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The 10 Best Horror Podcasts To Scare Yourself Silly

A green line drawing on black of a casette tape with the text "The Magnus Archives" underneath it

It’s a weird quirk of human nature that we like to relax with scary stories. Why are we so calmed by engaging with stories of horrible things happening to other people? After all, the twin genres of true crime and horror are only getting more and more popular as time goes on. But despite the seemingly endless supply of horror (both real and fictional), sometimes all you want is to lie in the dark and have someone tell you a scary story. Well, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our top 10 list of horror podcasts to get you through this ongoing apocalypse.

10. The Burned Photo

The Burned Photo logo. A sepai image of a burning photograph of a house, held in a Black person's hand.

The Burned Photo is a trippily terrifying podcast about a generational curse, a mother’s desperation to save her child and what happens if you let the wrong thing in to play with your children. Felicia and Kira, two women from different families, find each other and realise that they’re being targeted by the same curse that’s dedicated to ending their family lines. Seeped in incredible audio effects that do surround sound when you have your earbuds in (so don’t listen at work), the creeping dread of the first episode spirals quickly into heart pounding terror as the series progresses. There’s a visceral fear to any horror based story that involves children and The Burned Photo is no different. Additionally the eerie mystery in the background only makes it more engaging to listen to.

9. Darkest Night

The Darkest Night profile picture, white text on a black square with an occult image of an eye in green lines behind it.
(The Paragon Collective)

Darkest Night follows a group of researchers seeking to answer a question that no one should have been asking; what is it like the seconds before someone dies? Told through the illicitly gathered research notes of a scientist working on Project Cyclops, for the shadowy Roth-Lobdow Center for Advanced Research, each episode of Darkest Night presents the listener with the last moments of a different subject just before their death. Immersive and scary, these stories start to link together to reveal something deeper and darker going on, eventually revealing a terrifying power struggle going on between amoral business people and potentially supernatural forces. Not just scary, but gross and trippy by turns, Darkest Night is a surreal listen that’s going to stay with you for some time.

8. Borrasca

The Borrasca profile picture. White text in scratchy letters appears at the top of a folk art influenced painting of a tree with a cop car next to it and  male and female sillouettes leaning on them. An unshaven white man in a leather jacket looks back at the viewer over his shoulder.

A podcast that settles firmly into the human rather than supernatural evil, Borrasca tells the story of a small, former mining town up in the mountains and the mysterious disappearances of young women there that happen on a far too regular basis. Told through the eyes of a boy new to the community whose sister quickly joins the missing, we’re taken through a journey of cults, strange parties in mountains that scream, and a series of world rocking betrayals that tell you no matter how bad your imaginings are the truth can always be worse. Drawing heavily on the traditions of Southern Gothic and Americana folk horror Borrasca is part mystery, part tense psychological thriller, and part pure nightmare fuel that will leave you both sickened and desperate to know what happens to the characters after the final episode ends. (There is a sequel available in novel form on the creator’s website, so you won’t have to wait for another season to find out.)

7. St. Mary’s School (for Children with the Stigmata)

St. Mary's School (for Children with the Stigmata) profile picture. A blue toned night scene with a moon and a gothic building in the background and a group of girls in school uniform facing away from the viewer in front. "St. Mary's School (for Children with the Stigmata)" appears at the top in white text with a cross in place of the t.
(New Girl Pictures)

A deeply unsettling podcast, St. Mary’s School (for Children with the Stigmata) blends the traditional beats and aesthetics of a gothic horror story with an extremely modern setting. An institution run by the Catholic church for children afflicted with the “gift” of stigmata St. Mary’s is a vast, old building that dwarfs the girls, and one boy, enclosed within it. Pairing the classic beats of a gothic horror novel with an exploration of psychological trauma, the institutional horror of the Catholic church and other organisations like it and the power that they wield, St. Mary’s School (for Children with the Stigmata) writer’s looked at the choice between supernatural and human evil, shrugged and said why not both? Once again using podcasts within the podcast as a storytelling device St. Mary’s School (for Children with the Stigmata) blurs past and present as the girls start talking about what happened to them, and discover there are consequences for speaking out.

6. Limetown

Limetown profile picture. A boarded up window behind white text that says "two up" and then below that "Limetown" in larger letters that have been struck through.
(Two-Up Productions)

A more sci-fi horror than others on this list, Limetown feels like a John Wyndham novel given the contemporary podcast treatment. Ten years ago the neuro-research facility of Limetown in Texas was subject to a mysterious, violent tragedy. First responders discovered the body of the facilities lead researcher burned at the stake in the centre of the community, but the rest of the 300 plus residents were all missing, still to this day unaccounted for. Investigative reporter Lia Haddock, whose uncle Emile vanished with the rest of the facility’s residents, is out to find out what really happened at Limetown. Uncovering government conspiracies, unethical research, and a hidden network of survivor’s who are being picked off one by one, Lia herself ends up disappearing and season two is all about what happened to her along with the real secret at the heart of Limetown.

