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The Skull Sessions: Parkdale Haunt




William

Good evening. This is your loyal host William A. Wellman. In addition to creating Hello From The Hallowoods every week, I write novels, read horror stories and tune in to the work of other podcasters in the horror fiction space today. Sometimes I invite them into my dimly lit parlor for an armchair conversation about horror. In this bonus episode, I sat down with Emily Kellogg and Alex Nursall to talk about their award-winning ghost story set in the nightmarish landscape of the Toronto housing market. This is the Skull Sessions: Parkdale Haunt.


*theme music plays*


William

We are here today with Alex Nursall and Emily Kellogg. For the both of you, what would you like written on the back of your book jackets for your inevitable novels?


Alex

I thought you were going to say obits. I don’t know why. Like just be like, what do you want in your obituary?


*all laughing*


William

What would you like written in your obituary, yes…


Alex

Well hi, I’m Alex Nursall, I’m one of the co-creators, co-writers of Parkdale Haunt. I’m also the director and the voice of Judith, and you can also find me on the actual play podcast Dice Shame as Mairi, and I’m on Twitter and Instagram generally being a menace at @saltandketchup.


*laughs*


Put that in my obit!


Emily

Hi, I’m Emily Kellogg, I’m also co-creator, co-writer of Parkdale Haunt, and I’m the voice of Claire. And let’s see. On the book jacket, I want it to say that I look really cool in a leather jacket.


Alex

Ooh. It’s true.


Emily

And don’t ride a motorcycle. But if I did, I’d be really good at it.


Alex

*chuckling*


Emily

And I have a fluffy black cat named Floof The Cat, and he is my muse. And the fact that he’s not credited in everything I do is something that he harangues me for every day when he meows at me for his breakfast.


Alex

Oh, Floof. He deserves more credit.


Emily

But you can find pictures of him if you follow me on social media at @emily_kellogg. Two L’s, two G’s, I have no relation to the cereal company.


Alex

Yeah. Aw. I have my… my book jacket doesn't—I need something cooler for it.


Emily

I mean you also look cool in a leather jacket.


Alex

This is true. I used to write on a lot of stuff, when I’d need kind of a jokey bio, that I look kind of like a cross between like, young Winona Ryder and a young Winona Ryder’s less attractive cousin. But yeah. I think the back of my book jacket would just say like, if you know me I’m probably gonna make you watch an F1 race at least once.


Which I’ve done to Emily.


Emily

Yes. Yes you did. And she also created a powerpoint…


Alex

Yes. And I made you brunch. So at the very least it comes with both an informational session and food.


Emily

Mhmm.


William

We’ve talked before the meeting, and at various points, about terrible basements?


*both laugh*


I’m usually curious, for people who’ve sort of gravitated to the horror and spooky genres, what drew people into that path, but it sounds like the both of you had separate awful basement experiences early on that may have predestined that…


Emily

Well I can of course, I’m always happy to tell this basement story. People might’ve heard it before at this point, but. It’s an important, informative experience in my life. Which is that my household growing up, I believed the house to be haunted. Whether or not it was a mixture of rats, and my imagination, remains to be seen. But what is provable is that I inherited a lot of furniture from the old lady who lived there before me.


And one of these pieces of furniture was a bed. Underneath the bed was a diary, of a teenage girl who lived there before me. In said diary, she referenced a place called the ‘secret part of the basement’. I was seven or eight, very, very ready to explore, to find the secret part of the basement. I went down to the basement, in which there were a lot of rats, but there were also weird graffiti on the walls that was pointing me in a certain direction.


I followed the direction. The basement became a crawlspace. I had to crawl on my hands and my knees. There was no light except for my one little flashlight. I came out to a bigger spot in the basement, I looked around with my flashlight, and on the wall in red spraypaint was written ‘help me, I’m trapped’.


I got the hell out of there! And I never went back.


Well, I had to remain in that house for many years and I was terrified.


Alex

*laughs*


I moved out the next day.


Emily

…At eight years old…


Alex

You’re just like, guys, we gotta sell…


Emily

And then there was all this scratching in the ceiling and the floors, and my parents didn’t tell me that it was rats? So I just thought I was hearing this scratching and they told me that I was imagining things. So I was like of course it’s ghosts.


And then years later, this was like maybe like two years ago, I was having dinner with my parents and I was telling them about this, because they were asking me ‘Emily, why are you a horror writer? Why couldn’t you have been a lawyer?’ And I was like well, let me tell you. You raised me in a haunted house.


