Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

Saturdays at 10 AM

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KNKX's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme.

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Tom Paulson

  Ollie was a gray and white tomcat, a bit of a tough guy, but with a soft side. He’d often curl up on Tom Paulson’s chest at night. Tom is more of a dog person, but he and Ollie bonded -- maybe because Ollie was “not weird and scary like a lot of cats. [He] had more of a dog personality.”


But pets are mortal, and one day Tom got a call at work from his wife with the news: Ollie was dead. Please come home and deal with him. So Tom headed home, and collected the cat.


Raccoons at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

If you visit Tacoma's Point Defiance Park most any afternoon, you'll see raccoons lounging about the trails by day, often next to signs warning visitors to not feed them. 

If you drive slowly enough through the park's roads, they might rush out of the misty old-growth forest to greet you, tiny paws outstretched for food. If you're on a bike, they might scurry after you for a stretch.

Eric Molina/Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories of the opioid crisis in the Northwest – the people who are affected, and those who are confronting it. We start by learning some of the brain science behind addiction, and why it can be so hard to kick the habit. We meet a woman who battled heroin addiction, got clean for 17 years, and then relapsed again. We head to Everett where librarians are learning to become first responders.

Todd Huffman / Flickr/Creative Commons

What may be most remarkable about Turina James' story is not that she got hooked on heroin as a teenager, but the fact that she managed to get off of it. She did so with little support from family, and after a traumatic childhood that included sexual violence, homelessness and unplanned pregnancy. 

James grew up in Yakima, where she says she was kicked out of her house and on the streets by age 12. By 15 she was pregnant, and soon moved in with an older man who was not her child's father. He had children of his own, and, she would soon learn, a drug habit.

University of Washington

To understand why opioids exert such a powerful pull on human beings, you want to look first to our brains’ natural “happy juice”: endorphins.


So says Charles Chavkin, a professor in the University of Washington’s Pharmacology Department.


Chavkin explains that there is a whole series of neural receptors designed specifically to detect endorphins.


Jennifer Wing

Over a three month period last year, one emergency room in Everett, Washington treated 253 people who had overdosed. And in 2016, which is the most recent data available from the state, Snohomish County had one of the highest opioid death rates in Washington.

Everett is trying new ways to manage this problem and to prevent it from getting worse. One institution that could see this storm brewing years ago, was the library.

Credit Susie Howell

The City of Everett is trying to get creative with people suffering from addiction. For those who have decided that they really need help, and are serious about getting it, the City of Everett wants to give it to them, in the form of a scholarship.

On the 10th floor of the Wall Street Building in Everett, in a very quiet conference room with a beautiful view of the Puget Sound, I meet Kaitlyn Dowd. She’s a social worker embedded with the Everett Police Department, and this isn’t where she normally finds herself on a typical day of work.

Gabriel Spitzer

You could make a pretty good case that the epicenter of the opioid crisis in all of North America is British Columbia.


Just five years ago overdose deaths there had been holding steady at under 300 a year -- about the same as car crashes. Then it spiked -- last year 1,422 people in British Columbia died of a drug overdose.


By Sir Gerald Festus Kelly/Public Domain

This show originally aired on September 2, 2017.

This week on Sound Effect, we hear stories of royalty in all different forms.

The Princess Bride

You may have seen the pictures online, or on the Today Show or wherever. The headline is usually something like, “Little Girl Mistakes Bride for Princess from her Favorite Storybook.” And we joined the bride, the mother and the daughter for a little reunion, in front of the Hotel Ballard.

Scott Robertson


This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

Weddings are one of the few events in our lives that are planned with precision and detail. They can be logistical challenges involving food, entertaining guests, making time to take photographs and figuring out which music to play that will coax people onto the dance floor.


On the day Shandance Robertson got married in February, something completely unexpected happened that was not part of the plan.


The Music Of Prince Brings Two People Together In An Unlikely Way

Feb 3, 2018
Courtesy Leah Tousignant

This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

Robbie Luna is a man of many hats, a Seattle area carpenter by day, and by night he fronts two bands, one of which is a Prince cover band called "Purple Mane." With Prince's 2016 death the band suddenly found 

Courtesy Daniel Brown

This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

For many in the Seattle area, Royal Brougham might be little more than a regal sounding street near Safeco Field. But Royal Brougham was actually one of the longest tenured reporters in U.S. newspaper history, working 68 years, primarily as a sports columnist and editor, for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

In the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, tucked among the bungalows sits an ornate yellow and red building. On one side flies the American flag, and on the other flies what’s called the Dharma Flag.

Courtesy Julius Brown


This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

There is an unassuming, boxy building on the corner of Martin Luther King Junior Way and South 17th Street in Tacoma. This is the home Prince Hall Masonic Temple of the Freemasons. The organization is a worldwide fraternity that’s been around for hundreds of years. It’s known for its secret symbols and rituals.


Into The Woods: Sound Effect, Episode 108

Jan 27, 2018

This show originally aired on June 3, 2017.

This week on Sound Effect, we tell stories from amongst the trees.

Theater In The Woods

The Kitsap Forest Theater is one of the oldest outdoor theaters in the country. Tucked in the woods outside of Bremerton, performances have been held here every single year for 93 years, except for a couple of years during World War II.

Credit Jennifer Wing

This story originally aired on June 3, 2017.

Kitsap Forest Theater is a natural outdoor amphitheater just outside of Bremerton, Wash. It's been run by the Mountaineers for 93 years, and sits on a 640-acre forest preserve.

100 years ago it was all rhododendrons. That was the initial attraction to the area. Some of the people who are Mountaineers began to come and stay every year and they began to do shows, performances and concerts, and eventually that developed into an annual theatrical production.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


This story originally aired on June 3, 2017.

