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Podcast / The Hidden Almanac

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Welcome to the Hidden Almanac. I'm Reverend Mord. Today is September 13th, 2013.

The Hidden Almanac is a podcast created and written by Ursula Vernon and produced by Kevin Sonney. According to her blog, Ursula Vernon came the idea after hearing too many people describe Welcome to Night Vale as "H. P. Lovecraft meets A Prairie Home Companion" and started wondering what would have happened if Lovecraft had met Garrison Keillor's other radio show, The Writer's Almanac, instead.

Each five-minute episode follows a set format: After introducing the program and announcing the date, Reverend Mord recounts a couple of events that occurred on the same day in history, profiles a saint whose feast day it is, and offers some seasonal gardening tips. All of these might at any moment take a sudden turn into the uncanny, despite which Reverend Mord will narrate all of them in the same calm, matter-of-fact voice. At the end of each episode, Reverend Mord reads a couple of sponsors' messages, then signs off.

The podcast ran for exactly six years, with the first episode released on September 13th, 2013, and the last on September 13th, 2019.

Now has a wiki, with the encouragement of the producers.note 

The Hidden Almanac provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: the Cannibal Fly Priesthood to Reverand Mord (though they deny any admiration)
  • Alternative Calendar: Events in Echo Harbour are described as taking place in years with names like "Year of the Dripping Moon" instead of numbers.
  • And Call Him "George": Mentioned as a hazard posed to pets by garden yetis.
    Mord: At worst, the yetis may attempt to snuggle the chickens and name them George. Fortunately, they are easily distracted and will usually put the chicken down before it becomes annoyed.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Mord tells a dying Drom the story of a gardener who planted the First Garden, in the First City, and who died trying to save a rare vine during a storm, only to be resurrected and combined with the plant by a nature goddess, and granted immortality. It's very obviously Mord's personal story.
  • Apothecary Alligator:
    Drom: Necromancers are weirdos who hang out in dark lairs full of books and pentagrams and stuffed alligators hanging from the ceiling.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
  • Berserk Button: One should not suggest harm to Mord's books. Or his hellebores. But mostly his books.
    Mord: (Voice of the Legion) WE. DO. NOT. BURN. BOOKS.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: When Mord asks Drom how she would conquer a technologically advanced society, her answer involves two asteroids, nuclear winter, and food laced with highly addictive drugs. She also keeps a shotgun under her bed, a second one under the sink, and a pistol.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Drom spends most of the Fathers arc as this, having to doublethink her way into helping Mord. Unfortunately, the doublethink doesn't hold out forever.
    Pastor Drom: Okay, so you take the hypotenuse of the worthiness of the two sides MORD LOOK OUT I’VE GOT A STUN ROD AFTER ALL
  • Brick Joke: The episode for October 23rd, 2013, begins with an account of an 18th-century law that banned goats and goat cheese and resulted in the establishment of several "cheese-easies", and ends with an announcement that the episode's sponsor is "Heywood's, the oldest cheese-easy still in existence".
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Sacred Order of Bull-Moose Men.
  • Buffy Speak: Apparently working up a miracle involves "wogitating thingies." If the thingies won't wogitate, cash may be required instead.
  • The Caligula: The Librarian Prince, famous for his nonsensical Hateful Decrees, and general reign of terror.
  • Christmas Creep: Several episodes are sponsored by Suzie's Seasonal Assassins, an organization devoted to discouraging perpetrators of Christmas Creep with extreme prejudice. In later advertising spots they appear to have branched out to things like unpleasant relatives making holidays uncomfortable, but they always come back to this.
  • City with No Name: Many of the historical events occurred in "the city", the name of which Reverend Mord apparently expects his listeners to know without being told. The country in which it is set likewise remains unnamed.
  • Continuity Nod: The episode for 9 December 2013 records that in 1781, the Librarian Prince forbade the use of numberical placings in contests, leaving people to come up with workarounds such as "color-coded ribbons, Honorablest Mentions, and the 'We're Extremely Glad You Participated Award'". A couple of episodes later, an item about sheep breeding mentions that in 1783 a ram named Sturdy took the "Exceedingly Honorable-We-Really-Mean-It Award" at the city fair.
