Happy October! Spooky season is officially upon us. That means it’s time to scare our pants right off! If you’ve ever read any of my previous articles such as the Top 9 Unique Podcasts to Help You Survive 2019 and Why Do We Love HORROR? then you know that there are two things I adore: anything spooky & listening to people talk. Then it only makes sense that I would also be interested in horror podcasts. But it’s taken a lot of digging to find some that are worthwhile.
There are not a lot of scary podcasts…
It’s certainly slim pickings when trying to find true horror in the form of the spoken word. The majority of the scary stories we have available in podcast form come mainly from the retelling of stories from Reddit No Sleep and Creepypasta. The Reddit No Sleep thread is a combination of scary stories written by hundreds of people all over the world and Creepypasta is more of the same. There are some chilling stories and then there are some… well let’s just say I almost got tricked into reading one called Cupcakes (and no I will NOT link it here) which is some whacky My Little Pony murder fanfiction. If you go looking for an awesome podcast yourself, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything of quality.
In the interest of saving you from that pain, I have ranked a selection of ten spooky podcasts from the shows I enjoy the least to the ones I enjoy the most. All of the podcasts in this ranking are worth a shot, in my opinion. Some are far better than others. The ranking is based on a few different determinants: creep factor, production quality, post regularity, and likeability of the host(s). If you want to spook-up your morning commute then read my list of the 10 Best Horror Podcasts for 2020.
#10. Knifepoint Horror
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand all the fuss surrounding Knifepoint Horror. I know what you’re about to say: “WHY did you include it in this ranking then?” and that’s a fair question. I’ve done a lot of research about creepy podcasts, I’m constantly on the hunt for new shows to add to my rotating dossier. Every time I start hunting for a new podcast I am recommended Knifepoint Horror. So, obviously, I’ve tried it. But every time I give it another chance I am just not particularly impressed. I included it in this ranking because apart from me, the rest of the world loves Knifepoint Horror. In fact, it is most people’s go-to scary story podcast.
To me, (no offense to Soren Narnia) the podcast doesn’t jive. I included Knifepoint Horror because I know it has a strong fan base and you may disagree with my opinion. There are tons of fans that would live and die for that podcast so there must be something that I’m not quite seeing. I will leave it up to you to decide. If you’re a Knifepoint fan, leave me a comment at the end of this article. I’m dying to know why.
Scary Stories from Camp Roanoke is a new podcast that I just recently discovered. My first thought when I listened to their most recent episode was: that production value though! The sound quality is crisp and fresh, the narration is really down-to-earth and the stories are well researched. Katy Wiggins and Morgan Drisko claim to be the “camp counselors you never had… scaring themselves by lantern light in the shabby cabins of the cursed Camp Roanoke with true scary stories”.
There are multiple reasons this podcast is so low down on the list. The first reason is that I’ve only listened to a few episodes so I’m not sure how consistent they are. The other, much larger reason is that the intros are too damn long. There is a lot of chatting (à la Spooky Southcoast) before you actually get into the meat of the story. I don’t mind a bit of unrelated chatter in a podcast, but I think that’s something that I like after I’ve already built up a long relationship with the hosts. It’s a good podcast to try, especially if you love the “around-a-campfire” vibe.
If you’re a fan of true crime then this is the podcast for you. Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie lean heavily upon the old-time-radio aesthetic for their detailed re-telling of true unsolved murder cases. With a deep commitment to character acting (aided by excellent voice actors) and factually-accurate reenactments, this podcast seamlessly brings you on a play-by-play journey of famous and lesser-known unsolved cases.
The best thing about Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories is that after a thorough investigation into the case at hand, Roy and Mackenzie each offer their opinion on who committed the murder. Often these cold cases are decades old so the final thoughts at the end are merely educated opinions. However, as you listen to each tale, you soon start to decide the murderer for yourself.
Playing off the subreddit of the same name, The No Sleep Podcast is an institution in this niche market. It took me a while to get into it, but once I gave it a fair chance I was pleasantly surprised by the overall value that The No Sleep Podcast brings to this realm. This podcast has won multiple awards and after a quick listen it’s easy to understand why. Showrunner David Cummings utilizes top-quality production value, excellent voice actors, and chillingly realistic sound effects.
If you enjoy being completely immersed in your horror then this is the podcast for you! You truly get a full-body experience when listening to these stories. The show originally began as a way to showcase the best of the NoSleep subreddit but has since grown to become a home for niche scary stories for all.
Talk about an original idea for a story! Limetown is easily one of the best fiction podcasts available today. The mockumentary-style journalism is incredibly believable, you’ll wonder why the hell you haven’t read about this tragedy in the news! The podcast describes itself as the story of “326 men, women, and children [who] vanished from Limetown—a research facility in the heart of rural Tennessee. There were no witnesses, no clues, no survivors”.
The main protagonist Lia Haddock is plagued by questions of what could’ve happened in the fictional city of Limetown and begins doing an investigation. The lifelike interview style of the plot is what gives the story its believability. Things get tense really fast! In fact, this podcast is so beloved that is has spawned novels, merchandise, and a TV series starring Jessica Biel. Don’t miss out on this found-footage style broadcast of a conspiracy-ridden tale.
