, and they threatened legal action. Derek quickly decided to change the name to what we know it as now. If you’re a long-time listener to the show, one of the things you may have noticed in season 11 is that the theme song has changed a little bit. It has a more 80s retro vibe with that spooky ambiance. I asked Derek what prompted him to change the theme song 11 seasons in.
“That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for five or six seasons now. I had this whole plan; I wanted to do this unsolved mystery, synth drive, eighties theme, and then Stranger Things became popular. I was thinking it kind of ruined my plans, but then Stranger Things became less popular, while that music style stayed. I couldn’t shake the thought that this is the perfect scene for this. So, I got a hold of Carl Casey at White Bat Audio, and he knocked it out of the park. He couldn’t have done a better job with that theme.”
There are two things in Monsters Among Us that I just can’t get enough of. One is the season finale, and two are the mirrored men stories. Every season, Derek ends with a segment called “Hometown Legends.” These are stories that come from people worldwide talking about their hometown haunts, cryptids, and sometimes UFOs, because let’s face it—every town has a creepy story to tell. I was curious about what prompted Derek to put these stories together for his final episode of the season.
“Well, it’s kind of a mixed bag of reasons. The biggest one is there were so many stories that I knew about and that I knew I would never get to cover because no one’s going to call in the Loveland frog or some of these obscure stories that people haven’t really seen or experienced in 50 years, but that doesn’t make them any less cool.
“I was trying to think of a way to collect those pieces of information. On top of that, as you said, every town has a story. There was an old podcast that I used to like. I don’t think they’re producing anymore, but they would do one episode on the Loveland frog. It would just be an obscure hometown legend, and each time I’d think, I’ve never heard of this. Like, this is so cool. And these are places that I visited, or places myself I had gone myself and heard people tell stories. I just knew there was a wealth of information, and I had to find some way to get that information to the public and onto the show. ‘Hometown Legends’ was sort of born that way. And again, like everything else, it just kind of took over. It became a thing of itself. And I think once a season, ‘Hometown Legends’ runs me and runs the show rather than the other way around.”
The second thing I can’t get enough of is the mirrored men stories. Derek coined the term the “mirrored men.” They are three shadow figures with hats that move together in unison. Anyone who ever comes in contact with these mirrored men ends up losing a significant amount of time. As we talked about the mirrored men, I asked when was the first time the mirrored menn story appeared on Monsters Among Us.
“For the mirrored men, we have to circle back to the early episodes where I was having a hard time getting calls. I was thinking of every single person that I can think of that ever told me anything paranormal or anything strange that ever happened to them. I had a buddy I went to college with named Matt who told me that story probably 10 years prior. I hit him up. I said, ‘You know, I need stories for this podcast. Can you help me out?’ Matt just told his story, which I thought would be a one-and-done situation. In the following weeks, I received at least half a dozen reports, almost identical to his from all around the country.
Then, over the next five years, another dozen or dozen and a half similar stories trickled in. For anyone who doesn’t know, these things are essentially interdimensional. They’re three men typically that move in unison—every single move. The first one makes the others mimic his moves. There’s a missing time associated with them. They have a very odd appearance. They have stretched facial features. They’re often described as looking like bullfrogs.”
If you have never heard of Monsters Among Us, you may have seen the cover and said to yourself, “that guy looks really familiar.” Derek is also one of Paranormal Caught On Camera hosts. In this Travel Channel TV series, the hosts break down video footage of paranormal and supernatural events. As a podcaster myself, I had several questions about going from a podcast format to a video format. Still, the one question that was on my mind was: how did you get to be in a show like Paranormal Caught On Camera?
“I got a call to be on another show in search of monsters, which I believe was also on the Travel Channel. I did that show, and I don’t know if word got out or if they found me through the show, but either way, Meeting House, the company that produces it, reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, would you like to be on this new show we’re doing?’ They sent me some clips, which seemed like a good opportunity to spread the word about the paranormal and maybe debunk some things to get some correct information out there. I agreed to do it, thinking it would be like a one or two visit thing, and we’re on season four now.”
I then asked Derek if it was hard for him to switch to a video platform seen by hundreds of thousands of people each week.
