Big Issue Vendor

REVIEW: The Unexplainers – like Mulder and Scully played by Laurel and Hardy

Intrepid double act Mike Bubbins and John Rutledge attempt to debunk mystical conspiracies – and it makes for spooktacular radio, says Robin Ince

My generation were obsessed with extra-sensory perception, the Loch Ness Monster and spontaneous human combustion. For the middle-aged, the film of a possible Bigfoot who looked quite like a man in a gorilla costume was our Blair Witch Project.

The improbable tales were so potent that David Icke seems to have created a second career out of it with shows that continue to regurgitate ideas from eccentric paperbacks such as Our Spaceship Moon. Will we ever get to the bottom of all these mysteries?

Some would say that a mixture of the collation of actual evidence mixed with understanding of the pattern-seeking nature of the human brain means we pretty much have, but that still leaves plenty of room for the intrepid. Intrepid people such as The Unexplainers on BBC Radio Wales, two men with a mission to unexplain.

Mike Bubbins is the harrumphing sceptic snarling at the end of his tether and John Rutledge is the eager believer

Now in its fifth series, it’s hosted by comedian Mike Bubbins and John Rutledge, formerly Eggsy of Goldie Lookin Chain. The dynamic is unbeatably simple, Bubbins is the harrumphing sceptic snarling at the end of his tether and Rutledge is the eager believer desperate to find mysticism when a very simple explanation will satisfy.

It is Mulder and Scully played by Laurel and Hardy and it leads to rich interplay including an energetic cycle of “Can I stop you there?” “No, can I stop you there” that is like a classic music-hall routine.

Series Five commences with ‘Can Ghosts Make Things Move’, and starts with a theory of gravity that has not troubled Professor Brian Cox as yet. Gravity is poltergeists holding everything in place. When things suddenly move across a room, it is not due to activity from a poltergeist but inactivity – they’ve taken their spooky minds off the job in hand. Rutledge takes the resistant Bubbins to Mountain Ash, famously known for being not one of the most haunted golf clubs in Britain.

A plaque once fell from a wall, a plaque that weighed as much as a reasonable average-sized dog. Sure, this coincided with an earthquake being observed nearby, but could it really be as simple as measured tremors interfering with a structure or, as Rutledge suggests, could the earthquake have been a precursor to the unleashing of some sentient beings that then came to the golf club and knocked the plaque from the wall? The jury is still out. Well it’s not, but Rutledge is.

What makes the series more than just fun is that it does also contain some real science

What makes the series more than just fun, and it is delightfully entertaining, is that it does also contain some real science. They visit physicist Wendy Sadler, who offers a scientific possibility of the experience of poltergeists. She tells the story of a scientist spooked in the lab who was not satisfied with an explanation of the angry experimenting dead returning to the scene.

Different parts of your body have a resonant frequency, a frequency that will cause them to vibrate. The scientist believed that something may be interfering with his eyeballs, causing them to vibrate and thus send duff signals to the brain. They found a faulty air-conditioning unit nearby that did just that. Sure, that seems to explain everything with evidence and ability to replicate those conditions, but maybe that’s just what the ghosts want you to think.

The Unexplainers is on BBC Radio Wales and the BBC Sounds app