This week in Behind the Streams
I had this crazy experience where I thought I was haunted.
We met at a book club where we were the youngest people there by several decades, so I think I immediately started talking to him just because of that.
So sometimes we go undercover in a fringe group – like we spent two months undercover in Scientology – and sometimes we go an get funky treatment ourselves.
Our fans are so great. They’re often incredibly smart and sweet.
I’m really excited for our first national tour that’s coming up.
And Now For Behind the Streams: Carrie Poppy
I grew up in a Southern Baptist household and, since I was living on the fringe of the Bible Belt in the Southern United States, never really thought it was that weird. I also never thought that anyone else thought it was weird because I went to a Christian school and my only other friends were mostly from church. I guess you could call it sheltered, but I just thought it was – well – normal.
I didn’t adjust that line of logic fully until I started taking college classes. At some point during a talk with some classmates, my religion was brought up. One girl told me she just couldn’t do the whole “cannibalism” thing and – with a few head nods from others – the conversation moved smoothly on. I was very confused. It took me a while to realize she meant Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) and the fact that some people believe they are eating the literal body and blood of Jesus.
It was then that I realized people definitely thought we were the weird ones. I still think we aren’t that strange, but lots of people won’t ever come into a church and find out, which is reasonable if you think it’s full of cannibals. There are lots of groups like that: groups that we only have a vague idea of what they believe or do but we know we’ll never have the full story because we won’t ever attend a meeting.
Luckily, there’s a podcast for that. Oh No, Ross and Carrie! has consistently been one of the top-ranked shows in Spirituality and Religion and has stepped in to let you in on all the secrets. Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy investigate fringe groups and pseudo-science so you don’t have to and amass some awesome stories and insight along the way.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie about her work on the show and her time in podcasting, so here goes.
The Haunting (Poisoning) of Carrie Poppy
Carrie was a lot of fun to talk to, and I felt I understood her fascination with the supernatural and strange pretty early on. It all started with a deep love of The Lion King and a misunderstanding. When Carrie’s childhood friend attended a church camp that was themed after the hit movie, Carrie knew she had to go too. However, by the time the next summer brought the camp back around, the theme had changed.
The next summer I went and, of course, the theme was not The Lion King. But while I was there it was the first time I encountered people that were religious and that made a deep impact in their lives… I bought in hook, line, and sinker, and devoted myself to Christ that night.
Carrie was thirteen at the time and no longer ascribes to Christianity, but she had discovered the world of the supernatural, and there was no turning back. Like I said, I thought I understood Carrie’s fascination fully after that story, and then she told me this.
I had this crazy experience where I thought I was haunted… I was living in a guest house that I was renting out and it was pretty run down and old. And I started being convinced that it was haunted because I had this constant feeling of foreboding every time I went in there, and a weird pressure on my chest, and auditory hallucinations I guess. Like, they seemed kind of in the room kind of not in the room.
Carrie tried exorcisms and sage-burning to remove the spirit to no avail. Then she found an online group of skeptics who suggested that her symptoms matched those of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carrie called her gas company and they found out she was being poisoned, which led her to reexamine her supernatural and paranormal leanings.
Of course, like any responsible adult, that led her to a book club.
It Started with a Book Club…
Carrie was definitely influenced by the poisoning to start asking questions and looking into skeptic’s positions. To do that, she started attending a science book club, where she found her new partner in crime, Ross Blocher.
We met at a book club where we were the youngest people there by several decades, so I think I immediately started talking to him just because of that. And then we discovered that we both responded to the same jokes and pop-culture references.
Carrie and Ross kept attending the club and became friends. That friendship was solidified when Carrie found an advertisement for a meeting at the Kubbahla Centre and asked the club members if anyone would want to attend with her. Of course, a group of science enthusiasts quickly turned her down – except Ross. So they went, and when they came back everyone wanted the story.
So we start telling them. We tell them the one-minute version, then they asked us for more details so we told them the five-minute version and then the half-hour version. And we were like ‘You guys didn’t even want to go, why are you so interested in hearing this long version of it?’ And that’s when the light bulb kind of went off.
Carrie started to wonder if this was really a service people would want: to hear about all the weird things they would never go and experience themselves. Those things that everyone else writes off as ridiculous or unnecessary were really fun and cool to Carrie and Ross, so why not keep doing them and let everyone in on the story?
