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Tune Into These Radio Horror Books for the Frequency of Fear

What's lurking in the static…?

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  • Photo Credit: Muhammed ÖÇAL / Unsplash

Within recent years, the radio has become a bit of a lost art; streaming services have taken over, as we’re in favor of uninterrupted content over the constant advertisements of mainstream radio.

While one could argue that podcasts are a modern evolution of the radio format, they're not quite the same.

The radio used to be a source of news—particularly breaking news—as it was the easiest way to spread the word to as many people as possible at the same time. And sometimes it saved lives, by quickly reporting political scandals, missing children, or things that lurk in the night…

It has even accidentally induced mass panic, as in the case of the fictional broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938—which some unsuspecting listeners interpreted as genuine reporting of a real Martian invasion.

For better or for worse, the radio was also known for being tapped into, whether by people stranded on remote islands who desperately needed saving, spies from other countries, or people who have abused radio privileges by using it for mind control–yes, mind control sounds extreme, but you’ll find an example of it below. 

We’re taking advantage of our good signal to relay to you our 10 favorite examples of radio horror books–but use caution, as we’re not responsible for the mind control these books will have over you long after you reach the last page.

Ghost Radio

Ghost Radio

By Leopoldo Gout

Ghost Radio is so much more than a call-in scary story radio show; it’s the radio equivalent of a cult classic, a sanctuary for sleepless, late-night inhabitants of the dark.

It’s run by Joaquin, a brooding and hip host, joined by his darkly beautiful girlfriend, Alondra, and his engineer, Watts. Their lives change forever when a large radio conglomerate offers to syndicate their show, gaining them fame and recognition they never thought they’d see. 

When Joaquin discovers a bizarre and troubling phenomenon, he’s drawn down the dark rabbit hole of the stories he solicits on the show. Soon, he begins to lose control over his reality, as the real world and the nightmare world of his show begin to blend together. 

He must confront his own past and mortality in order to rebuild the wall between the living and the dead.

The Abyss Above Us Book 1: A Horror Novel

The Abyss Above Us Book 1: A Horror Novel

By Ryan Notch

Introverted network engineer Shaw is tasked with a bizarre mission: figure out why a telescope turns toward a starless abyss in the sky night after night, as if the computer it's connected to is still commanding it (it hasn’t existed for 20 years). 

He discovers that though the sky is dark, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. A signal is coming from those coordinates; a signal that creates a targeted siren song that leads to horrific suicides from everyone who hears it. But Shaw doesn’t realize this until he’s already sent a signal back to the abyss.

And the signal has clearly been received, as the abyss has begun to move…and it’s coming right for us.

Southern Gods

Southern Gods

By John Hornor Jacobs

A Lovecraftian horror meets Southern gothic, Southern Gods introduces us to Bull Ingram, a WWII veteran who is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ approaches him and asks him to track down Ramblin’ John Hastur.

The DJ plays him a dark, blues bootleg recording, and that ignites Ingram’s rage enough to go on the hunt. 

Hastur’s trail leads Ingram to the boorish bowels of rural Arkansas, where rumors swirl that the mysterious blues-man he’s tracking has sold his soul to the Devil, and his music broadcast at ever-changing frequencies by a phantom radio station drives the living insane, and makes the dead rise.

But the closer he gets to Hastur, and the more folks he meets who have crossed his path, the more he realizes there are entities worse than the Devil and places more wicked than Hell. 

The Loop

The Loop

By Jeremy Robert Johnson

A Stranger Things and World War Z mash-up, The Loop is a horrific story about an experiment gone wrong.

Turner Falls, a small, tourist town in the hills of western Oregon, is a vacation hot spot. Or at least, it was.

But when a local biotech company’s experiment on teenagers goes wrong, everyone starts becoming ill and aggressively murderous. That’s what happens when you try to control teenagers; mind-control radio waves through a chip in their heads is not enough to bring them down, but certainly enough to rile them up.

