Based on the podcast by master storyteller Aaron Mahnke, Lore has grown by leaps and bounds since its launch in 2015. A series that focuses on the dark roots of humanity’s collective folklore and and legends, monsters, mystery, and murder take center stage in a series that has become a favorite among horror fans and history buffs of all ages.
The Lore TV adaptation, released exclusively on Amazon Video, brought the addictive series to a new audience, introducing them to the darkest confines of the human condition. Much like the podcast, each episode focuses on a different unexplained event, and the people that were affected. However, not all episodes are created equal, and some are creeper than others. Here is a compilation of all twelve of Lore’s episodes, arranged from least to most creepy.
Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
12 Burke and Hare: In the Name of Science
Season two of Lore got off to a rough start. While to boost in production values allowed for bigger sets and more actors, the lack of Aaron Mahnke’s masterful narration seriously undercut the season’s potential. Sadly, the second season of Lore would also be plagued by disjointed storytelling, lazy writing, and a sloppy direction, and episode one is the perfect example.
The first episode of the season, "Burke and Hare", is everything that was wrong with season two in a nutshell. In addition to not being scary, the episode squanders its story about a pair of body snatchers in victorian England. It’s a foolproof idea that is quickly undermined by the actor playing Burke trying on a terrible Jack Sparrow impersonation, the lack of a proper narration, and the lazy use of generic visions in order to explain plot details. Unfortunately, this last aspect would become a crutch that much of the season’s episodes would rely on far too much.
11 Jack Parsons: The Devil and the Divine
While the last episode of season two may not have been that scary, it was the best of the bunch. Sure, that may not be saying much, given the season’s many issues, but while the story of Jack Parsons wasn’t necessarily scary, it was an interesting story nonetheless. The episode delves deep into the background of the accentric Parsons, one of the pioneers of early racketeering and devout occultist, who blended science and spirituality in ways that seem unfathomable. Yet, Parsons manages to bridge this gap, resulting in a story that’s equally weird and enjoyable.
While it may be a little unsettling to think that we owe much of our modern knowledge of space exploration to a known demon summoner, there isn’t anything particularly frightening in Parson’s story. Sure, the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley makes an appearance to impart some philosophical wisdom, but unless you have a particular aversion to the often reviled religious leader, then there isn’t much here to trigger the heevy jeevies.
10 Mary Webster: The Witch of Hadley
Puritan New England is a setting rich in supernatural lore. After all, it was here where the Salem Witch Trials took place, and where the Puritan ideals of ghosts and demons first formed the basis of our modern day horror stories. Naturally, it would make sense that Lore devote an episode to this fraught period of American history. But leave it up to season two to waste this brilliant setting on an underwhelming tale that could have been so much more.
The concept of a young puritan girl trying to help a woman accused of witchcraft is a great idea for an episode, especially when applied to modern concepts of activism and social justice. Unfortunately, the episode fumbles this concept, resulting in a story that’s constantly contradicting itself. At the beginning, a narration tells us that accused witch Mary Webster was sent from hell to torment God’s children. But at the end that same narration pleads in her defense. All of this culminates to make "The Witch of Hadley" feel more like afterthought, and it’s not scary in the least.
9 Prague Clock: The Curse of the Orloj
A cursed clock tower caused the Nazis to bomb Prague. Or at least that’s what forth episode of season two says, which follows two brothers who travel to 15th century Prague to fix a church clock tower whose hands haven’t moved in six decades. But in the years since the clock’s creator threw himself into its moving gears, the city has encountered countless calamities, leading the locals to believe that the clock is cursed unless someone can fix it.
It’s an interesting, if not somewhat strange tale that uses the bubonic plague as a motivating factor to get our protagonists to work. But the episode is straddled with choppy editing and multiple headache-inducing flash forward sequences, all of which leave the viewer feeling jarred and confused. This could have been the best episode in the season, but alas the editors just couldn’t leave this episode alone could they?
8 Elizabeth Bathory: Mirror, Mirror
Season two wasn’t a complete failure, though, as evidenced by the second episode that covered the atrocities committed by Countess Bathory. The Hungarian noblewoman, whose legend has become a favorite among Scandinavian black metal bands, was said to bathe in the blood of virgin girls in order to preserve her beauty. "Mirror, Mirror" tells the story of Bathory’s last victim, the young heiress of a nearby estate, who comes to the Countess’ home on the promise of becoming part of her court. But anyone who knows anything about the ‘Countess of blood’ would know what’s in store for this unfortunate star.
Bathory’s episode plays like a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with the story fixed on the plight of both the imprisoned girl and a merciful servant who wants to help her escape. The tension ramps as the two attempt to flee Bathory’s castle, but true evil can outrun even the bravest of souls, leading one of the most hard-hitting conclusions of the entire series.