Carrie thought of starting a podcast.
I remember floating the idea passed Ross and he was like ‘I thought that too! I thought we would be good podcast hosts!’
Which Led Them to Some Cults…
Ross thought they would be good podcast hosts, which meant a lot because Ross actually listened to podcasts. Carrie did not.
I hate to admit this but I started a podcast before I actually listened to one. So that’s embarrassing, but I started listening to them soon after that.”
Despite Carrie’s entry point into podcasting being hosting her own show, she agreed with Ross that the medium would work best for the show they were looking at starting. That show, Oh No, Ross and Carrie!, would become a major success and provide a perfect outlet for Carrie’s adventure-seeking, curious spirit.
We’re an investigative journalism podcast, and we investigate spirituality, claims of the paranormal, and fringe science. So we try all those things out ourselves. So sometimes we go undercover in a fringe group – like we spent two months undercover in Scientology – and sometimes we go an get funky treatment ourselves.
From Reiki to acupuncture, Ross and Carrie have a blast seeing if things really do what they promise. The duo know that they’re “a sample size of two” and that means all of their answers aren’t true for everyone, but they also know that having a pair of hosts adds a lot to the show.
I really like the two-voices approach of our show where Ross will get one impression of what happened and I will get one that maybe is completely different. And I think that gives a nice, subjective experience.
Carrie and Ross now spend their time going undercover in different groups and discussing them with their audience, so there’s no surprise that they’ve made some lasting connections with people in and leading those kinds of groups, as well as great connections with their fans.
Where They Met Lots of People…
During their time undercover, Carrie and Ross clearly interact with people who truly believe in what they are following or teaching. The podcast hosts aren’t ever there to show people that they are wrong or even cast doubt. Even when they go back to record their episodes, both have the goal of proper representation in mind because, honestly, some of it stands up to scrutiny
As far as thinking they sometimes have good points, pretty much every time we’re like ‘oh yeah, that makes sense. That checks out.’ And I don’t think these things would work at catching so many people if they didn’t have some good points.
See, Carrie and Ross are quick to admit their biases against or for what they investigate so that the listener knows exactly where the information is coming from, and their willingness to testify to the more easily accepted or positive parts of the groups and treatments they investigate has earned them a few friends.
I’d say about ten percent of the people we investigate we stay in contact with… We pretty much leave it up to them. If they’re not into being our friends then that’s totally fine, but if they are, game on.
But beyond the Mormons that now attend the duo’s birthday parties, Carrie and Ross have also amassed quite a fan base.
Our fans are so great. They’re often incredibly smart and sweet. We hear from them every day, we get dozens of emails.
Carrie loves the commitment her fans have to the show, but she is a little worried that people have started to recognize her and Ross out in public since her job depends on going undercover. But, if their fame does ruin the show for them, there are always disguises to be worn.
And Started Dreaming Big Dreams
Carrie and Ross are a big deal and they’ve been making their podcast for years, so something has to keep them going. Clearly their curiosity and thirst for adventure are a big part of it, but so is adding new things to their horizons.
I want to do more international investigations but, just so you know, we don’t have any on the docket right now so that’s not a hint. But we do look for them often and want to do more of those.
I let Carrie know that if she wanted to hint at any upcoming investigations I would be happy to pass those along to our readers, but she was tight-lipped when it came to the upcoming calendar. What she did tell me was still pretty exciting though.
I’m really excited for our first national tour that’s coming up. We’re doing our first live-show tour in the next few months, so that’ll be really great.”
Every fan loves a good live show, especially when it promises the chance to meet your favorite podcast hosts. But for fans who prefer their podcasts stay on their phone and out of real life, Carrie has something else she’s looking forward to.
I am excited for some episodes to come out in the next few weeks that we’ve already recorded. They’re about a particular spiritual leader who people are talking about a lot right now who’s a woman. We got to go to her conference a couple weeks ago.
So, if you are really curious, love a good investigation, are part of a cult and want to be able to detect investigators, or are just looking for someone to show you what happens in all those groups you’ll never be a part of, Oh No, Ross and Carrie! is the show for you.
Behind the Streams is a new series by Podchaser that explores popular podcasts and the brilliant minds behind them. Email Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org) to tell her why your favorite show should be featured next.