I’m a big fan of podcasts. I spend a lot of time listening to them. One of my absolute favorites is the Hypnogoria family of shows. Jim Moon is its producer, editor and host extraordinare. The best way I can describe it is to say that listening to Hypnogoria is like taking a college course taught by everyone’s favorite professor about all things horror and fantasy. Each week Jim shares his extensive knowledge and in-depth research on a wide variety of topics, including the origins of Halloween, exploring the case of who put Bella in the Wych Elm, the various screen and literary incarnations of all manner of creatures be it zombies, mummies, or more obscure ones such as the will O’ the wisp, in a way that’s both insightful and often very amusing. Sometimes he’ll reminisce about books which inspired his love of the genre, delve into the history of the Batman, or do a reading of a classic horror tale from the likes of M.R. James, Clark Ashton Smith, or H.R. Wakefield, to name a few. I’ve enjoyed listening to his free shows so much that I recently subscribed to his Patreon page which, for a small monthly fee, grants me access to a whole library of additional material, something I’ve been thoroughly indulging myself on. From his home in England, Jim has just published the 400th episode of his mainfeed podcast. Add that alongside the more than 85 Patreon exclusives, and you can see he’s covered a lot of ground and all of it has been presented with his trademark wit and wisdom. What follows is my interview with the man I like to think of as The Professor of Horror, Jim Moon.
H.D.: How would you describe the Hypnogoria family of podcasts for those who aren’t already aware of them?
Jim: A weekly excursion into all things weird and wonderful! There are currently three active strands – the main show Hypnogoria in which we delve in-depth into a subject, Microgoria which features shorter reviews and more informal shows, and From the Great Library of Dreams in which I read a classic weird tale! Sadly our book review strand Tomegoria is on an extended rest due to that old enemy of podcasting, Real Life, getting in the way so far this year!
H.D: What inspired you to start the podcast?
Jim: Being a devoted podcast listener, I thought it would be fun to have a go at doing one myself. And like many other podcaster listeners, after awhile you want to have a bash at doing your own show just to give something back to the podcast world. I’d been blogging for a couple of years, and writing short articles and reviews for other sites, but there’s something very immediate and intimate about podcasting that was marvellously exciting. As a medium, it has all the magic of radio of course, but also has the creative freedom of truly independent art and media, not to mention a touch of the do-it-yourself spirit of punk rock. So doing my own show seemed like both a good personal challenge and a lot of fun. Some eight years later, I have, by accident, become the longest running British horror podcast, and I’m still having tons of fun doing the show.
H.D.: You do an outstanding job serving as the host of your podcasts. Your personality and sense of humor really come through. Who would you choose as your favorite horror host, be it from television, movie, comics, etc.?
Jim: We sadly don’t have a strong horror host tradition over here in the UK, I was always jealous to read of the wonderful horror hosts on US TV such as Svengoolie and Elvira, and while I had heard tons about the old infamous EC Comics it was years before I could get my hands on them! But I adored Creepshow from King and Romero, and the Creep, created by Tom Savini and as he appeared in the glorious animated sequences, always feels like the essences of all the great horror hosts wrapped up in one cadaverous package!
However the horror host who has probably been the biggest influence on my personal style, is probably Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone. He could deliver a darkly ironic quip along with the best of them, but I always loved his poetic and philosophical pronouncements. And while he looked rather ordinary compared the Crypt Keeper and co, there was something marvellouslly otherworldly about him when he was revealed to be standing in the background of an opening scene and walked forward to deliver a piece to camera. He may of looked ordinary but you knew he wasn’t part of the scene… In such moments, he always reminded me of that old rhyme “As I was going down the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there…”
H.D.: When and how did you first discover your love of the horror genre?
Jim: Like nearly all little kids I loved magic and monsters, and like most children growing up in 1970s Britain you got bags of both, along with a good dose of terror, on a Saturday tea-time courtesy of Doctor Who. However the real turning point for me was a playground craze for telling horror and ghost stories at school, and I decided I wanted to know more about ghosts and to find some stories of my own, and I spent some birthday money on Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery, my very first anthology of weird fiction. From there it wasn’t long before I discovered The Armada Ghost Book series – a long running range of anthologies aimed at younger readers, and the marvellous collections edited by the late, great king of the paperback horror anthologies, Peter Haining! Soon I had a whole shelf of ghostly tales, which over the year has sprouted into a whole library and is slowly taking over my house!
H.D.: You do extensive research for so many of your podcasts where you’re tracking down the history and origins of things such as Halloween, The Will O the Wisp, The Mummy, The Gill Man, and countless other subjects. What is your process for uncovering these often very obscure histories?
Jim: Well, my first steps are quite simple – firstly going through my books and magazines for relevant information, and secondly going online to fact-check what I think I already know about a subject. Something many folks don’t appreciate is that until the coming of the internet being a movie buff or part of fandom still involved an awful lot of oral history – that is to say you learnt the lore as much from other fans who relaid to you what they had read or stories they had heard. As it turns out alot of this fan lore turned out to be pure myth – a famous example being there being two endings to King Kong vs Godzilla, one for the US where Kong triumphs and a Japanese version where the Big G won the bout.
So then after doing these basics, I start to construct a solid time-line for the subject, and trying to find as many original sources as I can lay my hands on. Fortunately these days, hundreds of ancient tomes and old magazines are being digitised, and it is amazing what you can access from your own home computer. I basically try to hunt down every reference I can, pin down what happened where, and who originally said what and so forth. It can be very time-consuming, but more often than not, there are some real surprises lurking out there in the archives!
