There’s a lot happening in the month of October – we’ve turned the corner to the end of the year, seasons are changing (suddenly here in the south), and we’re gearing up for a marathon of holidays.
Some use this time to enjoy the changing colors all around, plan their Thanksgiving menu and try the pumpkin version of as many things as possible. Others just want to hurry up and get to Christmas already! Some, however, want to savor the creepy vibes as nightfall slowly gets earlier and earlier, and everything seems to turn grey. If you fall into that last category, this list is for you.
Best Scary Podcasts of 2020
- Southern Gothic
- 13 Days of Halloween
- The Fountain Road Files
- The Magnus Archives
- The Black Tapes
- I am in Eskew
- Knifepoint Horror
- Full Body Chills
- The Clearing
- Bear Brook
Best Scary Podcasts of 2020 (Updated)
1. Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic has been sharing historic folklore and scary ghost stories centered around the American South since 2018. This show is especially enjoyable to me since I’ve lived a lot of my life in the south and lots of similar podcasts focus on other parts of the world. Southern Gothic is an independently produced from Southern Gothic Media. Their show historically ranks in the top 200 on Apple’s history podcast charts and has 375,000+ downloads according to their website. Hosted by Brandon Schexnayder and Bryanne Schexnayder, this show is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
2. 13 Days of Halloween
13 Days of Halloween is a fiction horror/anthology from Aaron Mahnke, the creator of Lore. It makes use of the sound-field to enhance the creepiness, and the character guiding the listener through the haunted manor is played by host Keegan-Michael Key, who brings a little comic relief to an otherwise scary show. This show is co-produced by iHeart Radio and Grim & Mild. As the title describes, this show is a 13-episode series that drops for the 13 days leading up to Halloween.
Unobscured is a third recommendation from the mind of Aaron Mahnke. Season 3 just started in October 2020. It’s a season-long deep dive into the story of Jack the Ripper. Join Aaron Mahnke on a journey to uncover what may be “the most infamous true crime story in all history.” From iHeart Radio, Unobscured seeks to clarify the truth about what really happened in some of history’s darkest stories that have become obscured over time. Dive into season 3 if you are looking for a highly bingable story that uncovers the true story of Jack the Ripper.
4. The Fountain Road Files
The Fountain Road Files is a horror fiction story. It’s a “found footage” style story set in London during the 2020 pandemic where you listen through the audio journal of a man who was found dead under mysterious circumstances. The Fountain Road Files is an independent podcast produced by host Richard MacLean Smith, the host of the famous Unexplained Podcast (number 13 on this list). This is an unsettling fictional story set in modern times that has gotten quite a bit of traction, ranking in the top 50 for Apple Podcasts Fiction podcasts in the US back in September.
Scary Campfire Tales
If you read our earlier list of the best fiction podcasts, this will be a familiar pick to you. This podcast follows the story of Johnathan Sims, the head archivist of the fictional Magnus Institute, as he sorts through the archive’s many statements of the paranormal. Each episode functions as a self-contained scary story, but as time goes on, a web of connecting threads becomes clearer and clearer. Whatever it is that scares you, there’s bound to be a statement or two that will keep you up at night.
Update: The Magnus Archives is currently in the middle of its final season so it’s a great time to binge!
6. The Black Tapes
The Black Tapes is a cornerstone podcast in the horror genre, reference as an inspiration by many others. The story centers around journalist/host Alex Reagan as she investigates the paranormal and gets increasingly involved with skeptic Dr. Richard Strand. As the story progresses, questions are raised about Strand’s past, his connection to the paranormal, and Alex’s own intentions. If you dig The Black Tapes, creators Pacific Northwest Stories have a host of podcasts in a similar vein (Tanis, The Last Movie, and Rabbits) all loosely set in the same universe.
7. I am in Eskew
This podcast features the desperate journals of a man trapped in the “horror-filled and impossible city of Eskew.” The city of Eskew itself is the antagonist in these tales, constantly subjecting the central character to increasingly surreal and disturbing experiences as he tries to find a way out without the city noticing. Recommended for serious horror fans as this one can get pretty disturbing.
8. Knifepoint Horror
So far, all of our picks have featured connected narratives and continuing storylines. Knifepoint horror takes the opposite approach – no connecting narrative, no shared universe, no preamble. Just hit play, meet the narrator of the story and hang on for the ride.
9. Full Body Chills
Full Body Chills is a horror anthology series from the makers of Crime Junkie, released specifically for this Halloween season. Each tale comes from a different writer, and the name of the podcast is well earned. The storytelling style succeeds at conjuring memories of hearing scary stories around a campfire when you were younger. Full music scoring and sound design help to suck you into each story.
Truth is Scarier than Fiction
This pick straddles the line between truth and fiction, examining history and folklore for the darkness that surrounds us in our daily lives. Sometimes the darkness comes from ancient fears and long-held beliefs, other times it comes from mankind’s own desires for power and control. In addition to the excellent storytelling and historical background, each episode is fully scored with atmospheric piano that adds to the creepy vibes.
11. The Clearing
There are no strange creatures or supernatural powers in this one, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a monster. The Clearing is the story of a serial killer, and the woman who lead to his capture after coming to the realization that it was her father. Piece by piece, follow along as the story lays out the many clues from her childhood, the life of the killer himself, and the fallout of his capture and arrest.
12. Bear Brook
The beginning of this story would be right at home in a Stephen King movie from the 80’s – a group of children playing in the woods kick over a barrel, not realizing it contains human remains. The story of the Bear Brook Murders is completely true though, and ranges across the country from Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire to California. The investigation of this case led to new developments in forensic science, and revealed a remorseless killer who sheds identities like a snake sheds its skin.
In the words of the host, this podcast highlights events that “remain, to this day, unexplained.” From strange disappearances to lights in the sky to magic and hauntings, Unexplained explores it all. Host Richard MacLean Smith adds to the richness of each narrative by delving into the societal and historical context surrounding the stories. Subtle musical scoring and a meditative pace add to the gloomy vibe.
Hopefully you found a podcast that will be perfect for making your Halloween and fall season a little more thrilling this year. These stories are immersive experiences that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. If you have a suggestion for other scary podcasts that we didn’t include on this list, make sure to reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.