The Paranormal In Latin America – Paranormal Podcast 774

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Mario Gongora is the host of a very popular podcast, Yes, This Happened | Esto Si Ocurrio, focusing on Latin American supernatural stories. 

Find it wherever you get your podcasts.

I loved chatting with Mario, love what he is doing and I highly recommend his show!

Thanks Mario!


ParaBox Monthly is your source for amazing one of a kind paranormal t-shirts that will lead you into an online paranormal mystery. Go to to get a 25% discount!


[intro music]

This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.

JIM HAROLD: Welcome to the Paranormal Podcast. I’m Jim Harold. So glad to be with you once again, and I must say that over the years of doing my show Jim Harold’s Campfire, where we do true stories on the supernatural, we’ve had such a great, great response from the Latino community, and such a rich tradition of oral storytelling of supernatural activities, that when I heard about this show that we’re going to talk about today and what our guest is doing, I thought, brilliant. I think it’s fantastic, and we’re so glad to have him with us.

We’re talking about Mario Góngora. He is the host of Yes, This Happened, which has an English language version and a Spanish version, and it covers the paranormal from a Latin American perspective. He talks about cryptids and other high strangeness you rarely hear about on this side of the border. Mario has been the voice for Fox Channels Latin America, two regional TV networks, several national and international IVR systems, and many retail national spots currently on TV and social media. In recent years, he’s been the official national Hispanic voice of Sprint, Wendy’s, and Ford, among others. We are so glad to have him with us to talk about Yes, This Happened. Mario, welcome to the program.

MARIO GONGORA: Jim, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s an honor. I love your podcast, so thank you for inviting me.

JIM HAROLD: Well, thank you. Let me ask you this: what was the inspiration for Yes, This Happened?

MARIO GONGORA: Every time we got together with friends, you have dinner, you stay at the table, talking, and the issue of “Have you seen something weird?” always comes up, and it’s fun to talk about. We realized that most of the people we know have seen something or experienced something paranormal in their lives. Even myself. My wife and I were like, “Oh man, this is so cool” because we were having a natural conversation and I thought, “Man, this would be great for a podcast.” We didn’t care if something like this already existed; we started doing it just for fun, basically, my wife and I.

At some point, we know some people in common with Agua Media, a producer there, and he made the contact and we started contributing and working together with them. They asked for the podcast in the English language. We were doing it in Spanish originally. So that’s where it started, basically just having talks with friends and feeling this feeling of being scared – being safely scared, you know? When you go see a movie, for example, you’re safely scared because the guy in the screen is not going to actually kill you.

JIM HAROLD: Yeah, it’s like a rollercoaster.

MARIO GONGORA: But you feel your heart go like that. It’s fun. It’s fun and it’s interesting also, because you start noticing patterns between people that don’t know each other, from different parts of the world. It’s amazing. It’s super, super interesting.

JIM HAROLD: I agree fully, and I really applaud what you’re doing because I had noticed among my listenership on Campfire, there seems to be a very intense interest among the Latino community, and I always felt that would be a great podcast. I wouldn’t be the right person to do it, but I always thought a podcast with those kinds of themes, appealing to the Latino community, from a Latino, would make all the sense in the world. So I highly, highly applaud what you’re doing. That’s why when I saw your information, I was like, “Yes, yes, yes, I want to talk to Mario!”

Now, let me ask you this. This is just my perception from the outside, but it seems like the interest of Latinos in these themes might be more intense than the typical Anglo. Is it really just part and parcel of the culture?

MARIO GONGORA: I believe so, and I was actually going to mention it later. I’m not sure if people apparently see more things and have more experiences in Latin America because they believe more or why it is, other than we have this folklore dating back to pre-Hispanic times, before the Spanish conquered Mexico, and those stories have permeated through the centuries and we still have them today. Like La Llorona, for example.

JIM HAROLD: I was going to ask you about that one.

MARIO GONGORA: Yeah, that’s an example of a Mexican tale that has crossed over into pop culture in the United States with a movie like La Llorona. They did a movie a couple of years ago, I think. So we have a plethora of legends and lore and stuff like that, and that’s always been part of storytelling. My grandmother, for example, when I was little, would tell me about La Llorona. It was super freaky when I was little, this lady at night, screaming, “Ay mis hijos!” because she had killed her children – it’s like, oh man.

