Halloween is just around the corner, and there's no better way to get spooky than by listening to these podcasts, which run the gamut from spine-tingling fiction to bone-chilling true crime.
The premise of this podcast is self-explanatory: In each episode, host Greg Polcyn takes listeners to a new haunted location around the world. It’s featured infamous tourist destinations—think the Winchester Mystery House and Paris's Catacombs—alongside places like Vermont's Bennington County Courthouse and Austin's Driskill Hotel. Each episode's storytelling is a blend of real history and creepy legends supplemented with spooky sound effects and Polcyn's narration. New episodes are released every Thursday. (If you can’t get enough of Polcyn, he co-hosts two other podcasts worth checking out: Serial Killers and Cults.)
Strange Phenomenon, which just launched this year, is “a paranormal documentary podcast, featuring expert and eyewitness interviews, delving into events and anomalies that appear to be beyond the realm of conventional scientific understanding.” So far, Strange Phenomenon has explored the Fermi Paradox and the Snallygaster, a cryptid with a mysterious past and a connection to Theodore Roosevelt); future episodes will take a look at John Murray Spear, who created a mechanical messiah, and Indonesia’s Bigfoot. Episodes drop every other week, along with bonus episodes featuring full interviews with their guests.
Fans of scary movies might enjoy NoSleep, a horror fiction podcast that comes with a warning: "[NoSleep] is intended for mature adults, not the faint of heart. Join us at your own risk …" NoSleep started as a subreddit devoted to original horror; in 2011, member Matt Hansen proposed a podcast, and David Cummings signed on to host and produce. The stories are brought to life by voice actors, sound effects, and spooky scores. "We're bringing the old-time radio show back into the modern culture," Cummings told the Chicago Tribune in 2017. "The audience members bring their own imaginations and fears. That really heightens their sense of connection."
NoSleep is currently in its 15th season, which it promised "has 16 candles we hope you can handle, with five tales about nasty nature, terrifying transformations, and malicious malls. This one might sting." If you're not sure where to start, the team has assembled a handy list of sample episodes you can check out.
With more than 85 million acres in the National Park System, there’s plenty of space to explore. There’s also ample opportunity to get lost or wrapped up in a crime. Park Predators explores the tales that unfold in the vast, uninhabited territory of protected land and the guests who have met with a terrible fate. Host Delia D’Ambra also solicits tips for unsolved investigations.
5. Pretty Scary
Listeners who love My Favorite Murder will likely enjoy Pretty Scary. While the overall vibe of this podcast isn't exactly spooky—it's hosted by comics Adam Tod Brown, Caitlin Cutt, and Kari Martin, who bring humor to the proceedings—the subject matter is. Pretty Scary covers everything from true crime cases to conspiracy theories to the unexplained. Past episodes have explored the chupacabra, the ghost ship Mary Celeste, the effects of nuclear explosions, and murders that happened on Halloween.
This podcast investigates the actual skeletons in people's closets. Hosted by The Moth grand slam winner Sam Dingman, Family Ghosts tells the true stories of families haunted by mysterious ancestors or relatives with long-kept secrets whose actions ripple through generations. Over three seasons, the show has examined individual family legends as well as the long shadows of slavery and colonialism.
This podcast, just 23 episodes long, is hosted by Cooper B. Wilhelm, and it's the perfect pre-Halloween listening: It features "friendly interviews with practitioners and scholars of witchcraft and the occult arts, as well as answers to listener questions on occult subjects." Wilhelm is excellent at getting the witches and wizards he interviews to open up. Check out this episode, which features a discussion about Satanism versus Devil Worship.
Before documentaries like Making a Murderer and The Jinx were available to stream at our leisure, Dateline NBC was appointment television for true-crime fanatics. Though the show still airs in its dependable Friday night time slot, the network also releases every new episode in podcast form, along with classic Dateline episodes from throughout the show’s 28-year history. It’s not as cinematic as some of the other true-crime podcasts out there, but Dateline’s barebones, journalistic approach to murderous spouses and small-town conspiracies is the epitome of binge worthy.
This podcast takes on events that defy explanation, "the space between what we think of as real and what is not. Where the unknown and paranormal meets the most radical ideas in science today…" Host Richard MacLean Smith explained to TVOvermind that he has three criteria for selecting stories to feature: "One, that it has a human element at the heart of it; two, that it is actually a story and not just an event (for example, like just saying, "this person was abducted on this day, and that's all they can remember"); and [third], that the unexplained mystery has never been sufficiently debunked."
