Sometimes you find yourself in the mood for scary stories– tales of things that go bump in the night, creepy stories that raise gooseflesh on your arms when ghosts drag chains across the attic floor. You could possibly listen to podcasts that can help reduce stress, but would that scratch that itch? To that end, the Vurbl team has tried to narrow down the many great horror podcasts 2020 has to offer.
#1: The Q Files: Podcast Review
The Q Files is a true gem for anyone who considers themselves an enthusiast of paranormal stories. Not content with make-believe, the crew of The Q Files is on a mission to uncover the truth behind real, true-life tales of the unexplained phenomena that give us nightmares.
The Hosts: Shane McClelland and Lori Gum are no novices when it comes to horror and the paranormal, having already found a hit with a popular LBGTQ ghost-hunting web series. They bring that same enthusiasm into the world of top horror podcasts in 2020 with The Q Files.
Format: Lori and Shane go to any lengths to learn about the mysteries they investigate: From traveling around the United States to interviewing paranormal and cryptid experts, the duo leaves no stone unturned…even if they might find a poltergeist lurking beneath it.
Why You Should Listen: The Q Files may have just gotten started in October 2019, but so far this wickedly entertaining horror podcast shows huge promise for 2020. In less than 20 episodes so far, the crew has looked into psychics, an Ohio cryptid called the Crosswick monster, haunted houses, and even the truth behind stigmata. Aside from the terrifying content, The Q Files offers an enlightening perspective that is rarely found in horror.
Listen to The Q Files
2: The No Sleep Podcast: Podcast Review
For over nine years, The No Sleep Podcast has been keeping listeners awake all night long with its combination of original and classic horror tales produced with a stunning cast of voice performers, atmospheric music, and an honest desire to scare the living daylights out of people.
The Crew: Started in 2011 by David Cummings and a handful of Redditor volunteers, The No Sleep Podcast has always been a labor of love. Cummings remains the show’s lead producer/showrunner, with Brandon Boone as the composer of its eerie music, and a host of voices that includes Addison Peacock, Corinne Sanders, David Ault, Jessica McEvoy, Peter Lewis, Rima Chaddha Mycynek and many more.
Format: Each of the hundreds of episodes in this top horror podcast begins with a moody intro (usually by Cummings) and then proceeds into dramatic audio productions of both original horror and paranormal stories as well as classics. Listeners are even invited to submit their own spooky tales.
Why You Should Listen: The No Sleep Podcast is often found on top podcast lists, let alone on top horror podcast lists. Once you begin listening, it is easy to become addicted to the excellent production value in sound design, performance, and story content.
Listen to The No Sleep Podcast
#3: LORE: Podcast Review
While our previously listed top horror podcast of 2020 works its dark magic with fictional supernatural tales, LORE looks into our past to uncover the sources, origins, and inspirations of our most frightening inventions.
The Host: Aaron Mahnke isn’t quite a household name yet, but he’s getting there. LORE was his creation in the mid-2010s, but back in 2017 it transitioned onto television with the LORE Amazon series. Mahkne’s passion for digging up the dark roots of history comes through in every episode.
Format: Our host is a researcher and writer first and foremost, and Mahnke puts those skills to great use in LORE. Every episode opens with a prologue to set up the tale to come, and then Mahnke narrates a well-written creepy tale about a true event, phenomenon, person, or thing. His voice is measured, set to scene-setting music composed by Chad Lawson.
Why You Need to Listen: In Episode 101: Worn Away, Mahnke unearths secrets about a 2,000-year-old burial mound built by the Adena culture of Native Americans with the care of an archaeologist and the inquisitiveness of a private detective. It is this unadulterated desire to connect a hidden past to the modern-day that acts as the overall pulse of LORE, pumping this top horror podcast’s lifeblood through our speakers.
Listen to LORE
Rating: All Ages
#4: The Black Tapes: Podcast Review
One part TV show X Files, one part podcast Serial, and one part H.P. Lovecraft classic, The Black Tapes is an unnerving concoction that was made to addict fans of slow-cooker horror. Released in two and a half 12-episode seasons since 2015, there isn’t a huge backlog to catch up on before the second half of season three arrives. This is truly a top horror podcast 2020 has to offer despite the wait.