So it is part of the culture and it’s accepted, and if you see something or you talk about it, it’s not the same reaction from people as you get here in the States most of the time. And I think it is more widely accepted that it’s a normal part of life, actually. The paranormal is actually stuff that is around us that we can’t see. I think part of that idea is very well exemplified with the UAP issue right now.


MARIO GONGORA: Sometimes I think I’m in a sci-fi movie. Congress is holding hearings about UAPs and UFOs, and they have data about it and stuff like that? It’s amazing. So it just tells you how plausible it is that there’s stuff out there that we can’t see. We are just designed to see a certain spectrum of the light spectrum. Same with sound and subsonic sound. We can’t perceive everything around us that is actually there. So to me, it is really possible that there is more and that it’s around us, and sometimes we can see it.

JIM HAROLD: We are in mind meld. [laughs] People will say, “Jim, what have you learned from doing all this? Do you all understand all this? You’ve done these shows since 2005,” going back to my first show. I say, no. I understand less. I have more questions than I had when I started, because I thought I was going to figure it all out in six months.

But here’s the thing, the one thing that I’ve taken away. It’s almost exactly what you said. The nature of reality itself is far stranger than we believe it to be, and that’s where all these things that happen – it doesn’t mean that they’re any less real; we just don’t understand it. I’m looking here and I’ve got my phone in my hand, but I think life is so much more complicated than what I could pick up in my hand and look at and feel and weigh. There’s so much unseen around us.

And the fact, to me, that Latinos have this culture, Latin America has this culture and this tradition of folklore and so forth, doesn’t make it any less real. To me, the community is more perceptive and more open to it, and I see that as a strength and not as a weakness. Some people may say, “Well, people who believe in this stuff believe in a bunch of superstitions.” I don’t take it that way. I take it as they’re more perceptive and more open to things that really do happen.

MARIO GONGORA: Yeah. For example, in Mexico, Day of the Dead. The day before Day of the Dead, people go to the tombstones and the graveyards and they clean them because they are literally expecting their dead relatives or loved ones to come back on Day of the Dead. That’s an example of how open people are in Latin America to the idea that there is something out there, and that something sometimes interacts with us.

JIM HAROLD: We had someone come on and tell a story – it’s been a long time – about Lechuza. Have you run into Lechuza?

MARIO GONGORA: No, that may be from another country. I know a lot about Mexican lore, but I’m not sure, no. What is Lechuza?

JIM HAROLD: I’m trying to remember it. Maybe I’m mispronouncing it. I’m just looking it up here on some other places. “A vengeful spirit from Northern Mexican folklore.”


JIM HAROLD: “Once was a mortal woman who was accused of witchcraft and unjustly murdered for it.” Yeah, somebody came on and told me about that particular one, and I was wondering if that – and the other one you mentioned as well. Aside from that one, what is your favorite legend and one that you’ve heard your listeners tell you about?

MARIO GONGORA: Oh, I think the Chaneques episode has been one of the most listened to because everybody asks about the Chaneques. These legendary creatures come from a prehistoric tale about children or goblin-like creatures with the face of old men or women whose mission is to take care of nature. But if you see them and you get scared, they could even steal your soul.

We have this story, which is super interesting because this story was told to us by a friend of my brother-in-law, who had told the story to him many, many years ago. When we started the podcast, we contacted my brother-in-law and said, “Hey, do you think your friend would like to tell his story?” He said, “Yeah.” So it’s interesting because it’s a story that we know was not made up for the podcast. We know this guy really, really thinks his experience happened. If you listen to the episode, you can hear the fear in his voice of when he saw these childlike creatures outside his ranch somewhere in Guerrero, Mexico. So that one has been one of the most popular episodes. It’s part of a legend that comes from pre-Hispanic times. This happened some years ago.

JIM HAROLD: I think I’m kind of repeating myself, but even though it’s folklore, I still believe that it’s very possible it could happen. There’s different explanations for that. One is like a trickster element to the paranormal that perhaps, whatever these things are, they present themselves in a way that is relatable to you or your culture. So it’s not that it’s not real, but it’s just putting a different face on it. Maybe somebody up north sees it as Bigfoot or something else. You see what I’m saying? Have you thought about that as a possibility – that a lot of these things are the same origin, but they present themselves in different ways to be culturally relevant to the experiencer?

