It's barely the end of August, but if you're anything like me, you're already prepping for Halloween. This prep includes but is not limited to stocking up on pumpkin-flavored coffee, digging out my favorite sweaters, and, of course, listening to some spooky podcasts on the way to work. Here's what I'm listening to as autumn creeps in.
1. Welcome to Night Vale (bimonthly from Night Vale Presents)
If you like a nice blend of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, humor, and a dash of romance, Welcome to Night Vale will not disappoint. I've been listening to the show since its second year, and I've been hooked ever since. Each ~30-minute episode is chock-full of imagination and intrigue. It's fictional podcast set in an imaginary midwest town in which the rules of time and space don't apply. The town's daily happenings are narrated by its radio show host, played by the smooth-voiced Cecil Baldwin. Cecil treats with nonchalance the odd happenings in his town (i.e., a tiny army hiding under the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, or antiques coming to life with murderous intent), and that's what makes it all the more fun. Though there's always a lot going on in Night Vale, the show manages to also effectively create characters that stick with you. Plus, every episode's "weather report" is a song by an independent artist!
Having just begun its fifth season, Welcome to Night Vale is by no means losing traction. In fact, it's gained so much popularity over the last few years that the show's writers and actors have taken the show on tour; right now, they're touring Europe with their latest hour-long special, "Ghost Stories" (how apropos! I saw the show myself in Boston in April - what a blast). There's even a book that was released last October!
You can listen to Night Vale on iTunes, YouTube, Podbay, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.
2. The NoSleep Podcast (weekly from The Paragon Collective)
I'd be remiss not to include this classic on my list. NoSleep features narrators telling the spookiest stories on the subreddit /nosleep. It's been going on since 2011, so there's a lot to catch up on, but in my opinion, it's totally worth it. If you prefer the aural experience of horror and thrillers as opposed to just reading, NoSleep is perfect for you. The podcast plucks from the site some of the best, eeriest, and most realistic stories written and posted by Reddit authors. David Cummings narrates the show and a good chunk of the stories, his voice haunting from beginning to end. Not only are the stories themselves scary, but the score music provides a perfect backdrop for suspense. It's perfect to listen to around Halloween or all year round!
You can listen to NoSleep on iTunes and Podbay.
3. Within the Wires (bimonthly from Night Vale Presents)
Imagine you're stuck in a cell all day with scheduled meal times, exercises, and interactions with others - though you're unsure why. Imagine a nurse prescribes you medication for an malady you don't understand. And all you have is a set of (mandatory) relaxation tapes to listen to.
This is a brand new podcast from one of the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, Jeffrey Cranor. It's based around a set of "relaxation tapes" that, upon really listening to the words, aren't as relaxing as they seem. The speaker in the tapes, though softspoken, wants you to listen. Remember. Comprehend.
But comprehend what?
Like its predecessor, Within the Wires has a spooky sci-fi element to it. While there aren't very many characters to work with - just you and the narrator - that's what makes it claustrophobic and altogether creepier. There's only been a few episodes so far, so now's your chance to check it out.
You can listen to Within the Wires on iTunes and libsyn.
4. The Black Tapes Podcast (bimonthly from Pacific Northwest Stories)
Season two of The Black Tapes just ended–which means it's a perfect time for you to catch up! Each season consists of around 12 episodes, and it's one hell of a ride. PNWS is unique in that it crafts riveting fiction that sounds all too real. The Black Tapes follows the journalist Alex Reagan as she navigates the mysterious Richard Strand and his Institute for debunking the paranormal. How far is Alex willing to go to find out the truth about the mysterious supernatural cases Strand has picked up throughout the years? And what will she learn about Strand - and herself - in the process? Journalistic approaches meld with preconceived notions of logic, the afterlife, fact, and fiction in this thrilling series.
The Black Tapes is The X-Files meets Supernatural meets a whole lot more scary. If you're freaked out easily by demonic possession stories, don't listen at night.
5. Lore (bimonthly from Aaron Mahnke)
Lore is the only nonfiction podcast that makes the cut for me. Sometimes the scariest tales are those based in reality - and that's what Aaron Mahnke provides through his podcast. Mahnke takes apart various aspects of folklore, digs into their histories, and proposes how they relate to why humans fear what we do today. One of my favorites to date is "Unboxed," which is about a supposedly possessed doll. If you're into independent podcasts that have a lot to offer, start listening to Lore. You won't regret it.
Just writing about these makes me shiver. I can't wait to delve back into each of them. But be forewarned...they aren't for the squeamish or easily scared.
Are there any horror podcasts you love that didn't make the list? What will you be listening to in preparation for the Halloween season?