And they told me that it was just rats, and I don’t know. I don’t know if I believe them or if I blame them for anything or if I should be thanking them? Probably a mixture of all of the above.


Alex

I like to imagine that if they had told you it was rats, that the path it would have set you down is like, you’d be a taxidermist. Or. Like an exterminator or something.


*Emily laughing in background*


And you’d be like, ever since then, my whole goal has been to stop rats… or like, you really like rats. It’s just like, I want to meet the alternate world Emily where you knew it was rats and that fired you down an entirely different, much weirder path.


Emily

Yeah.


Alex

Oh my god.


Emily

That would be such a different origin story. I would've been like, hey Alex, do you want to start an exterminator company with me? And then, so hot. Oh, we would have had a cool like…


Alex

Welcome to Ratdale Haunt!


*both cackle*


Oh my god. That’s gonna be the best spinoff…


The story I have is that in my grandparent’s house out in BC, there was in the office a human skull. Whose skull? Don’t know. I don’t know whose it is. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know how they came in possession to it. It’s just, it’s old, not that old but it’s pretty old, and both my grandparents… they’re both dead now, so I can’t ask them.


And when my grandparents died, I came into possession of the skull. Which now just sits in my living room like on the highest shelf, staring out over my living room. And honestly? He’s got good vibes.


Like, for a mystery skull? Chill. It’s chill. I keep good care of him, he’s got good teeth, he’s only missing one. Call him Bonesy. So. I uh. I just have the mysterious skull from my grandparent’s basement on an island in BC in the Desolation Sound.


William

You know, in an alternate life you might have been sort of fellow taxidermists. But, how did you end up co-creating this show then?


Alex

I think the genesis of thinking about doing a show kind of came about because much like, I think, a lot of people, the first sort of introduction to narrative podcasting stuff was Magnus Archives. I’d come across an article, I sent it to Emily, and then we both got like really really into it through seasons two and three of the show? Early season two? I remember season two being really big for both of us.


Emily

We were having a New Year’s Eve party at my house and the Magnus Archives trailer dropped for three or something?


Alex

Yes!


Emily

And I was like, Alex, come with me. And I made her come into a dark room so we could listen together.


Alex

Yeah, we got into that, and then that sort of opened up kind of the questions of like ‘well we could, we could write something, we’re both writers’. I work in audio, it was my day job, I work at a studio. I feel like at some point one of us was like, ‘what if we just wrote something? What if we just started writing something and we’ll see where it goes?’ It’s incredible low-stakes. If it works it works, if it doesn’t work out, if we both forget about it then it's fine.


But we started hammering that out, and I came across the original script somewhere in there. And the layout is a disaster. We were both just like, how do you lay this shit out? God. Nothing was standardized. We started working through on that, and I think once we had a few scripts in it was like, okay, we could actually do something.


Emily

Yeah. So like the idea for it, we knew that we wanted to do something kind of spooky. And so we kind of just sat down and hashed out various ideas and the one that seemed to stuck was about this girl inheriting a house in Toronto, and what would go with that.


There’d been this viral story going around Toronto about someone who had renovated a house and it had been their quote unquote ‘house from hell’ but really it was very kind of like superficial problems. But we thought that was such a funny idea, of actually renovating the house from hell, but let’s make it literally hell as opposed to just being about home depot problems. It kind of launched us forward, of being like she inherits this house, they start a renovation, and it’s literally a hell house.


Alex

And I think the big push was, you know, we wanted to write something that was focusing on these two characters, their friendship through all… their relationship, and that was sort of a big focal point of it. Like, you have all the scary stuff, but then a big driving force is the close-knit friendship between these two characters. Yeah, we just started writing, and then eventually I actually do work with Ian in real life, on the show and in real life, and roped him in. And then once he was in, because he is an actual engineer and sound designer, and so yeah once he was in that’s when the show kind of started to come to life a bit.


Emily

Yeah. Parkdale Haunt’s a very… family-based show.


*both laugh*


Alex

Yeah, it is. It is three people.


Emily

Like, Alex and I have been friends for over a decade. We met in university, we were both editors of the student paper there, so we’ve just always been friends and known each other and talked about doing creative projects. And then Alex and Ian worked together for many many years, are good friends, so it just kind of expanded from there. Our cast members are usually either Alex’s coworkers or friends of ours.