MARIO GONGORA: Yeah, absolutely. Now that you mention it, that’s even something that is said about the UAP phenomenon, that it’s tricksters, that they play around or they fool around with the planes and the Army and the Air Force and all this. So yeah, I think it’s absolutely possible. I also think that it has to be related to consciousness in some way. If it’s connected to you, it is very possible that you see whatever you’re comfortable with or whatever you’re scared about or something like that. I think it flows along the lines of that. I don’t know. Like you said, I don’t understand anything. [laughs]

JIM HAROLD: No, but I want your opinion.

MARIO GONGORA: It’s more questions, you know? But it’s interesting to speculate.

JIM HAROLD: Exactly. That’s the thing – and you probably get it, too. People will say, “I have a haunting. What should I do?” I’m like, “Well I don’t know!” But it’s interesting, as you said, to speculate about it.

Has there been an evolution of your own thoughts and your own beliefs as you’ve done this podcast? Like when you first started the podcast, did you have one viewpoint, and has that in any way evolved or changed to the present day?

MARIO GONGORA: I guess so. Even though I’ve had some experiences when I was little, I’m still very skeptic. I don’t believe stuff just because it is presented to me. But through the production of Yes, This Happened, I have seen, like I said, patterns between stuff that people see, like the dark shadows and the feelings and the voices, and it’s a phenomenon that repeats itself all over the world. So there has to be something going on. I’ve become maybe a little bit less skeptic than I was. I still try to find a rational explanation for stuff before I say, “Okay, yeah, it’s paranormal,” but I think I may have become a little less skeptic and more interested in the whole paranormal phenomenon situation and what happens to people.

I think providing a platform for people to tell their stories is not only good for them, but good for us to try and be more in tune to what people are feeling and seeing. I don’t know, it’s something that I enjoy very much doing.

JIM HAROLD: Yeah, I agree. In terms of the question of evil, people will ask me this: “Jim, do you believe in evil?” Let me say, I don’t think everything is a demon. I think that sometimes, with movies and TV, we tend to think everything’s a demon, everything’s evil. I don’t believe that, but I believe evil is real. I mean, to me, you can just look in the world and see some of the things that are done, and I think those qualify as evil. I don’t think every drippy faucet is a poltergeist or a demon, though. But I do think it exists. I mean, the Catholic Church has basically a department of exorcism. I don’t think they’re doing that just for their health. There’s a reason that they have that.

So what are your thoughts on good and evil? Is the idea of evil real? Do you think evil is real in the world? Because I have people who say – good people, nice people – who say, “Jim, it’s just a lower vibration. There’s no such thing as evil.” I think there is. What do you think?

MARIO GONGORA: To tell you the truth, I don’t know. There is this Mesoamerican mythology called the Nagual. These are shapeshifting persons. The main belief is that they are neither good or evil. They are intrinsically neither good or evil. Whether they use their powers for the benefit or detriment of others wholly depends on the personality of the individual they are interacting with.

So I don’t know. I do think evil is a real force; I don’t know how much it can influence or persuade people. Or if it is born inside someone because of some reason, I’m not sure. But I do believe it is a real thing. I mean, when we see all these real crime shows and see what people do to other people, I can find no rational explanation. It’s some sort of evil thing got in that person.

JIM HAROLD: It certainly makes one think. Also, when it comes to things like true crime and criminals and serial killers and things, I never downplay the role of something like mental illness. That’s a very real thing that we need to address.


JIM HAROLD: But I’ve even talked to people who’ve been in the FBI, and I say, “Do you think it’s all mental illness, or do you think there is real evil?” They basically say, “I think there’s both.”

MARIO GONGORA: Oh wow, yeah.

JIM HAROLD: I want to be very clear: not saying somebody who has a mental illness is evil. But you know what I’m saying. There is mental illness, and then there’s just plain old evil. But very interesting indeed. We are talking about the podcast Yes, This Happened. Our guest today is Mario Góngora, and we are so glad to have him with us, and we’ll talk about it more on this edition of the Paranormal Podcast.

