Nothing chills the blood like a good spooky story. And as the weather gets chillier and the jack-o’-lanterns start popping up on porches, it’s time to get into the spirit of this macabre holiday with some frightening tales. Good news: you don’t have to supply your own! Thanks to the wonders of our modern world, you’re never more than an internet connection away from being regaled by the best horror podcasts on the web.
But with so many horror podcasts vying for your attention, which show should you stream or download this Halloween? We’ve got you covered. Our list of the best horror podcasts puts an emphasis on horror fiction, though you'll find some strange-but-true tales added to the mix. Our list also skips over the more obvious picks in favor of up-and-comers that will have you listening in well past the witching hour. If you’re ready to be scared senseless, then just keep reading.
Self-described as a “Midwestern Gothic mystery,” Unwell tells the fictional story of Lillian Harper, who returns to her small Ohio hometown in order to care for her ailing mother. Lillian moves into the local boarding house that has been in her family for generations—and just so happens to be very, very haunted. The podcast promises "conspiracies, ghosts, and unusual families of blood and choice," and listeners will get all of that and more.
What's the Frequency?
A work of "psychedelic noir," creepy podcast What's the Frequency? also appeals to a darker audience. As is appropriate for noir, our setting is 1940s Los Angeles—where every radio broadcast but one has mysteriously gone to static. The remaining show, a popular serial, is periodically interrupted by a distorted voice crying out for help. Tune in to enjoy a show that only gets stranger with each new twist.
Palimpsest offers narrative arcs that develop over ten episodes, with each season focusing on a new story. It's a genre-bending show that draws inspiration from horror, fantasy, and psychological realism, and it offers plenty for horror fans hoping to listen to something spooky this October. Binge both seasons available now, or savor each episode so you still have something to listen to on Halloween itself.
Janus Descending is the story of two "xenoarchaeologists," professionals who dig up the remains of ancient alien civilizations. As you can probably guess, interacting with alien artifacts turns out to be something less than the safest way to make a living, and our intrepid explorers find themselves in all kinds of harrowing situations. A sci-fi/horror podcast, Janus Descending makes use of a cool narrative technique: the story is told in two voices covering two different perspectives in two interweaving timelines.
Dark Verse is an anthology series of sorts, though the entire podcast is written by just one person: the talented M. Amanuensis Sharkchild. Each episode contains a complete story, making it a great choice for those looking for quick, stand-alone chills rather than committing to a series. With an emphasis on metaphysics and the occult, Dark Verse is also perfect for anyone who shares Sharkchild's love of Lovecraftian horror.
Wrong Station offers one complete story per episode, and each tale is told in the first person—often by an unreliable narrator. The truth will come out over the course of the podcast episode (or as much of the truth as can be known about the spooky circumstances covered, at any rate). Wrong Station takes its cues from 1940 radio serials, and there's a bit of The Twilight Zone in it, too.
The NoSleep Podcast
You may have heard of this horror fiction anthology podcast, which has built quite the following. The podcast hosts thrilling new narratives drawn from an inexhaustible well of submissions: listeners can submit their very own stories, and will be paid if their brainchild is chosen to be featured. Maybe listeners will hear your story next!
Jim Harold's Campfire
Jim Harold bills himself as "The Paranormal Podcast Guy," and it's fair to say that he's earned that title. In Jim Harold's Campfire, Harold serves up spooky-but-true stories that will delight fans of horror and the paranormal. From ghosts to extraterrestrials, Harold's stories are full of classic horror fare—and the stories are allegedly true, with eyewitness testimony to boot.
Alice Isn't Dead
You probably already know about the popular horror anthology podcast Welcome to Night Vale (and if you don't, go check it out!), so we won't waste your time by recommending that one. But have you checked out Alice Isn't Dead? This excellent horror podcast is the work of the same folks who created Welcome to Night Vale. Unlike Welcome to Night Vale, Alive Isn’t Dead tells a longer story in serial form.
Pseudopod has been going strong for more than 10 years now, so newcomers will find a nearly endless supply of scares in the podcast’s back catalog. Pseudopod offers short horror fiction with a new story in each weekly episode.
Darkest Night is not for the faint of heart. This podcast is binaural (it makes listeners use both ears to enjoy the full effects). Translation: get ready to get the bejesus scared out of you in stereo sound. It’s like a good Kanye album, only terrifying.
Knifepoint Horror features the work of Soren Narnia, whose stories emphasize the first-person perspective as a narrative device. Each spooky self-contained episode is told by a single narrator, who does his or her best to relate what has happened. Of course, when things get weird, you can never really be sure that you’re hearing the truth. Knifepoint Horror is like a ghost story told to you by the person who actually saw the ghost—or by the ghost itself!
The creepy stories told in each episode of The Cabinet aren't necessarily fiction, but they're not necessarily true, either. The Cabinet is obsessed with urban legends and rumors, those apocryphal stories that are too weird to believe but too creepy not to fear. File these under "strange but possibly true."
Featured photo: Elti Meshau / Unsplash