“We’re just here to have fun. We’re not here to dabble in any fucked up shit.” That is the spirit of That’s The Spirit according to Robin Browne, one half of my favorite paranormal podcast’s founders. She and Stephanie Fagan, her childhood-friend-turned-co-host, agreed to meet up with me to talk about how they go about choosing topics of conversation for each ghoulish episode. So far they’ve covered everything from ghost cats to bleeding trees, but the internet is an inexhaustible resource for discovering obscure spooks, so even though they upload new episodes each Wednesday, it’s highly unlikely they’ll run out of material anytime soon. And if you’re a new listener, you’ll be happy to know they’ve got SIXTY episodes in the catalog to get you revved up for Halloween. You can listen to the latest one RIGHT HERE, and then feel free to internet-eavesdrop on all of our ghastly gabbin’ below!
BYT: So out of all the possibilities for a podcast theme, what made you guys gravitate towards the paranormal?
Stephanie: Well, I think one of the reasons we got into doing this podcast together is because one of the ways both of us cope with the darkness in life is by making fun of it. Ghosts, goblins, werewolves, ghouls…they’re all asking to be made fun of.
BYT: And how do you choose what you’re going to talk about each episode?
Robin: We used to actively choose topics, and we do still choose topics or a theme, but more often than not we choose based on our whims and fancies. Or if there’s a holiday coming up or something like that, we’ll incorporate that.
Stephanie: Like at Christmastime we did all Christmas ghosts. That’s actually the most haunted time of the year, I don’t know if you knew that.
Robin: Also if we travel someplace we’ll focus on something local. But we do the podcast weekly, so pretty much as soon as we finish recording an episode, we immediately have to start researching for the next one.
BYT: I’m sure you’ve found some absurd stuff while researching out there on ye olde internet, too. What’s an example of a really weird thing you’ve come across?
Robin: We were looking for something online once, and this article about Maine popped up on a publication called The Costa Rican Times. We went down this rabbit hole – one guy has written like four hundred articles about ghosts for The Costa Rican Times. And we did a deep dive on him, and we somehow discovered that in the seventies he called himself the ‘Disco King’ of some town in New Jersey or something. His name is Paul Dale Roberts. He refers to his wife by her full name (Deanna Jaxine Stinson) in every single article. I feel like I was up all night freaking out about the absurdity of it.
Stephanie: Yeah, the more you dig into paranormal stuff and people, you get a real history. Do you know about Brother Carlos? He’s an internet exorcism expert. I’d highly recommend looking into his YouTube videos. He’s 100% not ordained in anything. He sells a book about exorcising your pets. It’s some of the craziest shit I’ve ever seen. But he takes it very seriously, and it’s mesmerizing. I could watch it for an hour, which is totally possible, because his videos are like three hours long.
BYT: There’s definitely a paranormal “type”. Like I definitely think all different kinds of people can be interested in the paranormal, but when it comes to like, professionals…I mean, I once interviewed a paranormal investigator who was based out of like, Long Island, I think, and he was just…kind of a next-level weirdo, you know? Nice guy, but did not accept his Facebook friend request that I got after our interview, if you know what I mean. Now, you guys have talked about how Stephanie grew up in a haunted house. Tell me more about that.
Stephanie: So the house isn’t old; it was built in the seventies from cheap parts of other houses, that thing that contractors do. The house itself I feel isn’t the problem, I think it’s the area. The land or something. Or maybe something fucked up happened in the seventies in the house, I don’t know.
Robin: Your mom also buys a lot of scary antiques.
Stephanie: Yeah, the house is definitely full of a billion antiques. I don’t think anything is new. My mom has a drawer of just combs!
BYT: Oh yeah, combs and mirrors are two of the big no-nos when it comes to potentially haunted objects.
Robin: And they’re all like, child-sized!
Stephanie: Not all of them. There are some adult ones in there for sure. But she does have silver baby rattles with initials monogrammed on them. Terrifying. I don’t like that stuff. You know, those things are heirlooms. A lot of things that are just deeply personal, like photo albums of people we don’t know. The most haunted thing she’s ever bought is a set of three mirrors. In the olden times, usually anything that was mounted had paper glued around the back. So the two mirrors have that, and then one of them doesn’t. One of them, the paper’s ripped away, and there are nails in it keeping the new backing in place. So I was like, “That’s pretty weird, I wonder what happened here?” And initially my mom was like, “It probably just got ripped, and they were making sure it stayed put.” But then I was like, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if there was a weird picture behind it?” And she was like, “You know, it would be. Let’s check just in case.” And lo and behold, there was. And it’s the worst picture I’ve ever seen.
Robin: It’s really fucked up.
Stephanie: I was just screaming the word “NO!” for like forty-five minutes. So my mom is like, “Well, what do we do with these mirrors now?” And I was like, “You gotta put the picture back in it. We can’t disinter this family.” It’s this picture of a family, and they all look very, very, very fucking weird. Like the adults look way too old to be the parents of these kids, and everyone looks really miserable and strange.
