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Podcast / The Magnus Archives

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"Statement begins…"

The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast written and performed by Jonathan Sims (of The Mechanisms fame) with occasional guests. It began in 2016.

Jonathan Sims is the newly appointed archivist of the Magnus Institute, an academic organisation in London dedicated to research into the paranormal. Unfortunately his predecessor Gertrude Robinson left the archive in a complete mess. Countless statements from people who have come to the Institute over the years to report alleged supernatural experiences lie in hopeless disorder. It’s up to Jonathan to record them properly, and follow up any interesting ones with the help of his assistants, Tim, Sasha and Martin. As he works through the statements, Jonathan discovers that some of them suggest disturbing connections with each other – and with the Institute itself.


Episodes usually take the form of Jonathan reading and recording a statement from the archive, or occasionally recording someone else giving a new statement. Once the statement is over Jonathan adds some comments of his own, noting any further investigation his assistants have been able to do, how much of the statement he believes and any other implications it may have. At first each episode seems self-contained, but story arcs develop as the series goes on.

The series is produced by Rusty Quill and can be found on their website. It also has a wiki and a reddit.

See also Rusty Quill Gaming.

Note: Only spoilers for Seasons 3 and 4 are marked. Proceed at your own risk.


The Magnus Archives contains examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The Magnus Institute's terrible choice of archival media. There's virtually no reason to keep records in the unwieldy form of audio recordings, especially when they don't even feature the original interviewees' voices. On the other hand ... insist on this point, and you won't be left with much of a podcast.
    • Though, early on it is explained away by saying that whenever a report that is too "real" is recorded on something that isn't a tape recorder, it just doesn't work.
  • Adventures in Comaland: When Jon falls into a coma-like state at the end of season 3, he communes with The Eye and stalks the nightmares of the people who he's personally collected statements from.
  • All First Person Narrators Write Like Novelists: Despite the statements being given by people from all sorts of professions and social class, all of them sound quite extensive and expressive. It's heavily implied that part of the Archivist's powers is giving people the ability to express themselves in such a way, since whenever anyone besides Jon tries to take a live statement, the results are far less impressive.
  • The Ageless: A couple of characters reappear after they should have died of ageing or seeming far younger than they should be, though in most cases it could only be a coincidence of names and descriptions, save for narrative principles. Reportedly the fate of those who win a Game of Chess with Death. Also hinted to be the ultimate fate of each head archivist of the Magnus Archive. Unless they are Driven to Suicide by the idea.
  • Agent Scully: Jonathan knows that the supernatural exists but believes very few alleged cases are genuine. He says in the very first episode that most files are likely to end up in the archive's "Discredited" section and is quick to dismiss those who give the statements as deluded, hallucinating, lying or simply mistaken unless there is strong corroboration (though any mention of the name Jurgen Leitner dispels his scepticism). Eventually he reveals that he actually believes far more than he has been letting on, and has been feigning scepticism in his recordings because he believes someone or something is listening in.
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • Sasha, on meeting "Michael", immediately perceives the latter as non-human even though "it" looks human. This impression is reinforced so when they shake hands - its hand is described as heavy, like a wet leather bag full of heavy, sharp stones.
    • The narrator describes the strange hunter in "First Hunt" as looking human except that "everything about him was sharper" and he has a smile with "far too many teeth to it".
    • This is the ultimate fate of humans who are marked to become avatars, priests, and/or servants of the great powers. When you feed a god, it feeds you. In episode 92, Elias confirms that this includes him and Jon, both of whom are creatures serving The Beholding. As of season 4, Jon is much less human, recovering from a six-month coma completely by recording a statement.
  • Amicable Exes: Georgie Barker and Jonathan. She seems to be his closest friend.
  • Archive Panic: In-universe – the late archivist Gertrude Robinson left the files in an absolute mess, which Jonathan now has to put in order. She held her job for over fifty years. He remarks that it’s going to take him a very long time.invoked
  • Bait-and-Switch: As the podcast goes on, listeners will begin to notice patterns to the supernatural threats. Sometimes an episode will set itself up to be about one kind of monster, and then be about an entirely different kind of monster instead—for example, "Zombie" episode 2 of season 4, is not about the undead but about a woman convinced she's surrounded by constructs pretending to be real people.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Wilfred Owen encountered the Slaughter in WWI and it apparently provided him the inspiration for his war poems.