Alex

It’s a tight-knit crew.


William

This is often something you see when it comes to, especially podcasts that at least began as a labor of love, is that like often the people who’re working on it were friends beforehand, were not like a hired studio crew. Really like a group of people getting together to tell a story. So Alex, you’d mentioned that you worked in a studio at the time, but had either of you ever worked in podcasting before? And if not, then like, what were some of your thoughts kind of trying to tell a story in this particular medium for the first time?


Alex

I mean I’d never, yeah I’d been working in audio for multiple years by that point. I’d been, I started in audio when I was fifteen at my first like volunteer job. But I’d never done any real podcasting stuff before, and I think the most interesting thing was trying to figure out how to just write for it. Because it’s an entirely different setup than if, like I’d written scripts before, they’d always been very short, they’d always been just funny, and they’d top out at like a minute and a half. So that was a big shift, was trying to figure out how to do these things long form and also like this much fiction. Which was not something that I was used to doing.


Emily

Yeah. I think an interesting thing for us too was when we were first writing the first scripts, I at least was not convinced that I should be voice acting. I believe I said to Alex, I was like ‘we should probably get like a real actor to do it’, and Alex was like ‘I think we can do it, I think we should give it a shot’. And I was like, ‘okay, well if I destroy our show trying, you can replace me and I won’t be offended’.


*Alex laughs in background*


But then that became something I think we all fell in love with, the voice acting, because the way we do it, we were blessed enough to be able to go into the studio where Alex and Ian work, so we were able to record live in real time, playing off of each other, with Alex directing in real time.


Which just helped so much for someone who’s voice acting for the first time, and we kind of already have established rapports with one another, and then we’re able to have Alex be there live and in person when she’s like, ‘Emily, I don’t think that’s how a word is pronounced’. Or just like, why are you talking so quickly Emily? Can you just like, take a breath?


Alex

*laughs*

I mean like, I’d been directing for a number of years now, as a casting director and now as a commercial director, and so I’m comfortable sitting in the booth and just working. And that’s my preferred way, I know a lot of shows just due to limitations, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way people work. But they record separately, and then you sit there and you splice all the audio together.


And so it was very very nice to get everyone, we would do these all broken up, but like to get people in the booth and sit there and to direct them and get the performances that I would be like hearing in my head. Or the thing that I really wanted to push.


And I believe in a lot of freedom for the actors, somebody I think—a great example of someone where it’s like, ‘I’m not really sure to expect here’, was Taylor, who played A. Bird, and I was like, I don’t know what this guy is gonna sound like. And you suggested Taylor, Emily, and I was like yeah, okay cool. I don’t really know this guy but sure. And he came in and he just crushed it. And I was like, oh man, this is better than anything I heard in my head. So letting him kind of run wild sometimes was really great.


And there’s a lot of good improv’d moments, there’s a lot of times where people have really good instincts, and that works super well. There’s lots of times, performances where it’s kind of cobbled together cuts and everything, but I think that was the thing I loved most about this show was getting to record with everyone.


William

Now in addition to the directing… you know, I’ve talked to Jon and Muna at the Silt Verses, and they really break down their contributions to the show, like, kind of specifically. Like Jon takes on a lot of the writing, and then Muna takes on sort of the editing. When it comes to forming your team, you two and then it sounds like Ian for some help in the sound design department, how did it come about breaking down those responsibilities? And I’m especially curious like, how did it work co-writing a show with sort of two different people contributing?


Alex

When it came to scripts, it was a lot of kind of passing back and forth, I feel like. At the start we were kind of writing together in a Google Doc, but then it ends up being the kind of thing, it gets kind of messy in the Google Doc I feel like, where you’re just like, what’s happening? What got at it? I don’t know, and you’re losing track of what’s happening and… so we shifted to tossing a Word doc back and forth. I would write a draft, and Emily would do a draft, and I would do a thing, and back and forth until it basically was locked.


And then, once we hit a stage where it’s like, I think this feels done, I would usually do like one big pass and make sure everything was locked, so there wasn’t one thing or something missing or something like that. And then when it came to the audio side of stuff, it was like. I would do the dialogue edits, because those are. Um. Grunt work, and tiring, and I do not want to put that on Ian.


