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13 spine-tingling horror podcasts to get you in the Halloween spirit

Featuring tales of aliens, ghosts, supernatural strangeness, and more.

Creepy Halloween
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

If you’re a fan of both podcasts and horror, there’s no better time than the Halloween season to sample some of the eeriest audio offerings out there.

But what to do if you’ve already burned through more well-known entries like Welcome to Night Vale, The Black Tapes, Limetown, Lore, and Reddit’s long-running No Sleep? (If you haven’t checked those out, they’re all worth a listen.)

If you’re seeking recommendations that will take your horror podcast game to the next level, here are 13 excellent options — both fiction and nonfiction — that you may have missed.

Knifepoint Horror (fiction)

For sheer chills-around-the-campfire-style storytelling, nothing beats Knifepoint, an intermittent anthology podcast where each episode features a weary-voiced narrator telling a standalone, first-person story that inevitably builds from ominous dread into an all-consuming horror fest. Knifepoint has no frills and no production frippery; its effectiveness derives partly from its minimalism, and the way creator Soren Narnia allows the silence to fill your mind with terror. For sheer eeriness, few things are scarier than the episodes titled “staircase,” “rebirth,” “landmark,” and “sisters” — though every tale in this collection will likely wind up in your nightmares.

Number of episodes: Forty standalone episodes ranging from 40 to 70 minutes in length. A sampling of Knifepoint’s most popular episodes is also available on YouTube. New episodes are released essentially whenever Narnia feels like it; a new quartet of short stories just appeared for Halloween.

Within the Wires (fiction)

“No one is with you. Why would anyone be with you? You are probably alone.”

This podcast from the geniuses behind Welcome to Night Vale wields creepiness in the form of deep relaxation techniques. Initially styled as a guided meditation, Within the Wires quickly turns dark as its calm and soothing narrator becomes more and more aggressive, leads you through tension-relieving exercises that are more than a bit disturbing, and drops clues about the existence of a futuristic dystopian society. As the layers peel away, the narrative becomes something like Stranger Things meets Children of Men, and the gaps left up to your imagination are truly spooky.

Number of episodes: Fourteen episodes and counting — one complete season of 10 episodes, plus a second season currently in progress. Episodes run 20 to 30 minutes each and come out twice a month.

Homecoming (fiction)

Gimlet’s star-studded Homecoming is less a psychological thriller than a veiled Brazil-esque study of institutional politics gone deeply awry. The story of a lone military vet (Oscar Isaac) who goes missing from a mysterious facility, the podcast is spun out through loosely connected scenes that don’t really form a cohesive narrative; ultimately, Homecoming feels more like an abstract form of performance art captured on audio. Still, its intrigue, mind games, and sinister atmosphere will keep you hooked from start to finish — particularly thanks to standout performances from Isaac, Catherine Keener, and David Schwimmer.

Number of episodes: Twelve half-hour episodes, divided into two seasons of six episodes each. No future seasons are planned.

Lake Clarity (fiction)

Lake Clarity combines the audio drama format with the found-footage subgenre of horror movies, with a hefty degree of comedy thrown in. The plot may be a standard-issue tale of a teen camping trip gone wrong, but the podcast is plenty engaging, thanks to the obvious fun its voice actors are having as their characters explore a mysterious cave full of unspeakable Lovecraftian terrors. Lake Clarity also boasts unsettlingly stellar sound design: When a scene turns from funny to ghoulish, it does so with remarkable speed and bone-crunching effectiveness. (I’m not joking — the crunching noises can really get to you.)

Number of episodes: Ten episodes and counting — one complete season of eight episodes, plus a second season currently in progress. Episodes run 15 to 25 minutes each and come out twice a month.

Alice Isn’t Dead (fiction)

Like the aforementioned Within the Wires, the gorgeous and eerie Alice Isn’t Dead is another project from the creators of Welcome to Night Vale. The podcast unfolds its strange road trip through first-person vignettes and narrated letters addressed to the title character; more explicitly built on horror tropes than either Night Vale or Wires, it tells the story of a woman searching for her missing wife in the spookiest liminal spaces of America’s highways and byways — truck stops, dive bars, seedy motels and diners, and the vast expanse of the open road. Through this setting, various forms of evil and surreal supernatural phenomena pursue our protagonist as she keeps on trucking to flee both her own demons and the terrifying creatures that haunt her route.

Number of episodes: Two seasons of 10 episodes, which each run 20 to 30 minutes long. Season three is in development.

