History in the Wild podcast: Mythological Monster Mash

Blog post and podcast by Rachel Welshans

Hi! My name is Rachel Welshans and I’m finishing up my senior year of my history undergrad degree. I signed up for HST 485: History in the Wild with Professor Marissa Rhodes because I saw that the goal of the class was to learn how to present historical information in a podcast format. I adore historical podcasts, and history in general (hence the degree), so it seemed like a perfect match for my interests. Professor Rhodes gave us a free license to pick any sort of topic we wanted as long as it had a historical component, so I picked mythological monsters. That may not sound incredibly historical, but mythology is strongly incorporated into a society’s culture and can give a lot of insight into a group’s values, habits, fears, religious beliefs, etc. 

I cannot express how much fun I had with this class. I found it really freeing to be able to direct my own topic of research and I very much enjoyed presenting history in a more casual and less academic style. I even ended up enjoying the process of editing my episodes. The entire exercise was really gratifying. I felt like I not only grew as a historian, but it also showed me that I like making podcasts as much as I like listening to them. My life is a little hectic at the moment balancing work, school, and home life but I would like to try continuing what I started here after I graduate in December.

The two episodes here are on the Wendigo and the Kappa. The Wendigo is a myth that comes from many Algonquian-speaking native tribes in the Northeast United States and Canada, and the Kappa is a yokai, or supernatural being, from Japan. As you’ll see, these monsters have been around for centuries but can still be found in popular culture, though in different versions than what they were originally portrayed as. I tried not just to share the stories of their myths but also to put those myths into a sociocultural context and show some of the driving factors behind how the myths have changed from past to present. That is not to say that I present the information in a dry, lecture-like format. On the contrary, I tried to make the kind of podcast that I would enjoy listening to on my daily commute or while cleaning house. To that end, I make a few jokes, I get a little snarky, and I drop an expletive here and there. Basically, I just had fun with it. Overall, I hope that listeners will come away from these episodes having learned a little bit but also having been entertained. 

I’ve been both an academic historian and a history podcaster for about six years. I love doing it and I am constantly confronting the inconsistent (and sometimes conflicting) skill sets required for my parallel roles. I chose the topic of history podcasting for my HST 485 History in the Wild course and designed the course to be as collaborative and applicable as possible to their real-world needs. ASU’s humanities students deserve to take courses that harness their passions and natural curiosities so that building a wide variety of skills (our end goal) doesn’t feel like work. The podcasts that resulted from this course exceeded my expectations. –Dr. Marissa Rhodes, professor of HST 485: History in the Wild 


Mythological Monster Mash: Episode 1

The first episode explores Wendigos


Mythological Monster Mash: Episode 2

The second episode explores Kappas

Proposed logo of Mythological Monster Mash
  1. 1. Tagline: Things that went BUMP in the night

2. Title: Mythological Monster Mash

3. Podcast Topic: Detailing monsters from world mythology, with a special interest in myths that are not Greek or Roman in origin

4. Titles and descriptions of your two sample episodes: I don’t have any flashy titles for my episodes yet. Just Wendigo for episode 1 and Kappa for episode 2. I thought about adding names of song titles to describe the monster’s characteristics (1. Cold-Hearted and 2: Back Dat Ass Up) since the podcast title is also a song title, but I’m not entirely sure people would understand the references. 

5. Topic Ideas for an additional eight episodes: 

Episodes 3 through 10:
Kludde- Shapeshifter winged dog water demon from Belgium
Skinwalker- Shapeshifter, trickster from Navajo mythology
Rawhead and Bloody Bones- Boogeyman to scare children, originated in Great Britain but very popular in the South. A rhyme about it: 
Rawhead and Bloody Bones/
Steals Naughty Children from their Homes/
Takes them to his dirty den/
And they are never seen again
Baba Yaga- Witch from Slavic lore. Rides around in a mortar and pestle and has a house that stands on chicken legs
Kitsune- Trickster spirits from Japan- nine-tailed fox, shapeshifters
Banshee- Celtic spirit, her cry foretells death- said to ride around with the Dullahan (the Celtic headless horseman) in a horse-drawn cart and they use a human spinal cord to whip the horses. This is so amazing
Special 2-part episode covering Dragons worldwide. 

6. Format & Rationale:  Medium form- about 25-30 minutes per episode. The episodes, aside from 2-parters like episodes 9 & 10, will stand alone. Each will cover its own monster. Casual and humorous narration. It will be fun but will also try to put these myths in a cultural perspective.

7. POV/Approach/Style/Voice & Rationale:  POV is an absolute fan of mythology. I love the variety of myths out there and I just want to share that love with others. It will be casual and conversational, but in learning about myths I want to give people a better insight into other cultures. 

8. Episode Frequency & Rationale: Bi-weekly episodes. I think the research and scriptwriting are too time-intensive for anything more frequent and anything longer risks alienating the audience. 

9. About the Host: I plan on telling my audience at least a little about me. In my first episode I joke about what I do for a living, it really isn’t near as cool as being Batman though it is definitely just as thankless. My public persona is quirky and a little sarcastic. Hopefully, I come off as the kind of person the audience would like to sit around with at a bar and BS with. I want that kind of a vibe for the show.  

10. Target Audience: Target audience is young to middle-aged adults who are looking for lighthearted entertainment where they are still learning something. Length of episodes is good to listen to on a commute or even on a walk or jog. Would also like to get some spillover of classicist fans who love myths but are tired of hearing the same Greek and Roman ones told over and over again.

