Hungry for more horror? I got you, my dear.
Halloween may have just wrapped up, yet you’re still up for more spooky stuff to scare your wits off. The visceral gore and the unexpected jumpscares don’t appeal to you anymore. In other words, you’re bored.
Well, I might just have the remedy for you then! True crime and horror podcasts have been around for a few years now. Despite the lack of visuals, they’re pretty effective in appealing to the primal fears that lay dormant in our minds. As an auditory medium, the best horror and true crime podcasts deliver vivid imagery that revs our brains into overdrive.
Given that they’re audios, they’re also quite versatile to consume. You can plug them in when you do your chores or when you try to get some sleep. I gotta say they’re also pretty handy when you need a better storyteller in your campfire.
With that said, I present to you the best podcasts from the true crime and fiction horror genre. To give you a starting point, I’ve also included a short blurb of my favorite episodes for each series (you’re welcome). Without further ado, here are my top ten true crime and fiction horror podcasts. Listen at your own risk!
Before true crime was adapted for our listening pleasure, there was Dateline. Launched in 1992, the program highlights “compelling mysteries, powerful documentaries, and in-depth investigations.” It’s particularly noted for covering cases with twists and turns that will have you on the edge of your seat. Fortunately for us, NBC modified the series for our ears. Although the crimes may be gruesome, Keith Morrison’s buttery smooth narration makes the whole thing weirdly comforting. I plug in my earphones and get a good night’s rest every Friday.
Favorite Episode: The Thing About Pam
It’s always the husband. That is what is on everybody’s mind after Russ Faria found his wife, Betsy, lying in a pool of blood with a steak knife jammed in her neck. It didn’t help that her best friend, Pam Hupp, offered key testimony that would lock Russ for a very long time. However, secrets don’t always get to stay hidden. Not when people around Pam start dropping like flies one by one. Is someone else responsible, or is there something about Pam that’s not quite right?
2. Murder, Mystery & Makeup
For my younger crowd, you may have come across Bailey Sarian’s content when the Youtube algorithm gods suggested her videos. To put it simply, Bailey talks about true crime while applying makeup. The back-and-forth switch from beauty-related topics to crime details may sound jarring in theory. Still, it acts as a reprieve from the intensity of the case, which some of the audience may appreciate. As a primarily visual content (with her makeup transformation and all), Murder, Mystery, & Makeup surprisingly works just as well in the podcast medium. Bailey presents the case in a conversational manner, the way a friend would fill you in on current events without sounding too nonchalant and disrespectful to the victims. There are many details, thanks to the massive amount of research she does.
Favorite Episode: Chris Watts
We go with the episode that started it all; a mom and two daughters suddenly go missing in a Frederick, Colorado community. Her worried sick husband appeals to the public for his family’s safe return. However, as the secrets of the Watts family surface, many are starting to wonder. Is Chris Watts hiding skeletons in his closet?
Casefile’s motto, fact is scarier than fiction, has never been closer to the truth. From the land down under, the host’s distinct twang may admittedly deter newbie listeners. Trust me, you can get used to it or risk missing out on one of the best no-nonsense true crime series ever. It mainly focuses on Australian felonies, although it also covers notable crimes from all over the world. The anonymous host presents the case in an objective manner with minimal personal comments. Episodes usually span from 30 minutes to over an hour, so buckle up. If you like excellently researched cases with superb narration (minus the banter), this one is for you.
Recommendation: Belanglo (Case 109, Part 1 to 5)
Back in the 90s, Australia was THE backpacking haven for every young tourist looking for adventure. Unbeknownst to everyone, a hunter prowled the routes most of them often hitchhiked on. When two runners discovered a concealed corpse in the Belanglo State Forest, nobody knew this would kick off the investigation into Australia’s most infamous serial killer.
4. Let’s Not Meet: A True Horror Podcast
We are fortunate enough to meet a colorful variety of people in our lives. Some get your vibe, while others are just so awful you physically shudder at the thought of running into them. Let’s Not Meet shines the spotlight on the latter kind. You know the type, the creepy guy from the subway or the seemingly innocent girl you have a blind date with who turned out to be crazy. Andrew Tate (not THAT Andrew Tate) retells firsthand accounts of encounters with the darkest sides of humanity. The episodes, composed of multiple stories, usually span close to an hour which is the perfect length to keep you engaged. The segments can be a little anxiety-inducing and may cement your distrust in people, so enjoy the podcast in the safety of your home. If you’re one of the brave people needing a little extra pizzazz in their cardio, listening to the podcast during a run works, too. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Recommendation: Season 7 Episode 16
In this episode, we are up for a generous treat with six true-to-life horror stories. “The Crawlspace” is about creepy narrow spaces that host a terrifying discovery. “A Night Full of Funky Brass Bands and Would-Be Carjackers” is a cautionary tale of a Saturday night gone wrong. While “Walmart Help Call” dwells on a mother’s quandary when she receives a call from a doppelganger. On the other hand, “I Don’t Go To The Laundromat Anymore” recounts a listener’s late-night laundry session that is interrupted by an unwelcome presence. “Ice Cream Man at 12 AM” details how a mother and her daughter’s rainy commute home is made ten times worse when they cross paths with an ice cream vendor. And lastly, “Untitled” illustrates the all too real horrors of a listener’s brush with domestic violence.