    • Robert Smirke was apparently heavily involved with the supernatural and his buildings are noted as reacting to it in unique ways. He also catalogued all of the Powers.
    • Joseph Grimaldi and Wolfgang von Kempelen were servants of the Stranger.
  • Bigger on the Inside: In "Growing Dark" the narrator visits a small chapel where he believes a dangerous cult is based. It's empty and dark. When his torch goes out, leaving him in total darkness, he decides to walk until he reaches a wall or barrier. It takes him much, much longer to find one than it should given the size of the place. When he gets another torch working, the place again seems to be its normal, small size.
    • In "Killing Floor" this occurs when the narrator attempts to exit the slaughterhouse during his last day on the killing floor. It might be just him, except all the contractors hired to build expansions quit, with one shakily claiming it's already too big.
  • Bland-Name Product: Georgie Barker's "What the Ghost" podcast is fairly clearly based off of The Black Tapes. Basira even comments that it kind of went weird in the third season, a sentiment shared by some fans of that series.
  • Bloody Horror:
    • A character attacks a dead tree with a crowbar. The fluid that comes out is not sap.
    • The book The Bone Turner's Tale causes the books around it to bleed.
    • A character struggles to keep a door closed as something on the other side tries to open it. When it finally gives up and he takes his hand away, it's covered in blood, though he has no injuries and the door handle is clean.
  • Body Horror: Occurs in a number of episodes.
    • in "Skintight" Sarah peels the skin off her injured arm, then staples it back on.
    • Jared Hopworth is transformed into something Not Quite Human in "The Boneturner's Tale."
  • Bumbling Sidekick: This is how Jonathan regards Martin, though he becomes slightly more sympathetic after Martin’s encounter with Jane Prentiss.
  • Captain's Log: Jonathan introduces himself and explains his job and the state of the archive at the beginning of the first episode.
  • Cassette Craze: Part of Jonathan’s job is to record audio versions of the statements, and each episode consists of one such recording. He uses an actual tape recorder for the more “bizarre” statements (i.e. all the ones we hear) because for some reason they don’t record properly on computers.
  • Caught Monologuing: Not!Sasha really shouldn't have spent so much time pondering whether it would become the Archivist if they Took Jon. Jurgen Leitner sneaks up on it and binds it yet again.
  • Claustrophobia: Martin is a sufferer, and therefore excuses himself from investigating a caving-related case. Later he has to endure being trapped in his flat for two weeks by Jane Prentiss.
    • "Lost John's Cave" occurs in an underwater cave system.
    • "Held In Customs" invokes the feeling, though Vincent denies suffering from it.
  • Confessional: Father Burroughs hears the confession of a troubled student before attempting an exorcism on her (naturally he will not reveal what she said). Later he himself confesses to a fellow priest, who proceeds to list every sin Burroughs has ever committed in his life, none of which the priest should have any way of knowing. It turns out that this was almost certainly not the real priest.
  • Continuity Creep: In the third season, the show starts focusing on a larger metaplot involving Gertrude's death and Jon's ascension as the new Archivist.
  • Crapsack World: As the statements continuously prove — and as Tim rants at one point — innocent people constantly have their lives destroyed either by eldritch beings or the Jerkass humans who serve said beings, due to the simple bad luck of talking to the wrong person, going to the wrong place, reading a certain book, etc. Even if those interviewed survived their initial encounter, many follow-ups done by the Archive reveal that lots of them either died or disappeared anyway after giving their statement. And when Gerard Keay explains the existence of the Fourteen Powers, he baldly states that he hasn't seen evidence of any positive Powers, meaning the world is basically a buffet for unimaginable horrors with little or nothing that can stop them.
  • Creepy Basement: Martin's experience in "Colony" starts with him investigating one in the course of following up an earlier statement.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Several: the narrator of "Alone" finds herself in one after getting lost and the narrator of "Growing Dark" passes through one to reach a chapel he believes he needs to investigate. It looks as if we're going to see another one in "A Distortion" when someone asks Sasha to meet them there, but the trope is subverted when it turns out they just chose the cemetery as a convenient landmark close to the actual destination.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Agnes in "Burned Out". She stays that way into adulthood.
    • The students in "Anatomy Class" are actually young adults (undergraduates, so roughly 18-21), but their manner is very much that of the Creepy Child.
  • Creepy Doll:
    • The first of the strange bin bags in "Thrown Away" is full of detached doll heads.
    • In "Strange Music" Leanne Denikin finds in her dead grandfather's loft a trunk full of antique dolls with mouths like those of a ventriloquist's dummy, all but one of which are missing their lower jaws; the one with its jaw intact is a clown doll with a splash of red paint giving it an ugly smile. It seems to be able to escape from the closed trunk. Later she notices another doll, jaw intact, that resembles her ex-boyfriend - who is then found dead with his lower jaw torn off.
