Last January, the BBC released the first episode of a true-crime style podcast called The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Created by Julian Simpson, this story took a Serial-esque approach to a locked room mystery involving an American man who disappeared from an asylum in England. But as the story progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that there's something darker going on.
That "something darker" would be the fact that it's a loose adaptation of The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward by HP Lovecraft. Simpson's podcast version takes the initial Lovecraftian premise — a person of privilege uncovers some hidden knowledge that inevitably connects back to ancient evil Elder Gods — and spins an updated modern tale that spans the Atlantic Ocean. Simpson cleverly weaves in English folklore and the occultism of Aleister Crowley as the journalist narrators travel back-and-forth between England and Rhode Island.
One of those narrators, it should be noted, is a woman. And there are people of color, and class issues, too — a clear response to Lovecraft's notorious bigotry (the dude was so terrified of black people and vaginas that he literally crafted an entire universe of creepy-ass tentacled fish monsters just to try and justify it). It's an organic way to breathe new life into a story that doesn't have to be so bogged down in Lovecraft's more unfortunate qualities.
I recently binged all 10 episodes of the podcast while working on some home renovations, and I found it utterly delightful. The Investigative Reporting approach gives it an almost Blair Witch-like vibe — it's certainly presented as if it is a genuine true crime podcast, and you wouldn't be faulted for falling for it (In my humble opinion, that also makes for a more gripping narrative device than the usual Lovecraft method of Random Trustfund Baby Takes A Bus Into a Random Creepy Town and Randomly Gets Involved In This Dark Mystery About Cthulhu). Read the rest