Crossfader’s Super Spooky Listicles: Podcasts to Chill Your Bones
Believe it or not, there are, in fact, more horror podcasts out there than WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE. Not that Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s meandering exploration of the weird isn’t fun, but podcasts are a format that lend themselves to horror surprisingly well, and should be respected more frequently. Not only does the format allow for in-depth and longform storytelling in general, but it’s also an admittedly isolating medium. More than television or movies, it’s hard to listen to a podcast with another person, as they’re a primarily solitary pastime. There’s a special kind of horror that’s produced when wrapped in the dark cocoon of a terrifying tale while everyone around you goes about their day. On this list are many podcasts I’ve used to escape the monotony of my achingly dull office job, my coworkers blissfully unaware as I become evermore engrossed in strange tales from the other side. Whether you’re in the need of some immediate escapism, or just looking to expand your freaky pallet, I hope the following suggestions give you just the willies you’re looking for.
ALICE ISN’T DEAD
Introductory Episode: “Part 1, Chapter 2: Alice”
A spinoff of the enormously successful WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE, ALICE ISN’T DEAD follows a similar format, wherein a single narrator transmits their stories from a bizarre alternate dimension-based hellscape. In terms of tone, however, ALICE is considerably more outwardly terrifying than NIGHT VALE. While the latter uses Lovecraftian imagery and a constant sense of chaotic dread, the show is still primarily played for laughs and written for punchlines. ALICE, on the other hand, wishes to be taken more seriously, and for the most part, earns it. Featuring an unreliable truck driver with dubious motives traveling across an obscure and ever more troubling landscape, the podcast is a journey into the heart of madness. Arguably, the show is more precisely crafted as a narrative than NIGHTVALE, although it manages to meander and confuse in its own way. Thankfully (or perhaps frustratingly), it’s also only 13 episodes long, easily binged if you’re looking for a freaky world to hide away in for a little while.
Around the Campfire
Introductory Episode: “Episode 101: Candi & Deborah”
In the interest of full disclosure, this podcast is hosted by friend-of-Crossfader Hadley Dion, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be any less respected as a podcast. Still in its infancy, this is a show to get into before it takes off, which if there’s any justice in this world, it certainly will. The premise is simple: People submit their ghost stories to the show, then tell them on the air. If the stories remain as tight and as well crafted as the first episode seems to indicate, then this should become an amazing platform for people to have their frightening, inexplicable encounters with the paranormal shared with the world. The first episode features two women sharing stories of hauntings they experienced as children, and it becomes especially spooky when similarities between their stories start to become apparent, such as both of them apparently having psychic contact with their respective spirits. Whether you’re a skeptic or a true believer, there’s something truly unsettling when people’s stories of contact with the other side begin to align. So long as people continue to submit, there’s no reason this couldn’t take off as a series and go on to frighten thousands.
THE BLACK TAPES
Introductory Episode: “A Tale of Two Tapes Part I”
Selling itself as the SERIAL of paranormal investigation shows, THE BLACK TAPES is remarkably well produced and conceived. Now, the fact that it’s clearly a work of occasionally ham-fisted fiction, complete with some initially shoddy voice work shouldn’t get in the way of your enjoyment of the show. The acting does get better as the show goes on, and if you’re willing to embrace the campiness of the whole ordeal, the show is wildly entertaining. Host Alex Regan is a journalist looking for truth in a series of paranormal investigations, first encountering a paranormal investigator named Dr. Richard Strand, a skeptic who debunks other people’s claims of ghostly phenomena. While Strand claims that he has never been disproven in a case, Regan quickly unearths the good doctor’s collection of “black tapes,” tapes he has yet to solve, but swears he will. What’s established is a classic Mulder vs. Skully dynamic, in which Strand doesn’t want to believe in anything ooky or spooky, and Regan wants to believe so long as the evidence is compelling enough. How the show spirals out from there I’d rather not spoil, but it’s a fun romp and a good example of how fictional storytelling can be effective in podcasting.
The Last Podcast On the Left
Introductory Episode: “Episode 200: H.H. Holmes Part I”
Picture, if you will, one of the stock brokers from THE WOLF OF WALL STREET talking about serial killers and making some of the most ludicrously fucked up jokes about them imaginable. You don’t have to fantasize, because that’s exactly what THE LAST PODCAST ON THE LEFT entails. One of the hosts, Henry Zebrowski, played “Sea Otter” in WOLF, and is one of the most obscene and out-right hysterical human beings I’ve ever heard get in front of a microphone. Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski form a glorious trifecta of awful as they explore the true stories of aliens, the occult, and most importantly, serial killers. Oh the many, many serial killers. If you’re anything like me and have an empty vacuum in the place where your soul is meant to be which can only be filled with tales of torturous murderers, this podcast will more than give you your fill of despicable real life monsters, with the most colorful commentary on Satan’s putrid earth. This is the grandaddy of horror podcasts, because it’s so achingly funny that when the trio truly get into terrifying territory, it catches the listener entirely off guard, to chilling effect. This is admittedly not the easiest podcast to stomach, but for those up to the challenge, it’s a gruesome delight.
Introductory Episode: “The Bloody Pit” “From Within”
Sometimes a host’s voice is what will make or break a podcast, and I can think of no clearer example of this than LORE. Host Aaron Mahnke explores the histories of the spooky folktales which continue to haunt our modern lives in exquisite detail, but it’s his voice that truly sells the whole endeavor. His naturally quivering tone might get annoying in a podcast about news and politics, but in a podcast about ancient beasts and the forgotten dark recesses of the human heart, it’s perfect. Mahnke sounds like he can’t quite believe what he has just uncovered and is not entirely sure if he should even share it with you, and the show becomes riveting as a result. Add to that some insightful research on the origins of werewolves, ghosts, and every day superstitions, and you have a show that can be hard to put down episode after episode. Perhaps what’s most impressive is how Mahnke has managed to keep the show from falling apart as he finds new ghastly material. Rather, he’s managed to find new tales and expand the definition of what qualifies as lore in some fascinating ways, and the show remains as strong as ever.