A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

About MDT

About the Podcast:

Detail from BL Egerton 3277 f13v (14c)Medieval Death Trip is podcast that presents interesting passages from medieval primary sources, and by “interesting,” I usually mean things which capture extreme and curious experiences, such as murders and marvels, curses and creatures, prodigies and provocations. Each selection is framed with a bit of commentary, but one of my goals is to give the text itself time and space to convey its voice and tone. You can hear more about the overarching philosophy of the podcast in the Prologue Episode. I try to release episodes roughly every two weeks, but with occasion gaps.

Our Namesake:

The title of the show is tip of the hat to Michael Lesy’s 1973 book Wisconsin Death Trip, in which he presents excerpts of primary documents (newspaper stories, asylum records, obituaries, etc.) and photographs from Black River Falls, Wisconsin, during the 1890s. The sources all highlight moments of violence or tragedy, oddness or curiosity, in order to convey a kind of portrait of the undercurrent of anxieties and tensions in late Victorian Wisconsin. The sources are framed by commentary at the beginning and end of the book, but are otherwise presented in a kind of litany with only the invisible commentary of editorial selection and abridgment. The effect is captivating and haunting, and while this show is heavier on the commentary and explanatory notes, I’m nonetheless  inspired by the privileging of the primary sources themselves that Lesy does.

The book was also adapted into a documentary (IMDb) by James Marsh (winner of an Academy Award for Man on Wire). While the film can only cover the tip of the iceberg in terms of the content of the book, it captures it’s spirit quite well, and I highly recommend it if you can find a copy.

About Me:

I am a writer and teacher (and podcaster, I suppose!) in Canton, MO, where I teach English at Culver-Stockton College. My primary training is in creative writing (and fiction in particular), but I’ve focused my scholarly work on medieval English literature, with particular interest in the intersections of narrative theory and medieval rhetorical doctrine. I received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri  (Columbia), an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), and a B.A. (double-majoring in English and Greek & Roman Studies) from Rhodes College.

You can follow the podcast on Twitter @mdtpodcast, and you can follow me @patricklane.

Image: Detail from British Library MS Edgerton 3277, f. 13v.


  1. Heather Argyle

    Congratulations! This my favorite podcast discovery. It appeals to the academic nerd in me, always in search of that new bit of knowledge that resonates with my sense of the odd. The medieval era is such a challenge to learn about, and I am so thankful I didn’t live them – no indoor plumbing is a deal breaker.
    I am particularly interested in “medical” stories, if any come your way, and grab your attention.
    Compliments as well for writing and speaking well. Your use of language is a pleasure, and very entertaining.
    Thank you for all your hard work

  2. Stephie Yoon

    Saint William be praised!
    I discovered your fantastic podcast this Spring, and gleefully binge-listened for about a week, and when caught up, read “The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich” . My dear boy, all I can say is that you TRULY bring the past alive….unlike my own inside-my-head-reading-voice.
    I started to grow concerned with the lapse in summer episodes, and was sincerely delighted to hear that it was just your day job interfering with my history-fix.
    Keep up the unparalleled work, it is such a joy to listen to.
    Best wishes,

    • Patrick


      Thanks for the kind comment (and sorry for the late response)! I’m hoping to be better with hitting my release deadlines this fall — my day-to-day schedule will be more regular by the end of August, so I think we’ll be able to get back into a rhythm.

  3. Tom

    Will there be any more episodes? It’s been almost 3 months since episode 20. I understand that completing a Ph.D. is demanding, so if you are taking a break and will resume later, please just let your followers know.

  4. Michael

    Where you @ bud need my Death Trip… Watched the Cinema x movie the other night (Wisconsin Death Trip) I really enjoyed it. Thank you Patrick for the great content!

  5. Chris

    Hi Patrick,

    Your podcast has kept me company during late nights with my crying newborn daughter. Thank you!

    In your opinion, what English chronicles are the oddest? Or feature the oddest stories, etc.? I’m under the impression the Lanercost Chronicle would be in the running for this?

    Thanks again for a great show! Please…keep ’em comin!

  6. Dr Shirley Curtis-Summers

    Dear Patrick,

    I discovered your podcasts a few days ago and I’m already on episode seventeen! They are great fun to listen to and have the right mix of academic content and accessibility for the wider public.

    As a Bioarchaeologist I love to hear about medieval diseases and trauma, so more, more please 🙂

  7. Andrew Hill

    This is a fascinating, engaging, and well-presented podcast. Thank you so much, for sharing your knowledge and insights.