Return Home (fiction)

A man named Jonathan returns to his odd hometown, Melancholy Falls, for the first time since he was a teenager, only to be confronted with strange happenings, mysterious alien body snatchers, and voices continuing to demand that he “return home.” With the help of an old friend, he embarks on a journey to figure out where and what “home” really is. Quirky and comedic with plenty of jump scares, Return Home is well-acted and benefits from fantastic audio production, to make the possibility of having your body taken over by weird alien things feel even more immersive.

Number of episodes: So far, there are 42 episodes of five to 20 minutes in length, divided into several short story arcs and interludes within the ongoing serialized story. New episodes are typically released weekly, but the podcast is currently on hiatus.

Rabbits (fiction)

Rabbits falls under the umbrella of Pacific Northwest Stories (PNWS): the podcast production company working in the guise of a fictional news radio outlet that also brought us The Black Tapes and the similarly pseudo-journalistic Tanis. With Rabbits, PNWS has once again pulled out all the metafictional stops, this time to spin the tale of a viral game that takes a dark, dark turn. Like its PNWS cousins, Rabbits involves fictional journalists and a rabbit hole of paranormal puzzle pieces: A young reporter finds herself investigating a series of strange events, which seem to point toward a conspiracy surrounding the disappearance of a friend who may have been playing a mysterious game called “IX.” It’s a well-acted blend of urban legends, weird fiction, and your average creepypasta, and it gradually evolves into a chilling tale of obsession.

Number of episodes: One season of 10 episodes of 40 to 60 minutes each. Season two is in development.

The Message and Life After (fiction)

The Message and its follow-up series Life After are lush sci-fi thrillers that center on the decoding of an intercepted signal of apparent alien origin — and which might just be a curse. In The Message, though the stage is initially set to mimic your average journalistic nonfiction podcast, the completely fictional story rapidly goes off the rails, all while hewing close to real-life searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. The follow-up series, Life After, which deals with AI technology and the terrifying potential of immersion in a fully digital world, can be standalone but works even better as a sequel. (There’s also a post-series roundtable discussion of the show’s scientific plot points with Neil deGrasse Tyson.)

Number of episodes: Both series finish their stories within a single season. The Message runs for eight 10- to 15-minute episodes; Life After runs for 10 half-hour episodes.

The Lost Cat Podcast (fiction)

The Lost Cat Podcast is a modern homage to Edgar Allen Poe’s obsessive, paranoiac narrators and the endlessly disturbing worlds in which they live. It’s surreal, blackly comedic, and often totally bizarre, but the concept is irresistibly simple: In each episode, the narrator continues an ongoing search for his cat. What he finds instead is a host of eminently compelling weirdness.

Number of episodes: Twenty-four episodes split among three seasons. Episodes run between 20 and 30 minutes each. Season three abruptly went on hiatus earlier this year, with two episodes remaining.

Point Mystic (fiction)

Point Mystic is endlessly spine-tingling. It’s Welcome to Night Vale by way of NPR — that is, it sounds like a news program, if the news were covering a town full of deeply surreal and discordant weirdness, from faceless firemen to terrifying wooden shapes in the forest. With its emphasis on surreal horror rendered via naturalistic storytelling, Point Mystic echoes the aforementioned Knifepoint Horror, but its impressive production value places it at the opposite end of the podcast spectrum.

Number of episodes: One season of seven 30- to 40-minute episodes. Season two is in development.

Inside the Exorcist (nonfiction, mostly)

Inside the Exorcist is more accurately a metafiction podcast that’s loosely based on the real-life history — some of it less well-sourced than the rest — surrounding The Exorcist. If you love the 1973 movie or are fascinated by the concept of exorcism, or if you’re just a fan of reenactment journalism, this is a must-listen.

Number of episodes: Season one is only three episodes in so far; new episodes are being released weekly.

You Must Remember This: Bela and Boris (nonfiction)

Posh and utterly engrossing, You Must Remember This has made a name for itself based on host Karina Longworth’s intimate season-long explorations into the lives and legends of Old Hollywood. Just in time for Halloween, she’s started a new season as of this week — and she’s turning her attention to two of the men who made Universal’s monsters a permanent cultural fixture: Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. We can’t wait to hear where this goes.

Number of episodes: There are currently 115 episodes of You Must Remember This, divided into closed-ended story arcs on a range of subjects. The Bela and Boris arc debuted this week, and new 40- to 70-minute episodes are released weekly.

Spooked (nonfiction)

Spooked is a documentary podcast focusing on folklore and supernatural myths throughout the world; think Lore, but with a narrower focus and an even sharper sense of where our universal fears originate.

Number of episodes: Ten episodes of 20 to 40 minutes each, and counting; new episodes will be released every few days through Halloween.