The Listener: Hauntings, Art, Mr Whippy, Seltzer, Killers

The Smoking Gun

Episode: “The Widow and the Winchester” | Podcast: Criminal | 22m25s

Exploration of the strange widowhood of nineteenth century American heiress Sarah Winchester. Upon the death of her husband, the gun manufacturer William Wirt Winchester, Sarah inherited a fortune valued at around half a billion dollars in today’s money. She devoted the last 40 years of her life to overseeing the construction of a bizarre 160-room mansion in San Jose, California, which contains odd features like staircases that go nowhere and false doors. It is considered to be extremely haunted, and this episode suggests it was designed for this ghostly purpose — Sarah supposedly believed it housed the spirits of those killed by the new, efficient type of rifle her husband had introduced to the market (22m25s)

Al Fresco

Episode: “Behold the Monkey” | Podcast: The Lonely Palette | 40m06s

Art historian conducts an in-depth appraisal of the viral “monkey Jesus” fresco restoration. The well-intentioned efforts of 81-year-old Cecilia Giménez rendered the nineteenth century Ecce Homo by Elías García Martínez completely unrecognisable and turned it into a meme with a life of its own. But somehow, this podcast argues, the omnipresence of this image and the plethora of comic parodies it inspired stops us looking at it critically. The art world and the public alike were quick to dismiss Giménez’s restoration attempt as a botched job, which it may well be. Yet it also tells us something much deeper about how an image becomes famous and what we value in art (40m06s)

Mr Whippy

Episode: “Ice Cream Vans” | Podcast: The Boring Talks | 15m57s

Former ice cream van worker reveals the secrets of this niche and esoteric trade. Driving a vehicle that sells sweet treats and blares music to attract attention might seem like an easy job, but in many ways it’s highly regulated and challenging. Routes are worked out in advance so no two vans from the same fleet are competing for business. The characteristic chimes may only be played for a few seconds at a time in order to comply with noise regulations. The work requires physical strength, manual dexterity and a lot of mental arithmetic. Plus, it’s very difficult to take bathroom breaks (15m57s)

Fizzing with Fun

Episode: “Now Fizzing with Amanda Brennan” | Podcast: Seltzer Death Match | 11m29s

Glimpse into an internet subculture devoted to the avid appreciation of seltzers. As explained in this interview, hundreds of fizz fans gather in a private Facebook group on a daily basis to share reviews of different beverages, discuss rare finds, and keep up with drinks industry news. This community has its own vocabulary: a seltzer with added sugar is a “snake”, “fizzio” is a live video of someone trying a seltzer for the first time, and a “ghost” is a seltzer without a flavour. Additionally in this episode, the hosts attempt to make a coffee fizz drink with a SodaStream, which is amusing to experience only via sound (11m29s)

On The Record

Episode: “The Tape” | Podcast: Dead Man Talking | 37m27s

First of a multi-part series investigating the undetected crimes of the so-called “Railroad Killer”, Angel Maturino Reséndiz, who was executed in Texas in 2006. While he was still on death row, Reséndiz told a journalist that there were many other murders he had committed beyond those cited in his conviction and that innocent people were in jail for his crimes. The tape of this interview resurfaces years later, so the podcast’s reporters set off to investigate whether there is any truth to these claims and if so, what can be done to belatedly see that justice is served. A gritty, well-produced example of the popular true crime podcast genre (37m27s)

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