Fall may just be starting, but you’ll need to grab a sweater to stave off the chills while listening to “Haunted Cosmos” — a podcast by Christian pastor Brian Suavé and his congregant and talented narrator Ben Garrett.
The podcast, which just completed its first season, couldn’t have launched in a more opportune cultural moment. YouTube shows like “The Why Files” and paranormal network shows that expose esoterica to a wider audience in compelling ways are booming. It’s no wonder occult practice and doctrines have seeped through the culture — cravings for supernatural horror stories are as strong as ever, UFO sightings are increasingly common, and government employees are hinting to Congress that aliens exist.
If there was ever a time to sweep the grotesque and the unexplained under the rug — as has been the habit of many who profess the name of Christ — it is long past. Christians must deal honestly with bizarre phenomena that seem to lack earthly, material explanations. And the hosts of “Haunted Cosmos” say they’re here to help us do just that.
Portions of this podcast were so captivating I could only stand motionless and slack-jawed until the stories concluded. Of course, Christians should always evaluate the motives of content creators and their own motives for consuming that content. Is “Haunted Cosmos” just churning out more horror stories for the revenue, like Hollywood producers? Are they here for the titillation, thrilling in the gruesome details of the suffering among members of God’s creation, beckoning us to join in?
At times, it seems the hosts are a little too excited to present their stories of supernatural woe, but it’s hard to say this eagerness isn’t because their stories give insight into the supernatural world (a noble goal), or because they love stories the way Tolkien and C.S. Lewis — both mentioned several times throughout season one of the show — loved stories.
Some Christians may find presentations of “ghost stories” as entertainment controversial, even taboo. But for its entertainment value, “Haunted Cosmos” carries an equal weight of Christian witness. Suavé and Garrett combine theological discussion and scripted narration to frame significant paranormal events and patterns of phenomena as part of the unfolding story of reality told by our Creator.
From vintage reports of sea serpents, to the “Mothman” cryptid as harbinger of tragedy, to the glowing, dog-melting orb and giant zombie wolves of Skinwalker Ranch, each topic is meticulously researched. The narration is well-written and delivered, and all nine roughly hour-long episodes are dramatized with music and sound effects.
Dialogue between narrations often veers into what the hosts readily call “unhinged” speculation. This isn’t a drawback if the listener continues to think critically and measure everything against the Scriptures. Suavé and Garrett are quick to admit what is still a mystery, but the long reach for explanation is part of the show’s entertainment value and encourages listeners not to simply shrug off paranormal terrors with, “Well, that’s just demons being demons.”
The podcast also contains substantive and well-read discussions of the occult and how it relates to so-called close encounters, mostly found in the episode titled “Evangelistic Aliens.” This area has already been well-tread by heavyweight Christian scholars like Hugh Ross and the recently passed Michael Heiser, whom Suavé and Garrett credit with providing the basis for some of their convictions about who — or what — is behind much of the paranormal phenomena they discuss. Heiser argued some controversial theses, but as Garrett and Suavé say in the podcast, they are ideas that “need to be reckoned with.”
It is this quest for reckoning that makes “Haunted Cosmos” a gloriously overambitious project. Few popular Christian thought leaders and far fewer pastors are earnestly seeking to find and propagate truth in these matters. Not truth in the way Mulder defined it in “The X Files,” but in the way it’s defined in God’s Word.
The ultimate goal of evil spirits, the Bible teaches, is to deceive and lead away from the true God. Yet particular strategies they employ are often more difficult to discern. The events narrated in “Haunted Cosmos” are so diverse and resistant to simple unifying theories that discerning “the game plan” of the forces of darkness within specific stories is utterly in vain. The attempt to reduce this complexity is delusional, perhaps even conceited. Yet it is deeply human to grasp at understanding, even if just to gain the smallest grain of wisdom, to make just a little more sense of both the seen and unseen.
“Haunted Cosmos” is just two Christians exploring a vast world of “high strangeness,” exhorting their audience to build resistance to materialist worldviews and to put on the full armor of God so that they may “take [their] stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Suavé and Garrett’s conclusions may be up for debate, but the task of reckoning with the paranormal and experiences with supposed extraterrestrial intelligence has been undermanned by Christians for some time. If season two is as “unhinged” and ambitious as season one, the “haunted cosmonaut” listener base will only grow — even if it means they shuffle a little faster from their bathrooms to their beds at night.