Into the darkness with The Ghost Story Guys
The Ghost Story Guys podcast advertises itself as “True stories of the paranormal, told with humour, humanity, and just a pinch of skepticism”. As I immersed myself in the world of the podcast, I realized that this was only half of the whole story. The show is as it describes but in addition, is a mixture of matey chat and real depth of paranormal knowledge. Intrigued, I wanted to find out more…
On introducing myself to the Ghost Story Guys, aka Brennan Storr and Paul Bestall, it was immediately apparent that theirs was an unusual pairing for a podcast. Storr, hailing from Victoria, BC in Canada (one of the original hosts of the podcast) is the comedy half of the duo, often inserting funny quips and flowery language into the fray, whereas Bestall, from Sheffield in the UK, is the straight guy; quiet, knowledgeable and understated. His depth of knowledge of the paranormal is quite breathtaking. He can quote the date, time, and place of almost any paranormal happening of note in the last century- a useful skill to have in the world of podcasting. The pairing works well, as they bounce off each other, flipping from fun to fact and back again with an easy, jovial banter.
I initially asked them both how they got interested in the paranormal (my usual way into a conversation). Their answers were surprisingly different;
Brennan- “This is probably is my most dramatic thing that happened. It didn’t happen until I was researching my book, ‘A Strange Little Place’, available everywhere fine books are sold.” (I told you he was funny)
Storr continues, “I didn’t believe in the paranormal. You know, I went through that period. I was raised Catholic and I didn’t like it very much. So I went through a period where I was the angry atheist guy who would defeat you with facts and logic. Yeah, I was that guy.”
“And so when I started getting into the ghost story thing again and started researching, I saw my first shadow person and I didn’t even know what it was. I’d never even heard of them. But one day I was at the office where I used to work. I was talking to the receiver and it was just us in the office that day.”
Related: Behind The Mic With Derek Hayes Host of Monster Among Us
“It was a big office, about 1600 square feet and, you know, four or five offices. We were the only people there, but as we were talking out of the corner of my eye, I saw this all-black head peek out from behind a coat rack in this office, just off to my right. It held there just long enough, I think for me to see it.”
“Then it slowly went back up and I didn’t know what to do. I just panicked and I had to clamp down on it, but I’d seen it. And then about, I wanna say about two weeks after that, maybe May 2012 and I was laying in bed and my wife works, grown-up hours, so she had gone to work already. I think it was about eight o’clock, something like that. I was late. I woke up and I’m lying in bed. The sun’s coming through the blinds. It was quite nice. And I realized someone is standing to my left, but that’s not possible because there’s a bedside table there.”
“And so I turned to look and as I did this, I saw a shadow in the shape of a man. Before I had time to react, it fell across me in the bed and I felt this electrical current all through my body. I passed out and I woke up about a half-hour later and I thought, well, that was weird.”
Paul’s story is quite different, as you might expect, hailing from the northern part of the UK. He said, “I’ve always been interested in the paranormal as I grew up in a haunted house. We lived in a converted vicarage, straight across from the church in a small village in Yorkshire.”
“Our ghost liked flushing the toilet and filling the bath, but never to overflowing. It would roll up the bedroom carpet whilst my parents slept and we had the usual knocks and bangs consistently through the four years we lived in the property. Babysitters would tend to do one night and never return, but we quite enjoyed living with a ghost.”
“I was hooked from that point onwards.”
The Ghost Story Guys podcast (or GSG as Brennan calls it) had been running for 100 episodes when the original co-host, Ian Gibbs, parted ways with the show. I asked Brennan how he hooked up with Paul and how they manage to organize their time recording the podcast across the Atlantic.
“We met via ‘Into The Fray’, which is another wonderful podcast, we were both listeners.”
Paul interjects, “Yeah, you were on episode 71, right? He was promoting his new book (which is available in all good bookshops) and the fact that he was launching his podcast.”
“And then we started listening and became social media chums, and then obviously started talking a bit more, as I decided to dip my toe into the world of podcasting. We’ve kind of spoke regularly for about three years and it’s just a transatlantic relationship that’s developed due to our love of the weird.”
As for recording halfway across the world, the GSG’s do not let geography get in the way of the podcast.
“We record the ghost story guys every fortnight, so it allows me a bit of flexibility,” says Paul. “It’s pretty easy really in regards to the fact that we just get a total of about four hours to chat to each other about a variety of topics, and somehow we ended up recording a show out of it.”
Related: Keeping It Wierd With Darren Marlar
Both guys have other podcasts on the go that they work parallel to The Ghost Story Guys (Paul’s is Mysteries and Monsters and Brennan’s is ‘Largely The Truth’, both available on all good podcast platforms). But, how did they get into podcasting in the first place?
Paul says, “I kept being told that I had a ridiculous amount of knowledge about weird things in my head, and it would be beneficial for both me and my mental health to get them out. So, it took me a long time to build up to it. I was kind of planning it for months before I just thought, you know, it’s now or never. So I just kind of jumped in with two feet. I had always listened to podcasts. I mean, it’s my main source of entertainment and has been for probably the best part of the last 10 years.”
He continues, “The Gralien Report with Micah Hanks and The Unexplained with Howard Hughes were probably the two I started listening to the most. And the thing about podcasts is, often it’s kind of like a gateway drug to other shows.”