5. Ghost Maps: True Southeast Asian Horror Stories
Southeast Asia is famous for its pristine beaches, appetizing cuisine, world-class hospitality, and vibrant cultures. With its diverse population, you get colorful stories from different origins. Some are folktales deeply rooted in tradition, while others bear the fear instilled by the mark of colonization. In Ghost Maps, we follow a mysterious narrator who ventures across Singapore and Southeast Asia and records encounters with the supernatural. The episodes are prefaced as candid sit-down interviews in a familiar environment, mostly a cafe. Usually a quick listen, averaging around 15 minutes per episode, the team behind the podcast establishes an eerie (and frightening) atmosphere as the narrator recounts each chilling tale. With the colorful imagery, the podcast lets your imagination go wild with each bite-sized episode. I only have one piece of advice for this one: don’t listen when you’re alone at night.
Recommendation: Polytechnic (Season 1, Episode 4)
Like many educational institutions, polytechnics host hopes, dreams, and even the darkest human emotions. Many Asians believe that these negative emotions manifest into something more ominous. In block E8 of a certain polytechnic, unexplainable things just happen. A skeptical teacher and a security guard examine the school’s video archives to investigate. Will they see the haunting secret that roams its walls? Or is it all just a trick of the camera?
6. The Nosleep Podcast
For years, stories that hinted at the truth have been prominently featured in the r/nosleep subreddit. In the readers’ minds, an auditory adaptation would surely amp up the spooky factor of these tales. And in 2011, the community saw the birth of the Nosleep Podcast. With David Cummings at the helm, the series would grow beyond its namesake, featuring anecdotes not just from the subreddit but also from various acclaimed and homegrown writers. The podcast is famed for its high production value, background music that sets the atmosphere just right, and stellar voice acting from its roster of talents. Through the years, it has amassed an extensive library of nightmarish narratives that will keep you occupied for a long while.
Recommendation: Soft White Damn (Season 5, Episode 18)
A comfortable cabin set in a winter wonderland sounds like the perfect getaway. However, for an alcoholic like Danny, it is the worst place for confronting your demons. Cradling a bottle of Jack while watching Overboard is supposed to make things tolerable. However, the drunken haze just adds to the confusion, and things don’t add up quickly when the tapping on the window gets started. Oh, poor Danny, Danny, I guess his demons are out to get him after all.
Borrasca is a tale from the wicked mind of C.K. Walker. Initially published in the r/nosleep subreddit in 2015, Borrasca got its first audio adaptation as the season 7 finale of the Nosleep podcast. The tale was mind-blowingly good that horror powerhouse director Mike Flanagan-of Haunting of Bly Manor, Hush, and Midnight Mass fame recruited the author. She became part of the writing team that would bring Haunting of Hill House to fruition. In 2020, Borrasca was launched as a standalone thriller podcast series. Starring Cole Sprouse, this direction enabled the series to flesh out its characters while diving deeper into the lore. Be warned, the series deals with a lot of heavy stuff like suicide, imprisonment, and sexual abuse, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
8. Welcome to Nightvale
Welcome to a desert town where the mysterious and supernatural are anything but unnatural. Welcome to Nightvale. As listeners, we are treated to news, announcements, and advertisements that give us a peak into the town’s bizarre history. Our host, the self-proclaimed journalist of the Nightvale Community Radio, is Cecil Gershwin Palmer. Like many inhabitants featured in the series, Cecil is an enigma. There’s no proof that he’s actually human. One thing’s for sure, this podcast will surely give you a taste for the bizarre.
Recommendation: Pilot (Episode 1)
A mysterious radio announcer delivers the latest updates on Nightvale, “the most scientifically interesting community in the U.S.” On the other hand, a new development launched by the city council is weirdly closed off to all dogs and people. New arrivals come into town in the form of a particular square-jawed scientist who has our announcer all hot and bothered while reporting on parental guidelines for Lovecraftian helicopters. Come and hear about this town’s idiosyncracies when you tune in to Welcome to Nightvale.
9. Knifepoint Horror
Knifepoint Horror is a no-nonsense, no-frills fiction horror podcast hosted by Soren Narnia. If there’s such a thing as a minimalist podcast, this is it. The simplicity of Soren’s delivery captures a still and unsettling feeling of unease as he slowly untangles the story word by word. The first time I heard this podcast, I hung onto every word as Soren’s narration let this feeling of dread fester within my mind. It was like staring into a terrible car crash that you couldn’t look away from. Every episode felt like he was simply recounting a personal experience, a scary personal experience. It made everything sound so real, and the silence didn’t help. You see, Knifepoint Horror is different; it has no background music, advertising, or any other gimmicks to distract you from the horror unraveling in your ears.
A man living alone in a large empty house hears the faintest sound that sends him spiraling. As paranoia creeps into the deepest recesses of his mind, an encounter with a well-meaning neighbor turns into something sinister. If this tale ever teaches you something, it’s to lock your doors because the thing from your hallway is coming to get you.