  • Disposable Intern: The Hidden Almanac has interns, whose duties include tending the Hidden Almanac Test Garden. If an intern's name is mentioned, they'll probably do all right, but if not they'll probably die in the same sentence in which they're first mentioned while testing an electric birdbath or something. In early 2014, a stretch of episodes spanning several weeks featured progress reports on a party of interns who had become lost in a snowstorm while out in the Test Garden, and were forced to fight off bears and contemplate cannibalism before eventually finding their way home.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Reverend Mord maintains the same calm, soothing tones no matter how weird the subject under discussion becomes.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The race of District Court Judge has fairly obvious parallels to the 2016 presidential election, growing more pointed as it goes on.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Mord's voice sounds more like Kevin Sonney's natural speaking voice initially, and gradually becomes deeper and slower.
    • Drom in her early appearances was entirely unwilling to talk about the Feast Day of St. Phallos.
    • The first time "Mord may be a mass of scarab beetles in a plague doctor suit" came up was when Drom declared she'd always suspected it but had decided he wasn't, since he'd just torn off a degenerate cultist's face with his teeth. Mord responded, "I still might be. We may just be very good at operating teeth."
    • Mord had scarab beetles deliver messages For him in earlier episodes (wrong kind of beetle, obviously)
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Mentioned periodically in history segments, usually in connection with Echo Harbor.
    • Corvus-Wrax, god of the crows.
    • The horrible many-mouthed plague god that a cult tries to feed the interns to.
    • A very small skeletal mouse that infests the garden and at least once bit a visiting Royal Ornithologist.
  • Eldritch Location: While weird things happen all over the unnamed country, many weird events, and most of the horrifying ones, happen in the town of Echo Harbor, to the point that the citizens appreciated the time everyone was turned to statues for a day because it was more restful than any of the other random transformations they'd experienced.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Mimes have been banned within city limits since the Great Mime Uprising of 1893, and there are rumors of an underground Mime cult. (Whether the Uprising itself was inspired by prior mistreatment is unknown; apparently the ringleaders never said what their motivation was.) One episode does mention 'Loyalist Mimes' who attempted to help non-mimes negotiate with the hostile majority (and were promptly executed for being traitors) but it isn't known if there are still some around.
  • Exact Words: Mord is not “just plants in a suit”. Nor is he “a swarm of beetles in a suit”. He is an undead human combined with an undead vine, which is tended to by rare (and possibly extinct) beetles. Get it right.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe. A story arc covers the station executive's attempts to modify the show's format, including "all country and western", a talk-show with Pastor Drom, and switching the music to smooth jazz. Mord is unimpressed.
    Mord: I have been told to be 'groovy', Drom. I do not do 'groovy'.
  • Faking the Dead: Possibly the case with the pirate Ribbon Jack, who "was never allowed to make a public statement and was hanged while wearing a hood. Autopsies indicated that the notorious pirate may actually have been an eighty-five pound bag of seaweed." On the other hand, it has to be said that an animate bag of seaweed with piratical proclivities would fit right in with some of the other historical figures mentioned in the series.
  • Foil: On occasion, Reverend Mord is substituted by Pastor Drom, who, as her name implies, is pretty much his opposite in every way. The only thing they seem to have in common is a fondness for gardening, though her interest seems to be primarily pharmacological.
  • Heroic Pet Story: Parodied in the account of a heroic border collie who woke a family in a burning house and herded them directly into the blaze, which later investigation determined the collie had started himself. (But it turned out the family were all members of a forbidden cult, so that was all right.)
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When the interns are kidnapped by a cult that wants to sacrifice them to a plague god, Mord throws himself on it so Drom can get them away. He comes through okay, though.
  • Honey Trap: One ongoing storyline describes a war between a colony of house mice and the squirrels that live in the back yard. One significant event in the war involves a female mouse infiltrating the squirrels disguised with a false tail, and seducing a high ranking squirrel to learn about their battle plans.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Mord. note 
  • Improbable Weapon User: In one episode, an angry mob marching on a butterfly sanctuary (due to confusion over a pesticide scare) were fended off by heroic entomologists wielding large hissing cockroaches.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Drom at the end of the Inquisitor Ingrid arc. Justified in that she does have a piece of rebar sticking through her chest.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When the Hidden Almanac Test Garden is under threat of development by an unscrupulous energy company, and then overrun by environmental protestors organized by Pastor Drom, Mord shows a moment of weakness.
