Welcome to Night Vale
by Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and strange lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.”
So begins the podcast that has recently taken over the Internet and become a massive hit – Welcome to Night Vale. But what exactly is this weird and wonderful show and how did its fascination on social media begin?
The podcast began running a little over a year ago. On its first anniversary, the episodes had been collectively downloaded about 150,000 times. The next week alone, they were downloaded another 150,000 times. It is currently the No. 1 podcast on iTunes.
Since then, it seems like all anyone can talk about on Tumblr and beyond is Welcome to Night Vale. The show’s producers, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, have no idea how or why it caught on so late in its run, but they do have a theory as to why its popularity has steamrolled – the online presence of the Hannibal fandom.
Though on the surface Hannibal and Welcome to Night Vale seem to have nothing in common, listening to just one episode of the podcast proves why the shows have crossover appeal. They both employ a sinister tone, inspired by the macabre and mysterious. Welcome to Night Vale may borrow a little more from the science fiction side, and is more humorous than Hannibal, but if you are spooked easily, both may cause you to sleep with the lights on.
Night Vale is posted twice monthly, runs anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, and provides news, traffic, “weather” updates, etc. from a fictional small town somewhere in America. Its reporter, Cecil Baldwin, has a voice reminiscent of one that might be heard on NPR; he calmly broadcasts about everything from the angels and dark-hooded figures that roam the town, to a five-headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels who wants to run for mayor, to a dog park that should never actually be spoken of.
Cecil is infatuated with a scientist in town named Carlos. In fact, in the show’s most recent episode “First Date,” the two go on their (surprise!) first date. All along, Night Vale has been very inclusive of the LGBT+ community, treating Cecil’s crush as something normal and every day in this world that is far away from ordinary.
If you like NPR, The Twilight Zone, War of the Worlds, HP Lovecraft, or yes, even Hannibal, you will definitely enjoy Welcome to Night Vale. The show can be downloaded for free on iTunes, where its 27th episode was recently posted. So if you want to be in-the-know, you better get to listening so you can catch up fast!