Listen to this eerily immersive audio tour of a real-life Bates Motel

Blake Pfeil's abandoned: The All-American Ruins Podcast is an award-winning audio series that takes a stunningly immersive approach to the trend of urban exploration. Here's the blurb:

​abandoned: The All-American Ruins Podcast guides listeners through immersive audio fantasies, recreating host Blake Pfeil's experiences exploring abandoned spaces across the United States. Along the way, abandoned asks critical questions about American history and culture, community, capitalism and economics, the environment, and mental health while encouraging folks to activate their imaginations as a tool for healing.

The idea of exploring abandoned and ruined buildings is itself not particularly new. But Pfeil cleverly uses that concept as a jumping off point to explore the intersections of history, economics, and modern American politics and sociology. Pfeil also does truly phenomenal sound design. At the start of each episode, he implores the listener to put their headphones on, stop what they're doing, and give themselves over fully to the rich, immersive audio experience — and that's not just back-patting self-promotion. The All-American Ruins Podcast is genuinely the kind of podcast that makes you want to close your eyes and listen, to let your mind transport you to another place. Full disclosure, I went to college with Pfeil, but I would be saying this anyway. It's a truly rich and resonant audio experience.

There are a lot of great episodes to explore, but my personal favorite — and the one I think that regular BoingBoing readers will enjoy the most — is "Norman Bates and Gerald Foos and Me (Sawyerkill Motel – Saugerties, NY)," in which Pfeil visits the abandoned Sawyerkill Motel in Saugerties, New York. The Sawyerkill itself is not a particularly interesting or historical locale. But Pfeil uses the crumbling property as a jumping off point to explore larger ideas of voyeurism in America, connecting the Sawyerkill to the real life case of infamous "Voyeur Motel" in Denver and to the even-more infamous (though not necessarily real) story of the Bates Motel from Psycho.

The end result is a 27-minute fever dream audio experience full of Hitchcockian suspense that doesn't shy away from examining the harsh reality of disillusionment that plagues so many MAGA types across the country. And that might be the scariest—and most empathetic—part of the entire episode. Pfeil expertly weaves fictional and non-fictional motel creeps into the mythology of economic depression in rural America, and how the victims of those conditions seek to scapegoat immigrants and others instead of facing the truth about their rose-colored view of 50s/60s America.

I listened to this podcast months ago, and it still haunts me.

abandoned: The All-American Ruins Podcast [Blake Pfeil / Hudsy]

Norman Bates and Gerald Foos and Me [Blake Pfeil / Medium]

Norman Bates and Gerald Foos and Me (Sawyerkill Motel – Saugerties, NY) [Apple Podcasts]