With more than 6 million downloads of their podcast “MonsterTalk,” hosts Blake Smith and Karen Stollznow, Ph.D., know how to attract an audience and keep their listeners interested in pop science and popular culture, even if it does involve cryptozoological (and legendary) creatures such as Bigfoot or werewolves.
Both Smith and Stollznow were guests on a panel at Lubbock-Con, a pop culture convention held from March 23-24 in Lubbock, which focused on the role that science plays in both folklore and the supernatural. The veteran hosts bring a skeptical but civil approach to interviewing guest experts on the podcast about their particular subjects.
“Our podcast is pretty gentle in how we approach our topics,” Smith said. “We want to learn from our guests about all these topics to have great content. Great content equals more downloads.”
(The hosts of MonsterTalk, Blake Smith and Karen Stollznow, Ph.D., lead a panel at Lubbock-Con 2019)
Stollznow added, “We try to be very moderate. We bring guests onto the show who are experts in their particular areas and we try to meet them on their level. It's quite challenging as there is no academic category for the monster field of study.”
Smith and Stollznow met at the 2008 Dragon-Con, one of the largest pop culture conferences in the world, when it was hosted in Atlanta.
Influenced by the History Channel's “MonsterQuest” TV series, the two friends wanted to have a similar focus on the supernatural but with a much more scientific approach.
“We wanted to do the very opposite of [“MonsterQuest”] and use a lot of scientific facts,” Stollznow said. “We wanted to capture these stories in an oral history manner. We try not to ruin the story, but sometimes the tale is spoiled when we find out the facts.”
Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are the most popular downloads of their 10 years of show episodes.
(The hosts of MonsterTalk, Blake Smith and Karen Stollznow, Ph.D., with the panel audience at Lubbock-Con 2019)
“We're very interested in what happens to human perception when we're stressed,” Smith said. “Once people start to see one monster, it can lead to more monster sightings. My hunch is that once we know of a monster sighting in one location, we're primed to see something similar the next time we're in that location.”
Stollznow said, “My theory is that most sightings are people who believe that they've seen a monster, but it's actually a hoax. Strange experiences can happen to even the most skeptical of people, which includes those who are also very educated. The phenomenon can happen to anyone – it's not just stupid people who see monsters.”
Despite the uncertainty, the “MonsterTalk” hosts look at each incident on a case-by-case basis and try to replicate the event itself.
“What's tough is when we're trying to reproduce an event that took place in the middle of a big field ten years ago,” Blake said.
So, fact or not, the cohosts are comfortable with being able to admit they may not always know the answer.
“It doesn't mean that there isn't an answer out there,” said Stollznow. “It may just mean that we don't know the answer right now.”
The “MonsterTalk” podcast is available at www.monstertalk.org and most podcast outlets.
As the title sponsor of the 2019 Lubbock-Con, the College of Media & Communication sponsored this special panel given by the “MonsterTalk” hosts to demonstrate the entrepreneurship opportunities available to CoMC students.
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