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If you love the Paranormal Podcast, be sure to check out Jim Harold’s Campfire, where ordinary people share their extraordinary stories of ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and terrifying encounters. Find it for free wherever you listen to this podcast. Tune in to Jim Harold’s Campfire today. Now, we return to the Paranormal Podcast.

JIM HAROLD: We are back on the Paranormal Podcast. Our guest is Mario Góngora, and the podcast is Yes, This Happened. We’re so glad to be with him and talk about spooky stories.

So, Mario, I have to ask you – you’re hearing all these stories; what are some of your favorites you’d like to share with us?

MARIO GONGORA: After the Chaneques, one of the most popular ones, I guess, has been the Ouija board.


MARIO GONGORA: This is also very interesting because when we started the podcast, like I said, we were talking with friends and we listened to their experiences, we shared ours. One of our best friends, a very dear friend, Anita, told us this story about the Ouija board. When we started the podcast, I think she was the first episode in Spanish back then. She told us this story years ago, and when you see someone, you see their body language, you see the way they are telling the story – you know when they’re telling the truth, or what they perceive as their own truth and what happened.

I like this one a lot because it was told by someone we know, that we love very much, a very dear friend, and because it was not told in the context of “Tell me something for the podcast.” It was told one day after a dinner and we were talking about this stuff, and she was very perturbed by the whole thing. I had to convince her a little bit, actually, to be part of the podcast. So that one is one that comes to mind when you ask “What are your favorite ones?” It has to be the Ouija board also.

JIM HAROLD: Now let me ask you your opinion about the Ouija board, because I have mixed feelings. Part of me thinks, yeah, a lot of times it’s probably somebody’s pushing the planchette, one person’s playing a joke on the other. Then you get into something like the ideomotor effect – the idea that you subconsciously move the planchette and don’t realize it. And then you get down to some stories, if the person is being truthful – and I believe the vast majority of our callers are being truthful as they understand something – you’ve got to think maybe there is a supernatural component.

So I will ask you, Mario – you yourself – would you be comfortable using a Ouija board after hearing some of these stories?

MARIO GONGORA: No, not anymore. Actually, my dad had a Ouija board when I was little, and it was in a closet in my sister’s room. This is my story. I’m telling my story because it kind of has to do with a Ouija board a little bit. It was just there in the closet, and when we moved to that house, every time I passed by my sister’s room, I would feel this presence, like an energy. It was negative, it was uncomfortable, so I never went in there. I would pass by, I would look, and I’m like, “Oh man, this is weird.”

Many years after that, I went to college. I stopped getting that feeling as I was growing up. I went to college and I met this girl from Chihuahua, where we lived, and she said, “Oh yeah, you lived at the Fieros’ house.” That was the last name of the people who owned the house before us. I said, “Yeah, the Fieros sold the house to us.” She said, “Oh, that’s where the dad killed himself.”


MARIO GONGORA: I’m sure it had something to do with it, but I don’t know if it was the Ouija board or maybe the guy had committed suicide there, or maybe a mix of both things. That experience and the experience with Anita, our friend, makes me kind of uncomfortable bringing stuff like that into our house. It’s like, eh, there’s no need.

JIM HAROLD: Yeah. We do have one in the house, but it belonged to my wife when she was a teenager, so I think we just keep it as a collectible. But when I see it, I’m kind of like, “Eh…” [laughs] Like, “Should we really keep you?” And I do think – I guess I would say it this way. I’ve interviewed people who are practitioners of using Ouija boards and say, “Hey, it’s just a tool. It’s a way to tap into the spirits and there’s no harm in it.” I would say a chainsaw in the hands of somebody who’s skilled is fine. You see these people – I’m sure you’ve seen them on television, maybe in person – who can carve these beautiful ice sculptures with a chainsaw, or beautiful wooden sculptures with a chainsaw. That’s fine. You give that chainsaw to me, I’m just as likely to cut my arm off.

The point being that I think of it like a spiritual chainsaw. In other words, if you know what you’re doing – on one level, some would say it’s just a toy, it’s just a game. But if you believe that there can be – and I’m not saying every time somebody uses a Ouija board, there’s a spiritual element to it, but I think it can be. I think it can be a conduit. So to me, it’s like a spiritual chainsaw; if you don’t know what you’re doing, maybe I could see it leading to some bad things.