  • Creepy Good: Jonathan remarks that he is more disturbed by having "Michael" as a potential ally than as an enemy.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: A number of these occur throughout the series, including: a character is devoured from the inside by sentient worms, another has his bones pulled out of his body, and another has his head ripped off by living shadows.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Numerous statement-makers express regret at not simply leaving well alone or turning away and leaving and thus avoiding their frightening experience (or worse), or tell how other characters made the same mistake.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Unsurprisingly in a series full of horror and fantasy, this occurs a number of times. The most striking example is what "Michael" says to Sasha in "A Distortion".
  • Darker and Edgier: In-universe, The Bone Turner's Tale appears to be a very DarkFic for The Canterbury Tales. In The Tale of a Field Hospital, the titular book is hinted to predate the LighterAndSofter mundane version.
  • Daylight Horror: Many examples, including "First Hunt," "Freefall," and "Lost in the Crowd."
  • Deadly Book: Jurgen Leitner's books.
  • Demonic Possession: What Father Burroughs believes has happened to him in "Confession"/"Desecrated Host".
  • Distressed Dude: Jon develops an alarming propensity for being kidnapped.
  • Dream Walker: The true nature of the Archivist, revealed at the end of Season 3. Jon's bad dreams aren't a reaction to trauma. He haunts the nightmares of the people who he has personally taken statements from, watching them suffer. This is arguably his real 'archive'.
  • Eldritch Abomination: A few of these appear throughout the show, the most notable of which is "Michael," who appears human unless you look at it through distorted glass.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts:
    • It is implied that this is why the “bizarre” statements (i.e. all the ones the audience hears) come out distorted when Jonathan tries to record them on a computer, so he has to use an old tape recorder. Some of those making statements seem to have had similar experiences.
      • Static also appears on the tape recordings when someone they are recording uses a supernatural power.
    • In "Growing Dark" it is hinted that something supernatural is causing the lights to stop working in the narrator's girlfriend's flat. They replace the bulbs, check the fittings and call in an electrician but can find nothing apparently wrong. Then subverted when it turns out not to be supernatural, merely bizarre - someone (presumably his girlfriend's strange flatmate) keeps unscrewing all the bulbs just enough to break the connections.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: Several statements tell of sinister goings-on being accompanied by a sharp and inexplicable increase in the ambient temperature.
  • Evil Is Visceral: the episode "Killing Floor" narrates horrifying events in a slaughterhouse.
    • Jared Hopworth uses a very gruesome method to get rid of his victim.
  • Evil Old Folks: Angela in "Piecemeal" and Mary Keay in "First Edition."
  • Eye Motifs: Eye images are described frequently throughout the series. They abound in the places that some (at least two) supernatural groups congregate (the Keays and the Lightless Flame) and one supernaturally aware individual was noted to go to unusual lengths to remove them from her possessions.
  • Faking the Dead: It turns out that Mary Keay, whom a narrator seemingly met, is on public record as having been murdered, allegedly by her son Gerard, though he was acquitted. Whether the murder or the person is fake is not clear.
  • Framing Device: Jonathan is recording the statements for the archive, thus giving the listener a different character’s story in each episode.
  • Glamor Failure: Whenever the Not-Them performs a Kill and Replace on someone, rewriting reality in the process, there are always one or two people who remain unaffected and realise they're not the same person. Of course, this is assuming the Not-Them isn't doing it deliberately to create more unease and dread...
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • The whistled tune that the narrator of "First Hunt" hears as he and his friend hunt portends something very bad. The tune is "A-hunting we shall go".
    • The sound of the eponymous "Boatswain's Call" when the mate blows it is unnaturally and disturbingly shrill and piercing, yet somehow also sounds far away.
    • Any Calliope organ.
  • Hostile Terraforming: The goal of at least two of the eldritch powers that the Magnus Institute encounters.
  • Immortality Inducer: Possibly loneliness, watching really hard, being on fire internally, gambling with an incarnation of death, or being head archivist of the Magnus Institute provided you survive.
  • Is This Thing On?: Jonathan utters the common "1-2-3" version at the start of the first episode.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet:
    • The hospital sporadically goes silent throughout the night in "First Aid."
    • The narrator of "Killing Floor" is unnerved by the strange absence of the usual sounds of the slaughterhouse.
    • In "Boatswain's Call" the crew of the ship strenuously avoid talking to each other, until after one of them disappears, seemingly having been chosen to be thrown overboard.
  • Kudzu Plot: There are no less than ten intertwining plots concerning the various horrors the Institute is documenting, and the achronological nature of the recordings means that following connections across episodes is difficult at best.
  • Living Shadow: Featured in "A Sturdy Lock" and "The End of the Tunnel."
