The microphone pops and fizzes ever so briefly as the circuit opens, then the creepy theme music starts, followed by the booming, confident baritone of Dave Schrader as he introduces the beginning of his radio show, “Darkness Radio” a show about the paranormal and unexplained.
“GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME! You’re tuned in to the best in paranormal talk radio, Darkness Radio is on the air!” exclaims Schrader over the airwaves. “I’m you’re host Dave Schrader along with your co-host Mallie Fox and producer Tim Dennis. Good evening kids.”
“Good evening,” Fox’s melodic voice cuts in.
“Howdy,” says Dennis, simply.
Schrader, 44, of Minneapolis, is at home behind the microphone and plays the part of an 11 to midnight talk radio show host: congenial , professional and inquisitive. If you met him on the street at that hour you might be nervously impressed. Dressed in black leather racing jacket, jeans and skulls T-shirt, his tall, broad-shouldered form is imposing, appearing more like an outlaw biker than a talk show host. His shiny bald head and touch-of-gray goatee are distinctive.
But in the studio, nobody can see him but in-studio guests and co-workers, and on the air, only his voice can be heard which is professional and reassuring. That’s good because the topics discussed on the show can be disturbing: ghosts, alien abductions, hauntings, strange creatures, UFOs, etc.
Fox sits to Dave’s right at the round table there in the studio, her appearance and demeanor are in stark contrast to that of her co-host. She is sprite and bubbly, with her canary yellow windbreaker and her bleach blonde hair, she stands out in a crowd. She fiddles with a rhinestone encrusted smart phone and adds color commentary when needed through the microphone in front of her. Dennis sits in the glassed-off booth behind her in front of an enormous and complicated radio show producer’s control panel where he manages the show, including the phone lines for listeners and guests. His dress is simple: shorts and a Nietzche themed black T-shirt with the scrolling phrase, “What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger”.
Genesis of a Radio Program
The trio have been working together on the show for three and a half years at their present home, Twin Cities News Talk, a conservative news and commentary station in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before that, Schrader and Dennis have been together for over seven years, ever since Dennis, a radio producer at the time, asked his college friend to return to radio. The two men had been attending Winona State University and had done college radio together, Schrader said. Dennis remained in radio and Schrader went on to other things, he said.
“It was about seven and a half years ago when Tim was working for a station,” Schrader recalls. “They were looking for a new talent to fill in a time slot and he asked me what kind of show I wanted to do. I told him, ‘let’s do a paranormal show! That’ll be different!’”
So the show was launched at local station KLBB AM in Minnesota and for the next few years bounced around from station to station until they found their current home three years ago. In the intervening years, the format and timing of the show has changed, but the theme has remained the same. Fox got involved three years ago through a mutual friend and joined the team. On this particular evening they are interviewing Rosemary Ellen Guiley, a paranormal researcher with 45 books on the paranormal to her credit. The current book, “The Vengeful Djinn” is tonight’s topic, as Dave and company delve into the mystery of the jinnis of Medieval Arabic lore and current philosophy on the subject with the guest.
Dave as story teller
Schrader’s experience with the unexplained didn’t begin with the show, it followed him all his life, even from his earliest days. As he puts it, “I didn’t get involved in the paranormal, it got involved with me.”
Schrader recalls stories from his parents on how as a child of three-years old, he would have conversations with his recently deceased grandmother in their old house. It seemed to be more than just a child’s fantasy, Schrader explained, since he was able to give a description of his grandmother’s burial outfit, down to the fact that they had removed her false teeth. The funeral had been closed casket and only a few people knew the details, impossible to know for a child of three, Schrader said.
“I don’t remember being creeped out by the experience,” Schrader said. “I loved my grandparents and had a good relationship with them. I just put this experience in the area of the strange.”
Schrader’s mom related the story to an aunt, who also had unexplained experience with the grandmother, and was disturbed and intrigued by Schrader’s accurate, detailed descriptions.
“My grandmother called my aunt on three occasions after she died,” Schrader said. He didn’t elaborate.