MARIO GONGORA: Yeah, and if you listen to the episode, that’s what happened to them. It was a bunch of teenagers playing with it, trying to communicate with the afterworld or whatever, and Anita started to have physical manifestations of stuff in her room and in her house. So I think you’re absolutely right. I think you need to be a special kind of person to be able to handle it and not get in trouble, so to speak.

JIM HAROLD: Yeah. What are some other favorite topics and stories that have come up on the show?

MARIO GONGORA: We have the story about a guy – he’s a Chilean guy – in Puerto Rico when he was younger. They heard that in El Yunque – El Yunque is a forest in Puerto Rico up in a mountain, and they heard that you could see lights and UFOs and stuff. So one day they decide to go. It’s close to midnight, before they close. There’s no one around. They’re driving up the road that goes up to El Yunque, and suddenly this being, a grey, thin, tall being with a skin like – I think he described it kind of like a dolphin-like skin.


MARIO GONGORA: Steps in front of him. They step on the break. They stare at each other, with the being, for a couple of seconds, and then he nonchalantly just keeps walking. They turn around, they go like crazy, and he was almost traumatized. He actually came to the house and we interviewed him. Like I said, I like to see the body language and the way they express themselves, trying to discern if they’re telling the truth. This guy was remembering, and he was really – the nervousness of that moment came through with his body language and the way he was telling the story. So that one was freaky, and I think it’s one of the best ones also.

JIM HAROLD: That is so true. I’ve only met storytellers on a couple of occasions personally. Most of the time we’re just doing something like this. But in the vast majority of cases I’ve experienced, it seems like the storyteller is playing it straight with me. In other words, they’re being sincere.


JIM HAROLD: I never say that I can vouch for something 100%, but we had one story that was literally out of the Twilight Zone. I had a chance to drive about three hours from my home and visit with the person and do a video package on it. I thought she came across as extremely credible. She was retired from a very well-thought-of profession, very intelligent, and looked me in the eye and told me the same thing. Now, if somebody told me the story second-hand, I’d be like, “You’ve got to be kidding,” because it was about a whole time slip and going into a place and then walking out and it was totally abandoned, and then appearing in a mural on the wall, her and her friend. It was just a wild, wild, really Twilight Zone story. But I met her, and I’ll tell you, I believe her.

I tend to err on the side of belief, but I really believe that the vast majority of people who – and there’ve been a few over the years you could kind of tell they’re pulling the wool over your eyes, but the vast majority of people on Campfire I believe are telling the truth. And it sounds like you’ve had a similar experience, that you think most people are being sincere with you.

MARIO GONGORA: Oh, absolutely. The same thing happened to me a long time ago, in ’97. We were doing the 50th anniversary of Roswell. We were doing a story for Univision, for the national network. We went there, we interviewed this guy. He talked about general stuff. It was interesting, but nothing revealing in particular. But when we stopped recording and I was putting the equipment away, the guy came up to me and he said, “You know, my best friend saw the bodies, and he told me on his deathbed.” I’m like, “Oh man, why didn’t you tell us on camera?” [laughs]

JIM HAROLD: That’s the way it works, right? [laughs]

MARIO GONGORA: Exactly. So he had this reason, he had promised, I don’t know. But the way he said it and just because he didn’t need to validate himself anymore with me, or we weren’t paying him or anything, made me realize, wow, this is real. Something happened. You know, the cover-up and all that stuff. But it was really interesting. And it’s the same thing; you can see people in the eyes and you can usually discern if they’re telling the truth or not just by observing and being focused.

JIM HAROLD: I always did come from the perspective of a believer, but I think that’s even convinced me more, talking to so many people – so many common themes, talking about the same kinds of things. I’m assuming you hear a lot of shadow people stories too, right? Didn’t you mention that?

MARIO GONGORA: Yes, a lot of it.

JIM HAROLD: I didn’t even realize that was a thing until I started doing that show, these people seeing – how do they describe it to you?

MARIO GONGORA: They describe it as darker than the darkness of their room, darker than the night, basically, something like that.

JIM HAROLD: Yeah, they describe it to me – someone said it was like a hole cut out of the universe.

MARIO GONGORA: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, that’s a good way of describing it.

JIM HAROLD: A lot of times with a hat. Do you hear a lot of reports with the Hat Man. Have you heard that?

MARIO GONGORA: I haven’t heard about the hats, no.