And also because I’m gonna nitpick all the timings four thousand times, so I’m just gonna put that on myself and not make Ian do it. And then send him seven hundred pages of notes saying ‘remove one second here’, because then he would never speak to me again. And then all of the sound design, like, every piece of sound design that’s not just timing dialogue is Ian. So. It was like a ton of work on his part for that one, he just really put his whole self into it.


And I think we’d been talking about it at one point recently, like after we’d sort of wrapped everything, and he was saying that part of the fun for him was that he had limitations, because there was like a script and you couldn’t, you know. There was rules you had to follow, but also he was given this sandbox to play in. And lots of, it was very, like, what’s a pocket dimension sound like? I don’t know man, go nuts. We’re not giving you like a hard and fast thing. Like maybe there’s suggestions or something like that, but he’s just kind of allowed to do whatever feels right. And he did a fantastic job.


Emily

And only the other thing I would add is that usually, we would have a big conversation where we would talk really top level. So we would just have like, because when we first went into the project, we did have a rough three season outline. From like, our very initial conversations. So a lot would come out from those conversations that would then later need to be filled in, but we would have kind of a big picture that guided us a little bit. But it was definitely very ad-hoc, and we learned as we went, it’s a passion project and a lot of files being sent back and forth with comments and track changes, et cetera.


Alex

Yeah. I’d forgotten about the part where we’d sit down and plan everything.


*laughs*


That’s kind of a key part! No, it’s not just vibes-based.


Emily

Like, I think about sometimes is just when we have conversations about like what scares us. And we’re just like, what’re a list of things that scare us? And how can we use this, how can we use our personal horrors and bring them to others?


Alex

Number one, rats! Number two, basements!


Um yeah. Emily and I would sit down, go through our thoughts and plans, sort of loosely map out the season and if there’s big points we want to hit, if there’s certain episode things, and so we’d have a guide to work off of. And then it would be like, the back and forth of like, I would write some stuff, she writes some stuff, I write some stuff, she writes some stuff, and just back and forth and back and forth until the script is at a space where it’s done.


The show is cobbled together usually over a series of, like a whole bunch of sessions, usually in the span of like a month. Although Season One I think, we recorded over the span of like a year, because we were just slowly doing it, we had no plan and no idea what we were doing, and that was just 2019.


And then yeah, once dialogue edits are done, goes to Ian, Ian makes it sound like a thing that’s not just people talking, and then yeah. Then the show eventually would go live.


William

It’s interesting to examine themes in a work where you have two separate authors both contributing to the story. What were some of the things that you wanted to kind of speak to in this story?


Emily

Yeah, I think like for both of us it was definitely an opportunity to explore like adult friendship. And we really wanted to think about friendship. And sort of like, griefs associated with it, as people grow and change and potentially grow apart, but then once we’d brought in the element of the supernatural and possession, it becomes, how do you grieve someone who’s still right in front of you but they’re not the person that they used to be? Which both of us have I think experienced with relationships in our life. But in this sense, kind of using a supernatural frame in order to explore that kind of grief.


Alex

Mhm. Yeah. And like, looking at how friendships change, the stresses that they can come under, and I think also looking at platonic friendships between two women, and men and women, like that was sort of a thing. Like, one thing we had talked a lot about was that we never wanted to set up like a lot, have this be like a romantic relationship show. There are romantic relationships in this show, but they are not at the forefront, and it’s not the end goal at either of these characters’ relationships. It’s not like, the final peak is that they’re gonna get together. Which again, is not like a bad thing, it’s just a thing, but that was something that we wanted to explore.


The intricacies of platonic relationships and also what happens when those things are in flux and when there are major stresses and when people change. And you know, there are the supernatural elements and everything that sort of play into that, but there is a sort of very real feeling to these friendships and to the feeling you get when someone you care so deeply about has changed, and you can’t do anything about it. And all you want is for your friend to come back.


Emily

Yeah. And I think as we developed the characters, the thing we equally got to know the characters and then we. This always sounds so abstract, but I do think it’s true, in that you can kind of start to listen to your characters once you know who they are and can understand them from the inside out, you can follow them where they’re going to go. Knowing what motivates Judith and that she will make terrible decisions, when you follow that, that brings you to the right place story-wise.


William

At least for me, that’s always something that takes a little bit of time. Often when a character first hits the page, they’re almost as much of a stranger to me as they are to the audience, and it’ll take me a couple of weeks generally just to begin to understand, ‘oh, this is what they do on the outside, but this is the internal heart of that character that’s driving all of those decisions’.