The Crew: Created by Terry Miles and Paul Bae of the equally intriguing fiction podcast The Pacific Northwest Stories, The Black Tapes is a AAA production in the world of podcasts. Lori Henry performs believably as journalist Alex Reagan. She is joined by Christian Sloan playing Dr. Richard Strand, the paranormal investigator on a hunt to debunk supernatural claims.
Format: The Black Tapes began as a biography of Dr. Strand, but evolved into more of an ongoing serial tale of Reagan and Strand teaming up to try and prevent an incursion by demons. Each episode ranges from 35-50 minutes and continues the story docudrama style, set to eerie music composed by Kevin MacLeod.
Why You Should Listen: The term “binge-worthy” perfectly describes The Back Tapes. The show feels much like an audiobook written by a horror master and produced on some kind of audio steroids.
Listen to The Black Tapes
As our first serial on this list, The Black Tapes is best experienced in order. Start with episode 1 here: A Tale of Two Tapes: Part 1.
#5: Knifepoint Horror: Podcast Review
What do you get when you swirl together a dash of Amazing Stories with a pint of Tales from the Crypt and a cup of Twilight Zone? Knifepoint Horror, that’s what– one of the most chilling horror podcasts 2020 can dish out. You might choose to listen to some all-too-real scary stories, but where’s the fun in that?
Creator/Host: Though he doesn’t have much of an online presence, Soren Narnia is master of his own small kingdom with the Knifepoint Horror podcast and books. His tales draw from the deep well of classic and history-based terror and are stitched together with expert wordsmithing.
Format: This horror fiction podcast is a top tier audio production. Soren Narnia’s stories are brought to life by one of the largest casts of voice actors we’ve come across in dramatic audio. Every episode features different performers playing the parts of (usually) humans caught in webs of supernatural terror and/or intrigue. Each standalone story is complemented by powerful music, much of it composed by Kevin MacLeod.
Why You Should Listen: From the Lovecraftian psychoterror found in the episode title chasm to the twists on the haunted house formula of presence, Knifepoint Horror delivers an intense experience jammed into episode runtimes of 30-75 minutes. The sheer variety of spine chilling stories will keep you listening for days on end.
Listen to Knifepoint Horror
#6: The Wicked Library: Podcast Review
For over a decade, The Wicked Library has been delighting and terrifying listeners with its dramatic audio productions of horror tales by both upcoming and established writers. This series’ loyal audience has a lot of good to say about it. If you enjoy No Sleep Podcast and/or Knifepoint Horror, you will find this horror podcast right up your (dark) alley.
Creator/Host: Daniel Foytik runs several other horror-themed podcasts, but The Wicked Library is the most voluminous and noteworthy. He is a writer whose love of the oral tradition of telling creepy tales is on full display. Luckily he has been able to gather so much talent around him to produce The Wicked Library’s vast collection of hundreds of episodes.
Format: Episodes generally publish on a biweekly basis with breaks between seasons. Each one ranges from 30 to 70 minutes in length and is a high-quality audiobook-style production of a new horror story. Foytik has written a number of tales, but over the years he’s been joined by the likes of KB Goddard, Stephanie Wytovich, Owl Goingback, and many others. The stories are narrated by stellar performers and accompanied by moody music.
Why You Should Listen: Episode 611 is a great place to get a taste for The Wicked Library. It contains a story by Neil Gaiman titled “The Price” produced with permission from one of his collections, as well as a tale by Foytik and a third story by Nelson W. Pyles. This episode shows off this horror podcast’s wide reach and quality.
Listen to The Wicked Library
#7: The Magnus Archives: Podcast Review
With over 2 million downloads per month, there is no shortage of fans for The Magnus Archives. This weekly horror and suspense podcast began in 2016 and combines standalone and serial stories under the umbrella of a group that is tasked with understanding the strange and unexplainable.
The Crew: Jonathan Sims writes the show and performs as the main character of the same name, the head archivist of the fictional Magnus Institute. Alexander Newell directs the production with a voice cast that includes Lottie Broomhall, Mike LeBeau, Evelyn Hewitt as a paranormal doppelganger, and many other talented performers.
Format: A lovechild of The X-Files, Fringe, and Edgar Allen Poe, The Magnus Archives follows ongoing threads of a story while often slowing down for one-off tales in the same universe.