    The interns are hiding in the garden shed, passing a flask between themselves. I envy them.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: An excerpt from The Book of the Gear regarding Heinrich's cooking proclivities seems absurd, but is entirely appropriate within the book as a whole.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Most of the historical events are one-offs, but some of them are recognizably pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle. Among the more obvious are the anniversaries of the Hateful Decrees, and the milestone-by-milestone history of the Spice Wars.
  • Literal Metaphor: The library slogan "Get lost in a book" gets interpreted in the most disturbing way in subsequent episodes.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Defied. One opens in the city and sells mysterious items to several people with cryptic instructions; on catching wind of this, the authorities shut the place down and confiscate the items.
  • Lottery of Doom: The "annual fun run" of the Sacred Order of Bull Moose Men, in which the member who draws the short straw is designated the moose and hunted down by the rest of the participants.
  • Murder, Inc.: Suzy's Seasonal Assassins, who will take care of your oddly specific problems for the right price. Such problems include stores advertising Yule in summer, having your painstakingly crafted Halloween costume be overlooked in a contest in favor of someone with a shoddily-crafted meme reference, and visiting relatives.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom:
    • Mole people have names like this, as demonstrated by the famous poet Worms-Moving-Sideways and the saint Flower-of-Dark.
    • Whales have names like Six Notes Returning From The Western Stars.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: The Red Wombat company usually sells tea, but occasionally either changes their wares, or lets a similarly-named company take their spot selling something related to whatever Mord has been talking about in the current episode. Whatever they sell, it's usually "fine and inaccessible."
  • Noodle Incident: When the Fathers warp everyone's memory to make everyone think they've always been around, and Mord finds himself reading a script describing events that he has no recollection of, his first thought is that the interns having accidentally given him a script from the future. The way he raises the possibility implies that this has actually happened to him before — more than once.
  • Not Hyperbole: During one of the show's forays into Lovecraft Lite, an ancient slab is unearthed covered in dire warnings written in the Unspeakable Language of Ur. The language is Unspeakable because it only survives in written format, and so no one knows how any of it is pronounced. It can be read just fine, though.
  • Not So Above It All: Mord is insistent that he didn't feed the baby chicks Drom kept in his office more than once. Or twice. A day.
  • Not So Stoic: The normally deadpan Reverend Mord becomes audibly frustrated when dealing with the antics of Pastor Drom. He is also displeased by the advent of a cat living in the garden, eating songbirds. Very. Displeased.
    • A sponsor claiming that the Librarian Prince was a misunderstood hero has Mord stopping and refusing to read it, because this is the Librarian Prince they're defending. Even Pastor Drom has nothing good to say about him.
    • He is even more displeased by the temporal-warp-induced discovery that Drom is going to be a saint.
    • The takeover of the Fathers, who warped everyone's memory but his, tried him sorely. Especially when Drom mentions that they have a yearly book burning.
    • When Drom is seemingly mortally injured at the end of the Inquistor Ingrid arc, Mord grows increasingly insistent that she will not die.
  • Onion Tears: The art work "Eleven Hundred Small Bits of Onion" was "reported to be a success, as no one could view it without bursting into tears, although some art critics suggested that this method was probably cheating."
  • Parody Commercial: The sponsors' messages at the end of each episode.
  • Plague Doctor: Mord's appearance, based on his own testimony and sporadic sketches.
    • Drom may or may not be one as well. She mentions that she has a mask too, but she only wears it on formal occasions and when she wants to look "like a scary plague doctor".
  • Production Throwback:
  • Rags to Royalty: One episode ends with a message of thanks and farewell to Sheila the Intern, who has been discovered to be the lost heir to a distant empire.
  • Raised by Wolves: St. Brega was a human raised by owls
  • A Rare Sentence:
    • Drom: So you mean someone was pretending to be an ornithologist for nefarious purposes of their own?
      Mord: Indeed.
      Drom: I bet that's the first time somebody's ever said that sentence.
    • Drom: As long as I keep licking these horrible inedible fruits, I'll be safe from the mind control. Wow, there's a phrase I didn't expect to have to utter twice in one lifetime.
      Mord: I beg your pardon?
      Drom: College was wild.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: One episode is sponsored by Big Al's Lace Emporium — "You want lace? We got lace. We got more lace than you can possibly handle. We have lace that you can kill bears with. Come get this lace, if you think you're hard enough."
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The saints will sometimes reflect real-world happenings that Ursula has a particular interest in.
