Guest writer MONA HERB BOUGHTON calls The Magnus Archives horror podcast, a “blinding beacon of terrifying brilliance”
After years toiling as a researcher at the Magnus Institute, an organisation obsessed with collecting esoteric artefacts and paranormal artefacts, Jonathan Simms has been unexpectedly promoted to the position of head archivist.
The archives house numerous cursed trinkets, monstrosities, and secrets which will all threaten to consume him. However, he is far more concerned with bringing some form of order to the archives.
Most visitors and employees of the Magnus Institute are far more interested in the more functional library, and Jon’s predecessor has left the archives in a centuries-old cluttered hell.
Faced with what he thinks will simply be a migraine of a job, Jon begins this herculean task with Case #0122204 – in 2012, student Nathan Watts recounts a drunk walk in Edinburgh’, where he has an uneasy encounter with a blank-faced, swaying stranger who could only ask for spare cigarettes…
The Magnus Archives Podcast
Amongst the ever growing, amorphous mass of horror podcasts online, The Magnus Archives is a blinding beacon of terrifying brilliance.
Having only recently ended earlier in 2021, the series at first appears to be purely an anthology series; and what an anthology series it is!
Whilst the head archivist begins as a snobbish researcher with a clipped accent, he adopts the various speaking patterns of statement givers as he reads the case files, which truly helps sell the terror and urgency of these cases; even though, in-universe, the audience is listening to second-hand accounts which may date as far back as the 1800s.
Indeed, the horror of any situation is carried perfectly by the sublime voice acting of the podcast’s actors, even as the cast grows beyond Jon midway in the first season.
But is also in part thanks to the dialogue, which walks the difficult line between being believable and breathing a unique presence into the characters. The fear someone feels can be heard dripping from both the performances and the script itself.
Furthermore, the descriptions of horrifying events and creatures are absolutely delectable for a writer. There’s an intelligent simplicity to it which not only makes it a delight to listen to these statements, but also far too easy to imagine them happening to yourself.
What helps make them truly evocative as well is the inventive nature of the podcast’s monsters – some clearly take inspiration from the horror genre, with innovative adaptations for the series, whilst others are wholly unique to the universe of The Magnus Archives.
An eclectic and enjoyable mythos
With such a plethora of cults, monsters, and cursed artifacts, it’d be fair to say that The Magnus Archives has an eclectic and enjoyable mythos.
Due to the very nature of the podcast (i.e., reading historical statements), The Magnus Archives has a rich tapestry of lore behind it, which is satisfyingly revealed as Jon accidentally begins to pull on the threads of history.
There are things wholly invented for the series, such as the titular Magnus Institute itself, but there are also unexpected ties to real historical figures such as Wilfred Owen and Joseph Grimaldi.
By using both techniques in its world-building, the world of The Magnus Archives becomes a fully realised and unique setting with enough hooks into reality to make the fantastical elements seem just that more possible. It’s also a fantastic example of the awe-inspiring amount of research and dedication which went into ensuring the quality of The Magnus Archives’ writing.
As The Magnus Archives continues to progress, it eventually shifts from being purely an anthology into one intertwined with a tragic horror story.
What makes this story doubly effective is just how likeable many of characters turn out to be and the brief respites from tragedy, which come in the form of tender moments and some truly brilliant dry wit, that not only keep things from becoming monotonous but also makes the hammer of heartbreak doubly devastating.
The Magnus Archives is available for free on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and at rustyquill.com
Both a writer and an avid fan of weird horror and inventive fantasy, MONA HERB BOUGHTON has spent the past five years honing her craft in prose, reviews, and articles alike. No matter what she writes though, her work will usually contain bizarre creatures, the undead, or very strange people – in fact, she’s currently working on a story about vampires and birds being as unglamorous as possible. Not satisfied with just a first-level degree Bachelor of Arts, she is now currently studying a Master’s degree in creative writing. You can follow her on Twitter @WifiWitchWrites