Podcasts, free audio shows similar to radio dramas, can take many forms and tackle dozens of topics. While horror-themed podcasts are common, some are notably explicit, laced with profanity and gory, graphic details meant to frighten listeners.
Just in time for Halloween, here are 10 of the spookiest horror-themed podcasts that won’t frighten your ears. While none of these feature harsh profanity or graphic details, some still tackle concepts more appropriate for teens and adults.
Each podcast can be found through iTunes, Google Play or any other online podcast service, and are best experienced in the dark, with headphones.
If you’re looking for a long-running series, you might find a lot to like about “Anything Ghost.” Since 2006, Lex Wahl has filled shows with user-submitted paranormal experiences and ghostly legends, all of which are purported to be true. Wahl also provides original music for the series, adding a boost to the production value.
Like most long-running audio shows, only the most recent 10 podcasts are available at any given time. According to the show’s site, fans can pay a membership fee for access to the "Anything Ghost" backlog archives, as well as early podcast access and bonus episodes.
“Fireside Mystery Theatre” is a horror-themed comedy podcast recorded in front of a live audience. According to the show’s website, the podcast is modeled after an old-fashioned radio show and features improvised performances and musical numbers.
While not necessarily frightening, “Fireside Mystery Theatre” offers a lot of fun and laughs with the occasional scare mixed in.
"Knifepoint Horror" presents a stripped-down approach to scary storytelling. Rather than rely on dramatic voiceovers and tension-building musical cues, the show features a simple voiceover performed by Soren Narnia. Each story approaches horror in a different way, but they generally share a common theme: Everyday life can be more tragic and frightening than any ghost story.
The show’s website claims this approach allows for adherence to “the most primal element of storytelling,” which it describes as a singular voice relating scary stories. “Knifepoint Horror” is sure to frighten you with its quiet, subdued approach to some truly frightening tales.
Hosted by author Aaron Mahnke, “Lore” tackles a number of frightening folklore tales, all of which are rooted in history, and highlights the often-damaging impact of superstition on people's lives. The show covers a number of topics ranging from early mental institutions to a variety of monsters.
For those who can’t get enough "Lore," Amazon recently adapted several episodes into a television show, which Vox describes as a “compelling mix of the original elements of Mahnke’s podcast with the appeal of the classic re-enactment show.” Additionally, “The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures,” written by Mahnke, contains numerous true stories featuring several modern-day monsters and urban legends.
“The Magnus Archives” follows Jonathan Sims, the head archivist of the fictional Magnus Institute, as he attempts to archive and organize a neglected collection of statements regarding supernatural events, according to the show’s website.
Although each episode operates independently as its own story, the show begins weaving a greater conspiracy involving the mysterious institute.
While not strictly horror-themed, “Sawbones” explores medicinal practices over the ages to highlight the most misguided, but well-intentioned, cures for various illnesses. Dr. Sarah McElroy hosts the show with her husband Justin (of Polygon and "My Brother, My Brother, and Me" fame), and covers topics like the creation of aspirin, opioid addiction and plastic surgery practices.
Episodes are generally family-friendly, and any episodes containing graphic material contain a warning up front. Despite a lighter tone, the show’s focus on arcane and sometimes brutal medical practices is sure to make you shudder.
Like most horror podcasts, “Simply Scary” follows an anthology format, where each episode features several listener-submitted stories performed by talented voice actors and YouTube personalities, including Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.
According to the show's website, the "Simply Scary" creators allow for first-time authors and actors to submit original tales and performances, giving the show a lot of variety.
Fans of true crime dramas and documentaries will find a lot to love in “Up and Vanished,” an investigative podcast revolving around the 2005 disappearance of Georgia teacher Tara Grinstead. The show is hosted by documentarian Payne Lindsey as he investigates various leads regarding the case.
The show’s influences are pretty clear: In the first episode, Lindsey cites murder mysteries like NPR’s “Serial” and Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” as inspiration. Additionally, “Up and Vanished” created enough interest in Grinstead’s case to warrant a deeper investigation, which led to a suspect’s arrest in 2017, according to the show’s website.
“Unexplained” is one of iTunes’ Best of 2016 podcasts, and focuses on mysterious true events that continue to evade explanation today. Like "Lore," the show leans heavily on history and a documentary-style approach to some truly weird events.
Host Richard Maclean Smith approaches each topic from multiple viewpoints, analyzing unexplained phenomena through a scientific and cultural lens. “Unexplained” is currently on its second season, and transcripts of each episode can be found on the show’s website, for those who prefer to read.
Inspired by television shows like "Twin Peaks" and "The X-Files," “Welcome to Night Vale” is a series of community updates regarding the fictional town of Night Vale, in which strange occurrences have become commonplace. The show can be incredibly foreboding and dark at times, but is written with audiences of all ages in mind, according to the show’s website.
If “Night Vale” tickles your fancy, its creators have also featured and produced a variety of other fictional podcasts set in the world of Night Vale, and can be found at Night Vale Presents.