INTERVIEW: Thinking Sideways Podcast – “The Human Mind Demands Explanations”

Thinking Sideways

Anyone like me who has found themselves watching the sun come up after a morning browsing the Wikipedia article of people who have disappeared mysteriously or listicles on various unsolved, creepy mysteries understands the inherent thrill of the unexplainable.

The internet is replete with sites, videos and articles which explore inexplicable and unsolved mysteries, sating a deep human desire for the intangible and perplexing. Thinking Sideways explores these mysteries in a podcast format. The team of Joe, Devon and Steve discuss head-scratchers and spine-shiverers such as the Monster with 21 Faces, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and the Texarkana Moonlight murder.

The podcast is simultaneously well-researched and comprehensive while still maintaining an air of light banter between friends, which makes listening unnerving and entertaining all at once. I had a chat with Joe from the Thinking Sideways team about podcasts, mysteries and cold cases.

Have you guys found a big appetite for mysteries in the podcasting world since you started Thinking Sideways?
Yes, there’s a huge interest out there. As to why, my current working theory is that people are hard-wired to try to explain what they see. So the ground just shook real hard, and soon after a huge tsunami showed up and smooshed my coastal village? Could be angry sky gods, or maybe just tectonic plates shifting a bit. When you think about it, either explanation satisfies. But the human mind demands explanations, and it will find them, no matter how likely or unlikely. The important thing is not so much the truth of the explanation, but just the explanation itself.

And—irony alert—I’m doing the exact same thing right now. I could’ve answered your question with a simple “Yes” and left it at that, but I didn’t, did I?

Do you think the audio medium enhances a naturally spooky and intriguing topic such as unsolved murders and mysteries?
In some cases, yes. Allowing the audience’s minds to fill in the gaps, as they always will, is often way creepier than seeing. Plus you can’t really walk down a dark street at night with your iPad reading about a creepy mystery, but it’s easy to listen to a podcast while walking. We’ve gotten all kinds of emails from listeners telling us how they were listening to us while working the swing shift in an empty building and our latest creepy episode had them looking over their shoulders.

Was there any particular inspiration for starting the podcast?
We just thought it would be fun to do a podcast. We debated subject matter for a while—Devin wanted to do a cooking show but Steve and I felt like we’d probably get fat if we did that. I wanted to do a show about “Stuff You’ve Never Heard Of”, but Steve and Devin didn’t think that was gripping enough. Steve wanted to do a show about hand-tying fly-fishing lures, but Devin as it turns out is obsessively pro-fish and she started going off about “fish rights” and how they should be allowed to vote and stuff, and Steve and I quickly changed the subject.

Mainly, though, we just all like unsolved mysteries. Everything I said above is a lie.

Do you think there is a potential for podcast like this to possibly crowdsource resources in terms of cold cases, even if it’s just additional interest in some of these events?
As far as solving cold cases, I can see the possibility but so far it isn’t realized. There are sites like Reddit and Websleuths out there that have been around for far longer than our podcast and through crowdsourcing some people do come up with valuable insights. The problem is that it tends to be more speculation and less investigation which lends me to think that this isn’t going to be the solution to many mysteries.

Do you think there’s a bright future for the Thinking Sideways podcast?
Yes! Until the mysteries run out. Then we’re screwed.

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