Robin: And this just like, hangs on a wall in her house now!
Stephanie: No, we put it in a drawer!
BYT: So when did you first start noticing something was up with your house, then?
Stephanie: Actually, I was just telling this story. It was the first night that my parents took us there to see it before we moved in. I was seven, and I don’t really remember this, but we had a hotel room because we weren’t moving in until the next day. Me and my little brother said we wanted to see the house when they asked us, so we drove, and the electricity wasn’t on yet since it wasn’t scheduled to be turned back on until the next day. So we had flashlights, and we were running around the house finding our rooms. It was very creepy, because there was wallpaper peeling off the walls, and it wasn’t a particularly old house at the time. So I’m running around, and my parents go, “What are you doing?” And I just go, “Where is she?!” And they’re like, “What are you talking about?” And I’m like, “My friend! Where is she? She’s gotta be around here somewhere!” And they’re like, “No one is here, what are you talking about?” Apparently I’d heard this little girl singing, and I’d routinely over the next year keep looking around the second floor for the source and not find anything. And that didn’t scare me at all then.
BYT: That’s fucking terrifying. I think one of my biggest fears is buying a haunted house. Not that I think I’ll ever be in a financial position to buy a house, but the idea of that scares me. And whenever I’m house sitting for other people, my fear isn’t that like, someone could break in or whatever. (You know, real, tangible things.) But it’s that I might see a ghost or something at night. So usually I’ll sleep with the lights and like, Disney Channel on the whole night. (To be clear, I am thirty years old.)
Robin: I don’t think I have too many fears, but stuff happening in the middle of the night scares me so badly. I recently discovered a new fear of mine, because I’ve only just now sort of started to have to stay by myself in hotels for weddings and stuff. I get really, really scared sleeping in a hotel room alone, especially if there are two beds in the room, because I have this fear that I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night and there’s going to be something on or in the other bed. I was at a wedding recently where they were like, “We upgraded you to a waterfront room with two beds!” And I was like, “Umm…can you just downgrade me again?”
Stephanie: I think I can sleep through almost anything.
Robin: No way, not me. I was up until 5am last night with all the lights on because there was a mosquito in my room. If anything is afoot, I’m not sleeping.
BYT: Totally. Same. Now, do you guys feel like you believe in ghosts? Like, I think I do, but I also hesitate to say it sometimes. And also, the more that I read about like, quantum physics and things like that, the more I feel like it’s not necessarily this traditional understanding we have of like, what a ghost even is.
Robin: Yeah, I much prefer the scientific explanation of like, multiverse, or whatever it is.
Stephanie: I definitely struggle with it because of having a religious upbringing. It’s not something I practice anymore, but it’s interesting, because it’s still hard to explain to people why certain things scare me so much. Like a demon. Why does that scare me so much? I understand it’s not real, but when you’re little, and you really believed the devil could go inside of you and make you bad, change who you are, it’s very difficult to shake that sort of fear. When people ask me if I’ve seen a ghost, I usually say I haven’t, because at the end of the day I’m just not sure. I want to believe, but I don’t know.
BYT: Isn’t that weird how religion can take such a strong hold? Like, I’m definitely not a practicing Catholic as an adult, but being raised that way, I don’t know, I still hold onto some stuff. Robin, were you raised religious?
Robin: I wasn’t brought up religious as a kid, but I did watch a lot of scary movies growing up. It was weirdly comforting for me to watch those sorts of things. I guess that was kind of my religion in a way.
Stephanie: There’s a lot of behavioral science behind that, like why people like scary movies and scary things. It’s been proven that people who resonate at a higher anxiety frequency are more likely to find that stuff cathartic than, say, a ‘normal’ person. They measured the brainwaves on people doing a haunted house, and the people who identified as anxious were actually much more balanced when the scares came than the other people, because they were already operating at such a higher level of anxiety during like, resting periods. So it kind of makes sense that we’re comfortable surrounding ourselves with this sort of stuff. We actually both did a nighttime cemetery tour and felt so calm during the whole thing!
BYT: That’s really true. Some of my most anxiety-riddled friends are the ones who love horror movies and all that stuff the most. It makes sense. Alright, and so finally, let’s talk about your run of the mill skeptics, or people who take a hard-line “NO!” stance re: the existence of the paranormal. Do you think they can still have a good time listening to That’s The Spirit?
Robin: Pretty much everyone we know, and a lot of the guests we’ve had on the show, have said they don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t think that bothers us at all, though. Some people are really indignant and adamant about it, but I just feel like it’s a fun thing that you can choose to believe in that makes you feel less hopeless. Let people believe what they’re gonna believe. And you don’t have to believe in ghosts to enjoy a good ghost story, whether you find appreciation in the history, or the way the story is told, or whatever else. We’re not interested in convincing people that these things are real, we’re just having fun.
Stephanie: And a lot of these things have been talked about since ancient times, you know? It’s wild that they’re still such a big part of our culture. And what we love is being able to talk about all of that in the dumbest way possible every week.