7 Hinterkaifeck: Ghosts in the Attic
Easily Germany’s most notorious unsolved crimes was the grizzly murder of the Gruber family in early 1922. Sometime on the night of March 31st, an unknown assailant murdered three generations of Grubers on their farmstead, after apparently living in their attic for several weeks beforehand. No one was spared, not even infant Josef, and all were bludgeoned to death with a mattock (which is like a pickaxe used to till a field). In the weeks that preceded their deaths, the family’s youngest daughter began complaining about a ghost in her bedroom, unaware that what she saw was much, much worse.
The episode’s tension is through the roof even before anyone dies. The bleakness a bavarian snow storm, combined with the violent friction between patriarch Andreas and his adult daughter, who he was known to have assaulted at one point, makes the crime all the more impactful when it finally happens. We’re then showed a who's who of potential suspects, but alas, just like the detectives in the actual case, we’re left with more questions than answers. It’s one of the most frustrating episodes so far, and one of the most grim.
6 They made a tonic
Season one hit the ground running with a victorian ghost story that helped inspired countless works of the undead. When the members of a New England family begins to suffer the debilitating effects of consumption (now called tuberculosis), they resort to drastic matters to find out who, or what, is responsible. As the story goes, the family becomes convinced that their recently deceased daughter is still alive, and draining the life from the living. What they end up doing to stop her is.. disturbing.
Based off of the first episode of the Lore podcast, "They Made a Tonic" has everything fans have come to expect from Mahnke and co. A creepy setting, disturbing animations, and Chad Lawson’s haunting score set the stage for a show like no other, and it could only go up from there.
5 Passing Notes
Another story from New England, "Passing Notes" is a classic American ghost story in every sense of the word. Taking place during the spiritualist movement of the late 19th century, the episode deals with a distraught Connecticut minister, whose home becomes a stomping ground for the dead. Still ailing from the death of his wife, the minister conducts seances to try to answer the question of if spirits can come back from the other side, with bad results.
A chilling episode filled with flying furniture, unexplained knocking, and threatening notes coming out of nowhere, "Passing Notes" may not stand out as much as others in the first season. Yet, it is still a riveting tale, the likes of which have been told at campfires and sleepovers for generations.
4 The Beast Within
A werewolf is stalking the residences of a 16th century German village. Women and children are told to stay inside, while the men arm themselves with flintlocks and knives and go out for the kill. But as is often the case with such legends, not all is as it seems, and the real monster is closer to home than anyone could have imagined.
"The Beast Within" starts strong with one of the best animated sequences in the entire series. Drawn entirely in black and white, the prelude recounts the venerable St. Patrick’s encounter with a pagan cult of wolf worshipers, and their nightmarish transformation from man to beast. The episode not only details the history of the werewolf legend, but also discusses real cases of wolf hysteria throughout the ages, and the fear that was left imprinted on our collective imagination.
Dolls are creepy enough, but a cursed doll that can move on its own and bring trouble to anyone it desires is the stuff of nightmares. "Unboxed" chronicles the most infamous case of a haunted doll to date, the story of Robert, a doll allegedly brought to life by voodoo magic that is still making people’s lives miserable today. With his dark, beady eyes and stoic, expressionless face, Robert gives those around him a sense of dread, and many who have seen him have said that Robert just looks plain evil.
Whether or not Robert is actually cursed revolves on what you choose to believe. However, no one can deny that Robert deserves a place among other haunted dolls, like Annabelle from the Conjuring movie franchise. Surely Robert deserves a movie of his own. After all, once you learn of all the wicked things he has been accused of doing, you’ll agree that Robert makes Chucky look like a cabbage patch kid in comparison.
As a medical procedure, the lobotomy is seen today as a barbaric relic of the past. But a little over fifty years ago, the act of hammering an icepick into a person’s frontal lobe was seen as a common cure for many mental health issues. And Dr. Walter Freeman was the man who championed it the most, lending him the title of ‘Dr. Lobotomy’.
Dr. Freeman performed hundreds of lobotomies between the 1930’s and 1960’s, leaving a trail of pain and misery in his path. Despite claiming in the episode that his patients are cured, a card from one of his former ‘success stories’, written in barely legible print, reveals the twisted truth of Freeman’s favorite procedure. But it’s one of the final scenes in the episode, where Dr. Freeman prepares to perform a lobotomy on a little boy that coats Echoes in an extra layer of horror that stays with the viewer long after its conclusion.
1 Black Stockings
Imagine someone you knew was replaced by an exact lookalike. They look and talk like the person they are trying to emulate, but something seems… off about them, and only you can see it. Now imagine that the tables have turned, and someone you know thinks that you have been replaced with a lookalike. Despite everything you do to try to convince them, they refuse to believe, and worse, they think that your death will bring back the ‘real’ you.
This is the premise behind "Black Stockings", the story of an Irish man who believed that his wife had been captured by fairies and replaced by a doppelganger. Throughout this anxiety-inducing episode, we watch his wife face physical and psychological abuse as he attempts bring her back from the fairy world. It’s a truly disturbing episode that’ll make you want to plead for her life, and leave you helpless as her torment goes from bad to worse.