Emily

I mean, I do think it just takes time.


Alex

Yeah.


Emily

And a lot of sitting with your character, writing them, getting to know them.


Alex

Yeah, and I think too… I kind of subscribe to the idea when I’m writing stuff that nothing is truly set in stone in my plan. Like, characters will change and that’s okay, that you can let them evolve as you write them, that they’re not going to stay static. Even your idea of them, characters are fluid in the same way that people are, and you also don’t have to lay everything out.


You can let some things kind of hide in the background, and keep those as things that you know motivates you, that you don’t need to tell the audience. I used to tell Ian that in my head, Owen’s favorite song is ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’ by Fallout Boy, which I feel like says a lot about him as a character. We had a whole bunch of like, faint, not like important lore of like, things to keep in mind when writing these characters. I think one of them was like, Judith watches all of the Real Housewives shows but she will not admit to it, she watches them all in secret and will not own up to the fact that she like, watches every single one.


Emily

*laughs*

Yeah. I remember like, Owen baking. Owen loving to bake was something that really just emerged as we wrote. We were just like, you know what, I think he loves to bake.


Alex

Yeah.


Emily

I don’t know, I just really think time and spending time with your characters. They show who they need to be.


William

One of the things I noticed in the first few episodes of Parkdale Haunt, which I really enjoyed. Often big plot stuff will be introduced by how the character feels about the big plot stuff. Putting those big plot points through the lens of how the characters feel about them early on is a really nice way to ground the show in a kind of emotional reality.


Emily

Yeah, I think realism was really important to us, as much as we’re using all of these big supernatural elements, it was really important for us to keep the show grounded emotionally. Someone wrote a review, and I can’t remember, Alex, exactly where it was, but they were like ‘the thing I love about Parkdale Haunt is what if this happened for real? No but for real. Like really.” And I think that ethos for us…


Alex

Like, these people still have lives and jobs and family and stuff like that. Like, there was a small moment that I really was happy to include in Season Three where Judith just talks to her sister. And I’m like, one thing I always think about when I watch this stuff, or like, watch movies or horror movies especially, where people, bad things are happening, and you’re just like. Do these people not have anyone else they can talk to? Like anyone else they could speak with, something like that? And it’s tiny, humanizing moments like that that I feel really grounded the show when we were writing it and putting it together and made these people feel like actual people trying to deal with a really bizarre problem, versus like characters dealing with a plot.


And I think the other thing too, is that exposition is a tough thing to do. Like, you have to lay all this stuff out. You have to lay a lot of groundwork to make any of this make sense. And it’s really easy to just write a tome, and to set it up, but like, no one talks like that. And so yeah, trying to frame it through these people coming to terms at the same time, and how they would actually speak about this weird thing that’s happening and I don’t really know what to do with it, it’s very overwhelming and I’m stressed, rather than just having it laid out very matter of fact.


Because I’m always like, good exposition makes you understand a story without noticing it, and bad exposition is when you have two characters and one of them is like ‘how’s it going’ and he’s like ‘hey it’s me your brother I’ve come to visit you from San Francisco, where I live’, and you’re like, no one talks like this. So, that’s the rule. If I have to lay out like, every single thing in the most awkward way possible, we’ve officially fucked up, or something like that.


William

And there’s an added challenge to it in this audio only medium. If you’re doing something for stage, you can at least tell some things through the backdrops, through the setting, whereas when you’ve got just what people are able to hear, and through that you have to say everything that is going to factor into their imagination…


Alex

Yeah, it’s not scary if someone is running and they’re like ‘I’m gonna head down that hallway over there, where there’s two windows on the wall, and I think there’s a big monster behind me!’ and they narrate as they run. And again, you would just scream and run.


And also, audio has a lot of limitations, but it’s part of the reason I love it so much, because so much of it hinges on your ability to build up that scary thing in your head and have the listener just like, you hear the noises but in their head they’ve made the room scarier. They’ve made everything dark and spooky and terrifying to be in, and I’m like, I don’t gotta build a set. I can just make some spooky sounds in the background and you’re like, oh my god, it’s gonna get me!


Emily

Yeah, I think you really do have to trust your listeners and trust your audience to a degree, and trust that they have vivid imaginations. Because I mean, I think that so often even when you’re watching a horror movie or something, the greatest fear comes before you literally visually see whatever the monster is. It’s from that tension, it’s from allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps because when I come up with the scariest thing in the world, it’s gonna be specifically the scariest thing in the world to me.