    • As of season 3, "Tucked In" as well.
  • London Gangster: Lee Rentoul, the narrator of "Piecemeal", seeks revenge on a fellow criminal who double-crossed him.
  • Magical Flautist:
    • The mysterious titular figure in "The Piper".
    • The mate in "Boatswain's Call" - the title refers to the old-fashioned whistle he carries.
  • Magical Library: Jurgen Leitner's, whose books are of a particularly unpleasant nature.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Jonathan’s comments on the statements sometimes leave this an open question.
  • Meaningful Rename: As of Jonathan's Season 4 coma and revival, he's no longer the "head archivist of the Magnus Institute." Now, he is simply "the Archivist."
  • The Men in Black: Jonathan hints at their existence when he mentions that the Institute has contacts in government and law enforcement who appear to have taken considerable interest in at least one statement.
  • Mysterious Stranger: "Michael", whom Sasha meets in "A Distortion" and who engages her in Cryptic Conversation about her colleagues, whose names it [sic] knows. Later in the episode it appears to become a Mysterious Protector when it removes one of Jane Prentiss's silver worms from Sasha's body which would otherwise have killed her, or worse. Then, in The New Door, it delivers that episode's statement giver to a horrendous fate, which along with its self-description and what has happened to Sasha since, casts a lot of doubt on its protection credentials.
  • Mysterious Watcher: Suggested in Observer Effect. Multiple episodes contain opening or closing remarks about feeling watched in the archives, despite people being left alone to make their statements and there being no cameras.
  • Narrator: Jonathan is one himself; so too, through Jonathan, is the subject of each statement.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The sailor narrating "Boatswain's Call" wonders with dread what she will find inside the container she examines on the ship. It turns out to be completely empty. This does not reassure her.
    • In "A Father's Love," the streetlights in the narrator's neighborhood go out in succession, moving toward her house. Then there's a knock at the door, and then another, and another, with each one sounding less like a human, and more like wet meat slapping against the door.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: In one of the trailers a mysterious voice chants vigilo, audio, opperior. The tape picks it up when Jonathan leaves it running as he momentarily leaves the room.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with the characters of "Michael Crew," and "Michael," both of whom are mentioned in multiple episodes.
    • Also Mikaele Salesa; although his name is pronounced differently, it is derived from "Michael" all the same.
    • Due to the sheer amount of statements, there are also plot irrelevant characters that share the same name, which is especially noticeable for the numerous Michaels (episodes 5, 13 and 23 at the very least) and Jon/Johns (episodes 2, 15 and 55 at the very least), as there are also plot relevant characters by those names.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Trevor Herbert describes the vampires he claims to hunt at some length. Among other things they do not talk or make any sound but can make themselves clearly understood by some sort of telepathy that, at the time, doesn't seem strange to those they 'speak' to; sunlight seems to weaken them but does not actually harm them; and (he believes) they were never human and do not create more of their kind when they bite people.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: One unfortunate hunter finds himself encountering one in the United States, albeit he looks like a normal human. A very sharp, drooling human capable of tracking and running through a forest with ease and surviving two rifles' worth of gunshot wounds.
  • Paranormal Investigation: What the Magnus Institute gets up to, at least in part; many of them prefer ivory-tower academia to the legwork of actual investigation, and they like think of themselves as serious scholars rather than silly ghost-hunters. Conversely, other paranormal investigators regard the Institute as a joke.
  • Posthumous Character: Gertrude Robinson, the previous archivist, whom Jonathan replaced after she died. She was responsible for the chaotic state of the archive, and seemingly for a great deal more. At the end of season 1 we find out that she was shot, and her body is in the archive's basement.
  • Primal Fear: Pretty much every episode deals with a supernatural manifestation of a primal fear, e.g. death, fire, darkness, etc... In episode 111, we learn that the cosmic entities responsible for all these occurrences are, in fact, each the embodiment of a different primal fear
  • Psychic Powers: The abilities granted to high-level acolytes of The Beholding.
    • Elias has the ability to watch people remotely and to insert knowledge into their minds.
    • Jon, as Archivist, can understand languages he has never studied and compel people to answer questions against their will.
  • Recurring Character: Several, on two different levels. The first includes people like Melanie King and Basira Hussain, who appear in multiple episodes interacting with Johnathan and the Institute itself. The second include people like Mikaele Salesa and Gerard Keay, who show up in multiple statements read by The Archivist.
  • The Reliable One: Sasha, whom Jonathan considers the most capable of his three assistants.
  • Religion of Evil: The People's Church of the Divine Host and The Cult of the Lightless Flame.
