MORGANTOWN — More than a year after “Mared and Karen: The WVU Coed Murders” podcast debuted, co-producer Sarah McLaughlin is surprised by the number of listeners still tuning in to the eight-episode true crime story, which centers around the disappearance and beheading of two female WVU freshmen in 1970.
“We had 431 plays in the last 24 hours,” she said during a phone interview earlier this week.
In her experience, that kind of traffic has been more typical of an episode release, not a random Monday.
“We’ve surpassed 200,000 plays. I’m not sure why.”
She has at least one guess though.
On June 30, Criminology Podcast — which has been featured in Time magazine — gave a shout-out via Twitter. And co-creator Mike Morford posted a positive review on Facebook, saying, “I recognize and appreciate good, well researched true crime podcast production when I see it. Mared & Karen has been a real gem for me, and I can’t recommend it enough!”
And, for McLaughlin, music is no small factor in the podcast’s appeal.
“My husband was really always in the know of who’s going to play and has seen so much local music,” she said. “And since this is a local story, I thought maybe we could get some local artists to add some of their music to it.”
As a result, musicians from the area created the haunting theme as well as other instrumental pieces, and songs from local acts were selected for interludes between interviews and narration.
“It’s just kind of magical,” she said. “The music really did set it apart.”
Generally, an episode would be scripted by co-producer J. Kendall Perkinson, then McLaughlin asked him the kind of songs he wanted to add and emailed a list of possibilities.
“I spent hours listening to the music,” she said. “Kendall also found people, for example, Sandra Black. I ended up absolutely loving that album.”
On Saturday, a handful of acts featured on the podcast will perform at a tribute concert and art show, “Remembering Mared and Karen,” at Retro-tique, in its new location at 218 Walnut St.
“I think we have a nice representation of some very stripped-down stuff and some definitely more elaborate, hard group sounds,” said show organizer Nicholas Larson, who is also part of the group The Others, which formed after he, John Smithers and Annie Stroud came together and recorded the theme song and instrumental pieces included in the podcast.
While The Others won’t perform, as members are temporarily scattered across the country, Larson said he’s happy to “bask in the great music by these great live acts and also because, in some cases, the music they contributed isn’t a staple of their setlists.”
Beast Friend, Captain Catfeesh, GoldenHorseshoe (with members of the now-defunct two-piece False Pterodactyl, which also was a part of the podcast), Goodwolf, Weary Space Wanderer and Whiskey Victor will play. Each band will perform three songs, one of which was featured on the podcast.
“At set breaks, we’ll have some opportunities to pipe in music by the artists who aren’t taking the stage that night,” Larson said. “[On a projector screen] we’ll also have a listing of their upcoming shows and maybe a little blurb about them, if they’ve got a new release out or upcoming.
“It was a really important thing for me that whether or not people are in the show they, hopefully, get some additional benefit of promotion or some extra light shone on them for their generosity of contributing their music freely for us to use in this.”
The music is set for
8-11 p.m. Saturday. Beforehand, beginning at 6 p.m., attendees will be able to view art related to the podcast and hang out with those who were a part of creating the series.
“Half a dozen or so people have submitted pieces, and I’m expecting more,” said Jillian Kelly, owner of Retro-tique and founder of Morgantown Art Party. The nonprofit arts organization worked with Kromatic Media, home of the podcast, to put on the gathering.
“This is the first art show we’ve had in the new space,” Kelly said. “It’s fun to work with people to put together something we’re all interested in.”
“Given what a collective effort this was for people working in their off time and pooling their resources and talents, this is a little bit of a celebration of that,” Larson said.
He added that everyone involved with the show is working hard to ensure that it’s respectful of the podcast’s somber subject matter.
“I know with this, it’s been kind of walking a fine line of making sure the event honors, ultimately, the very tragic story that is the reason why all this came together in the first place,” he said. “It’s important that it’s an event that doesn’t have any shades of exploitation and still recognizes that this a creative process as well as a journalistic one and recognizing that there are different components of that.”
- “Remembering Mared and Karen” is set for Saturday at Retro-tique, at 218 Walnut St. Attendees may view artwork and mingle from 6-8 p.m. The concert is set for 8-11 p.m. Beast Friend, Captain Catfeesh, GoldenHorseshoe, Goodwolf, Weary Space Wanderer and Whiskey Victor will perform. Admission is $10 at the door. Door proceeds support Morgantown Art Party and the bands that donated their music to the Mared and Karen: The WVU Coed Murders podcast. GoFundMe contributors of $25 and or more will receive admission for two; a link to digital extras, including photographs and court transcripts; and other extras. GoFundMe link: gofundme.com/keep-mared-amp-karen-podcast-online/donate.