JIM HAROLD: A lot of times they’ll be wearing a hat. Now, again, that gets into folklore. It’s become a thing with the Hat Man up here. Different places, different themes.


JIM HAROLD: You talked about your favorite. Is there one that you never heard of until you started doing this show, but now you’re like, “Whoa, that blows me away”? Or had you heard of all of these legends in one way or another?

MARIO GONGORA: No, I actually hadn’t heard about the Chaneques before the show.

JIM HAROLD: Oh, okay.

MARIO GONGORA: Yeah. Even though it is an old tale, I think it’s very much localized to Southern Mexico, and I’m from Northern Mexico. That’s why it’s weird I had never heard about Lechuza that you mentioned. But Los Chaneques, for example, I had never heard about. What I had heard about in Northern Mexico was these goblins or elves that run in front of trailers on the highway and make them have accidents. I was actually reading a newspaper report from last year that that happened.


MARIO GONGORA: I don’t know if the truck driver drank a little too much, or… [laughs]

JIM HAROLD: [laughs] Maybe he was seeing goblins for a different reason.

MARIO GONGORA: He’s blaming the goblins. But it’s interesting that stuff like that is being reported in Mexico in 2022. It’s super weird.

JIM HAROLD: Something we’ve gotten reports of are people thinking that they’ve run over somebody and there’s nobody there. We’ve had multiple reports of that, which kind of reminds me – one woman was convinced – it was late at night I think, and she thought she actually felt something. She saw a person right in front of her car, felt something, and then she stopped, thought she ran over somebody – looked, there was nobody there.

And then there was another one from England who told me that this happened to his uncle and a bunch of friends. Same thing happened; they thought they hit somebody – I think it was a little girl. They all got out and looked and they were freaked out and they called the police and they told them where they were at, and they said, “You’re at such-and-such a crossroad?” They said, “Yeah.” They said, “There’s nobody there? You didn’t see it?” “No.” “Oh, don’t worry about it. This happens all the time.” There was a little girl – I think there might’ve been a girl killed there under those circumstances that kept repeating. Again, it gets to that whole idea, reality is far, far different than we realize.

So what is your continuing hope with this podcast, and what’s your vision for the future?

MARIO GONGORA: Well, hopefully we can get the intervention of some special guests to give their opinion about the case, about the actual testimonials. Right now, it’s just basically the testimonials of the people that went through this experience. But we are hoping to start including people who know about this stuff – people like yourself, maybe, that might like to contribute and give their opinion about that specific case or what might be causing it or whatever. That’s in the not-so-distant future.

JIM HAROLD: Well, I really applaud what you’re doing. I think it’s awesome, and I’m so glad because I’ve been so thankful for the support from the Latino community for our shows. It’s always been very, very strong, and I’ve always made that comment to folks. We cannot beat the support we get from the Latino community, and it seems these topics really seem to resonate. We’re so thankful, and I’m glad that you’ve done this work that really taps into it from the Latin American perspective, both in English and in Spanish. I think it’s just awesome, and I wish you all the best with it and continued success.

Where can people find the podcast and tune in to it? Because it sounds just fantastic.

MARIO GONGORA: It’s available on most – I think all of the big platforms, like Spotify, Apple Music, anywhere you can find podcasts.

JIM HAROLD: Very good.

MARIO GONGORA: Jim, thank you so much. And you know what? You do a great job.

JIM HAROLD: Oh, thank you.

MARIO GONGORA: I’m really honored to be here. Your themes and your way of interviewing people is amazing. I just love it, and I just wanted to say that.

JIM HAROLD: Well, thank you, that’s very kind. Thank you, Mario. Everybody check out Yes, This Happened on your favorite podcast app. Whether you’re interested in the English version or the Spanish version, I highly applaud it. So good having Mario with us today. Mario, thank you again, and continued success.

MARIO GONGORA: Thanks, Jim. Be good.

JIM HAROLD: What a magnificent guest. I really enjoyed my time with Mario, and I’m sure that you did as well. Be sure to check his podcasts out because he’s a great host, a great guy, and I think what he’s doing is pretty neat.

We’ll talk to you next time. Thank you for listening. Please tell a friend about the Paranormal Podcast. Stay safe, and stay spooky! Bye-bye.

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