Return Home
Season 10 | Episode 9

Ghost Stories

« previous episode | next episode »

Ghosts, ghouls, shades from the past ... in this episode of Radiolab, real-life people try to pin down, and make peace with, mysterious figures that haunt them, prod them, and fade out of existence.


One man finds a way to put the beatdown on his personal bogey man, a dead monk spurs a king to build a perfect prayer machine, an unknown face launches a thousand dummies (actually, a whole lot more than that), and a skeptic goes on a one-way to journey to find out whether spirits exist.


Jeremy Grange, Elizabeth King, Tore Laerdal, Latif Nasser, Mary Roach, Carlene Stephens and Steve Volk

Beyond the grave

To get things started, Jad ris fascinated by the first paragraph of an article by Mary Roach, in which she makes a bold claim about a daring attempt to provide proof that there is life after death. She tells us the story of Thomas Lynn Bradford and his journey ...


Haunted dreams

Matt Kielty introduces us to Steve Volk, a city reporter in Philadelphia who--for decades--was plagued by a recurring nightmare. It popped up whenever Steve was going through a stressful time, and it always played out exactly the same way. But no matter how self-aware Steve was about his ...

Comments [7]

Ghost in the machine

When the 17-year-old crown prince of Spain, Don Carlos, fell down a set of stairs in 1562, he threw his whole country into a state of uncertainty about the future. Especially his father, King Philip II, who despite being the most powerful man in the world, was helpless in the ...

Comments [3]

Comments [11]

kunj bihari

nice..for more such stories please visit

Nov. 17 2013 12:41 PM
Karen from california

Disappointing and boring. You can do better.

Sep. 26 2013 04:19 PM

Life after death: 1) Harry Houdini, the great magician/escape artist, had a hobby of debunking psychics who held seances at which they claimed to contact the dead. He thought them all to be scams. He attended seances and ALWAYS succeeded in discovering how the so-called psychic made it apPear as if the dead was contacted and delivering messages.
2) Houdini told his wife that when he died, if there was any way to contact her from beyond the grave he would find it. After all, if there was a way to escape he kew how to do it. For decades after his untimely death his widow sat in waiting some anniversary (perhaps of his death) but never heard from him.
3) Another magician has since continued his debunking activities.

Dreams and consciousness: I was a bed-wetter till about the age of 12, much to my embarrassment. This was in the 1940's. I had to sleep with my midsection on a rubber sheet that had a cloth covering, otherwise my mother would have had to wash an entire sheet every night and also have a wet mattress to deal with. (Plastic film was not yet available.) My parents consulted some "expert," perhaps some sort of psychotherapists (although probably the only psychotherapy available in those days was Freudian psychoanalysis), who advised them to make a chart and post a gold star every night I didn't wet the bed. This, of course, was nonsensical. I was already incredibly motivated to stop doing it and adding a gold star motivation did nothing. Eventually I came to realize that every time I wet the bed I was dreaming of going to the bathroom. Somehow, I taught myself to wake up when such a dream started, so I could get to the bathroom. Eventually this succeeded.

Sep. 22 2013 12:58 PM

This comment is about the "elusive" dreams, gaining control over bad dreams. Around 11 or 12 ( 1958-9) I remember watching late night television and listening to a woman explain to the moderator that there were native people in South America didn't have psychological problems. They resolved problems in their dreams. When their children told their parents about bad dreams, they were told to go back to sleep, CONTINUE with the dream but this time see it through, control it. Swim up from drowning, face the enemy, command and vanquish the enemy. After all , it was your dream and you could change the ending. I was a skinny little girl and only child, but I believed that woman. So the next time I had a bad dream, I did it and there was no more nightmares. I've done but forgotten about it over the years. This program reminded me and reinforced my belief and intent to repeat what worked hen I was a child. Your narrator had someone watch him while he was dreaming the nightmare he'd had for the last 20 years; this time when he failed to freak out after his nemesis had again broken into his house, the enemy pulled out a gun fired it at him repeatedly. However, this time the narrator just looked at him and wasn't killed. His tormentor stood there, laughed and the dream didn't return. It works. I have loved this show for as long as it's been available on OPB. This was a good reminder!!

