Sam Fredrickson said he was between five and seven years old when he had an encounter with an unidentified flying object near Pendleton, Ore. He described an orb "a little bigger than a soccer ball" with a ring of blinking lights that kept pace with his parents' blue Chevrolet Astro before zipping behind a hill.
"That sealed the deal for me," Fredrickson said about how the experience cemented his interest in the unexplained.
Fredrickson and his friend, Jason Moitoso, are the Treasure Valley-based duo behind the Not Alone podcast. They cover a different supernatural topic in each episode and have discussed high-profile mysteries such as the Mummy's Curse, the Highgate Vampire, the Beast of Gevaudan and UFOs. Fodder for Not Alone comes from all over the world but for a special episode to be released Thursday, July 6, Fredrickson and Moitoso set their sights on unexplained activity closer to home.
"It's so easy to think of the paranormal as being out there somewhere. In reality, it's all through downtown, it's all through the mountains, all over Idaho," Fredrickson said. "There's crazy, weird shit."
Not Alone launched in mid-February on several platforms after Fredrickson, encouraged by his wife, purchased recording equipment. He jokingly asked Moitoso, with whom he had been playing Magic: The Gathering, if he would like to start a podcast and was surprised when Moitoso agreed to participate.
By the time Not Alone releases its Idaho-themed episode, Fredrickson anticipates the total number of downloads of the podcast to be approximately 75,000. It joins a packed field of similar programs like Coast to Coast, Mysterious Universe, Astonishing Legends and Lore, which launched in March 2015 and is currently being adapted as an Amazon Video television series.
The popularity of Not Alone may have something to do with the chemistry between Fredrickson and Moitoso, whose believer-and-skeptic relationship is present in every episode. Fredrickson said he trusts human sources, seeking eyewitness accounts of inexplicable phenomena in his research. He calls himself "the most gullible person in the world," but is adept at interpreting the authenticity of accounts, and he has an eye for confirmation bias and an ear for plausible explanations for eerie events.
Moitoso is the Scully to Fredrickson's Mulder. As a child, he idolized Australian zoologist Steve Irwin and wanted to be a paleontologist. The dream didn't last.
"Once I found out I couldn't keep a raptor claw like Grant from Jurassic Park, I was out," Moitoso said. He has extensive knowledge of biology and can be a harsh critic of paranormal explanations, but some of the topics he has studied have challenged his skepticism. As part of the podcast, Moitoso sees it as his job to get its listeners thinking and talking about things that defy explanation.
"If we're not opening up a little bit of curiosity, we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing," he said. "It's more thought-provoking than anything."
In the recording booth, the two 20-somethings have shared a sometimes-adversarial but always-collegial relationship, bonding over the 1909 mass sightings of the Jersey Devil, and clashing over the Beast of Bray Road and wolfmen in general.
Boise has its fair share of ghost stories and otherworldly events that are part of the Not Alone Idaho special. The Old Idaho Penitentiary is thought to be one of the most haunted locations in the Gem State. Between its opening in 1872 and when it closed 101 years later, 10 prisoners were executed there, and the execution chamber, which is open to the public, is thought to be one of the most haunted places in Idaho.
At the Idanha Apartments (formerly the Idanha Hotel) in downtown Boise, guests have reported three spirits haunting the building: a bellman shot to death while on the job operates the elevators, a woman stabbed to death and buried in the basement by her husband, and an unidentified ghost.
The same kind of weirdness extends to every region of the state. Visitors can allegedly rap their knuckles on an above-ground tomb at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Twin Falls, and the person interred will knock back. Both Lake Pend Oreille and Payette Lake are said to harbor aquatic beasts of the Loch Ness Monster variety.
With their tiny footprints, and associations with lights in the sky and Native American folklore, the so-called Babyfeet of far-western Idaho and Oregon may be less known. Two brothers said they discovered human-like footprints 4.5 inches long while hunting deer near Bly Mountain in Oregon in 1944. Their account was ignored by wildlife officials but seized upon by cryptozoological investigators—and Not Alone—for its similarities to legends about changelings.
Belief in the supernatural may not be for everyone, but belief in the paranormal is on the rise. According to a 2015 Ipsos poll, most Americans (56 percent) believe in UFOs, and a 2013 Public Policy Polling poll showed 14 percent of Americans believe in Bigfoot. Fredrickson and Moitoso said many people may have experienced the unexplainable but are ashamed to talk about it. Acknowledging the pun, Fredrickson said if there are two things people should take away from the podcast, the first is that "you are not alone."
"The second thing is, the wolfmen are real, and they're coming for you," he said.