  • Retconjuration: Once the "Not-Them" Kill and Replace their victims, people's memories and photographic records are magically altered showing them instead of their victims. While a few remnants of the prior person, either in records or memories still remain, given their habit of tormenting those who know that they are impostors, they are clearly doing this on purpose. Magnetic tape manages to consistently escape their powers, though.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: A lot of the people giving the statements are still alive to do so because they ran like hell as soon as possible when things started going wrong. (Not that this does some of them any good in the long run.)
  • Secret War: Over the course of the show, it becomes apparent that many of the supernatural forces at play are in conflict with one another. Eldritch spiders and Cult of the Lightless Flame appear to have fought over a house on Hill Top Road, and the Flesh Hive attacks the Archive because it is a seat of power for Beholding, and the Flesh Hive hates being watched.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: In the last episode of season 2, we learn that there are eternal beings of vast, power existing "next" to our world that are essentially responsible for all of the monsters, as well as all of Leitner's books, that have appeared on the show. One of them — the Beholding — is the direct patron of The Magnus Institute.
  • Serial Killer: "A Father's Love" is a statement about the actions of one, given by his daughter. Later in "Exceptional Risk" we hear about his time in prison.
  • Sinister Minister: Maxwell Raynor
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: All the archival assistants share last names with horror writers (Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, Stephen King, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker).
  • Shown Their Work: Whether the subject is 1980's club culture in Britain or satellite graveyards, the writers make a point of being as accurate as possible.
  • So Proud of You: Elias has been grooming Jon to become the new Archivist for quite some time, and is delighted whenever he makes progress.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Multiple episodes deal with spider-related horror.
  • Spider Swarm: more than one character gets spooked by one suddenly emerging from an object.
  • Spiritual Successor: to the The Black Tapes. Acknowledged by the creative team in the season 1 Q & A episode.
  • Switching P.O.V.: In "Burned Out" (8), Ivo Lensik tells of a priest, Father Burroughs, visiting the house during his strange experiences there. Later, in "Confession" (19), we see the same visit from Burroughs's viewpoint. In "Pest Control" (55), Jordan visits Jane Prentiss' home from "Hive" (32) and Ivy Meadows Nursing Home from "Taken Ill" (36) shortly after the respective statement giver's leave.
    • "Personal Space" (57) and "A Matter of Perspective" (105) are seen by two crewmembers of a three-person mission on board a space station.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: A follow-up shows one narrator in a spider-related story was killed by asphyxiation on unknown organic material in his throat, found encased in spider web. Jonathan doesn't believe it's related.
    • The coroner literally doth protest in "Taken Ill" (36) when dealing with a death caused by an unusual illness in a nursing home. Then there's the fate of the other residents...
  • The Swarm: Worms, spiders, mosquitos, flies... they all show up as swarms in different episodes.
  • The Undead: The fate of those who become pages in the Book of the End, including Mary Keay and Gerard Keay.
    • Also the fate of Jon at the end of Season 3. His body is clinically dead. His lungs do not breathe and his heart does not beat. But his brain activity is off the charts, as he lies in a 'coma' and communes with The Eye.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Jon pushes his assistants farther away as the series progresses, in part because he is uncomfortable with how Gertrude saw hers as disposable.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jonathan often indicates that he thinks the statement-maker either wasn’t entirely truthful or was affected by drugs, a mental health condition or similar. In "Lost Johns' Cave" his assistants' research proves that statement is full of inaccuracies. Later we learn that Jonathan himself has been an unreliable narrator in his comments - see Agent Scully above.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: Most statements are left this way, even after attempts at follow-up research.
  • The Virus: The silver worms apparently controlled by Jane Prentiss, which infest people and either kill them or turn them into zombie-like servants (or both).
  • Too Dumb to Live: In "Anglerfish", a young man named Nathan encounters a creepy stranger standing in a dark alleyway who asks him for a cigarette—without moving their mouth. Nathan does not count as this, as he wisely books it, but if the stranger was indeed [an anglerfish-type lure for a monster, the six disappearances in that area around that time were the result of six people who didn't think approaching was a bad idea.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: More than a few characters get popped off within an episode or two of their appearance. Sasha, Jurgen Leitner, Michael Crew, and Gerard Keaye all suffer this fate.
    • Subverted with Trevor Herbert, who was listed as having died immediately after giving his statement, only to somehow given a later statement.
      • Turns out, he belongs to the Hunt, and it's keeping him alive.
  • Whispering Ghosts: May be haunting the Institute itself.

"End recording."