The Magnus Archives: a New Take on Podcasts

Lily Ware, Arts and Entertainment Writer

In a world where podcasts become more and more plentiful some will stand out from the rest. The Magnus Archives is a weekly British horror fiction anthology podcast that is distributed by the Rusty Quill. This podcast will strike its listeners through the unsettling tone providing entertainment for hours. 

After the podcast’s initial beginning in 2016, the podcast averaged about 2.5 million downloads per month. As of July 2020, that number has gone up to 4 million downloads.

Lily Ware

The podcast takes place at a fictional building known as the Magnus Institute, located in London England. The Magnus archives specialize in researching paranormal activities that have been reported in statements to the institute. These statements are read and recorded by the head archivist Jonathan Sims, voiced by Jonathan Sims. 

Sims is the writer of the Magnus Archives podcast.  He spoke in the season 1 Q&A episode with Alexander J. Newell, a producer at the Rusty Quill and voice actor of character Martin Blackwood, and talked about how he originally got the ability to work with the Rusty Quill. 

Sims performs with a stage show known as The Mechanisms. Newell, who Sims had known through a few other people, had come to a show and really enjoyed it. 

“So when Alex started up Rusty Quill, he messaged us and said–basically, with an open offer: Would you like to work with Rusty Quill at all? The band as a whole, largely because there’s no way to produce the sort of thing we do at speed enough to be useful in a podcast sense,” Sims said. 

Even though the band did not have the ability to produce anything quick enough, Sims took up the offer for the ability to have a podcast. 

“I said, Oh, I’ve been thinking of starting up a horror podcast for a while,  and Alex said, Great! It’ll need a metaplot, and here we are,” Sims said. 

Like most works of entertainment, The Magnus Archives has its inspirations when it came to the podcast as a whole. 

“I mean, interestingly, I remember the first time you pitched The Magnus Archives to us and you described it as M. R. James meets creepypasta for a start,” Newell said.

While there are many horror podcasts out there, the Magnus archives follow a completely different idea compared to the rest. With a podcast that is being told from the point of view of various written media, there was a lot of testing to see what worked. 

“Well, ultimately as well, from a production standpoint, I mean, Season 1 was entirely new territory. It was completely exploratory, we didn’t know if people were gonna like it, so ultimately there was an element of… seeing what worked, I think,” Newell said. 

To be able to write different jobs with the statements, a lot of research had to go into the podcast. In Season 2 Q&A part 2 with Newell, Sims  shared what research went into the podcast.

“I would say (I research), at least as much time as I actually spend writing the thing. If it’s not something that I myself have direct personal experience of, I will generally do as much research as I can beforehand. Anything where it’s a job or an experience. So, there’s a lot of research,” Sims said.

As a result of there being 190 episodes of the podcast, one needs to have as many ideas that they can get. Sims often gets his ideas from those around him and personal experiences. 

“I am constantly aware that I need to find spooky ideas for things, and if any of my friends are listening to this, any conversation I’ve had with you in the last two years, I’ve been secretly looking for spooks that I can steal from you,” Sims said. 

The podcast is getting closer and closer to its end after 5 seasons. The last season began on April 2nd, 2020. Due to the global pandemic COVID-19, it became harder to record these episodes. As a result, season five was split into three separate acts, and the third act began January 14th, 2021. 

The Magnus Archives has won many different awards including Discover Pods award Best Audio Drama or Fiction Podcast (2019), 5 Audioverse awards including Best Audioplay and Best Writing (2019), and was a Best Arts podcast nominee in Podcast Awards (2016).

Check-in every Thursday anywhere where podcasts are accessible for a new episode of the Magnus Archives for an unsettling horror experience and learn about the many characters through audio as the mystery unfolds.