A. Explain why your podcast topic, format, POV/style, episode frequency, and host identity are attractive to your target audience I think the length and stand-alone format makes it easy to get into the podcast. You can pick up wherever and don’t have to feel like you have to go all the way back to the beginning if you don’t want to. The casual tone makes it a good series to listen to when you’re trying to relax like to and from work or while taking a walk. 

B. Describe two ways you will reach your target demographic 
I would love to do a guest spot on an established classic mythology podcast to bring in new listeners. Maybe do an episode with monsters that are similar inside Greek mythology and out of it. The Naga and Lamia, for example, who are both creatures with humanoid top halves and snake bottoms. It would allow myself and the other host to riff off of each other and would pique interest in a listener base that already likes mythology but might be looking for something different.

List my podcast in as many places as possible. Adding it to multiple places like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, etc will give me a better chance of showing up on people’s For You pages

C. How will you develop a sense of community and belonging among your listeners? I plan on welcoming fan input as much as possible. I will have a Twitter page and a webpage and in both places, I will ask for input on episodes and what myths people would like covered. I might even start recording follow-up episodes to cover things people wanted to know more about or to make corrections where I was wrong. 

D. What kinds of folks do you anticipate will object to or dislike your podcast? I am foul-mouthed and a bit flippant in my episodes. I expect straight academics might not like it, or people who are more reserved or conservative (I don’t mean that in the political sense). I also do not shy back from calling out less than awesome behavior by patriarchal societies and especially by colonial powers so I might also displease conservatives (I do mean this in the political sense)

E. What are some ways you can market your podcast to steer away folks who expect something different and will be disappointed? A solid synopsis will help. Making sure I drop some snark and social commentary in the show blurb will go a long way. I think my introductions in the episodes and even the intro music (kinda electronic/hip-hop as opposed to something classical or easy listening-ish) I picked give the show a vibe that I hope will make it easy for people to decide if this seems like something they really want to get into. 

11. Why is your podcast needed? My podcast gives a wider look into Mythology than most other podcasts out there do. It’s relaxed enough that it won’t chase off the general public but it has enough depth that it will teach people valuable information. It’s like the Butter Chicken of historical podcasts. I’m giving people something different from what they know, but it’s not so foreign to them that they’re going to end up with the tummy ache of having to look up every other word or refer to historiographies to get the full sense of what is being said.

A. How many podcasts currently exist that are similar to yours? Name them. There are numerous mythological podcasts out there. I only found one that specifically had to do with monsters. That one is Parcast’s Mythical Monsters. Other notable mythological podcasts are Let’s Talks About Myths, Baby! and Myths and Legends. Those are both popular podcasts

B. Browse some of their reviews on Apple Podcast or other pod platform. What do people like or dislike about podcasts similar to yours? The Parcast show is only on Spotify and I couldn’t find reviews for that one. The reviews for the others are mostly very positive. I saw one review on Myths and Legends that specifically speaks about how happy the listener is to get Myths that aren’t Greek in origin. Both podcasts get some negative reviews for snarkiness and commentary. The one with a feminist spin more often than the one with a male host. 

C. How do you anticipate that your podcast would fare if the same folks were reviewing your podcast? I would hope to get similar reviews. I think my format is similar to both shows that had reviews though I provide a different angle than either of them so the fan base could overlap with there being outright competition.

D. Are there any perceived holes or silences within your podcast’s subcategory that seem like they need to be filled? It almost feels like beating a dead horse at this point, but I think mythology that is not Greek or Roman is severely underserved. I also think that spotlighting the monsters of a culture instead of the heroes is a mostly unexplored angle. 

E. How does your podcast address a silence or hole in the genre OR what does your podcast do differently than others that are similar? Again. I feel like my podcast specifically fills a hole left by a lack of diversity in the myths being told. I think I am also different in that I don’t cover monsters like I’m telling a story by the campfire, I try to give them more depth than just using them as a spooky story. 

12. What auxiliary components would you launch alongside the podcast? A website and a Twitter page are important to create a sense of community. It also allows me to share pictures, bibliographies, and transcripts.

A. Explore the auxiliary components created by other podcasts. Feel free to use the podcasts you explored in the first two weeks of the course for this part of the assignment. What kinds of add-ons do they have? In my experience, podcasts almost always have at least a social media account somewhere dedicated to the show, if not an actual website. These are used to communicate with fans and to share information. I’ve seen many with transcripts for accessibility and on many true crime podcasts the website or social media page will oftentimes have extra items like complete interviews where only a clip was shared on the show

B. Which auxiliary components would best suit your podcast and your target audience? Why? I think I would be best served by both a social media page and a webpage. On the social media page, I would be able to interact with the audience and get feedback. On the webpage I would post transcripts for accessibility, artwork of the monsters to be able to fully picture what they looked like, and bibliographies of the sources used so people can do further research on the monsters that appeal to them the most. 

C. How might you make your podcast more accessible for people with disabilities or some other disadvantage that prevents them from accessing your content readily? Transcripts are the most important. I would also include alternate text on images to try to help my visually challenged listeners get a sense of the monsters and their artwork. 

13. Describe some of the feedback you received in your peer reviewers and what you did to address these criticisms: One piece of criticism I got early on was to be more confident in my ideas. It helped me to be less wishy-washy. I focused more on what I wanted to do without letting me second guess myself and I think that helped give me a clearer vision for where I was going with my show.

14. Describe some of the feedback you received from the instructor and what you did to address those criticisms: I got feedback from Dr. R asking to hear more about a specific aspect of my Wendigo research (wendigo psychosis). I only mentioned it briefly initially and didn’t do more than a surface exploration, so I went back and found an article that researched the psychosis specifically and added what was probably at least a few minutes of extra content into my script.