Fans of horror podcasts will likely be SHOCKED that I ranked Creepy far higher than The No Sleep Podcast, but I don’t care! It’s so GOOD! There is just something about Creepy that I find superior, though I know some may disagree. Creepy is in the same vein because they re-tell the best of the NoSleep subreddit and classic Creepypastas. Jon Grilz, the primary narrator and creator of the podcast, has a very unique voice and tone and his curation of the stories is incredibly well-done. I will say… I can’t quite place his accent. Midwestern? I’m not sure.
The interesting thing about Creepy is that it works in partnership with other well-known horror podcasts such as The No Sleep Podcast; Blackwood; I, Survivor; Darkest Night; and many more. That sort of horror-story collaboration is refreshing to see. I think Grilz never intended for Creepy to blow up in the way it did, but it has a certain aspect of radio-magic to it that I just can’t resist. Plus, the intro is really good!
#4. Alice Isn’t Dead
From the genius folks at Night Vale Presents (see #2 on this list) comes a new unnerving story from the road. Alice Isn’t Dead features one truck driver’s search for her missing wife Alice that she had long assumed was dead. In her search for her wife, the fictional Keisha Taylor encounters strange corporations, time loops, and is chased by supernatural murderers all while realizing that her wife is alive and had abandoned her. Written by Joseph Fink and performed by Jasika Nicole, this story takes the classic American road trip to an entirely new level. The best part about Alice Isn’t Dead, besides the spooky plot, is Jasika Nicole’s irresistible voice. I could listen to her read a to-do list and be absolutely mesmerized.
This podcast is a hit not only because of the excellent writing and narration but also because of the feature of an LGBTQ+ couple at the forefront of the story, something Night Vale Presents does incredibly well. It’s impossible not to get hooked on this excellent podcast which has since also spawned a series of books and live shows.
#3. Archive 81
Fair warning: this podcast is super weird. Archive 81 starts off with the main character Daniel Powell (also the name of the actor) who has just landed an archiving job for a strange company. Dan must live in the underground archive eating canned food while he listens to and documents the contents of hundreds of hours of tapes. His only human communication is via an overhead speaker where Mr. Davenport gives him directions. Then… it gets weird.
The content of the tapes is deeply disturbing but addictingly mysterious. After a series of almost-answers, you have to keep listening to the episodes because you’re dying to know the cause of these anomalies! The second and third seasons take a wild turn from the original season but they’re equally as interesting. Once you get into the lore of the Archive 81 universe it’s impossible to stop listening. This is a weird one, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. I’m praying they do a fourth season soon!
Welcome to Night Vale is something I have already previously ranked, as it is one of my ultimate favorites podcasts (read the previous article here). The genius behind Welcome to Night Vale is due to the partnership of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Night Vale is a fictional desert town that is somewhere between reality and purgatory. Cecil Palmer, voiced by Cecil Baldwin, is the host of the town’s only radio show where he provides updates on the strange goings-on of Night Vale. This podcast is ranked highly because of its incredible plot, the overall mystery of the cannon, and the EXTREME likeability of the host, Cecil.
A charming relationship grows between Cecil and a scientist, Carlos, who came to Night Vale to investigate the strange nature of the town. There are angels who we mustn’t mention, a mysterious purple glow cloud (All Hail!), five-headed dragons, a faceless old woman who lives in your home (voiced by Matilda’s Mara Wilson), and a strange corporation that is trying to gain control of everyone in Night Vale and the neighboring towns. The best part of the show is that Cecil remains continuously unfazed by the utter weirdness of Night Vale, he unquestioningly accepts the not-right nature of the place. There is too much fun fan lore to get into in this short article but Night Vale is a TREAT for any listener who loves the paranormal.
#1. Spooked Podcast
Spooked is another one of my all-time favorite podcasts, horror-related or not! It is also something I have ranked previously in a #1 spot. Spooked comes from WNYC Studios, the same people who bring you Snap Judgement, which is an NPR hit and is also narrated by the fabulous Glynn Washington. Washington has always felt a connection to the other side, seeing ghosts in his childhood and witnessing his first exorcism as a teenager, he seeks now to shed light on this taboo subject. Spooked has the HIGHEST production value of any of the former podcasts mentioned. The sound quality and sonorous nature of Washington’s voice is a combination not to be missed.
Washington also has a special way of making you feel listened to, heard, and loved. It is a strange sense of community that he is able to build simply through his one-way conversations. I think a lot of that trust is due to the fact that Washington does not shy away from sharing potentially embarrassing, honest stories about his own life. A lot of the reason that listeners of Snap Judgement came to Spooked was because of Washington himself. The podcast delves into the real-life paranormal stories of everyday people. They’re truly eerie and will make you think twice before turning out the light…
If you enjoyed this ranking then I certainly suggest you check out the Top 9 Unique Podcasts to Help You Survive 2019. Now go on and get listening!