I’m thrilled to share this interview with you! I got the chance to interview the two lovely and charming hosts of The Morbid History podcast, Charli and Katie. These two friends loooove stories of guts and gore from the past.
Is there a better month than October to have this interview? I think not!
Tell me a little bit about the Morbid History Podcast.
Charli: Morbid History is the brainchild of Katie and Charli, who both have a morbid fascination with the past. We wanted our podcast to feel like you were hanging out with friends, the idea of formality and lots of production never sat well with us, as we wanted our audience to laugh along with us and to have true reactions to the stories we tell.
Katie: Charli and I started working together at the museum three and a half years ago, and instantly bonded—over foxes, interestingly enough. Soon, we were fast friends, with love of all things macabre and unusual. We’re weirdos, and we like to share our sick fascination with each other. I was having a particularly horrible day working on the galleries a few months back, and Charli came to see if I was okay, to have a little chat, and we were discussing podcasts we like. I can’t remember who it was (I think it was Charli!), but we kind of came up with the idea for the podcast right there on the spot! So we planned, and recorded our first episode a couple of weeks later.
We wanted the podcast to feel like you were coming in for a chat with two of your friends, and to appeal to people who, like us, love everything a bit… out of the ordinary. I have a little running notes list on my phone, of different things I have heard of, that would make a great story to tell. I usually go for the gore (although, have spoken about a few murders as well!). We talk about different subjects every week, and really do enjoy listening to each other’s stories. And, we love the interactions with our listeners, it’s been amazing that people have found us, and have taken the time to get in touch!
At the time of this interview, you’ve done 10 episodes. What has been your favorite so far? And, if different, what episode should new listeners start with?
Charli: For me I love bladder stones and blood baths. This is one where I was retching while Katie was describing the removal of the bladder stones. I think everyone should skip at least the first two as we didn’t really know what we were doing and if anyone was going to listen. I’d start episode three onwards.
Katie: I think my favourite episode was the last one (episode 10), where we both spoke on our “specialist subjects”—Charli on flaying, and I, on castrati. Gross, I know. But then again, this is Morbid History! There have been a lot of stories that I love though… so, what I would suggest, is start from the beginning? Just a warning, our first episode isn’t the strongest, and we giggle. A lot. But I think that we have gotten into the groove, and have found a good way of recording (and editing, on my part!), and love trying out different locations, whether it be in the comfort of our own homes, or in “the wild” (as we like to call it!), in an eerie location in London.
Do you have any favorite history podcasts?
Katie: I love the That Classical Podcast (what a surprise!), and also In Our Time. The gals of Stuff You Missed in History Class are great as well! Our friend Nikki also has a great podcast of London’s history, called Macabre London, which is really lovely, especially if you like spooky things (as, I think, you can tell that we do).
What history time period is your favorite and why?
Charli: I think we can both agree that we love the 1800’s! Not only for the reign of Queen Victoria and Albert but for the Victorian morbidity and traditions. For me it also includes Jack the Ripper which I’m obsessed with and trying not to mention on the podcast too soon!
Katie: Oh, definitely Victorian history. Myyyy fave. I grew up in a Victorian Gothic house in Canada, and I would definitely say that I am the product of my parents, who also love history (and completely renovated our house in a neo-Victorian style). I love the eccentricities, the social oddities, and the art, architecture, and music coming out of that this period. It was a time of great change, and I love that the people of the 19th century were so eager to really strive to move forward. Ideally, I would love to be my age in abouuuut 1885—in London (and, obviously, wealthy), a time when you’ve got Gilbert and Sullivan premiering on stage, William Morris is all the rage, Japan mania is everywhere, and Liberty is bringing in amazing, beautiful things from around the globe.
… that being said, I would also love to know what it would be like to step back, even if, just for a day, to see the London of Hogarth, Handel, and Garrick, and Spitalfields silks. What a time it must have been. It just boggles my mind that these amazing people lived in this great city at the same time – and moved in similar circles. It just fascinates me. (I am going to be daydreaming for the rest of the day, you realize this, right?)
What are your favorite morbid history books our readers might enjoy?
Charli: I love Donald Rumbelow’s The Complete Jack the Ripper. Sandra Hempel’s The Inheritor’s Powder and Catherine Arnold’s Bedlam to name just a few. I’m currently reading Stephen Smith’s Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets.
Katie: Ooooh morbid history books. There are so many! My morbid fascination definitely began when my grade six teacher, Mrs. Hiscock, suggested that I read the Terry Deary Horrible Histories books (which, at the time, were not popular in Canada, and were very hard to find!), I started with The Measly Middle Ages. I will love them now! I think the first book that I would suggest to anyone would be The Sick Rose by Richard Barnett. It is a book of macabre historical medical illustrations—and it’s completely gruesome… yet beautiful? I also love The Victorians by Jeremy Paxman (what a babe). Although not completely morbid, it does go into some depressing bits, PLUS, you will get a general overview, complete with Victorian paintings to help you on your 19th century journey.