And if I were to show it to other people, that wouldn’t be their scariest thing in the world. So allowing there to be some room for the audience to be able to bring themselves to it, I think is actually a big benefit of audio, I agree with Alex.


Alex

I have a document on my computer that’s called ‘The Parkdale Haunt That Never Was’, which is a list of all these plot points we cut, things we never did, original ideas for the show, the original show description which was changed a lot from where we started to where we ended up. All kinds of stuff. But I remember one thing I came across was like, it was multiple pages, and it was this scene where I think Judith and Owen go through all this lore. It’s a huge lore dump. And we cut all of it. We cut everything. We were just like no, we don’t need this, none of this is important, because it’s not scary and it makes everything else less scary, it lays out every single motivation in this like five minute scene where they’re just talking to each other and completely removing all mystery of what’s happening.


Would have been like mid-Season Two. And it like, yeah. There was pages of lore that we were like, nah, fuck it. And we just cut it all. So honestly, like, the show was better for it.


Emily

Yeah, what we learned especially in Season Two was that the simpler the better. There is complicated lore, sure, but… you get it.


Alex

Yeah. Yeah. We give enough I feel like that you can understand what’s happening, and that there’s like spooky cult things happening, blood sacrifice et cetera et cetera, but you don’t need thirty-five pages of like, Judith going through a book being like ‘I found this other thing and it says here in 1841’ and you’re like, okay, we got it.


William

One of the things I was curious about as well… this house almost has like a street address in Toronto…


Emily

Dowling Avenue!


Alex

*laughs*


William

Were there any concerns with setting this story in a very real place? Was there anything from living there that you wanted to like, make sure gets a nod in the story?


Alex

Just the untenability of owning a house in the city.


*laughs*


No, uh.


Emily

Uh, we thought a lot about real estate, and a conversation that Alex and I had, is directly prior to writing Parkdale Haunt, we… I had just been going through a big like, apartment hunt. And at the time, I think it was like 2018 when I was looking, and at that time it was particularly bad in Toronto, and it was cutthroat and absolutely horrible. And I specifically remember Alex and I having a conversation of like, I would rather just live in a haunted house. I would understand. If blood was coming down the walls, I would rather just live there and make it work than try and find a new apartment in Toronto because it’s impossible.


Alex

It’s true. I remember you going through that, it was just like so frustrating, like oh my god, why does it suck so bad out here. I think like a lot of people in Toronto, we have both like, a real love for the city, and a real frustration with it. Because there’s a lot of really wonderful things, and it’s a really fun place to set something like this, because Toronto is diverse in multiple ways and one way is just in the general topography and the layout of the city, which is kind of spoken to in the show with using the Path and using the, them going on the Hill at the end of Season Three, and all kinds of stuff where you’re like, there’s lots of weird wonderful stuff about this city that we wanted to work in. But yeah, it’s also deeply frustrating sometimes, I think.


Emily

Of course, there’s a reason that we’re still here, and that comes from the fundamental love for Toronto. And Parkdale Haunt really is a love letter to Toronto in a lot of ways. And our love can be complicated, and involve us not liking predatory real estate developers, but still coming from a place of love and as Alex was mentioning, we got to use a lot of set pieces in terms of, we were playing around with the actual city. So we wanted to be in very real places. Every time we mention a bar or restaurant, or park, or anything, that is 100% real. It’s a real place you can go to and sit down at. And it’s usually our favorite places.


Toronto is such a filming city, so many things are filmed here, but it’s never actually Toronto. So Toronto is a stand-in for you know, New York, or Philadelphia, or all of the places. So we just kind of wanted to be like, no, we live here, in Toronto, it is a real city that exists, and we’ll prove it!


Alex

It is haunted and it is great!


William

Have you had any more free time since Parkdale Haunt ended? Or has that commitment just been replaced by like, the other stuff that you have to work on now?


Alex

We wrapped the show, we finished the Christmas episode, and then like four days went by, I was like. I told my husband afterwards, I need to relax a bit, and he just looked at me and he’s just like, ‘you’re not gonna relax’. Not even a week went by, and I was like, I wanna do another sure, and he was like ‘I told you. What’s wrong with you?’


