Next Up on ‘Showcase’ … ‘The Polybius Conspiracy’

Welcome to the second series in Radiotopia’s Showcase: The Polybius Conspiracy.

In The Polybius Conspiracy, dropping today in Showcase from Radiotopia, producers Jon Frechette and Todd Luoto explore the decades-old urban legend of Polybius, a mysterious arcade game that is purported to have briefly appeared in Oregon arcades for a few weeks in 1981 before abruptly disappearing.

Since the late 1990s, Polybius’ legend has evolved in the wake of online stories alleging everything from government conspiracies to internet hoaxes. But one man claims the game factored into the 1981 abduction of two teenage boys … and that he was one of them.

“The Polybius Conspiracy dives into the arcade culture of a bygone era while commenting on themes that have become very contemporary as of late: the shifting nature of reality, alternative facts, confirmation bias, causation versus correlation and the enduring power of narrative,” Luoto said.

Though Frechette and Luoto originally set out to create a documentary about Polybius, they soon realized that, instead, they’d found the perfect subject for a podcast. While the interviews are real, the narrative blends fact and fiction and challenges the way facts, memory and nostalgia shape urban legends

“Both Jon and I had fallen in love with the medium of podcasts, and decided to take some of the audio we had captured and repurpose it as a trial of sorts,” Luoto said. “We quickly realized that less is more — that hearing something without accompanying visuals encouraged listeners to engage their imaginations.”

And The Polybius Conspiracy does exactly that: It creeps you out, pulls you in and makes you question what you think you know. Listen to the first episode, “The Player,” and hear for yourself.

Luoto and Frechette say they’ve always been fascinated by conspiracy theories, but Luoto describes them both as “total skeptics” — and you’re likely to hear that as they ask tough questions, critically examining the mythos surrounding the game.

“We enjoy a good mystery, especially when it pertains to urban mythology,” Luoto said. “We’re especially fascinated with how these stories evolve and grow over time, and why people believe in what they do. Hopefully, you’ll find that our project makes all of that a focal point.”

The Polybius Conspiracy has the spooky vibes, nostalgic feel and compelling story of a show like Stranger Things, with the added bonus of an urban legend.

It’ll get you in the mood for Halloween while giving you a primer on Portland, Oregon, and all things Polybius.

Subscribe to Showcase from Radiotopia on Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic or wherever you get your podcasts to hear episodes of The Polybius Conspiracy as they drop. Follow the show on Twitter or under the hashtag #RTShowcase.