Sep. 21 2013 06:35 PM
Shercub from Boulder, CO

Check this out!!! L'inconnue mystery solved? :

Apr. 29 2013 08:05 PM
Patrick from Salt Lake City, UT

Let me preface by saying that my favorite episode of Radiolab has been the one on Stochasticity. It was one of the earliest I'd heard and I was enthralled by how scientific and precise the show was. With so many "pop" science shows floating out there, it was nice to have Radiolab here to dig deep and avoid too much glitz in favor of accuracy, scope, and precision. This episode, I think, lacked similar rigor. I know it's a compilation of older posts, but this one, especially with the opening story concluding with something like: "...those who believe win," feels like you're apologizing for 'proving' there was no afterlife. I don't believe ghosts or spirits exist, so, if you're going to investigate claims of such entities, please bring the scientific rigor; the proof! With how many people claim it, shouldn't be that hard and it would arguably be the biggest discovery of all time, ever.

Feb. 14 2013 01:02 PM
Jorunn from Norway

Hi! Big fan of RadioLab from Norway here. I just want to clarify one of the lingual problems that occur when foreigners try to pronounce Norwegian words/names which include the Norwegian letters Æ, Ø and Å: Åsmund Lærdal (or, as you call him, Asmund Laerdal) should not be pronounced "Ass-mund", which although pretty funny, is very wrong. The letter "Å" is the vowel sound you get in the words "ball", "crawl" and "bored".

And for future reference: "Æ" is the vowel sound in "rat", and "Ø" is the vowel sound in "bird" and "earl".

Dec. 10 2012 05:16 AM
regina kypriandes from gainesville, florida

I love your podcast and enjoying all your stories. In honor of Halloween and The Day of the Dead, I decided to get settled into your podcast about "Ghost."

I have my own ghost stories and have been in touch with the afterlife since I was six-my heart stopped in surgery and I was dead for a minute or two. I have seen a lot and even have a photo of my dead grandmother sitting on my couch....just to prove the the orbs around me and the energy I feel is real. I'm 32 now and I have learned to deal with the dead as well as walk my nephew through this gift as well.

I just wanted to say, thanks. I enjoyed it.

Oct. 25 2012 01:15 PM
Tim from New York

Thank you so much for summing up the Catholic faith in the final 2 minutes of your episode. There is clearly no group of people better equipped to speak on the Catholic doctrine than a Harvard grad student, Smithsonian curator, and a Jewish journalist. As we are all clearly aware, prayers = heaven, and I thank you for bringing to light the simplistic mathematical nature that is the base of all Christianity. I will say one hundred Hail Marys, and TWO hundred Our Fathers for your soul in gratitude.. Your salvation is almost guaranteed.

Sep. 24 2012 10:40 AM
cai from uk

I'm slightly disappointed to find that this is a compilation episode taken from recent shorts. I've got no problem with you guys doing that (though it would be nice if the episode titles reflected it so I don't go "ooh, new Radiolab! aww, recycled Radiolab...") but I would be so interested in a real, new Radiolab episode all about ghosts and the paranormal and occult.

Jul. 07 2012 08:53 AM
Elizabeth Herman from Battle Creek, Mi

I never believed in ghost till one was in my first home. I'm telling you this story only because I wanted someone to understand it is true. The first incounter was when we were watching TV. I had empted my pockets of the change on top of the TV like I had done lots of times before in my Appartment but this was my very first house. As we were watching TV. I sudenly was hit by the money as it was flying at my face. I first thought it was a anamal or something that was traped in my room and I envisioned that the anamal just jumped off the TV. It was dark and that is why I didn't see the anamal.Over the years I would forget and put things on the TV and then I would get hit in the face by curtain hangers made of wood. that was when I realized it wasn't some electromagnetic thing that was causing the money to fly off the TV. One day I heard a loud screem from the up stairs we were all down stairs and eating breakfest.We left.

Jun. 30 2012 02:37 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.