Nine Halloween horror and true-crime podcasts to keep you spooked out
- Podcasts have taken over from passing a flashlight around and trying to scare your friends with horror stories
- These are some of the best to keep you awake at night
Scary stories are some of the first we learn to tell.
A time-honoured tradition at childhood sleepovers involves passing a flashlight around in the dark and trying to one-up your buddies with tales of the macabre. Monsters, real or imagined, are used to reinforce social mores – mothers shouldn’t hurt their children, do not take candy from strangers, and so on. Horror reinforces the rules just as we’re learning what they are.
Podcasts offer a return to that narrative flavour, and its freakiest renditions are just begging you to hit all of the lights and turn up the speakers.
From serial killers to cults to whatever the heck that just was, here are nine horror and true-crime podcasts that’ll put a chill down your spine. (Obviously, these podcasts contain graphic language and descriptions.)
Solid investigative journalism on the subject of a 20th century suicide cult, 39 of whose members took their own lives in 1997, has gone into Heaven’s Gate, hosted by Glynn Washington of Snap Judgment. The 10-episode show uses archival recordings, new interviews with folks who survived Heaven’s Gate and conversations with family members of those who did not. Washington, who was raised in a different religious cult, is able to offer an inimitable and empathetic lens.
Buddies Justin Evans and Aaron Habel began this true-crime and unsolved-mystery podcast back in 2012, and have since amassed a huge following with episodes revolving around cases like those of Chandra Levy (unsolved murder) and Brock Turner.
On the Evil Dead of horror podcasts, Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski delve into humanity’s darkest corners – the Jonestown massacre, the Donner Party, war crimes – using an electrifying, shock jock-approach. It’s not for everyone, but the hosts are transparent and thorough with their research.
Erika Gwynn tells tales of true crime past and present, offering fact-driven narratives that rely on conventional journalism – Gwynn takes the subjects seriously, making this a good option for news junkies.
A horror fiction podcast, this is into its 11th season and offers a beginner’s guide to those new to its vast archive. Each episode features a handful of short stories, with sound and music deployed to scare the hell out of other shows.
Also hosted by Glynn Washington, Spooked is a spin-off of Snap Judgment, a killer weekly storytelling podcast produced by WNYC (Week in New York City) radio. The initial podcast’s annual Halloween tales were so well-received that the radio station decided to embark on a separate horror series, which is now in its second season. Think of it as “This American Life” but covered in goosebumps, with the kind of sound design you’d expect from public radio.
One of the original horror fiction podcasts, this low-fi production borrows from great authors and unknowns alike, hoisting up suspense. Led by Alasdair Stuart, who was briefly employed as a circus geek, it feels like the scariest campfire hang-out ever.
If you’re a terrible person who enjoys canned wine as much as you enjoy TV shows about serial killers, this one’s for you. With a pack of loyal fans who call themselves “Muderinos”, Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff lead this loosely-researched and often hilarious true-crime podcast, taking turns at telling each other a different story of murder or survival each week.
Presented by the equally eerie “Night Vale,” the fictional show follows a gay truck driver as she searches across America for her late wife who – you guessed it – isn’t dead.