Tackling dark and macabre topics like true crime is a family affair for Ashleigh “Ash” Kelley and Alaina Urquhart, the aunt-niece duo behind the hit podcast “Morbid.”
As lifelong, self-proclaimed “Massachusetts gals,” Kelley, a former hairdresser, and Urquhart, an autopsy technician, love to cover terrifying tales from the Bay State on the show. The pair of podcasters believe the Boston area, with its dark and gloomy winters as well as its collection of historic monuments and eerie sites, is the perfect backdrop for these types of spine-chilling stories.
“It’s definitely the atmosphere,” says Urquhart. “Places like the Hockomock Swamp and the Bridgewater Triangle, it all kind of fits. It’s like the aesthetic of Massachusetts: spooky horror.”
This Saturday, the hosts plan to increase the fear factor by teaming up with digital experience makers Moment House for “Cinema Macabre,” a ticketed virtual event where they will broadcast live from the supposedly haunted Queset House in Easton. During the interactive event, Kelley and Urquhart will answer audience questions, discuss some of New England’s spookiest legends and most horrific true crimes, and pay tribute to classic creepy cinema. (A replay will be available for 72 hours post-event.)
Ahead of the show on Jan. 15, we caught up with Kelley and Urquhart over Zoom to talk about their podcasting passion, their history with the supernatural, and the Massachusetts-based true crime stories that keep them up at night.
What inspired you to start the podcast?
Kelley: We’re both lovers of podcasts and especially true crime. Alaina has always been into true crime, so I was like her little prodigy...
[W]e love podcasts, [so we thought] why don’t we see if we can start our own? Just as a hobby, maybe our family will listen.
Urquhart: We’re technically niece and aunt, but we’ve always been best friends, too, so it was just something else we could do together. We had no idea it would become what it is.
You typically cover true crime on “Morbid,” but with “Cinema Macabre,” you’re adding a supernatural element in broadcasting from the Queset House. How did this spooky detail come about?
Kelley: We always like to make our live shows a little bit different than the podcast itself. We also love to dress up in costumes at these shows.
Urquhart: Any excuse.
And Queset House, we have so many [stories] around this area. I feel like Massachusetts is so rife with spooky, haunted places.
What makes the Queset House such a spooky spot?
Urquhart: Well, Easton is super old. It always has this air of spookiness. Queset House is just one of those historical buildings that are lucky enough to still be standing and functional. There’s a lot of spooky ghost stories, like people hear things and see things. I know people who’ve worked there have experienced a little spookiness. It just felt like the perfect fit.
Are you nervous at all about hanging out in a haunted house? Had any previous supernatural encounters?
Urquhart: We definitely grew up in a haunted house. It was like one of those old farm houses. Everyone in our family experienced something. One night I walked into my bedroom after school, and I went to flick my light on and nothing turned on. I went into my room, and everything was unplugged, every single electronic. Another night, I was walking down the hallway past what was the original master bedroom. The door was closed and as I walked by it, it sounded like somebody took their fist and slammed on the door. It made me jump into a wall.
Kelley: It’s so funny because I’ve had similar experiences with both rooms. I would have sleepovers with my friends and people would hear whispers in the middle of the night. I remember my now fiancé would spend the night and the ghosts in the house loved to mess with him. He would hear someone whisper his name. When I was really little, I was sleeping in the old master bedroom, and a Tupperware container filled with books slammed from one end to the other. I ran out of that room so fast.
Urquhart: Maybe we’ll go into Queset House and be like, “Hello! What have you guys got?”
Out of all the Massachusetts-based stories you’ve covered on “Morbid,” which ones stuck with you the most?
Urquhart: I would say Mary [Lou] Arruda is a really horrifying tale. That one, I think everyone has heard of. It was my parents who originally told us, “You got to cover that case. Tell her story.” That one really hit me. Definitely the Fall River satanic cults, that was a crazy tale and really tragic.
But I would say it’s really the Salem witch trials. When you dive into it, it’s so tragic and so scary. And it’s less about witches and more about humans being awful. I think that’s way scarier than anything supernatural.
Whether it’s haunted houses or listening to morbid true crime tales, why do you think people love to scare themselves?
Urquhart: Personally, I love being scared. It’s always been my thing since I first picked up “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Alvin Schwartz. I think it’s the feeling of knowing you’re safe, but being able to experience that adrenaline rush that comes. Your nervous system does so much to your body when you’re scared.
Kelley: I think people like to challenge themselves, too. Like, “Ooh, I think I can handle this.”
Interview was edited and condensed.
Jan. 15, 8 p.m. Tickets $20, momenthouse.com/MORBID