Rating: Five Stars
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a member of a cult?
Every Tuesday, Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson highlight a different cult and explore the history and psychology behind how they came to be. With a little over 60 episodes, they have covered notorious groups including the Order of the Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate and the Manson Family. Most cults are explored over the course of two episodes, the first focusing on the life and mind of the cult leader, and the second examining the cult and its members.
Polcyn provides historical context, helping listeners understand the way politics, culture and religion play into the cult’s beliefs and formation. Richardson goes inside the minds of those involved, examining the behaviors of the cult’s leaders and members and how their psyche may have affected their actions. Every episode is marked with a disclaimer that while Richardson is not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, she grounds her contribution in significant research. However, after hearing her speak on these conditions fluently and citing many credible sources as she does, it is easy to trust her analysis.
Polcyn and Richardson bring a compelling eeriness to the show, their voices both electric and sterile. I believe this is caused by how scripted the show is. Their conversations are stripped of anything comforting or familiar which makes comments such as “Thanks, Greg” and “You raise an interesting point, Vanessa” almost robotic. While this may be off-putting to some listeners, I feel it adds something wicked.
“Cults” is one of many shows on the Parcast Network. Parcast was created by Max Cutler in 2016 when Cutler decided he wanted to create a different type of program. The network is distinct due to its thematically dark content, thorough research, high production quality and enjoyable storytelling. Other shows hosted by the network include “Kingpins,” “Hostage,” “Assassination” and “Serial Killers.”
“I kind of went reverse logic in the sense that I wanted to launch in an area that had a lot of competition. I thought that by adding production value and bringing storytelling into it, we could be different,” Cutler said in an interview with Forbes Magazine, on why he wanted Parcast to focus on the true crime genre.
While true crime may be in the cultural limelight, “Cults” gives its audience something different. There are no additional ploys, it is a show which desires to give you information and understanding about this strange phenomenon. Each episode comes in at almost an hour, but the scripting allows the listener to stay engaged throughout. You finish every episode feeling as though the only way you could understand the group better would be to have been a part of it.
Listen to “Cults” and any other show on the Parcast Network on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Stitcher. Episodes older than six months are now available in their ad-free archives through Stitcher Premium.