If your brain is still fuzzed out on the 80s homage power hour that is Stranger Things 2, then you are possibly craving more content pertaining to video arcades, government conspiracies and supernatural hijinks – and you’re right to do so. Luckily, a podcast launched last October which hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention, but hits those buttons (pun intended) perfectly.

The Polybius Conspiracy, the new podcast from Radiotopia, has released four of seven episodes, and I’m pretty hooked. It’s an absolutely excellent deep dive into one of my absolute favourite conspiracy theories / urban legends of all time. Basically, as legend has it, mysterious black arcade machines started appearing in video arcades across Portland, Oregon back in the early 80s.

The game loaded onto those machines was allegedly named Polybius, and was reported to cause headaches, hallucinations and vivid nightmares among the kids who played it. So-called eyewitnesses reported seeing men in black inspecting the machines and collecting data from them. The suggestion is that Polybius was part of a vast government mind control experiment, in the mode of the very real Project MKUltra, which was run by the CIA from the 50s through to the 70s.

It’s one of those too-good-to-be-true conspiracy theories which – while allegedly spread among pimply teenage gamers on the West Coast back in the 80s – only really picked up steam in the noughties when it started spreading on arcade gaming forums.

Is it all a massive hoax? Probably. But the story is unwinding in really interesting ways, and is involving people that I’d not heard of in relation to this specific conspiracy – including Bobby Feldstein, who runs Polybius walking tours in Portland, and claims that the mythical game is linked to his own abduction as a teenager.

Predictably, there are so many odd characters in the orbit of this conspiracy, and The Polybius Conspiracy does an admirable job of teasing out their insane hypotheses via a slickly produced podcast. It’s not just a story about the conspiracy itself, but also an effective study on how conspiracy theories form and are propagated.

You can find The Polybius Conspiracy on any respectable podcast network, or on the Radiotopia website.

Image: Stranger Things