Two local podcasters have teamed up to tell a story 142 years in the making — and they’re not holding back.
Woody Overton and Jim Chapman, two Livingston Parish podcasters with dedicated audiences, have joined forces to create “Bloody Angola,” a no-holds-barred podcast series that puts the spotlight on “the bloodiest prison in America.”
Overton and Chapman said the series will give listeners “a full encompassing picture” of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the state’s oldest and only maximum security prison. They’ll do that through historical sources, first-hand accounts, and interviews, with the series going back before the prison’s opening in the early 20th century to the present day.
The first episode dropped July 21, and there are eight episodes planned for the first season. New episodes are released on Thursdays.
Chapman and Overton discussed “Bloody Angola” at length during a recent podcast with The News, promising to deliver “hard-core facts” and the “brutal history” behind Angola. They will delve into the prison’s origins as a slave plantation and how it gradually became America’s largest maximum security prison.
The podcasters warned that the material — which will detail stabbings, rapes, executions, escapes, and murders — will be graphic, “but not sensationalized.” Their hope is to give an accurate account of the prison’s history “as you’ve never heard it before.”
“This podcast will always be different,” Overton said. “You never know what you’re gonna get, but I can tell you something: It’s gonna rock your socks.”
“But the things we’re gonna be talking about on ‘Bloody Angola’ are facts,” Overton said later. “It’s history.”
The new series is the latest project for the award-winning podcasters who, individually, focus on vastly different topics.
Overton, a retired law enforcement officer, gives listeners an inside look at the work of detectives on his popular show “Real Life Real Crime.” The show has amassed millions of downloads and a legion of fans known as “lifers” who listen as Overton discusses cold cases and the inner workings of solving crimes.
Overton recently started a new series titled “Scorched Justice,” using his experience as a detective to give a fresh perspective on the infamous murders of Jessica Chambers and Meing-Chen Hsiao.
Chapman, a long-time sales rep and former store manager for Farrell-Calhoun, focuses on small business through his podcast “Local Leaders,” a show in which local private business leaders discuss their personal stories and services through a long-form, conversational, one-on-one interview.
Chapman is the founder of several companies, including Envision Podcast Production, Envision Podcast studio Rentals, and The Louisiana Podcast Association. He also serves as executive producer for Overton’s “Real Life Real Crime” and video editor and engineer of “Scorched Justice.”
This is the first series in which the two will serve as co-hosts, something they’ve wanted to do for some time.
“From a selfish perspective, I wanted to work with [Overton] because it was a dream of mine,” Chapman said. “But aside from all of that, the way we bounce off of each other and flow when we’re podcasting together is unique. It’s a hard thing to find. We barely hesitate. It’s a conversation every time we sit down.”
Overton described the on-air chemistry between he and his friend as “a natural flow.”
“For me, the best episodes are when I get done and I don’t remember what I said,” Overton said. “I’ve always had that connection with Jim, and I knew we wanted to do something together.”
Despite their different backgrounds and solo projects, the two were drawn to “Bloody Angola” through a shared fascination for history and prisons, the latter interest flamed by their proximity to perhaps the most famous — “or infamous” — corrections facility in the country.
Overton said his family has “a long history at Angola,” including a grandfather who became the first parole officer to live on the prison grounds. Other family members were raised on the “B-Line,” a community of employees who live and work on prison grounds.
Despite a lifetime in law enforcement, Overton said nothing has captured his interest the way Angola has, something he hopes to get across in the podcast.
“All my law enforcement and homicide work, none of it fascinates me as to what occurs inside the wire at Angola,” he said. “It is a totally different world and different set of rules. It’ll blow your mind.”
Chapman said he first became fascinated with prisons after he visited Angola with a church group as a child. He has returned to Angola many times since, keeping alive a passion for the country’s prison history.
“We’re in a unique position here in south Louisiana that we have the oldest prison in the United States right here,” Chapman said.
“And one of the most notorious,” he quickly added.
Chapman and Overton said the podcast will feature a mixture of storytelling and interviews, giving each host a chance to utilize their respective strengths.
“With ‘Bloody Angola,’ one of the things we’re doing that is unique from any podcast you’ll hear is we’re blending storytelling and interview styles together,” Chapman said. “Some episodes will be the majority of Woody telling a story. Then there will be some episodes where we’ll have someone sitting across from us. That’ll be more of the interview style for me.”
The first episode of the podcast — titled “The Walls” — details Angola’s early history and how the prison system in Louisiana began. In the second episode, “The Heel String Gang,” Chapman and Overton “break down everything from the whipping post to the sweat boxes and what inmates brutally did to themselves to shine light on the situation.”
Chapman and Overton said “Bloody Angola” will feature stories from those closely connected with the prison, including convicts, corrections officers, and families that have been there for generations. After announcing the podcast, the two had “a massive amount of people” reach out to them wanting to share their own experiences.
“What if we could give you an interview or several with the physician who tended to every death row inmate for over 30 years?” Overton teased during the interview with The News. “The stories he could tell you.”
It didn’t take long for “Bloody Angola” to find an audience: In less than 20 hours after its release, the show entered the top 20 on the Apple Podcast charts in the documentary genre, and it was the only “self-produced” podcast on the list.
Less than 48 hours after its release, the podcast had risen to No. 5, which at the time was one spot ahead of a podcast by journalist and media personality Katie Couric.
“Simply amazing!” Chapman and Overton said in a “thank you” post to fans on social media on July 23.
During their podcast with The News, Chapman and Overton said they were nearly finished with the first season of episodes. Though they haven’t committed to a second season, the two hope to continue the show.
Judging by the early success, it appears they’ve found others who share in their fascination.
“I have high expectations, not just hopes,” Overton said. “I firmly believe that people are interested and we’re going to carry it forever.”
“Bloody Angola” is available on all audio platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Episodes in an “interactive” format are also available on YouTube.
For more information, visit www.bloodyangolapodcast.com or go to the podcast’s social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.