In countries like China and South Korea, internet and video game addiction is seen as a major public health threat, capable of ruining lives.

But here in the United States, just two or three centers in the whole country are devoted to treating the issue, which American psychology doesn’t officially recognize as an addiction.

A Youthful Approach To Hyper-Local Journalism

Jan 27, 2018
Phoebe Flanigan

This story originally aired on June 3, 2017.

At the edges of the things we know, there are “the woods.” And so often, we find ourselves there, feeling our way, sometimes blindly, through undefined landscapes.

There’s something jarring, yet liberating, about the moment when you realize that so many of the people around you are doing the same. Parents, politicians, career “experts” — all, on some level, blazing an uncertain path through uncharted territory.

"IMG_5494" by Cindi Darling is licensed under CC 2.0


This story originally aired on June 3, 2017.

David Schumer felt like the country was falling apart. Nixon had resigned, Carter was hapless and disco was everywhere he turned.


“We thought the only sane thing to do would be to move to a rural area, buy 30 acres of land, build a house and grow our own food,” he remembers.


He moved from the Detroit suburbs to rural Arkansas, deep in the Ozark Mountains, to the community of Chimes.


George Wing


This story originally aired on June 3, 2017.

In 2003, a group of four friends from various points of the country hit the trail for a bachelor party backpacking trip in the North Cascades. George Wing was the man who was getting married.

They brought all of the usual necessities for such an outing: tents, food, a first-aid kit. But George’s longtime childhood friend and master prankster, Kermit, decided to shake things up.


Phillip Male/Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories of fish out of water -- people who find themselves in places they're not sure they belong in. We start by talking to writer Rosette Royale, who after beginning an unlikely friendship, decided to plunge right into a place that always terrified him.

How a Homeless Man Helped this Writer Overcome His Fear of the Woods

Jan 20, 2018
Bryant Carlin

Olympic National Park, with its temperate rainforests and stunning views, exerts a natural pull on many Pacific Northwesterners. But it repelled Seattle writer Rosette Royale. To Royale, the park seemed like a damp, mucky, inhospitable place. "I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to haul a 50-pound pack into the wilderness and camp there for days," he said. "It didn't make sense."

Then he met Bryant Carlin.

Courtesy of Christina Hayes


Thanksgiving dinner at the house where Christina Hayes grew up, in the Tri Cities in Eastern Washington, has all the normal things.

Her parents, who met in bible college, are there, along with extended family. There’s turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie: By all appearances they are a completely typical American family holiday.

“We’re playing, we’re laughing, we’re joking, we’re prepping food. We are like the Hallmark family,” Hayes said.

Photograph of an illustration from Harper's Weekly, January 6, 1866, p. 8-9. Photographer: Warner, Arthur Churchill, 1864-1943, Negative #70x

“Here Come The Brides” was a short-lived television show from the late 1960s. In the show, 1860s Seattle is faced with losing its lumberjacks to other cities because Seattle doesn’t have enough women, until they import a bunch of marriageable ladies from the East Coast, and hilarity ensues.

Kind of an outlandish premise, right? Except that it really happened. Asa Mercer was president of the University of Washington (at the time they had exactly one student), and he took it on himself find wives for the loggers in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Feeling out of place takes on whole new dimension when you’re in a foreign country. Perhaps no one understands this more than new immigrants and refugees. And there’s a woman who meets lots of them here in the Seattle area.

Sophorn Sim is an outreach worker for the environmental non-profit, ECOSS, connecting other refugees and new immigrants with resources and ways to live healthier lives.

Courtesy of Nick Morrison

Back in the 1970s, before Nick Morrison was a KNKX staffer, some friends asked him if he would help them smuggle a few bricks of marijuana across the border from Mexico. He said, sure.

What came next? In the beginning, normal drug smuggling stuff. A rambler with secret compartments, a jungle, a mango orchard, an operation that seemed to be going great. But in the end? A single terrifying moment that made Morrison regret his decision - and change his ways.

United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Sandoval

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories of imperfect crimes. We start by talking to 88.5’s Nick Morrison, who was once hired to smuggle pot. We then meet a man who was a lifelong prankster, until one prank recalibrated his moral compass.

Derek Erdman

Age 14 is often a time of pushing boundaries, experimenting with the the distinctions between right and wrong. 

Derek Erdman tells his personal story from when he was this awkward age. It involves youthful mischief, an answering machine and the Survivor song, Eye Of The Tiger. 

Derek played a prank that went a little bit too far.  But in the end, this one event helped reshape his moral compass and put him on a better path.

Courtesy of the FBI

On August 7th, 2006, at 5:13 pm, a group of four men wearing ski masks, body armor, sweatshirts, and carrying assault rifles and pistols burst into a Bank of America branch in Tacoma, Washington. Waiting outside the bank, in the getaway car, was Alex Blum, a "good kid" who had just achieved his lifelong dream of becoming an Army Ranger.

Why did Alex throw away his dream? And how did he end up a bank robber? Alex Blum's cousin, Ben Blum, tackles those questions in his recent book "Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family, and an Inexplicable Crime."

Courtesy of Kathlyn Horan

When Seattle Police Officer Kim Bogucki stepped into the Washington Correctional Facility For Women in Purdy about 10 years ago, she had no intention of starting a non-profit.

Bogucki was doing gang prevention work and went to the prison to ask some of the women for permission to work with their children. The women were distrustful of police and gave Bogucki a chilly reception.

“Probably the last time that those mothers saw police, we were taking them away from their children,” said Bogucki.