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Wyoming-based podcast investigates the strange and the unexplainable in small towns

Dean Petersen

As a kid, Cheyenne-based podcast host Dean Petersen loved books like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Unsolved Mysteries. As an adult, Petersen has turned that love for the spooky and the macabre into a podcast called “That Doesn’t Happen Every Day.”

Just in time for Halloween season, the show explores unusual happenings and paranormal places across Wyoming and throughout the Intermountain West. Over the last year and a half, Petersen has brought supernatural stories about what goes bump in the night to life through in-depth interviews and research.

As much as possible, the podcast host gets the details directly from people who’ve had some sort of out-of-the-ordinary experience. The episodes span a wide range of eclectic topics such as accounts of UFO sightings, Sasquatch encounters, and libraries built on top of cemeteries.

Petersen said thanks to the nature of small towns in Wyoming, stories often come to him just by word of mouth.

“If people are comfortable with you, when you start talking with them, they'll tell you some of the interesting things that have happened in the towns, interesting legends,” he said.

In addition to tracking down stories through personal connections, Petersen also joins Facebook groups of different local communities and puts out cold-calls for leads that might fit the bill for the show.

The host said the positive support the podcast has received, especially when it comes to stories about Wyoming, is a testament to a state-wide passion for place-based storytelling.

“The interconnectivity of people here helps a lot too,” he said. “If someone’s only heard something, they'll often point you to their cousin or that guy's cousin until you get a hold of someone who really has had an experience or is the local authority on it.”

Episodes in the show include “All the Things You’ve Ever Wanted to Ask a Mortician” and “The Body in the Art Gallery Downtown.” One episode titled “When your town becomes a ghost town and you refuse to leave" tells the story of a man named Jim Moretti in Southwest Wyoming, who stayed in his tiny hometown of Carter at an old hotel through the mid 1980s as it was slowly abandoned.

While most of the stories on the podcast have connected Petersen to total strangers and unfamiliar places, one episode turns the spotlight on the experiences of someone much closer to home – his own father. In “Vietnam in our Family Album," Petersen’s father explains what it was like to be a platoon leader in the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam, after Petersen himself served in the army for three years.

“I came home and looked through those pictures again and I'm like, “Oh, his guy that had changed my diapers had these experiences and then never really talked about them,’” said Petersen. “It was cool to get to see a new side of my own dad in an interview about what had happened, what he had experienced, and how it had affected him.”

For Petersen, leaning into the strange and unexplainable can also be a cathartic outlet to help deal with the more mundane stresses of day-to-day life.

“As an adult, what you worry about is if the thing that's going bump in the night isn't a ghost but your furnace. You worry about the more concrete realities and the more frustrating fears of ‘I'm gonna have this huge bill that I have to pay. I have to figure out how to get money to have heat in the house again,’” he said.

Petersen said that some psychologists argue that experiencing fear from more fantastical, spooky stories is a way to explore or handle fears that might be more deeply rooted or existentially troubling.

“I do like the idea that no matter how much we know or think we know about science and all the information we have, which I’m thankful for, it's fun to believe that there are things we still don't completely understand,” he said.

Petersen is currently investigating a story about Spanish conquistadors mining for gold in the Uinta Mountains and is also working on an episode about a family with nine kids who lived in an old Mormon church-turned-funeral parlor in Utah.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.
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