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Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

A buyer’s guide to The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings

Main image of The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings. Image from Spotify.
Main image of The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings. Image from Spotify.

The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings is a weekly horror/supernatural narrative anthology podcast, available on Spotify, Apple, and more. (Google provides the full list.) The podcast, which began recording in July of last year, is centered around a mysterious small business–The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings and Odd Goings-On. The shopkeeper (Stephen Knowles) is our guide to this phantasmagoria of purchases; every episode has him showing the audience a different object and outlining its macabre story.

I’ve quickly become obsessed with The Antiquarium since watching it, as will anyone else who decides to give the series a try. Consider this my sales pitch for one of the best audio horror anthologies money can buy–a podcast of patent creativity and compelling acting.

Creativity:

Indie horror media has been the source of some of the most original thinking in recent fiction. From the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise to the Slenderman online mythology, writers who walk on the spooky side have devised endlessly inventive (and terrifying) monsters, villains, and worlds. The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings is no different: take, for example, its unique metafictional worldbuilding. The listener is cast in the role of a regular at the Antiquarium; fans of the show can sign up to be listed as part of an in-universe secret society, the Obsidian Covenant. Even the advertisements are roped into the fun. Ads for the show’s sponsor, language-learning app Babbel, are sprinkled with references about how the site makes it easier for Covenant members to learn French, so they can translate ancient spells written in that language.

That’s before we get to The Antiquarium’s actual stories. A wood mask is stolen by a shoplifter, who soon realizes he has made a terrible mistake; a man’s wife has a face which can be removed–to reveal something unimaginable underneath. Fascinatingly, most of the stories are centered around recordings and other methods of archival: an existentially-paralyzing cassette tape, a Wikipedia for unknown phenomena, even security footage of a time loop. The Antiquarium perhaps suggests that communication itself holds the potential for evil.

Acting:

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Antiquarium’s narratives proper–though engaging–sound, at times, a tad stilted. This means that the voice actors are crucial in selling the story. With emotion that is genuine, but not overdone, each voice actor lets the audience listen in as they discover of a terrifying supernatural truth they would rather not have known about. Though other characters stay only for the single episode where they feature, the one constant is the Shopkeeper–an intricately characterized, mysterious figure. The Shopkeeper always greets the audience-as-customer genially, with an air of middle-aged erudition; yet he does not seem bothered by the ugly fates that befall the characters in his tales. Further, the Shopkeeper reminds the audience that there are “absolutely no refunds, no exchanges–and we won’t be held liable for anything that may or may not occur while” his demonstrably dangerous relics are in the customer’s hands. In all, the Shopkeeper might be the best-acted character on the show, coming across as an amoral businessman of the bizarre. He doesn’t have it out for his customers–they simply don’t happen to attract his concern overmuch.

Caveat Emptor:

It is worth noting that The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings will not be suitable for all audiences. The show has an ongoing series of stories called “The 1%”, concerning the mad plastic surgeon Dr. Alan Albright’s disturbing transformations of unwilling “patients”. While the podcast more or less prefers to unnerve its fictional victims, death is not uncommon among the stories, and the tale “My Wife Has a Removable Face” has a man who sees the titular spouse’s unmasked visage doing something rather school-inappropriate to try to escape the sight. It would be wise to bear this in mind when preparing to peruse the Antiquarium.

That being said, I do sincerely hope that you will decide to have a look around the Antiquarium. The items it has on offer are spooky and sinister, but each is a treasure. Inventive, captivating, and intriguing, The Antiquarium of Sinister Happenings is a narrative gift that keeps on giving. As far as podcasts go, this one is a real bargain.

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About the Contributor
Reed Larson-Erf
Reed Larson-Erf, Reporter
Reed Larson-Erf is a Junior at Niles North, joining North Star News for the first time this year. He enjoys reading, writing, watching Doctor Who and Arnold Schwartzenegger movies, and any chance he gets to make his friends laugh.

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