“It’s strange for me because I worked in film. I went to film school. I worked on movies for 10 years. So I’ve been behind the camera a ton, and I’ve had friends and coworkers and my boss that would end up on video doing behind-the-scenes footage. I never found myself there. I was an extra a couple of times, but nothing that required me to speak. When you put me in the chair in front of that camera, that was a terrifying situation. I’ll be honest with you: my podcast is highly edited. Anybody that listens to it can tell that my parts of the podcast are scripted. So, I have complete control over what I sound like, what I say. That’s not the case with a TV show like that. They ask you a question, you spit out your answer, and you hope you spoke correctly or didn’t say anything stupid. It gets really nerve-wracking, but after four seasons, it’s more comfortable now. Because of the pandemic, we’re actually shooting in my basement, so that makes it even more comfortable. It’s now to the point where it’s kind of second nature—I just sit down and talk about the clips and tell them what I have to say, but it was a tough transition at first, for sure.”
While we are on the subject of film, a while back, Derek partnered up with David Flora from the Blurry Photos podcast to do a documentary on the Borrego Triangle called Shadows in the Desert: High Strangeness in the Borrego Triangle. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Borrego Springs area of California are notorious for the many legends, ghost stories, and unexplained phenomena occurring there over the years. The region of the Sonoran Desert is home to the Vallecito Stage Station, Yaqui Well, in addition to the mysterious “Ghost Lights” of Oriflamme Mountain. While this was scheduled to be released in 2020, due to COVID, they could not complete their documentary since the park has been shut down. Derek and David will be back at it when the park opens back up in May, and they have a new timeline for release of winter 2021 or spring of 2022.
Questions From The Fans
This question comes from Samoan Hulk via Instagram: I’ve been listening to Monsters Among Us for a few months now, and binge listening while I’m at work. I’m on season seven, and I have only come across a couple of lore episodes from the South Pacific. I’m from Hawaii and currently living in Nevada. I will definitely be sharing some of what I’ve experienced growing up. My question for Derek is, would you consider going and doing live investigations on location if the opportunity arose?
“Yes, of course. Actually, I do this on occasion. I don’t get to go out as often as I’d like, but there was a mirrored men sighting about six miles from my house here on the mountain, and I spent a couple nights over there investigating. I threw a quick video up on YouTube a few years back about it. It’s not so much me not wanting to do it—it’s the opportunity. I don’t know many people who own these places that are haunted or own these farms that are supposedly Bigfoot hot spots. If anyone reading this wants me to investigate, by all means, reach out to me. I’m happy to do so. I got a gear bag right behind me, ready to go.
Samoan Hulk goes on to ask: where would your favorite places to investigate be?
“It’s got to be East of Bray Road. The dog man is one of my favorite cryptids. It’s one of my favorite paranormal subjects. So, Wisconsin/Northern Michigan would be where I look for the dog man. I’ve also got to look for Bigfoot. That’s something that has to happen. So, you’ve got to put me in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. I’m all about the cryptid. So, I’m going to say while I’m up there, let’s go to Okanogan and look for Ogopogo. I’m terrified of the water, but I’m fascinated and drawn to it, which I talked about a lot in the past couple of episodes. Water monsters are another one of those things where I’ve got to know what’s down there. Those would probably be my top three.”
This question comes from VI.CEV87 on Instagram: Derek, do you give any attention to simulation theory?
“I’ve definitely received calls that suggest that. I don’t know for sure if it’s a real thing, but I’ve seen some evidence that makes me question it for sure. I think it would explain a lot, and it would make me kind of mad. Honestly, if this was the whole thing was a simulation, many of us have worked our entire lives during a simulation. That would be kind of depressing, so I hope it’s not true, but it’s definitely interesting to read about.
This question comes from prairieparapod via Instagram: Derek, what was your big break? What sent you skyrocketing and made you realize you really made it in the podcasting world?
“Well, I’ll be honest. I don’t know that I’ve made it in the podcasting world. It’s a struggle every day. It’s not an easy thing to put together, and it’s certainly not an easy thing to make money off of. I think just creating a show that resonated with people and finding a connection there—that was my big break.
Sarah and I just invested our first advertising money. Up until that point, we haven’t done any advertising. It’s all been word-of-mouth or people finding me through guest shows or Paranormal Caught On Camera. Still, we just started investing in advertising to try to gain a wider audience and get the show to grow. Outside of that, it’s just a kind of nose-to-the-grindstone kind of thing. I’ve always had this mentality that if I make the content I hear in my head, people will listen to it. People will fall in love with it, and people will come back. It’s been a mom-and-pop operation from day one.”
I started this article by asking whether monsters are indeed among us. With thousands of people’s testimonials, I have to say I genuinely believe it is a possibility. If you’re looking for a great show where people tell their tales of monsters, ghosts, UFOs, and more, then give Monsters Among Us a shot. If you’d like to hear the full interview with Derek Hayes, you can listen to that on our podcast, Paranormality Magazine.