    • The episode after David Bowie's death included the feast day of Saint Jareth, patron of the lost and the fabulous.
    • Carrie Fisher's death was similarly commemorated:
      It is the Feast Day of the Fisher Saint. This powerful figure is portrayed as a woman haloed by twin suns, holding a dog. She is the patron of sufferers of mental illness, scriptwriters, and generals. The details of this saint's life have been conflated with many legends, but most accounts agree that she drowned in moonlight at the end, and the world mourned her passing.
    • Similarly Sir Terry Pratchett's death was marked by the Feast of Saint Terry, "one of the great ethical voices of our time. The world is less for his passing."
    • Alan Rickman's death was marked by the Feast of "St. Alan, patron of sarcasm, eloquent delivery, and spoons", and an editorial comment from Mord that he wasn't happy with "the recent clustering of newly minted feast days".
  • Running Gag:
    • Sponsors' messages that respond to the previous episode's sponsor's message.
    • Events that had no witnesses, or which otherwise occurred in circumstances such that it's not clear how Reverend Mord knows so precisely what happened.
    • In an early episode, the gardening section discussed zucchini, and the danger of ending up with more than you know what to do with. Several episodes over the next few weeks returned to the subject of Things To Do With All That Zucchini.
    • The dangers of getting lost in a book.
    • Stories of fishermen catching record fish and being awarded "a small certificate, and a beer." This is eventually turned around in Echo Harbor, where a fisherman was dragged by a massive sturgeon until he managed to cut his line. The sturgeon was given the certificate and beer for catching a fisherman of record size.
    • Variations on the Red Wombat Tea Company.
  • Seen It All: The Prominent Citizens of Echo Harbor are typically unfazed by strange occurrences, usually shrugging them off or at most remarking them as unseasonal.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The description of the Feast of the East Wind is a shout-out to the fairy tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon".
    • The little old lady who visited Echo Harbor, with her comment about the evil found in small towns and the mention of her nephew Raymond, is a shout-out to Miss Marple.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase:
    • To begin with, Mord ended each episode with "Be safe, and stay out of trouble." From November 2016, "Be safe, and remember: You are not alone" became increasingly common, and is now the usual sign-off.
    • On episodes where Drom has the microphone, she has been known to use "Be safe, and have a great day!"
  • The Stoic: Mord. His measured deadpan is unaffected by corporate shenanigans, interference by eldritch abominations, or, on one occasion, being set on fire. Although he has a few Berserk Buttons, mostly with regard to disrespect for his garden, he addresses them with barely a change in tone.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    • "This episode is sponsored by the Silent Nightclub, which is absolutely not a front for the underground Mime Cult."
    • From a sponsor spot for the Mantis Lounge nightclub: "Every Saturday night, the most delectable male among the dancers will be selected for special attentions by the staff. This is completely painless."
    • The Polly’s Rare Parrot Emporium is absolutely not a collective of macaws that have taken control of an illegal parrot-smuggling ring, eaten the smugglers, and are now attempting to lure buyers to the shop in order to devour them. Awk. Awk-awk. Awk.
  • Take That!: One episode has a sequence which lampoons The Whisperer in Darkness; a researcher in Echo Harbor tells his fellows through letters that he is on the cusp of exposing a secret cult and the horrible monstrosities they worship suddenly claims in a new letter that he was wrong, and by the way will they come visit him and bring along all copies of his correspondence. Only one takes 'him' up on the offer, and on top of instantly seeing through the eldritch monstrosity poorly mimicking the researcher by wearing his face as a mask, only brought along copies of the letters, because to do otherwise would be stupid.
  • Talking to Plants: Played with in one of the gardening tips, which notes that the flavor of horseradish is related to stress, and thus recommends that to really enhance the flavor you should be mean and insulting to the plant.
    • Later on, Drom tells Mord "We may be down to five listeners and I think one is actually a greenhouse that plays us for their plants... The owner says that you have a voice made for begonias."
  • Team Pet: George the crow, adopted by the Hidden Almanac Test Garden after he was abandoned by his kin in the Corvus-Wrax incident. Is universally regarded as "an excellent crow", though his presence causes problems when an official ornithologist is dispatched to protect his habitat, as he is an endangered species.
  • Too Many Mouths: The dark god beneath the garden most closely resembles a pile of corpses with numerous mouths in random places, which sing and speak in unison (although Mord points out the true appearance is a lot more horrible than that description allows).