Why You Should Listen: Fans praise the podcast for its depth and intricacy, and at episode lengths of 20-30 minutes on average it is eminently bingeable.
Listen to The Magnus Archives
#8: Wrong Station: Podcast Review
In the tradition of classic scary radio programs Lights Out and Quiet, Please, Wrong Station is a top horror podcast that delights in building dread in every episode. Listeners also love the fact that this is a bit more of a “hardcore” horror experience, featuring even more mature themes and a lot of body horror elements.
Creators: Alexander Saxton and Anthony Botelho created Wrong Station in 2016. They also write and produce the episodes, and are joined in these efforts by Jacob Duarte Spiel.
Format: This biweekly horror podcast is a throwback to creepy radio shows of a time gone by, with a modern flair for the extreme and graphic.
Why You Should Listen: Each episode focuses on slowly leading the listener deeper into a troubling situation that becomes utterly terrifying. Though sparse on music and sound effects, the narrator/s are able to maintain interest through the stories primarily first-person POV, making these tales even more personal.
Listen to Wrong Station
#9: Tales to Terrify: Podcast Review
Maybe the most straightforward horror podcast 2020 has to offer, Tales to Terrify may seem on the surface to be a take on pulpy scares from the mid-twentieth century due to its gratifyingly simple logo.
Creator/Host: Drew Sebesteny’s sheer joy at sharing mind-numbingly chilling stories with his listeners comes through with every word as he introduces the content for each episode. He’s been producing this top horror podcast since 2012 and shows no signs of stopping.
Format: For hundreds of weekly installments, Sebesteny has brought together scores of voice performers to read short works by an even greater number of creepily-talented writers. This all comes together in very high-quality audiobook-style episodes.
Why You Should Listen: Since 2012, Tales to Terrify has been giving listeners a barrage of spooky and unsettling tales that never fail to impress in scope and depth. One of Sebesteny’s regular yearly treats is to feature as many Bram Stoker Award-winners as possible, ratcheting up the quality ever higher.
Listen to Tales to Terrify
#10: Nightmare Magazine: Podcast Review
This biweekly top horror podcast is pulled directly from the pages of the online Nightmare Magazine site. Original and classic horror stories are featured in each episode, so they can be listened to in any order.
Crew: John Joseph Adams edits and Stefan Rudnicki produces the tales told in the Nightmare Magazine podcast. Rudnicki is a seasoned pro in the world of audio, having graced our ears for forty years and won Grammies, Bram Stokers, and many other awards. The stories are narrated by a roster of great readers like Justine Eyre, Paul Boehmer, and many more.
Format: Each episode of Nightmare Magazine gets a quick intro and then moves right onto the fun stuff: a short story published in the online magazine, usually between 15 and 40 minutes of audio, read expertly. This top horror podcast features the most sparse sound production (though it’s great quality voice recording), but the voice talent draws you right into the rare, bloody meat of each tale.
Why You Should Listen: John Joseph Adam truly knows how to select powerful, gut-punching scary stories for the online magazine, and that translates well to the airwaves. The strategy behind the podcast is multichannel marketing aimed at getting listeners to subscribe to the magazine, but it’s well worth letting them suck you in.
Listen to Nightmare Magazine
#11: Pseudopod: Podcast Review
Offering hardcore horror tales to listeners for over 14 years now, Pseudopod is one of the most disturbing and truly terrifying fiction anthologies out there.
The Crew: Alasdair Stuart is the host, while Alex Hofelich and Shawn Garrett co-edit the series. Stuart is a Hugo award finalist for fan writing, and also is an owner of the Escape Artists podcast network of which Pseudopod is a part. The love of both horror and fan fiction runs deep with this team.
Format: A weekly podcast, Pseudopod publishes a mix of original and classic short horror fiction: Think works from Poe as well as recent masters of the form like John Langan and Margery Lawrence. These tales are presented in a straightforward manner by different narrators every episode: No frills, but all the chills.
Why You Should Listen: With the heftiest backlog of all our featured top horror podcasts, Pseudopod will keep horror fans occupied for months on end.
Listen to Pseudopod
Altogether, the previous 11 top horror podcasts 2020 has to offer are guaranteed to satisfy your need to hear scary stories for adults. Don’t be surprised if you end up with more than a few sleepless nights!
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