Emily

*laughing*


Alex

He’s like, I knew it! So yeah, I’m also working on a project with Harlan from Malevolent right now, just still also very early stages. So we’re just dealing with that. I think the second I had some free time I was immediately like, okay, when can I write a script again? Please, what do I do with this time? I’m so antsy! But Emily, you’ve experienced me being at the window like Leslie Knope style being like… heyyy, aghhhhh gotta script! I wanna do things!


Emily

Those of us who know Alex well know that Alex relaxes by creating things. This is how Alex relaxes.


Alex

I relax by like, writing unhinged shit and then inflicting it on you and Ian. Just being like, let’s get in the booth, let’s goooo!


Emily

It’s a beautiful thing and we all love you for it.


Alex

*laughs*


Emily

But yeah, I don’t know, I think that when you’re a creative person I don’t know that free time exists. I think that you’re always thinking about the next project, it’s always ruminating, you’re always thinking things through, just the voices, the people in your head, they need avenues to come out. And they will just bang on the side of your skull until you let them out.


Alex

Boy will they.


Emily

So I think I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that I don’t think I really do free time, it’s just, it’s always on to the next creative thing. And so I’m excited to see where it will lead us all.


Alex

We do. We had a story we wanted to tell, and I think we told it, and it fit lovely in that space that we told it. And yeah, I think for all of us it was really bittersweet to end the show. It was like, feeling really good, and we were having a great time, and it was doing really well, but we were just like, I don’t want to drag this out. I don’t want to push another season and see like, ‘maybe this one will be good too!’ Nah. We have an ending, and the ending feels satisfying, and let’s keep it there.


William

*spookily*

A young girl traipses down the basement stairs in a newly bought house. Finds arrows pointing, painted across the walls, rat-scratched floor. And at the very back of the room, a very high bookshelf, on top of which sits two human skulls. They fill the basement with a whisper. What words do the skulls of Emily and Alex impart?


Alex

Finally, my obit!


Emily

I think the advice my skull would like to give is, that there are so many ways to overthink creative projects and cause you to get into a state of paralysis where you don’t move forward at all. Where you don’t make anything at all, because you’re just thinking, how could this possibly be possible, there’s no way. And my advice would just, advice that I come back often is, just do the thing. It can be bad. But it’s better to do the thing than not do the thing. You don’t need to know everything. You can learn as you go. You will never do anything if you’re waiting to be ready to do the thing. Just do it right now. Start this exact second. Quit your job! No, don’t quit your job. Just do the thing.


Alex

I’m just imagining your skull goes, ‘do the thinggg’. And she’s like what? ‘DO IT’.


My writing advice is something that I learned a while ago, my favorite writing advice I learned a while ago in an interview with John Swartzwelder, who was a writer on the Simpsons. He did a lot of really great episodes. Which was just, he just talked about when he’s writing a script, he would just write everything. He wouldn’t think it through, he would just write everything. Because it’s better to have a whole bunch of shit down that you edit, rather than nitpick it as you go.


And that was huge. It switched something in my brain. It was like, oh, if I just keep writing and I don’t think too hard, then some good stuff shows up. There’s some garbage, but I can take the garbage out. And that was huge. I think, if you’re writing a script or writing a thing, don’t fret over it as you go. Just like, let it, let that first draft be trash. It’s okay. It’s why there’s first drafts.


And then my life advice, and this is like, I guess, kind of like earnest for me, normally I just only speak in sarcasm and cynicism. But it’s the same life advice my parents gave me, which is, work hard, be kind, be brave. Those three things will basically get you through.


William

I love that. And I think ‘take the garbage out’ is such a valuable piece of advice for any writer out there.


Alex

The two skulls are sitting there, the first skull goes ‘do it’ and the other skull goes ‘take the trash out!’


*all laugh*


William

Thank you so much both of you for making the time to talk with me today, it’s been lovely to chat with you both on Parkdale Haunt.


Alex

Thank you!


Emily

This was so fun, thanks for having us!


Credits

Alex Nursall and Emily Kellogg are the co-writers and creators of the acclaimed Canadian horror podcast Parkdale Haunt. You can find alex at AlexNursall.com, or on twitter at @saltandketchup. You can find Emily at emilykellogg.com, or on twitter at @emily_kellogg. That’s where Parkdale Haunt can be found at @parkdalehaunt, or you can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts.


Hello From The Hallowoods is produced by William A. Wellman. For first access to new Skull Sessions with other voices in the horror podcasting space, look to the Hallowoods patreon at patreon.com/hallowoods.



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