The scary experiences would come later. Schrader describes an event that happened to him when he was living in Illinois at the age of 12.
“I was walking past a house in the neighborhood,” Schrader explained. “Back then we didn’t have cable and people wouldn’t watch TV all day, they would stand in front of their picture windows and watch the neighborhood.”
That’s what seemed to be happening when Schrader was walking home one day and past a particular house. A man was seen there in front of the window watching Schrader as he passed by. That wasn’t so odd. What was odd is when Schrader looked back a moment later, the man was no longer in the window, he was outside on the lawn. A third look and the man was nearly to the sidewalk following Schrader.
“Nobody can move that fast,” Schrader said, his voice and mannerisms becoming more excited as he related the story. “In the blink of an eye this person had moved from behind the window, to the middle of a lawn, through a thick hedge and nearly to the sidewalk. I can’t explain what I saw.”
There was no sign or sound of the front door opening, no footsteps, only a man, who appeared never to move, appearing suddenly closer and closer as Schrader passed by.
“The third time I saw him I just turned and ran the rest of the way home, there was no turning back then,” Schrader said. “To this day when I go to my parents’ house, I take the long way so I can avoid that creepy house.”
Now at age 44, Schrader takes his experience in the paranormal to a whole new level as he leads investigations of the unexplained throughout Minnesota and beyond. He and his cohorts investigate hauntings, and host conferences on the paranormal called “Darkness Events” where he invites experts to speak to fans of the paranormal.
Author and TV Personality
Schrader is the co-author of a book for teens called, “The Other Side: A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal” with co-authors Marley Gibson and Patrick Burns. The trio hammered out the book in an afternoon coffee shop session, back in 2009, Schrader said.
Schrader has branched out into TV as well, appearing as a celebrity judge for the Travel Channel’s show “Paranormal Challenge” last year. Schrader filmed 12 episode where he and other paranormal experts judged competing amateur ghost hunting teams as they jointly investigated haunted settings. His friend Zak Bagans, host of “Ghost Adventures” TV program on the Travel Channel asked him to join the team and bring his healthy skepticism to the show, Schrader said.
“That’s what I’ve always tried to bring to the my listeners and viewers, a sense of the real,” said Schrader. “I’m a skeptic and a believer, a little bit of both.”
There are no plans now to do more episodes of “Paranormal Challenge” but if asked, Schrader is open to the opportunity he said. Right now though he is focused on making his radio show the best it can be and expanding it from one hour five nights a week to two or three hours a night. Now the show can be heard on Twin Cities New Talk 1130 AM from 11 to midnight. “Darkness Dave” and company can be found on Twitter and Facebook as well as their regular website darknessradio.com.
Though the show isn’t syndicated, many make the mistake that it is, due to the fact that Internet podcasts and live streaming audio reaches a far greater audience than the “terrestrial” radio station does, Schrader said.
“We have listeners all over the country and in Europe as well,” Schrader explained. “The audience is huge and it is so large because of the benefits of the Internet. Many can’t believe it when we tell them we are not a syndicated show.”
Things were not always such smooth sailing for the show, Schrader admits. A short time ago management changed at the station, as well as a transition from FM back to AM that shook things up a bit. A new executive called the paranormal host into the office for a meeting, Schrader recalled.
“The guy said basically, ‘what are you doing on my station? Justify your existence!’” recalled Schrader. To the executive, a show on the paranormal didn’t seem to be a good fit on a conservative talk radio station, apparently. “We went over the (Arbitron) ratings and I basically demonstrated that we were higher rated and kept listeners longer in our hour than many syndicated shows at that time!”
The executive understood and that was that, Schrader said.
The Darkness Radio team chalks up the success of the program to the commitment of the fans and the diversity of ways the audience can listen and participate. Schrader books most of the guests and tries to keep it fresh. Dennis manages the show through technology and Fox adds a fresh perspective to the listeners. Podcasts can be found at twincitiesnewstalk.com.