Episode Five: Fear Factor – English Language Podcast
In this week's instalment, we are dealing with fear! This episode will present us with a personal story about a spooky situation, we’ll hear about the physical effects of fear on our bodies and we’ll listen to an article about the Irish connection to everyone’s favourite vampire.
You’ll find the scripts for each part of this episode here and don’t forget to check out the glossary at the end for words and phrases you may not have encountered before.
Episode Five: Fear Factor
Are you a fan of horror movies? Do you relish in scary stories? Do you believe in ghosts? There is no denying it, some people love being scared. Horror films made worldwide currently gross as much as 1 billion dollars annually. So our first story today is a young man’s account of performing in an old Irish castle...listen if you dare. This episode is called the fear factor.
FX: Old harpsichord style music
I was lucky enough to be asked to perform my one-man-show as part of Heritage Week in Roscrea Castle in Co. Tipperary. The castle was built in the thirteenth century and is steeped in history. I performed in the castle itself and used the central fireplace as part of the set for my play.
I rehearsed the show during the day, and practised singing with my CD, and it all went perfectly.The night of my performance however, I waited in my dressing room for my entrance music to come on. After about ten minutes of waiting, I sneaked out to the sound operator who said he couldn’t get the CD to play. He offered to run home and grab his own CD player, and so I waited with the audience for him to return.
When he got back he plugged in his CD player. We put my CD in and it played perfectly. We announced to the crowd that we were now ready to go but when he pressed play again, and nothing happened.
Thinking maybe it was the CD, I grabbed the backup CD. We put it into the player and once again it played perfectly. We announced to the audience that now we definitely were ready to go but, when he pressed play again, nothing happened.
At this point, I had no choice but to perform the play without music, singing thirteen songs acapella. The audience seemed pleased with this decision and everything was going fine until, in the middle of the show, a tall, dark form appeared in the middle of the audience. The figure moved to the left and, then, vanished before my eyes. I did my best to continue my performance as if nothing had happened.
Later that night an official with Heritage Ireland asked how the show went. When I told her what had happened, she gave a look of concern and, without missing a beat, said, “The ghost of Damer!”
John Damer was a wealthy Englishman who, back in 1722, bought the castle and the entire town of Roscrea. He was a member of the English Ascendency and if he had watched me rehearse earlier that day, he would have heard my songs with their pro Irish independence theme. I don’t think he would have been happy. It was easy for me to understand why he would have wanted to stop me from performing it that night, and he almost succeeded!
I remember going to visit one of those scare experiences near London Bridge with my best friend. She was excited, I was terrified. I knew that it was going to be dark rooms with actors in them, and no one actually was going to be murdered, however, I did not stop screaming from the second we went inside. I was exhausted by the end of it and yet fuelled with adrenaline. So here are some reasons we like being scared:
1. The Safety Net
When we get scared, our bodies will go into fight, flight, or freeze mode and our brains will quickly evaluate the situation. If we are sitting at home or in front of a cinema screen, it tells us we’re free from risk. Our bodies calm and many of us enjoy the experience, because we know we are safe.
2. The Flood
When we get scared, we experience a rush of adrenaline and a release of endorphins and dopamine. This can result in a pleasure-filled sense of euphoria. Coupled with this, when we are reminded of our safety, the fear factor is reduced, and we are left with a sense of relief and well-being.
Some people enjoy seeking thrills and the sense of self-satisfaction that is often experienced after. You might also gain a bit of confidence after too!
Many people are curious about the "dark side." The fear of the unknown is one of the most natural and instinctive fears that we have — and it is also one of the oldest curiosities.
Story Three: Bram Stoker
There are countless tales of vampires and blood-sucking demons but few are as famous as Bram Stoker's Dracula. Dracula is a late Victorian novel that created one of the most popular characters in literature. But did you know that Bram Stoker was actually Irish?
“When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demonic fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there."
Bram – short for Abraham – Stoker was born in 1847, in Clontarf, Dublin. He graduated from Trinity College and became a civil servant, working for the Irish court’s service for 13 years and later emigrated to London.
His book Dracula was first published back in 1897, and tells the terrifying tale of Count Dracula and his attempts at breaking out of Transylvania and escaping to England. It is a gothic masterpiece.
Stoker was notoriously private and was careful never to divulge what inspired the plot of the book. He told his son that the story was inspired by a nightmare he had after a supper of crab salad, however it has been rumoured that Ireland provided some inspiration...
Stoker was born in 1847, which was the very height of the Great Irish Famine when around a million people died of starvation and another million emigrated. It is thought he incorporated the hardship of the Irish and the real-life disturbing scenes he witnessed into his book.
Not only that but his mother lived through a cholera epidemic in Sligo in 1832. It killed around 1,500 people in the small town in less than two months. She explained how people at that time believed cholera came from the sea and travelled overland like a mist, just like her son would later write off Count Dracula.
It has also been written that Stoker had an interest in Irish folklore and the character of Dracula was based on a Celtic chieftain called Abhartach.
Not only that but some people believe that Dublin Castle, where Bram worked as a clerk, inspired Dracula’s castle. Legend has it he suffered nightmares while working there and it wasn’t until the late 20th century, that archaeologists discovered many decapitated skeletons from the medieval period buried underneath.
Today, Dracula is the most portrayed movie character, having appeared in almost 300 films and inspired countless similar vampiric characters and stories, and you have an Irish man to thank for that!
This glossary accompanies Episode 5 of the podcast series and will provide short definitions of words and terms you heard or read which may be new or unfamiliar to you.
- relish in - to really enjoy something
- There is no denying it - it’s obvious that it’s true
- One-man-show - a performance by one person
- Backup - extra or support
- without missing a beat - immediately and without any uncertainty
- a rush of adrenaline - a sudden surge of adrenaline, the term “a rush” can also be used on its own to mean something similar
- seeking - looking for or trying to find
- drew away - moved away
- breaking out of - escaping
- Divulge - reveal, usually secrets or important information
- Supper - an evening meal, usually light