    Belleville, ON

  8. Renée

    Dear Patrick,
    Thank you for this podcast. It is both entertaining and educational and I look forward to listening to it every week (I am making my way through the back catalogue).
    Please keep them coming!
    Renée ☺

  9. Raf S.

    Hey Patrick,

    I would love to be able to get MDT on Sticher. All my podcasts are there except yours! 🙁

    • Anonatall

      To Patrick:
      Oh please, don’t do Stitcher. The podcasts I follow on Stitcher are often 2-3 days late or fail to appear at all. I am slowly extricating my podcasts from Stitcher, as more reliable sources become known to me. (Check out the reliability and tech-savvy of Tune In.)
      PS: I just love MDT!

      • Jacob Johnston

        I agree, but it’s hurting exposure to not be there. It needs to be on stitcher as it’s the biggest game in town.

  10. Josh Fielek

    I’ve been enjoying the podcast since its inception. Well done and well met.

    I would like to note that there is a current subculture well acquainted with the Isle of Man — motorcycle racers and race fans. Twice yearly the island roads are turned into a roughly 38 mile racetrack, with a timed trial type race run up and over the mountain and around the island. Its called the Isle of Man TT, where the TT stands for Tourist Trophy, and older term for a formal race held on public roads. It’s a phenomenal race to watch, and has been taking place since the first race was held in 1907.

    The races are a boon for the local economy and well attended. I’ve yet to experience them but if you google a bit you can find both race footage and social perspectives on the IoMTT.

    Again, thank you for the excellent and amusing podcast.

  11. Dorian Damon

    I was never into the subject, but your enthusiasm is contagious and the presentation is very enjoyable. I keep checking back for the next episode, it’s been so looooong.

  12. Tony Kelly

    I have only recently discovered your podcast and am happy I have. Your intent is worthy and the way you go about it deserves praise (not just re-imagining as some do but being honest to the sources as well as providing context). I was surprised to find (as I did not start at the beginning) that “Wisconsin Death Trip” played a role in your approach, because I am familiar with it in both book & film form, but thought no-one else was much impressed in the method in which it tells the story. I do appreciate what you offer us, it is a vast field but one which serves us well. My thanks to you. I really enjoy these tales.

  13. Patrick

    Hi Patrick,

    I hope this is not an inconvenience, but I’m writing with a question about an idea you expressed in an old episode and which I now can’t seem to locate. At one point you talked about (and forgive what I am butchering here) medieval definitions being teleological rather than ontological? That is to say, a thing was defined by what it was for rather than by its characteristics. I seem to recall a mill wheel being involved in the explanation, but I confess I have no more specifics to offer. Do you have any idea what episode I might be thinking of? And if so, could you point me to it? Thanks in advance!

    • Patrick

      I believe you’re thinking of the discussion of what an oxgang is from the first half of Ep. 70: “Concerning a Coastal Conflict and Two Visions of the Virgin.” I hope that helps!

  14. Jim Scheiner

    I just arrived quite late to the podcast, but on a medieval clock, I’d be pretty near on time. It’s really wonderful! That you let the texts speak for themselves is a simple and brilliant angle on the Middle Ages. The richness of thought and life that emerges from the words of these writers is a revelation! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Patrick

      Thanks so much!

  15. Ruth Merriam


    My son is working on Anglo Saxon / Medieval riddles for a school project. I know some of your podcasts start with these. Is there a way to print them?

  16. Kij johnson

    I am loving this podcast! You overlap entirely with the sorts of things I love, so it’s been a pleasure—and I am fairly recent to the show so there is so much of it. I hope the new job gives you time for this—I am also an associate professor who is leaving her job as soon as I get organized.

  17. Philipp Kaufmann

    Dear Patrick, I just listened to your three witches, and also thought of sleep paralysis for that last one, the nightly visitation. Funnily enough, in my one and so far only experience with sleep paralysis, I also distinctly heard my unwelcome visitors (soccer hooligans, don’t ask) making their way up the stairs before entering my room. I was “awake” and terrified and unsure what was happening long before they had actually made their appearance.

    I suppose one is used to the stairs being the normal access route, so whatever form one’s demons take, they tend to follow that routine.

    Anyways, I love your podcast (and support it on Patreon, if my cc still works). Keep it up. You’re giving lots of people a lot of joy and knowledge.

    Best regards from Zurich, Phil

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