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Mord. The plague god starts rattling off what saint's feast day it is after it swallows him, and then he pops up whole and unharmed, apart from being emotionally shaken. For extra points, the god's name may actually be Yog-Sothoth, at least based on the name of the cultists' wifi access point.
  • Totem Pole Trench:
    • The tale of a much-admired socialite who cut a swathe through high society before being unmasked as sixteen crows wearing a trenchcoat.
    • And, for that matter, a popular singer who died of heartworm, which is not normally fatal to humans.
      "This led to a number of inquiries, as heartworm in humans is generally harmless. Further investigation revealed that the singer was, in fact, two golden retrievers in a tie-dyed sundress."
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Echo Harbor seems to be a hotbed of cult activity and ritual sacrifice. Many evil things are underground there.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: George the crow loves Cheetos. His ornithological advocate insists he should eat special crow food instead, but neither George nor Mord is particularly impressed.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Her Imperial Majesty Queen Raganthoth IV, Ruler of the Glass Wastes and Protector of the Coriander Isles.
  • The 'Verse: We get enough references to shared cultures and historical events that it's apparent this takes place in the future of the same world as Digger, Gearworld, and Black Dogs.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Mord is reluctant to admit it, but him and Drom count by this point.
    Drom: We are totally friends, Mord. Do you know how I know that?
    Drom: Because I didn't kill you for calling me 'a woman of a certain age'.
  • Voice of the Legion: The many-mouthed plague god that a cult almost sacrifices the interns to does this. So does Mord, after he survives being swallowed by it. But only when he's angry. Or to mess with Drom.
  • Warrior Monk: The nuns of the Convent of the White Goat take ecological protection of their island and its surrounding waters very seriously. One example is how after fishers repeatedly ignored requests to stop overfishing their waters, the nuns took to patrolling their territory in ships with intent of pursuing, boarding, and scuttling offenders.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The Gregorian calendar, and references to real holidays and products, all suggest the setting may be the real world. Except, well, a lot of obviously impossible stuff happens and the only places mentioned are fictional. The City with No Name and the country it resides in have an erratic mix of English and US American cultural and political traits, but references to its neighbors predate the European discovery of the New World, further confounding where it might be located. So maybe a very strange corner of Earth, or (given references to The 'Verse) an alternate Earth with lots of weird stuff going on?
  • World of Weirdness:
    • The setting of the podcast, an impression conveyed not only by the events Reverend Mord describes, but implicitly by the matter-of-fact way in which he describes them. (And occasionally more explicitly; an account of an incident in which a man spontaneously transformed into a cloud of butterflies features the phrase "Spontaneous butterfly explosions were nearly unknown at that time".) Often Pastor Drom, reading his notes, is dismissive of some of the weirdness, but there are still things she shrugs off. Likely the world is less full of bizarre things to people who aren't students of history.
    • The oft-mentioned Echo Harbor is a Quirky Town where strange happenings are so much more common that nothing that happens there is a surprise. No, not even shutting out the Fathers with a wall made of live dolphins that whistle hostile sonnets. The only event ever mentioned to terrify its citizens is that time a little old lady came through striking up conversation and being unperturbed by the clouds performing unspeakable rites on each other.
      "You're so lucky to live in this lovely city," she is reported to have said. "One sees so much evil in small towns."
  • The Worm That Walks: Reverend Mord himself may be an example, if Pastor Drom's theory about him being a swarm of beetles in a plague doctor suit is correct. note 
    • Bob, of Bob’s Used Car Lot is entirely made of maggots after returning from the dead
  • You Are Not Alone: The catchphrase Mord always says at the end of the episode is literally "And remember, you are not alone." Turns into a CMOH when he says it directly to Drom when she seems to be mortally injured after having a building collapse on her.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Drom's justification for confronting Inquisitor Ingrid, having prior knowledge from the future that Ingrid would martyr her.
  • You Mean "Xmas": There are two episodes dated 25 December, and both avoid any mention of Christmas, focusing instead on the pagan festival of Dies Natali Solis Invictus, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. In one of them, Reverend Mord remarks: "Other people were born today, but very few of them can compete with the Unconquered Sun." (There are, however, a few scattered mentions of Christmas in other episodes.)

That's the Hidden Almanac for September 13th, 2019. Be safe and remember, you are never alone.