“It’s the great unknown. We’ve traveled to space. We’ve traveled to the sea. We’ve traveled the deserts, and the only real final frontier is what comes after life. Everybody’s touched by it. We’re all going to have to face mortality at some time or another.”
Darkness Radio—one of the original paranormal podcasts—had humble beginnings. Host Dave Schrader and Tim Dennis met in college, and with a mutual love of radio that began early in life, the pair ended up hosting a show together on the college radio station.
As a child, Dave recorded radio shows on his tape recorder. He would also call radio stations just to talk to the radio hosts about their shows. Tim’s fascination was similar; similarly, he and his friends played street pickup “boot hockey” games and called them in on CB radios, sharing their game scores with less-than-pleased truckers.
After college, they went their separate ways. But in 2005, Tim, now a radio station manager, reached out to Dave:
“Listen, I’ve got a sh*tty gold show, a sh*tty real estate show, and a sh*tty vitamin show,” he shared with his friend. “You think we can do a sh*tty radio show together? The bar is not very high.”
“Since I had not been on the radio for 20 years,” Dave laughed, “Tim knew exactly how low the bar would be.”
The next order of business? Deciding what the show would be about. Both men had experiences with the paranormal—Tim’s earliest was around the age of 10.
“As a 10-year-old, it scared me to death. I thought I had killed Grandpa!” Tim’s out-of-body experience gave him witness to his grandfather’s death. It was so clear, he was able to recount to his parents exactly what had happened hours prior to their receiving the call that notified them of his grandfather’s passing during the night.
Dave grew up in a haunted house in Illinois. After his grandmother passed, she would return to visit him and read him stories. Now, according to Dave, he’s just been in the right place at the right time, witnessing phenomenon from UFOs to Bigfoot to ghost psychics.
“When you put yourself in the right place and steep yourself in it, weird stuff happens,” Dave explained. “Today, we go out of our way to receive it. We go to haunted locations, UFO hot sites, and any place we can to try to step outside of the experience. We are not just telling a paranormal story—we involve ourselves in it, to see how much of it is legitimate.”
Dave and Tim’s late-night radio show became popular in the Twin Cities area. The hosts did what a lot of radio stations did at the time—they posted the show online, which allowed them to build a large, national following. Tim explained:
“We’ve always had a podcast, and in fact, we’re kind of the granddaddy of all paranormal podcasts. There were only five of them around when we started. A lot of people don’t know this, but podcasts were always the ancillary thing that radio threw away when they did a show. So, in 2006, when we started, we had a podcast to go along with the radio show, so it was always out there—we would do the show and then post it online for people to listen to whenever they wanted.”
The podcast has led to a variety of opportunities for both Dave and Tim. Dave has made guest appearances on television shows such as Ghost Adventures and was a lead judge in a miniseries called Paranormal Challenge. Most recently, he’s been a regular contributor on the Holzer Files, a Travel Channel show based on Hans Holzer’s Paranormal Investigations. Tim is a contributor to and part of the cast of Travel Channel’s Paranormal Nightshift.
As most shows with this type of longevity typically do, Darkness Radio has evolved over the years. Episodes are released four days a week with each day devoted to a specific topic. True Crime Tuesday is an addition that fulfilled a cutting-edge niche at the time. Today, with the explosion of true-crime podcasts, True Crime Tuesday remains a very popular staple of the lineup.
“Sadly,” Dave said, “many of us have been touched by tragedy and true crime in our lives—whether we shoplifted as dumb children, or like in my case, lived through the murder of someone close to us. When I was in high school, I had a girlfriend who I reconnected with many years later. We were friends. She passed away at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, who murdered her and two of her children. She was pregnant with his child, and they stole the baby from her—it was just horrific. I just want to understand… why do people do this? How do you look at somebody and think she’s not worthy of living? ‘I can take that life because it justifies what I want’? That’s just kind of the internal dialog I have while searching for understanding.”
True Crime Tuesdays is not serialized. Each episode explores the dark side of a tragedy in one episode and then ends on a lighter note with a “Dumb Crimes, Stupid Criminals” segment. Dave explained the format:
“We talk about the crimes that are taking place and the dumb antics of human beings to kind of lighten up the load. We will take you to dark places at the beginning of the show, and then leave you laughing and scratching your head with what we deliver at the end of the show.
“Aside from the show being about the paranormal, Tim and I have both been very open about our lives. We talk about all aspects of life and our own struggles with anxiety and depression and things. Sometimes, it feels so much like two guys just talking, you forget you’re podcasting. Then, you realize how it’s bigger than that.”
Tim summed it up very well:
“Our show is about something that is innate in all of us. We all love to be scared. That’s why horror movies and thrill rides are so popular. We all have that feeling of emotion of reconnecting, and that’s what the supernatural and paranormal mean. It’s going beyond getting answers to making connections again. The paranormal goes beyond the world in a bigger way in that we go beyond life itself.”
Now, sleep tight… and maybe check under the bed!
October 2021 Issue