There’s more to the past than the stories printed on the pages of your history textbooks. With its narrative form and in-depth of interviews with historians, Unobscured dredges up the truth about darker, oft-misunderstood episodes of history. Past seasons have focused on the Salem Witch Trials and the rise of Spiritualism.
11. Here Be Monsters
Started by Jeff Emtman in 2012, Here Be Monsters—which is named after the cartography convention—describes itself as "a podcast created by and for people interested in pursuing their fears and facing the unknown." Emtman told The Guardian in 2015 that "What I do—and encourage the people who produce for the show to do—is take our fears and those moments of discomfort and pursue them. You poke around until you feel repulsion and then break it down into its constituent parts and chase each of those. Every time I've done that, I've found that the fears are relatively unfounded." Here Be Monsters has covered everything from a Satanic prayer line and a three-legged arctic fox to crow funerals and ASMR; each episode features an unsettling soundscape and is accompanied on the website by eerie art. The team—which also includes Bethany Denton and Nick White—recommends starting with new episodes and working your way backwards.
Reply All hosts Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt have plenty in common, but not when it comes to horror films. Goldman adores them—even considers them comforting—while Vogt can’t stomach anything remotely frightening. To help him conquer his fear, the duo launched The Scaredy Cats Horror Show, where they watch a horror film and then discuss it. They cover The Exorcist (1973), Alien (1979), Get Out (2017), Midsommar (2019), and more, and special guests include actor Jason Mantzoukas and author Carmen Maria Machado. Goldman and Vogt have an upbeat, well-honed rapport, which makes this an entertaining listen for horror lovers and haters, alike.
This expertly produced radio drama—which at first is almost indistinguishable from non-fiction—has drawn comparisons to both Serial and the television series The X-Files. It covers a fictional event, 10 years in the past, in which hundreds of people disappeared from a gated community in Tennessee without a trace. Its fictional host, Lia Haddock—whose uncle who vanished in the event—tries to unravel the mystery of what happened in Limetown. Creators Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie looked to NPR radio shows like Radiolab and This American Life "for direction and structure for how a radio documentary sounds," Akers told Vox, and real-life disappearances like that of the Roanoke Colony also served as inspiration. After you finish it, buy the prequel.
Each season of the CBC podcast Uncover explores a different high-stakes true crime story. For season 6, host Lisa Bryn Rundle takes a look at the Satanic Panic that gripped America in the 1980s. Though proof of any actual Satanic rituals are missing from the story, the false allegations and unjust criminal trials that resulted from the moral panic are just as scary.
This painstakingly researched podcast (hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey spend between eight and 20 hours researching each episode) has covered plenty of horrifying historical events, and its Halloween episodes—of which there are several every year—are no exception. In the past, Wilson and Frey have covered the Villisca Axe Murders, the mysterious disappearance of Aaron Burr's only daughter, and Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
16. Dr. Death
Doctors are supposed to make sick people better, and in fact, they all must take an oath to do no harm. In the event they ignore that oath, the medical system is supposed to protect patients—but that doesn't always happen. Dr. Death follows the crimes of neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Duntsch, who cut a path of destruction through the spines of his patients. It was preventable destruction that his various employers, and the medical system, simply did not do enough to stop. "One of the shocking things for me is that there were several gatekeepers along the way, there were several places where the entity involved could have stopped him—starting with his medical school—and nobody did," host Laura Beil said at a listening event for the podcast. "At every juncture something that should have happened to stop him didn't happen. And I don't know that that's even that unusual." What could be scarier than that?
Tuning into this podcast is like huddling around an international campfire. Listeners from around the world call in and regale audiences with true tales of their encounters with all things eerie. Haunted by the memories of your own supernatural experience? You can share your spooky story, which may wind up on a future episode.
This is technically a comedy podcast, but if you don't find medical history scary, you might be dead. Hosted by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband, Justin, the podcast—which takes its name from what surgeons used to be called—debuted in 2013. In the seasons since, it's covered topics from insomnia and asbestos to sleepwalking and spontaneous combustion and everything in between.
Featuring true stories straight from people who say they've experienced paranormal phenomena, Spooked is hosted by Glynn Washington. The grandson of a seer, Washington saw his first exorcism as a teen. "There's nothing scarier or more mesmerizing than a real-life ghost story," he said. "The encounters in Spooked will stay with you beyond each episode and leave you questioning your understanding of reality." With its scary stories and spine-tingling sound design, Spooked is one you won't want to miss. Check out season one, episode six, "The Shadow Men," which features two tales: one about a house haunted by a malevolent spirit, and one about the things that went bump in the night for one border patrol agent.