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Best Horror Podcasts

The best kind of horror podcast is one that you can almost believe is true.

By Alysha DePernaPublished 8 years ago 5 min read
Top Story - September 2016

Although radio dramas once populated the airwaves, fiction has never dominated the podcast charts. This all changed with the creation of horror, suspense, and sci-fi podcasts. Their popularity isn’t much of a surprise, but more so that it took this long to catch on. With horror themed movies and TV shows keeping us up at night, it was about time for the dark airwaves to make their mark.

The element of suspense is particularly well suited to audio formats and as a result, an overwhelming amount of horror podcasts have recently been created. With the influx of current options, there’s no longer any uncertainty over whether or not horror storytelling works in this medium. Fiction podcasts are here to stay – but the suspense is just beginning.

The Black Tapes, sold as a Serial-esque series hosted by podcaster Alex Regan, feels like what a perky NPR journalist investigating the Blair Witch Project would sound like. The premise surrounds Regan’s research into paranormal investigator Richard Strand, a character partly inspired by real-life skeptic James Randi. As things get darker, Regan discovers Strand’s file of unsolved cases, the so-called Black Tapes. Regan begins to investigate these cases herself, interviewing witnesses and academic experts. These interactions feel so realistic at times that it’s easy to forget the podcast is a work of fiction. With easy comparison to Orson Welles’ The War of the Words, the best kind of horror story is one that you can almost believe is true.

If you’re looking for a podcast to fill theThe Walking Dead voidthan look no further. Originally conceived as a survival-horror TV series set in LA amidst a zombie apocalypse, creator KC Wayland realized he could greatly expand the scope of the story without limitations if he focused on audio drama instead. Between talented voice actors (including American Horror Story’s Jim Gleason), elaborate sound design, and tight pacing, each one-hour episode creates a fully immersive and intense experience. While the complete serial has ended after four seasons, all episodes are still available to stream or download.

If you’re looking for more straightforward horror, than look no further than Pseudopod. Created by Shawn M. Garret and Alex Hofelich, the show runs the full gamut of short-form horror stories. An assembly of elite voice artists narrate and enact audio versions of short stories from both published authors and user-submitted tales from all over the world. While somewhat more subtle in their story telling techniques, as opposed to other serial podcasts, the stories are told with such a haunting presentation that they make just as much of an impact if not more so.

Imagine for a moment if Twin Peaks and The X-Files has a baby and then sent it to broadcasting school. As weird and funny as that may sound, Night Vale is even better. Created by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor and narrated with enigmatic style by Cecil Baldwin as “Cecil Gershwin Palmer,” Night Vale takes the form of an NPR-style newscast, wherein paranormal occurrences are frequent and almost normal.

Night Vale’s combination of comedy, horror, and remarkable sweetness has made it a worldwide phenomenon. Since its inception in 2012, its popularity has soared and has recently been adapted into a novel.

David Cummings’ epic anthology is now five-years-old and showing no signs of slowing down. Originally formed under Reddit’s NoSleep community —birthplace of the most nightmarish tales and legends on the web— NoSleep is one of the most bone-chilling podcasts out there. Along with current host and show runner Cummings, a dedicated team of NoSleep members, voice actors, and composers, NoSleep has made its home as one of the scariest entries in the world of Internet horror lore. Loaded down with terrifying weight and uncanny realism, this podcast even alerts its to-be listeners that their content gets pretty heavy. You’ve been warned.

Unique in its own right by being one of the few podcasts that cover the horror genre from a distinctly LGBT-friendly perspective, ScreamQueenz holds its own by being hilariously snarky and clever. Creator Patrick Walsh’s knowledge of horror alone is vast enough to warrant a listen, but that’s not what makes this show unique: Walsh’s larger-than-life personality and wit make this one of the most entertaining movie podcasts of any genre. Bonus: he also frequently flips the spotlight onto LGBT horror filmmakers, providing even more insight into the process.

This quirky, darkly comedic, Southwestern-flavored anthology brings you a new paranormal kind of podcast. The story is presented as a series of full cast audio all set in the same weird part of the US. Think American Gothic, but with more jokes. With top-notch production values and a combination of old school horror and new approaches to the genre—you can jump in virtually anywhere and easily get hooked.

Years after the disappearance of an entire privately owned town, journalist Lia Haddock begins investigating what really happened. Another podcast easily compared to Serial and The X-Files, the series was created by Two-Up Productions and debuted in July of last year, quickly becoming the number one US podcast at the time. With twists in every episode and a horrid central premise, Limetown is one of the best audio drama podcasts you’ll ever hear. Two-Up Production has even recently signed a book deal with Simon and Schuster to produce a prequel of Limetown in novel form.

Framed as a “sidesequel” to The Black Tapes podcast, Alex Regan’s production partner Nic Silver brings a whole new conspiracy theory to light. Much like its predecessor, the show is peppered with just enough truth, actual history, and real people to keep the mystery alive. The show is littered with references to people such as English occultist Aleister Crowley, rocket engineer Jack Parsons, and the Haida tribe, which all require digging through the past to be as historically accurate as possible.

Tanis is an almost intimidatingly ambitious show. At times it bows under the weight of the sheer volume of information, but like The Black Tapes, it’s all starting to pay off in its second season. Start at the beginning and take notes. It’s a demanding listen, but well worth it.

Presented as a serialized podcast that follows one man’s quest for answers after his own kidnapping. In 1998 Ryan Jennings recorded himself performing “The Sinner’s Game” - a ritual local to his hometown of Crayton, Indiana. He disappeared from the town not long after. The show begins with Jennings returning to try and find out what happened to him all those years ago. A great premise, a couple of killer twists, and excellent hosting bring this podcast to life.

Three months ago Daniel Powell vanished. These are the tapes he sent his best friend. From creators Marc Sollinger and Daniel Powell, comes the latest contender in a clearly overwhelming field of horror podcast options. Archive 81 follows Daniel as he starts a summer job reviewing and cataloging the chaotic audio records of one of his predecessors at the Housing Historical Committee of New York State. Dan’s boss urges him to record every waking moment of his time while listening the tapes. His predecessor Melody Pendra, was collecting oral histories from the residents of an apartment block but, as she and Daniel find out, there’s something terrible hiding in the building. While ridiculously intriguing, it can easily get a little Inception-esque. If you space out during the podcast, you’ll likely get tripped up by the many rabbit holes. Despite this, it’s well worth it for such top-notch writing and production value.

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About the Creator

Alysha DePerna

Book nerd and lover of all things cheese flavored. Highly skilled at Google and considers coffee medicinal.

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