The popularity of podcasts is (still) on the rise. Shows like Serial and Pod Save America have inspired legion imitators, meaning that we don't have to worry about the quantity of shows at our fingertips.
Fortunately, one of the genres where quality has matched the quantity is horror.
With more than a century of horror movies searing petrifying images into our brains, it seems quaint to turn to an audio-only format to get scared, but the recent boom in podcasting has delivered a wave of fantastic horror podcasts to keep us wide awake in the dead of night. Here are some of the best.
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Alice Isn't Dead
Total run: 10 chapters
For those who already know the joyful strangeness of Welcome to Nightvale, Alice Isn't Dead is the organic evolution of that series into purer mystery fiction. It features a truck driver roaming across a largely empty United States looking for a wife she'd thought was dead. There's a lonesome air about it, and the oddities and side roads she encounters inject the best creative elements of Nightvale into a more traditional structure that can fill your heart and hollow it out.
The Dark Verse
Total run: 104 episodes
The beauty of Sharkchild's storytelling lies in its seductive simplicity. Billed as a "universe of occult, metaphysical, and fantastical horror stories," the stories almost always hit the mark by giving you something dark to think about long after the initial shock jolts you out of your seat. The Witness Protection Program-style vocal filter he uses also gives each tale a hint of otherworldly taboo -- like a twisted confessional meant for your ears only.
Total run: 36 episodes
This series from Soren Narnia uses the limitations of audio as a strength. Like the spooky offspring of H.G. Wells and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Knifepoint offers campfire tales for the iPhone era. The show is perhaps the most stripped down of all horror podcasts, purposely relying on one speaker's voice (instead of sudden violin strings and mood music) to present an off-putting story that's realistic enough (most of the time) to make you wonder whether you're next.
Total run: Six episodes (and supplemental material)
Part Lost, part Serial, this startling show with superb production value features the fictional host of the fictional American Public Radio trying to solve the mystery of several hundred people vanishing from a town in Tennessee a decade ago. It's a story that host Lia Haddock has a personal connection to, which makes her obsessive journey that much more intense. The raw genius of the storytelling in Limetown is that, no matter how many times you're reminded that it's fiction, you'll still find yourself wondering if it's real. Maybe presenting it as a sci-fi story is part of the cover-up? How far down does this rabbit hole go? Are they listening to my thoughts right now?
The Magnus Archives
Total run: 57 episodes
This anthology out of the UK has a classic sensibility to it while delivering a wide range of shiver-inducing stories. Magnus is fearless in its subject matter, utilizing everything from an astronaut undergoing an isolation experiment to creepy taxidermy to curious pest control in order to launch tales presented as deeply disturbing personal testimonies.
Total run: 27 episodes
The sound design alone, including a prestige-TV-ready theme song, is enough to land this show from Vanessa Lowe and Kent Sparling near the top of any list. It's gorgeous and robust, matching the personal essays and interviews which seek to celebrate and explore how familiar things change after the sun goes down. It's unique in that it moves beyond horror fiction into a nonfiction, existential consideration that ends up pouring liquid nitrogen into your soul. It's surprising, but there's something terrifying about one person considering his own fear (say, while strolling through the woods at night) and openly contemplating what makes us all afraid.
The NoSleep Podcast
Total run: 190 episodes
The perennial champion of aural terror, born from the subreddit of the same name, the quality of stories on NoSleep is astonishing. Every episode has about five stories, which means that the podcast is nearing its 1,000th dark tale of things going wrong and things that shouldn't be. These stories run the gamut of subgenres, with a general rule that everything must be told as a first-person experience that at least winks at plausibility. The mix of lurid styles and substance means there's something for everyone, but the show also sets teeth chattering with horrifying consistency.
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