OREGON, USA — A podcast set in Oregon is getting international attention.
What Happened in Skinner? is a suspenseful mystery about a fictional island off the coast of Florence.
The podcast was nominated for a national Ambie Award, in part because of its in-depth expanded universe of content.
"It's an online game people can play, a short film, and all these other tie-in elements," explained Aaron Blanton, one of the showrunners.
A short film sets the spooky tone for the story.
The video begins with voices of two people livestreaming their reaction to video from 1929 taken in the (fictional) town of Skinner. The video begins peacefully, but then becomes darker and creepier.
"There's something sinister lurking under the surface," Blanton said.
The fictional livestream becomes interrupted, with audio of a scuffle, before it ends in darkness. This inspires a character in the main podcast to go to Skinner and solve the mystery.
"It lures you onto this island and opens up this world of this secret society," Blanton explained.
In real life, listeners can participate in that investigation, using fake websites for the Skinner universe, parsing together clues and interacting with each other online.
The idea took off on Reddit, with people from all over the world contributing theories about Skinner as the podcast's episodes came out.
"Becoming part of the plot," Blanton said. "Even though these were real people having these conversations."
"It turned into something so delightful," said Katrina Braun, another showrunner.
The podcast team even planted real-life ritual sites and clues for people to find in Florence, Seattle, Los Angeles and London.
"We're hoping to do more locations," Braun said.
Blanton said a podcast network has picked their show up, and the team plans to launch a Patreon for subscribers to continue adding to the story.