With the town suddenly on edge, social outcasts Lucy and her friends must do whatever it takes just to survive the night. 

A Lonely Broadcast: Book One

A Lonely Broadcast: Book One

By Kel Byron

Fans of dark comedies will love A Lonely Broadcast. It features 104.6, the station that shouldn’t exist, among the winding mountains of Pinehaven Forest.

Evelyn McKinnon first discovers the station when she becomes its new radio host, accompanied by a stalking bird with human eyes and a co-host who won’t stop singing show tunes. Evelyn quickly realizes that the radio station isn’t just for entertainment; it’s a watchtower.

When the fog rolls in, the beasts of Pinehaven Forest come out to play–and suddenly ravenous, flesh-eating monsters become nothing compared to what Evelyn and her friends are forced to conquer. 

The Rules of the Road

The Rules of the Road

By C.B. Jones

Driving alone one late night, an amateur journalist stumbles upon a curious radio station that presents him with a list of instructions with potentially fatal consequences for those who don’t oblige.

After barely escaping with his life, he vows to find the person behind the broadcast along with any other victims of its instructions. His investigation leads him to travelers, truckers, vagabonds, vacationers, models, and rockstars from all walks of life but who have all experienced their own sinister encounters as a result of listening to the broadcast.

But once his investigation has started, there’s no turning back.

Gateways to Abomination

Gateways to Abomination

By Matthew M. Bartlett

This is a short story collection all based in Leeds of Western Massachusetts, where you’re tuned into WXXT.

Bizarre radio broadcasts coax immoral souls to enter dark woods. Malevolent old men stand menacingly in playgrounds and mysterious corners, wearing curious topcoats. A long-dead sorcerer re-awakening as an old buck goat.

Nothing is alive in the proper way here.

Lost Signals

Lost Signals

By Josh Malerman

Another short story anthology, Lost Signals talks less about the sounds you hear—and more about the signals you feel.

It includes incredible horror fiction featuring radio waves, numbers stations, rogue transmissions, and sounds you’ve never even heard of (and hope to God you never do).

It’s edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle, two seasoned veterans in the horror genre, and features stories from Josh Malerman, Damien Angelica Walters, Matthew M. Bartlett, David James Keaton, and others. 

Radio Tower

Radio Tower

By Boris Bacic

Chris Townsend, a software engineer who struggles to deal with his past, has just taken his company up on an offer to work on a new project in a small town in Oregon.

The change may be exactly what he needs to come to terms with his problems, and when he arrives in Woodberry and is greeted by a perfect town with friendly neighbors, all seems well. 

But when Chris starts asking about the radio tower on the top of the town’s largest hill, he is warned not to talk about it, and even finds himself being watched. And then the tower lights start blinking, causing the townsfolk to go into a hypnotic, hostile trance.

Chris’s escape suddenly becomes another fight for survival, and he realizes he’s not the first one to become trapped in this town. 

purple sunset with canyon horizon line and tall radio tower

Welcome to Night Vale

By Joseph Fink

Night Vale is a small town in the great American Southwest, where ghosts, angels, government conspiracies, and plenty of other beings are all commonplace parts of everyday life. This story focuses on two women, whose two mysteries are connected by two words: King City. 

Jackie Fierro, a 19-year-old pawn shop owner in Night Vale is given a paper with the words “King City” on it by an unsettling man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. No one who’s met this man can remember anything about him, and Jackie is determined to find out who he is and the mystery of King City before it consumes her. 

Night Vale PTA Treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is a moody shape-shifter. And he’s begun shape-shifting into his estranged father looking at how he did the day he left, and he’s been showing a helpless interest in knowing his father more and more lately. 

Diane’s desperation to connect with her son, and Jackie’s desperation for her life’s former routine collide as they discover that the key to both their futures resides with King City. 

Featured image: Muhammed ÖÇAL / Unsplash