“The Gralien Report got me into Into The Fray, Into The fray, got me into The Ghost Story Guys and Monsters Among Us, and introduced me to people. I started hearing researchers and investigators and authors that I was not aware of. I think if you just focus on the content that comes across on television, it’s a very limited pool of people and a very limited scope in regards to investigations and discussions and things.”
“That, probably along with my addiction to Monster Quest, which was on discovery at the turn of the last decade, kind of just gave me that grounding. It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve always loved Bigfoot and ghosts. If anything, I’ve probably got back into it, because I’d kind of really lost interest in the subject. So it’s been amazing, to be honest, and I never thought I’d be sat here two and a half years after starting it with so many episodes under my belt and people who I respect greatly, who seem to be fans of my show.”
Brennan’s path into podcasting took a slightly different route. He says, “Really, I’ve always loved radio. And I think if you listen to the show (and I have been told this by our listeners), it’s very much got that sort of old school radio vibe.”
“You know, when I was a kid, I would listen to CKCR in my bedroom, which was our one radio station, and I would listen to music. They would play classic radio dramas, like Dimension X and Hall Of Fantasy and Fibber McGee and Molly. So that was sort of my primary method of entertainment for a long time, and then I started trying to get to know people in the field.”
“I would participate in live streams or I would ask questions on air, things like this. Then, when I met my former co-host Ian, he was looking for advice on selling a book and so he suggested we sat down and we said, ‘I think we’re meant to do something together. He said, ‘a podcast?’ And I said, ‘yeah, that’d be great.’ ”
The story behind the skull mask logo and the tag line, ‘into the darkness we go’, was similarly organic. Brennan saw the skull mask in a drug store and, acting on an impulse to buy it, took it round to his friend, who modified it by blacking out the eyes. Next, followed an impromptu photoshoot by the side of the highway near Shawnigan Lake, with the friend dressed in the mask and suit. After taking the resulting photos to a designer, Storr had the basic skull logo and idea for the tagline. The rest, as they say, is GSG history.
As we continue our conversation, Paul mentions his love of reading. He is an avid reader of all genres of paranormal phenomena. He admits that he has recently had to buy three new bookshelves to hold his hoard of literature. He started with a dozen books on ghosts and none on Bigfoot. After purchasing over 250 books since starting his podcast, he now has at least 21 books on Bigfoot and countless others on ghosts, cryptids, UFOs, and the like.
“And that’s not enough”, he adds. “I need more, more, more … I’m weird like that. If I get an obsession, I will just go nuts, as my collection of Avengers comics proves. I got another couple the other day.
Brennan, “Oh, what d’you get?”
Paul lists off his new purchases, “I got a limited edition Captain Marvel, Black, Domino from Deadpool. Uh, and what else did I get? Oh, Ironheart limited edition.”
Brennan seems impressed.
Paul, “Yes, I’m also a Marvel geek. I’m obsessed with Marvel comics. Unfortunately, I also suffer from the illness of supporting Tottenham (Hotspur- an English football team). Yeah, to be honest, I’m surprised I’ve got time for sleeping. “
In the midst of all these hobbies and podcasts and radio shows, so am I. It must take a lot of organization to do all these things. Brennan admits that one of the things he most admires about Paul is his rigid scheduling and attention to detail. He likes that he, “knows his shit and works really f***ing hard”.
By his admission, one of the things that gets Paul riled up is when people don’t research properly before interviewing someone else. He says,
“I used to get very annoyed when I would hear people who I had a lot of respect for, speak with people who didn’t know the first thing about what they were talking about. I think if you’re going to talk about the Beast of Boggy Creek or the 1974 Pennsylvania UFO flap with Stan Gordon, then the very least you can do is read the source material to have a decent conversation.”
I completely agree, (and make sure they are aware of how much I researched the GSG podcast before I interviewed them- phew!) In fact, whilst I was listening to their podcast, I was quite impressed by the musical interludes- a refreshing plethora of unsigned or unusual artists punctuating the different segments of the show. I asked Brennan how that came about.
“I used to listen to Mysterious Universe (before current times) and they had music in the breaks. I remember listening to it thinking, geez, that would be a great place to share cool, new artists you found. This is a great opportunity to get these guys some exposure, because one of my biggest things, one of my passions, quite frankly, is I want to build people up and if I think that you’re good at what you do, and I think I can provide you with another opportunity to find a bigger audience or to go to the next level, I want to.”
That’s a very noble thing to do, something I completely agree with also. Too many people are keen to help themselves but not the smaller people – It’s not everyone’s strong suit.
As we chat, our conversation weaves and winds in and out of a multitude of subjects, including; ghost animals, music, education, whether ghosts have a historical time limit, our theories of what happens in the afterlife, and much more (the full interview can be accessed on all good podcast players, just search for Paranormality Magazine). Until, at the end of the interview, I’m reluctant to let the GSG’s go, such is the fun we’ve had. I could’ve talked to them for hours.
I think this is a testament to the easy manner with which they talk and present the podcast. They are knowledgeable, interesting, funny, and have lots of fascinating facts and stories to share. Their charm draws you in and you find yourself feeling like you’re sat with a couple of old mates down the pub. Indeed, if I could sit down in the pub with The Ghost Story Guys, I’d be as happy as Larry (whoever he was). In lieu of this, I’ll be happy to settle down to an episode of the podcast anytime I have a spare hour. And so should you. The Ghost Story Guys may be in the infancy of their new incarnation, but it promises to be a journey that will transport you to other realms for a long time to come yet. As they say, into the darkness we go…I’ll see you on the other side.