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 ...

Comments [6]

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 [14]

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 [10]

Comments [23]

David from NYC

The story of the guy who sees a man on the window and then fights hi, is similar to mine. For 15 years, he tormented me. But one day, I told him, "I am not afraid of you, and tried to fight him. But I woke up, and he left like him, I too fought my fear, and won. After that he never came back agin. Lucid dreams are real. Great show.

Oct. 24 2016 08:46 PM
Richard from Buffalo, NY

"What are you listening to?"
"Radio Lab."
"Radio Lab?"
"Yup, Radio Lab."
"Ah, the public radio show."
"That's right - public radio. Radio Lab."
"Radio Lab!"
"Radio, Lab."
"Listening to Radio Lab."
"Listening. To Radio Lab."
"Radio Lab on public radio."

Oct. 24 2016 02:50 PM

I am very surprised at the comment section here. Too many people have read the title and created this idea of what they want to hear. You've set your expectations and when someone doesn't meet that, then you get pissed. Get over it. Things don't always go as expected and just because someone says "Ghost Stories" doesn't mean it has to be metaphysical ghosts.

With that said, I liked the show. Not really a show that leaves me thinking, but I do want to see what the internals of the monkbot works. That kind of old world innovation has got to be very different from most of the things we have around today.

Dec. 07 2015 06:22 PM
Carly from Cleveland, Ohio

Should not title this episode "ghost stories"... quite misleading. None of these stories are interesting. If you are looking for ghost stories or paranormal accounts Snap Judgement "Spooked" episodes or even their "camp fire tales" episodes are much more enjoyable than this.

Nov. 02 2015 04:58 PM
Lifeboatb from Berkeley, CA

To Shercub from Boulder: the BBC says the Goto version of the story was written as fiction--but it's plausible enough that it's caught on. I was fooled, too.

BTW, notice that none of their shots of CPR dummies show the full face. I agree with Mark from Oregon that this part of the story is suspect. I just took a CPR class last month, and the dummies looked more like The Yellow Kid than L'inconnue.

Oct. 29 2015 02:57 PM
Sean Sullivan

Great story as always. Thanks

Jun. 03 2015 10:36 AM
Lisette from Seattle, WA

The commercials highlighting this Radiolab "ghost story" episode were deceptive. I thought I might actually get to hear people talk about their personal experiences with hauntings. The stories were interesting but had nothing to do with an actual ghost story. Also, this seems to be an old episode and was nothing new to Radiolab.

I grew up in a haunted house in Spokane, WA.

My family, my friends and I witnessed many scary events that are unexplained and some which actually defied physics. I was anxious to hear about other people's stories who have experienced similar hauntings. It would be nice if there could be a Radiolab episode that interviews people who have had paranormal experiences. I would be glad to share some of my stories.

Jun. 02 2015 12:46 PM
Fureyous from Montrose Colorado

Tell the truth!! Radio Lab is a lab conducting an experiment to see how long people will continue to listen to the MOST ANNOYING PROGRAM (other than Fox News) on the air, if the content is intriguing.

Please guys, it's not cute anymore. It's not interesting. It's not artistic.

You are too old for this crap.

Just put the story on, and hope that your content is enough to hold your listeners.


Jun. 01 2015 09:33 PM
Wil Davis from Nashua, NH

Same old RadioLab, full of "Ooooos", "Ahhhhhas", dreadfully intrusive musak, and presenters who sound as if they're trying to impress the professor with their interruptions and feeble attempts at humour! I am fully aware that in "modern" radio presentation, the idea is to provide "depth", and somehow modern producers think that this "depth" will be provided by using many different voices, male, female, young, old, English, non-English, but in reality it just gets very confusing, so why not use just a few presenters with really good voices, and able to string together more than two or three-word sentences? The "depth" would come naturally, and the programme would be so very much more enjoyable, and easier to listen to. Thanks for reading this - Wil Davis

Jun. 01 2015 08:05 PM
doug bell

re lucid dreaming: some old research I recall by "skeptical inquirer" out of buffalo state 25 or 30 yrs ago, centered on "out of body" experiences. ("I floated above the wreck and saw the paramedics working on me") Also T. Pynchon lucid dreaming "shaggy dog" in Gravity's Rainbow. I woke up but couldn't get out of bed;there was a large gold screw a few inches below my navel holding me down. on the bedstand was a golden screwdriver so I used it to remove the screw. Then I woke up again; it was all a dream-no screw, no screwdriver to be seen. Got out of bed and my ass fell off.

May. 31 2015 03:48 PM
Mark from Oregon

I kind of enjoyed it although I agree that the science was a little doubtful. I certainly wasn't boring. My problem is that I question the story of the L'Inconnue de la Seine being the basis for all CPR dummies. I am 64 and have been CPR certified for about half of that time using a lot of dummies under three or four different CPR protocols. None of the dummies I have been trained on look much like L'Inconnue de la Seine. Most (faces) look pretty sexless; some look pretty male, a few look female but none that I have used have the L'Inconnue de la Seine's cheek bones, jaw, or even her nose. How reliable is this story?

May. 30 2015 08:19 PM

I have been listening to your show for a few years now. I am disgusted by your pathetic loser atheist attitudes. You literally make me nauseous!

May. 29 2015 10:09 PM
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.