Howdy y’all and welcome to 2019!! This year is going to be a big one for Hillbilly Horror Stories starting with the first blog for this year, our interview with Jim Harold!!
I don’t even know where to start because there is so much Jim does! Coming from a background of broadcasting, radio, business and technology, Jim entered the podcasting world in 2005 and revolutionised it. With three main podcast shows, a huge range of premium podcasts, a series of novels, a fan base that covers the world and a colouring book, Jim is the man behind some of the most popular and longest running shows in the podcasting industry. His shows are among the top 2% of all podcasts (there are over 630 000 podcast shows to put that into perspective) and he has over 36 million downloads and counting!! Jim has pioneered the podcasting medium, and really forged the way for not only the paranormal genre but all podcasters alike. So he’s kind of a big deal.
Jim’s podcast “Campfire” was the first paranormal podcast I ever listened to and I fell in love with the show straight away. I really got the feel of sitting around a campfire with friends sharing ghost stories. Jim’s warm, respectful and non-judgemental approach to the callers really makes both the listener and caller feel comfortable, especially when sharing their strange, weird, creepy, in-explainable and down right scary stories. He’s interviewing skills are immaculate and he really explores the callers experience, he is never rude and has this “fence sitter” vibe which appeals to believers and sceptics alike. My favourite part of the show is how Jim reacts to the stories, the gasps and the random giggles are the best and really show how genuine Jim is as a person.
And then there’s the Paranormal Podcast!! This one is also a favourite of mine. Jim interviews experts in the paranormal, extra-terrestrial and cryptozoology areas exploring their thoughts and opinions on issues, talking in depth about occurrences and helps promote their work. I really enjoy hearing an expert’s take on UFO sightings and ghosts and getting different opinions and theories on issues that are well known. Again, Jim’s interview style is great in letting people share their thoughts and research and explore the issues in depth but in a way that is engaging and keeps your interest peaked.
There is also Crime Scene, which covers true crime. This is the only true crime podcast that I listen to as it explores crimes in depth, covering who really committed the crime, why they did it and did they get away with it. I love Jim’s journalistic approach and in-depth research, along with the amazing guests he has. I also find the choice of crimes are really interesting and it’s not all about the gore but more about the people and incidents.
And wait, there’s still more!! Jim has a Plus Club which has range of premium podcasts that people can subscribe to for a small payment, a similar amount to what one would pay for a patreon subscription for any other podcast. However, Jim’s premium subscription offer so much more than the average paid extras. The Plus Club includes a huge range of topics such as UFO Encounters, Conspiracy Corner, The Cryptid Reports, Ancient Mysteries, The Other Side and Ghost Insights and there are 8 more shows are added every month. The Plus Club even allows you access to all of the Campfire, Paranormal Podcast and Crime Scene episodes ever. When I signed up, I thought I was going to faint from sheer joy at all the awesome episodes and felt slightly over whelmed about which episode I wanted to listen to first and how I on earth I was going to get through it all.
So let’s get on to the interview. FYI I’m a huge fan of Jim (in case you couldn’t tell lol) and it was such an honour to be able to interview him!! My heart was racing, I was sweating like a sinner in church and trying so hard not to scream with excitement the entire time. Jerry always says Jim has achieved so much but he’s always so sweet, down to earth and easy going; and Jim was definitely all of that. But I was still fan girl freaking out hard.
When and how did you hear of podcasting? (Because you've been doing it for like 13 years now?)
I was a big fan of the tech journalist Leo LaPorte...I went looking for his content online and found these things called podcasts. This was early in '05. That started it all for me!
What inspired you to start your own podcast?
I had been working behind the scenes in radio (advertising) for years and had been schooled to be on air but it never happened. I thought that ship had sailed. By 2005, I had a family to support and pursuing an on-air career would have been irresponsible at that time. So, I started a podcast as a hobby and lo’ and behold it took off.
How did you come up with this format?
I thought of things I really enjoyed and one that seemed extremely under served in those early days of podcasting was the paranormal. So, I just decided to do an interview show with The Paranormal Podcast. Basically, it was me a total neophyte asking experts the questions I wanted answered.
