You don't want to ever sleep ever again, do you? Horror podcasting is booming with shows like Welcome to Night Vale and Archive 81 creeping us out on a regular basis. To celebrate our love of all things terrifying and the release of brand new horror magazine Horrorville, let me guide you down the darkest of the dark air waves.
1. The Black Tapes
Alex Regan, a podcaster for a company called PNWS, is putting together a story on Richard Strand. The head of the Strand Institute and a legendary paranormal debunker, Strand is a haunted figure. As Alex gets closer to him, she finds out why – and her journey takes her deep within the Black Tapes and a decades-wide plan that she and Strand are caught right in the centre of…
The Black Tapes is a good weekly listen and an incredible long form one. We’re most of the way through season two now and tiny plot threads from early episodes are getting folded back in to create a vast, savagely clever story.
Nic Silver, Alex Regan’s PNWS production partner, gets a case of his own in this “sidequel” to The Black Tapes. One that centres on a conspiracy that may pre-date humanity… Tanis is an almost intimidatingly ambitious show. At times it bows under the weight of the sheer volume of information but like The Black Tapes it’s all starting to pay off in its second season. Start at the beginning and take notes, or refer to the show’s extensive website. It’s a demanding listen, but take a run up at it - it’s worth it.
3. Welcome To Night Vale/ Night Vale Presents
Night Vale is an absolutely normal town. No, it is. Just ask Cecil Baldwin, Night Vale’s DJ. Or his boyfriend Carlos, who’s a scientist. Or the Glow Cloud – the sentient vapour which rains dead lizards. Just, under no circumstances, look at the Dog Park… Night Vale’s combination of comedy, horror and remarkable sweetness has made it a worldwide phenomenon. The show tells a densely plotted but enthralling story.
Start at the beginning and let Cecil guide you through the town’s many mysteries. Night Vale has proven so successful it has spawned two new shows, released under the same banner but standing alone. Alice Isn’t Dead, performed by Jasika Nicole (best known for playing Agent Farnsworth on Fringe), is the story of a trucker searching for her wife through a nightmarish tour of backroads America. The second, Within The Wires, has just started. It’s a series of “relaxation tapes” given to you by The Institute. Calm, sinister and slowly revealing a very personal story, Wires is the hardest of the shows to get into, but also the most audacious.
4. Uncanny County
A series of full cast audio plays all set in the same weird area of the US. Think American Gothic with more jokes. The production values are top notch and the stories are a neat combination of old school horror/SF and some playful and very new approaches to horror. You can start anywhere with the show, but “The Eleventh Hour” - an episode about just how much work goes into arriving in the nick of time - is especially good.
5. Small Town Horror
In 1998 Ryan Jennings recorded himself performing “The Sinner’s Game” - a ritual local to his hometown of Crayton, Indiana. He fled the town not long after. Now he’s back to try and find out what happened to him all those years ago. A great premise, a couple of killer twists and excellent hosting bring this podcast to life. A neat combination of personal recollection, small town homecoming and skin crawling horror, it’s a new show so now’s a great time to jump aboard.
Want a show that’s gripping, terrifying and finite? You need to visit Limetown. Years after the disappearance of the entire population of a privately owned town, journalist Lia Haddock begins investigating what really happened… Limetown is one of the best audio drama podcasts you’ll ever hear, with twists in every episode and a horrific central premise. Another show you should jump on at the beginning, listen to, get hooked on and join the queue for a second season.
7. Archive 81
Three months ago Daniel Powell vanished. These are the tapes he sent his best friend… A story within a story, Archive 81 follows Daniel as he starts a summer job organising the chaotic audio records of one of his predecessors. She was collecting oral histories from the residents of an apartment block but, as she and Daniel find out, there’s something terrible in the building… Another impressive “found audio” show and one that has a unique, quirky charm to it.
8. The NoSleep Podcast
David Cummings’ epic anthology is five years old in 2016 and showing no signs of slowing down. David’s strong hosting skills and mic presence tie together a show with a whopping four or five stories in each episode. Even if you don’t like one story, the next will probably work for you. The anthology format means you can start anywhere, but be prepared to clear your schedule…
9. The Magnus Archives
The Magnus Institute is the premier paranormal research facility on the planet, and new Chief Archivist Jonathan Sims has taken on the mammoth task of recording audio transcriptions of every file. The Institute has been active for centuries and as Sims, whose charmingly grumpy mic presence is a highlight, digs deeper he finds out they’ve stumbled on something awful.
And finally. Full disclosure: this is my show. We’re a decade-old horror fiction podcast that showcases a single short story every week. We’re just about to celebrate our 500th episode – I’ve been on board for 450 of those as the host and, these days, I’m the owner too. I love doing it, getting the chance to not just talk about brilliant stories but learn from them too. Any episode is a great place to start but I’d recommend episode 433: “20 Simple Steps To Ventriloquism” by Jon Padgett. Just don’t listen to it while looking in a mirror…
For more terrifying horror features, check out brand new magazine, Horrorville. The first issue of scares includes an interview with the director of the brand new Blair Witch, a behind the scenes look at the upcoming Girl With All The Gifts and previews of all the latest horror movies. It's on shelves now or subscribe to future issues.