To all those annoyed or baffled by seeing all the weird posts about Welcome to Night Vale on social media, there’s one solution to your problem: Listen to Welcome to Night Vale.
Not your average podcast, Welcome to Night Vale is a fictional radio-news show from the also-fictional town of Night Vale and talks about town news, traffic and the community calendar. However, these mundane updates, which the host, Cecil, reads in a dry, matter-of-fact voice, are usually full of strange events, from a mysterious glowing cloud that rains animal corpses to a dog park that neither people nor dogs are allowed to enter.
The podcast was created in 2012 by Commonplace Books and has released 34 episodes, but has become popular only recently, hitting No. 1 on iTunes top podcasts in July. Fans of the podcast have also started bombarding social-media sites with fan art, fan fiction and obscure references.
From the first episode, listeners are thrown into the show as if listening to an actual radio broadcast. There is no backstory about Night Vale provided, at least not at the beginning. It takes a little while to understand what is happening, but sticking with the town and the podcast is definitely worth it.
In the town of Night Vale, people are constantly dying, and everyone is being monitored by entities such as the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious hooded figures and a “vague yet menacing government agency.” These agencies try to influence citizens to vote a certain way and even tell them what they are and are not allowed to believe in.
But it’s not 1984, The Twilight Zone or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There’s no panic or surprise because these things are part of everyday life in Night Vale, and the town is just fine with having a secret police force that sometimes steals children and librarians who attack people. Cecil even says in one of the first episodes, “If we had to shut down the town for every mysterious event that at least one death can be attributed to, we would never have time to do anything.”
In one episode, Cecil talks about the city library and warns listeners to stay away from the librarians. He says “Remember, if confronted by a librarian while looking for a book to check out, do not attempt to escape by climbing a tree. There are no trees in the library, and the precious moments it will take you to look around and realize this will allow the librarian to strike.”
Beyond the aggressive librarians, other weird recurring characters are often mentioned in the town news. There is old woman Josie, who has angels help her do housework; Steve Carlsberg, whom everyone inexplicably hates; and a cat who hovers in the men’s bathroom at the radio station. Most important is a scientist named Carlos, who arrives to study the town. Cecil quickly falls in love with Carlos, often disrupting the radio show to talk about his interactions with him. The topic of Carlos and Cecil’s relationship makes up a good majority of the Welcome to Night Vale posts that can be found on social media.
Episodes are released twice a month and are free to download.