How have you maintained listener engagement for so long?
Just by being consistent, being myself and always striving to be better, I think. The shows seem to resonate with quite a few listeners out there and I am grateful (and surprised, quite frankly).
How do you select who to interview on the Campfire?
It is wide open, over 90% of stories submitted air on the show. Folks just sign up. Sometimes, we’ll encourage a story teller from our Virtual Campfire Facebook group to come on the show but it is a very low key request.
Who does your editing for the Campfire?
Me. In the past, I have hired some outside editors who were very good but it just seems to be faster to do it myself by the time I explain what I want. Also, my high-school-aged daughter edited a few of my shows this past summer (for pay)...after a little training the shows she edited were indistinguishable from mine...she picked up in a week what took me years to master. Young blood and all, I guess.
How do you cope when people project negativity towards you and make unsubstantial claims such as you "copied Coast to Coast" or that "you just use other people's stories" and "have no unique content of your own"?
“Haters gonna hate,” as they say. That is something I’ve learned. Regardless of what you do a certain percentage of people are going to be nasty and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Luckily, the vast majority of people I interact with about the shows are extremely kind and very nice to me. I love our audience.
In terms of those critiques, I think they are just easy targets and nothing I concern myself about. I regard George Noory, Art Bell, and the Coast To Coast AM franchise with extreme respect. I never tried to copy it specifically but those legendary hosts and that program are a great influence to anyone who does a paranormal audio program either via broadcast or podcast...there is no denying that. Honestly, I don’t listen to the show much these days for specifically that reason. I don’t want to accidentally copy it, subconsciously.
In regard to Campfire, I would just say our callers are briefed on what is and can be done with their stories at the time of signup. They are given the opportunity to participate or not. It is crystal clear. So, I think complaining in that regard is just sour grapes. Our callers love sharing their stories, the audience loves to hear them, and caller feedback has always been positive during the recording and after the shows air. As I said, sometimes “haters gonna hate.”
You have the best listener interaction promotions, like the paranormal cruise a couple of years ago and the Christmas ornament one this year, how do you up with these great ideas?
This all comes from my time in professional radio. In fairness, the Mysteries Cruise was not my idea but the idea of Mike and Wendy over at Holiday Maker Travel. I always paid close attention to all aspects of the stations I worked at. I didn’t know why but I wanted to know how EVERY department worked, not just mine (advertising). I guess I got my answer because what I am doing now is not unlike running a one-man (or woman) radio station where I wear all of the hats: on-air, production, advertising, finances, etc. Other than my intrepid part-time assistant Maddy, who is great, I am pretty much a one-man band.
If you weren't podcasting, what would you be doing?
Working in radio advertising, most likely.
Do you prefer paranormal or true crime podcasting?
Paranormal although I have a legitimate interest in true crime and started my true crime show back in 2011 before today’s fad of that type of content.
How do you find people to interview on your The Paranormal Podcast show?
We look for new books, movies, etc., that are being released. Also, we get a lot of incoming requests and we choose the best of those and, at this point, we have “go to” guests like Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Nick Redfern who we are in nearly constant contact with.
Have you ever experienced anything paranormal?
Yes, a very improbable song came on the radio after my brother’s death in 1999...and it was a weird one. It’s a story I tell on the Campfire quite a bit. A strange incident during last year’s Mysteries Cruise that convinced me that my late beloved uncle was communicating with me and many years ago I had a close call where something told me to avoid a situation that probably would have killed me. My experiences are subtle but they are there.
Do you believe in aliens?
Yes, I think it is silly to believe that as vast as this universe is that there isn’t something out there.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you believe in Bigfoot?
The jury is still out for me. Possible? Yes. Likely? I’m not so sure but I am willing to keep having discussions with those who believe and say they have proof.
How did you find out about Hillbilly Horror Stories?
Jerry had been on Campfire and I became aware of HHS and we went from there. I think it is tremendous what he and Tracy have done. Hats off.
What's your favourite podcast?
The Feed. It is a podcast about podcasting for podcasters.
Do you like pineapple on pizza?
Sometimes but not a steady diet of it.