The Anthill

Anthill 6: Into the darkness

With the nights closing in and Halloween just around the corner, we’re shining a light on darkness for our October episode of The Anthill, a podcast from The Conversation.

We start with the spooky allure of horror films. There’s no better place to find out why horror stories get our spines tingling than in a graveyard – as Holly Squire found out when she met Alison Peirse, lecturer in theatre, film and television studies at the University of York. And along the way she found out about the history of that much-loved stalwart of any Halloween party – the witch and her broomstick. Alison Rowlands, professor of European history at the University of Essex, explains the dangers of being accused of attending a nighttime witches’ Sabbath.

From Halloween horrors, we switch to some magical and mysterious real-world science. We speak with Jocelyn Monroe, a physics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, about the hunt for dark matter. She takes us on a journey from outer space to the world’s deepest laboratory, which has been dug out beneath a nickel mine in rural Canada.

Two recent events in London got Michael Parker thinking about the future of the city’s nightlife. Just as the 24-hour night tube finally opened for business on weekends, one of London’s most famous nightclubs, Fabric, was forced to shut its doors. He spoke to a trio of researchers who study what goes on after dark – geography lecturer Robert Shaw from Newcastle University, professor of urban design Marion Roberts at the University of Westminster and historian Adam Smith at the University of Sheffield – to find out how our nighttime habits are evolving and why.

Last call? Pressmaster/shutterstock.com

To finish off, we head back to the shadows – this time of the online world. Much that has been written about the dark web, that hidden part of the internet, has been about the illicit activities that go on there. But as Clint Witchalls found out when he spoke to Steven Murdoch, principal research fellow in the Information Security Research Group at University College London, it’s no worse than the regular part of the internet – and calling it the “dark” web gives it a bad rap.

Click here to listen again to any of The Anthill podcasts – which each take a theme and ask academics from a variety of disciplines to talk about their research. Listen to some of our previous episodes, About time, Brexit, Underdogs, Fuel and Rebooting. Subscribe via iTunes or Soundcloud.


The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. The Mind the Gap recording was by the London Sound Survey.

A big thank you to City University London’s Department of Journalism for the use of their studios.