Todd is a full-time clinical research administrator by day and an avid consumer of weird fiction and esoteric knowledge in his spare time.
If you are like me, then you love a good scary story. Growing up in rural Kentucky, my grandfather was always ready with a good ghost story or two on cold, rainy autumn nights. Believe it or not, some of the best original horror content in the world right now isn't coming from movie and television producers, and can't be found in libraries or book stores. Podcasts have become a hotbed of creativity, and horror podcasts are no exception! All you need is a a device to play your podcast on (even a computer will work), then just find your podcast of choice on the internet or a service like Apple's podcast app.
Below you will find my review of five horror fiction podcasts that will keep you up at night.
The Dark Tome
The Dark Tome is a horror anthology podcast created by Fred Greenhaugh and Bill Dufris, both audio drama veterans. Each episode of The Dark Tome features either an original or classic short horror story wrapped in a unique framing narrative. The titular "Dark Tome" is a mysterious book with the power to transport its readers into the stories it contains... and perhaps change them in unexpected ways. Each episode the books current owner Mr. Gussy and his troubled teenage friend Cassie explore a new story in the book, often with unintended consequences in their everyday life.
The short horror stories explored within the Tome come from the series creators as well as modern bestsellers like Joe Hill, Catherynne M. Valente, and Christopher Golden with an occasional classic from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe thrown in as well. The intricate interweaving of Mr. Gussy and Cassie's story with the stories they read in the Tome are what make this podcast stand out, along with the superb voice work and audio production values.
Information on The Dark Tome, as well as streaming episodes can be found here, as well as on a multitude of podcast services.
If you like the idea of a well told, full cast audio drama that plays like a never ending Lovecraftian trip into an ancient and potentially deadly mystery, then Tanis is for you. Tanis is easily one of my favorite podcasts. A combination of horror, mystery, and investigative journalism; Tanis follow host Nic Silver, an investigative journalist for Pacific Northwest Radio as he investigates the age-old mystery of a mysterious, mystical place called Tanis.
I don't want to give too much away, but the carefully crafted lore around the mystery ties together many, many real-world things you may have heard of with even more things you probably have not. Any aficionado of the esoteric will find themselves gleefully waiting for the next episode as Nic deals with secretive millionaires, disappearing friends, a creepy cult, and an extremely unique cabin in the woods.
Delivered as an audio log of Nic's investigation, Tanis blurs the line between fiction and reality in interesting and entertaining ways. I prefer to pretend that the entire adventure is real, it makes the world a more interesting place. A few episodes in, when the heat starts to turn up for Nic, you will actually find yourself worrying about your new pal and the ever increasing cast of well-acted supporting characters.
Tanis is presented sequentially and is already a few seasons in. This is NOT a podcast you can jump into at any point, so if you decide to start listening, start with Episode 1. The first episode of Tanis can be found here.
Where podcasts like The Dark Tome and Tanis focus on new horror narratives, Lore, created by Aaron Manhke, takes a look at some real-life horror stories throughout history. One part history lesson, one part horror anthology; lore presents us with true stories in an incredibly effective narrative format. Believe me, some of the stories are incredibly creepy... then you remember that they actually happened and your spine does a little wiggle.
Lore covers topics ranging from mysterious deaths in New England lighthouses to exploring stories that illustrate why our fear of some seemingly mundane things might be well founded. If you want to be reminded, in this modern age, why we still hold a primal fear of the forest, this is the podcast for you. Lore is a fascinating combination of horror and true crime that fans of either should love.
Mahnke's delivery is pitch perfect, engaging but creepy in all the right ways. Obviously I'm not alone in my opinion. If Lore sounds familiar to some of you Amazon Prime subscribers it's because Mahnke recently teamed up with an executive producer from The Walking Dead and an executive producer from The X-Files to bring Lore to life on the small screen in an Amazon exclusive television series.
You can check out details about both Lore the podcast and Lore the television series here.
Lore on Amazon Prime Video
The No Sleep Podcast
The No Sleep Podcast is unique among those I've listed here in that the stories shared via its well produced audio dramas are entirely pulled from user submissions on the No Sleep subreddit. The No Sleep podcast runs the gamut from spooky to silly to down-right gut wrenching gore-fests. It is NOT for the faint of heart and decidedly not kid-friendly.
Host and showrunner David Cummings selects the cream of the crop from the popular reddit thread and produces fully fleshed out audio dramas. The results are a mixed bag of ghosts, monsters, alien dimension hopping eat-you-alive-and-lay-eggs-inside-you insects slowly devouring reality after reality... you get the picture. It's one hell of a ride.
Voice talent is top notch and varied enough to not sound like the same five people over and over and the sound effects and production values are generally pretty high. Cumming's often tongue in cheek intros and outros do a great job of cutting the sometimes intense tension. I won't lie, I'm a horror fiction fanatic and some of the stories here are almost too intense for me.
If you are interested in a unique and terrifying ride through the minds of some of the best aspiring horror writers (or at least some VERY creative horror fans) then check The No Sleep Podcast out here.
Welcome to Nightvale
The last podcast on my list holds a special place in my heart. Welcome to Nightvale was the first narrative fiction podcast I found as I was searching for something to listen to on the way to work, and its still one of my favorites.
Welcome to Nightvale is a serialized fiction podcast that masquerades as the perpetually intern-challenged evening community radio broadcast of a truly unique small town. Nightvale, the town, is a place where a ghost coaches softball, a sentient rock runs the community college, and the dog park has a strict no dogs rule. From interdimensional invasions to horrific demonic dictators; Welcome to Nightvale host Cecil calmly narrates as the world nearly comes to an end... almost every other episode.
The mood of Welcome to Nightvale hovers comfortably somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and truly disturbing. It's a unique and fun listening experience. In addition to Cecil you will meet local eccentrics like Old Woman Josie, whose housemates are all winged, physically perfect beings that are DEFINITELY not angels and Carlos the devoted scientist.
This show has been around a while, and honestly its difficult to discuss without giving away some of the best surprises. Welcome to Nightvale has spawned an entire menagerie of weird fiction podcasts and all of them are worth checking out.
You can find Welcome to Nightvale here, and there are plenty of links to follow to get to the other Nightvale Presents podcasts.