Nothing gets me in the mood for Halloween like listening to a scary story read aloud. Over the past few months, I started listening to a lot of podcasts, which often are exactly that, a good story read over the air. So, without further ado, I’m introducing you to some of my all time favorite (spooky) podcasts.
Now, I use the term “spooky” here pretty loosely. Some of these are true crime stories, investigations of real cases – past or present – and some are altogether fictional from start to finish, but there is a common thread: fear, suspense, and mystery. These are my top recommendations to tune into this October to get you in a festive mood.
1. Lore – I’ve been following Lore for years now. It’s the reason I got into listening to podcasts in the first place. Easily my go-to. Lore is great if you’re looking for a spooky story without getting into anything too frightening. There are a few episodes mixed in here and there with serial killers, but really for the most part, it’s eerie stories of uncanny sightings, dark histories, and local legends.
While I started from the beginning, this is easily a podcast where you can skip around and pick and choose your episodes. Each stands alone.
My recommendation, start with: “A Stranger Among Us.”
2. The Black Tapes – I’ve heard this one described as The X-File meets Serial – and that’s not wrong. In this fictional docudrama podcast, reporter Alex Regan meets the mysterious Richard Strand of the Strand Institute, a famed paranormal mystery debunker, and investigates his unsolved cases, aka the black tapes.
This was so fun to listen to. I’d been working on my Ghost Story project while listening to this. It does get a little a little wild down the road, but we’re weeks away from the series finale and you bet I’m still listening. This series does require starting at the beginning. While each episode does revolve around a different black tape for the most part, it does not make sense to listen out of order. So start with episode 1: “A Tale of Two Tapes”.
3. Case File – The one word that comes to mind here with Case File is “researched.” This true crime series is gripping. Now, I haven’t listened to every tape and I am not up-to-date, but this is a podcast that I love to take my time listening to. I rewind and pause to take breaks. It’s heavy and tells it all. Some episodes are especially graphic, but this series is particularly good about warning in advance.
Unlike other podcasts, where I do typically start from episode 1, Case File names their episodes after the case they’re covering. I was so curious about some cases specifically that I didn’t want to wait. So I skip around. I look up places referenced in the podcast, look at photographs associated with the story. My recommended episode: “The Yorkshire Ripper” (Parts 1, 2, & 3).
4. Up and Vanished – Fans of Serial, check out this one. Up and Vanished is an investigative podcast that week by week the disappearance of former beauty queen and high school teacher, Tara Grinstead. At the start of this investigation, it was a decade long cold case. Over the course of its run, new information comes to light and the story twists unexpectedly.
A lot happens over the first season on this show and at times speculation does run wild, perhaps a bit unfairly. A lot happens very quickly. This series does require starting at the beginning. There are so many suspects involved and a lot of names. It takes learning them one by one. Start here.
5. Criminal – Criminal is a true crime podcast, or at least it kind of it. There are a ton of great human interest stories thrown into the mix. For me I think the biggest draw of this show, (and it’s one I have been binge-listening to for years now), is probably a few elements, like just who the makers of Criminal decide to talk to. The host, Phoebe Judge, is fantastic. There are just so many interesting perspectives. No episode is predictable or expected. You get everything from the true crime stories that inspired historic folk ballads to interviews with inmates at a minimum security prison that still houses the last remaining residents of a Louisiana leper colony.
I like to listen in order, but that’s not a necessary requirement with this podcast. Almost all episodes stand alone, unless they otherwise specify that they don’t. I recommend starting with episode 61: “Vanish.”
6. Serial – If you haven’t listened to Serial, do it. Lore might have been my gateway podcast, but for almost everyone else I know, it was Serial. There are a few seasons of Serial now, but season 1, without a doubt is what got me hooked and what people are still talking about. I won’t give anything away, but this investigative podcast follows one reporter into a complicated murder trial.
7. Rabbits – As far as fictional podcasts go, Rabbits created by the people behind The Black Tapes is pretty great. It reminds me so much of the TV series Lost in a way that I can’t even describe. It’s that same kind of weird, science fiction mystery. Regardless, this is one that made me fall in love with the docudrama podcast and it’s still a top recommendation. Carly Parker’s best friend is missing. Her disappearance may have been the result of her getting involved with this nameless ancient game known as “Rabbits.” There is only one season out at the moment and it’s amazing. You’ve got to listen in order, so start with episode 1.
8. Limetown – another docudrama and so much fun to listen to, if you’re in the mood for something a little on the scarier side. One reporter begins looking into a decade old mystery – how all of the residents of Limetown vanished. Like a modern day Roanoke colony. There are only 6 episodes in total (plus a few extras that you’ve definitely got to listen to), but it’s an eerie, sci-fi series that’s worth a listen! Start with episode 1 here.