H.D.: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve uncovered while doing research for the podcast?
Jim: One of the great joys of doing the show is discovering all kinds of weird and wonderful facts. I was amazed to learn that for throughout the 18th and much of the 19th century Halloween was more seen as a time for courting couples to get together and play a few games and hopefully find a bit of romance! I was amazed and very amused to discover that the design of the Gill-man was in part inspired by the Oscar statuette! However the biggest surprise I have l uncovered was that Christopher Lee wore a toupee – I honestly had no idea! Mind you, it was something of a secret, to the extent that make-up men were often asked to place bald caps and wigs over his existing hair-piece as if it was his own hair! This explains why I could never quite get my own hair (all quite real I assure you) to sweep back in a suave fashion like his Count’s did!
H.D.: You’ve done many readings of classic horror stories by great masters of the genre for your Great Library of Dreams episodes. Can you tell us who some of your favorite classic horror writers are and list a few specific stories you love?
Jim: Growing up I was all about the three R’s – that is Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch. Any book featuring a tale by one of those gentlemen was going to get picked up and read! Of course later on I discovered Lovecraft and his circle, and like a lot of horror fans went through an intense Cthulhuvian phase! However two constants from the beginning have been MR James, who I am honoured to share a birthday with, and Ramsey Campbell, who is hands down the greatest living writer of weird fiction – and his latest trilogy of novels The Three Births of Daoloth are some of his finest works to date. As for favourite stories, tales that I never tire of, these include “The Red Lodge” by HR Wakefield, “The Journal of JP Drapeau” by Thomas Ligotti, “Midnight Express” by Alfred Noyes, “N” by Stephen King, “The Waxworks” by AM Burrage, “Mr Lupescu” by Anthony Boucher and “The Hospice” by Robert Aickman.
H.D.: Including Hypnogoria and all its subsets (Microgoria, Tomegoria and Great Library of Dreams), what have been some of your all-time, personal favorite episodes?
Jim: Generally speaking my favourite is usually the show I’m planning next! But I am still very proud of many of the shows I’ve done in the past, and it’s hard to pick favourites. But I was very pleased with my little audio adaptation of HR Wakefield’s “Ghost Hunt” that I did for last Halloween – being a short story whose format is the transcript of a radio show, it was fun to approach it as an audio production with sound effects etc rather than the usual reading. But I’m probably most proud of my various “history of” shows – in particular the History of Halloween, In Search of Santa and the origins of Zombies, where I uncovered a great many myths that needed busting and shed some new light on old favourites!
H.D.: You have a Patreon page where people can contribute financially to help support the show and receive access to bonus podcasts in the process. I myself recently signed on and have really enjoyed making my way through all the great things there. How do you decide what material goes to the primary free feed and what becomes Patreon-only bonus material?
Jim: I generally try to devise the Patreon shows to compliment whatever is going out on the main feed, or if there isn’t anything such as related material or supplementary readings I tend to take a somewhat seasonal approach and do shows that fit in with the time of the year. But the Patreon is also where I can experiment with different sorts of shows, which has worked well so far. I did my first few commentaries for Lost Transmissions, something that is now a regular part of the main podcast, and I did a couple of trials doing readings of longer works as serials on Patreon last year before presenting The Shadow Over Innsmouth in five parts this year on the main show. While the Hauntography show is pretty much where I am honing my craft as a storyteller, presenting tales from folklore and increasingly a few of my own creations.
H.D.: Can you give us any insight on subjects you have planned for upcoming episodes of the podcasts?
Jim: I have an ever-expanding list of subjects I’d like to cover on the show, and I have have several strands of on-going research which eventually become new episodes. I’ve been gathering material for a history of horror comics series for a couple of years now, which hopefully should see the light of day soon. Having done the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Gill-man, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into histories of Frankenstein and Dracula. I’ve also been meaning to start a strand covering giallos and the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. And next autumn my annual History of Halloween series should be reaching John Carpenter’s famous movie and its assorted cycles of sequels!
H.D.: I know you’re a big fan of comic books as well. What are some of your all time favorite series?
Jim: Well I’m still a devoted reader of one of the first comics I began regularly buying, the legendary British SF weekly 2000 AD. I have a huge fondness for the horror comics from the early 70s. DCs House of Mystery and House of Secrets really picked up the torch left by EC, while Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula is still an incredible horror saga! In the more usual realm of superheroes, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is a huge favourite still, as are Alan Moore’s Supreme and Grant Morrison’s runs on Animal and Doom Patrol. Currently, I’ve been really loving Joe Hill’s Locke and Key.
H.D.: What horror element or creature in literature or films consistently gives you the chills (example: for me it’s faceless creatures/specters)?
Jim: For me, it is figures that appear in the periphery of vision, those unwelcome visitants lurking in the shadows. A classic example is the fleeting appearances of Michael Myers in the original Halloween – one moment he is there the next seemingly melted away. Another favourite is the tantalising glimpses of Pipes, the spectre at the heart of Ghostwatch – to this very day there’s some confusion over how many times he actually manifests. Figures seen in reflections, in mirrors of dark windows always do it for me too… I still have a lingering suspicion born of a childhood nightmare that reflections are glimpses of a reversed parallel world. I am always very careful of not looking into mirrors in dark room just in case I see one of its denizens…
Hypnogoria Podcast Feed: http://www.hypnogoria.com/html/podcast.html
Hypnogoria Libsyn Feed: http://hypnogoria.libsyn.com
Hypnogoria Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/Hypnogoria
Hypnogoria Blog : http://hypnogoria.blogspot.com
Interview administered by Matt Cowan