5. The No Sleep Podcast

The No Sleep Podcast logo. A Blue toned night scene of a moon over a lake with the title in white text across the middle.
(The No Sleep Podcast)

An anthology style show, The NoSleep Podcast collects the best of the stories submitted on the Reddit sub r/nosleep, and has its rotating cast of voice actors read them aloud audiobook style. If you love creepy pastas but hate having to wade through all the mediocre offerings to get to the good ones The NoSleep Podcast is perfect because they do that for you. They’re also great for listening to when cleaning/crafting/doing other activities with your hands because the nature of the medium means they’re not too demanding attention wise, and because most of them are stand alone it won’t matter if you miss a small detail as it’s not going to suddenly matter ten episodes down the line.

4. Ghosts in the Burbs

Floating Ghost Evil Spirit Looking Over Her Shoulder in a Derelict Asylum Hospital 3d Illustration
(Paul Campbell, iStock / Getty Images)

Horror’s answer to the cosy mystery, Ghosts in the Burbs is another podcast inside a podcast, this time following a chatty, middle class mother in Wellesley, Massachusetts as she collects local ghost stories and folklore. A dedicated fan of the paranormal, and wanting to reclaim a life for herself outside of parenting as the children get older, Liz hit on the idea of a podcast as a way to meet some people and get back into writing. Expecting a few ghostly thrills and a lot of misses, it turns out that the more you look at the supernatural the more things start to look back, and Liz’s life quickly becomes a lot spookier than she bargained for. From cryptids in her back yard, hostile neighbourhood witches, and the discovery that she has nascent medium abilities—and now some very angry ghosts want her to help them out—Ghosts in the Burbs is a fun, spooky listen. The one criticism I have is that the very Catholic theology embedded in the series can sometimes get frustrating, and come across as judgemental toward other practices. If you can get past that though Ghosts in the Burbs is exactly what you want if you’re in the mood for a light, not too scary vibe.

3. The Black Tapes

The Black Tapes logo, a black and white picture of a silhouetted person walking through a misty forest.
(Pacific Northwest Stories)

Built on that classic sceptic paired with a believer dynamic, The Black Tapes is a podcast about a fictional podcast, a story telling device I just love. Originally meant to be focused on the stories of people with interesting jobs the podcasts host, Alex Reagan, gets sidetracked in her very first episode when she meets Dr. Strand, a paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Rededicating her podcast to Strand and his Black tapes, a collection of VHS tapes recording paranormal encounters he insists are fake but which he hasn’t been able to debunk yet, Alex gets more and more drawn in to what turns out to be a very dangerous world. As more and more of the encounters she investigates turn out to be connected to Strand, or each other, in unforeseen ways, and Strand continues stubbornly clinging to his scepticism, it becomes a race for survival as the dark forces of his past get ever closer.

2. The Magnus Archives

A green line drawing on black of a casette tape with the text "The Magnus Archives" underneath it
(Rusty Quill)

The iconic series that had all of tumblr absolutely obsessed at one time, I’m here to tell you The Magnus Archives is worth the hype and that if you haven’t listened to it already, you absolutely should. Following the adventures of chief archivist Jonathon Simms and his assistants at the Magnus Institute—a centre for paranormal research—what starts out as a self contained monster of the week style series swiftly becomes a high stakes battle for reality itself. With a fascinating—I’m not even sure what to call them, elder gods, egregors gone wild?—set of eldritch horrors battling for dominance in an attempt to make the cosmos over in their own image, and a cast of fully rounded, deeply flawed but mostly loveable characters,The Magnus Archives is a rich, captivating series.

Warning: if you are, or have ever been, an archivist you will spend a good chunk of the show yelling at Simms for being bad at his job because that’s not how anything about archiving is supposed to work. I’m assured this is funny to watch so make sure to listen to it with a friend if this applies to you.

1. The Harrowing

Waves lap at a beach while the sun shines through dark clouds.
(hxdbzdy, iStock / Getty Images)

The Harrowing is set on the remote Scottish island of Toll Mòr, when the storm of the century cuts the islanders off from the mainland during Holy Week—the period that marks Jesus’ death and resurrection, and during which, according to legend, the devil gets three days out of Hell to enact his works upon the living. With a cursed island, horrific ritual murders and mystical bloodlines, and a cosmic drama played out on earth, The Harrowing combines Scottish folklore with biblical mythology to create a terrifying and claustrophobic piece of folk horror. Adding to the dread is the fact that it’s narrated by the island’s sole survivor, in a military debriefing taking place after it’s all played out. You know The Harrowing is building towards something horrifying, that the characters you care about aren’t going to make it out alive, but you still won’t know what’s coming until it arrives—and can’t bear to stop listening until you find out.

(featured image: Rusty Quill Productions)

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Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.