Halloween is all about scary stories. The holiday itself is based on a compilation of creepy tales from history going back thousands of years.
And there's nothing quite as chilling as popping in a pair of headphones and listening to a velvety voice recount grisly tales. Or if true crime is your beat, a cold, calculated host describing dastardly deeds.
Podcasts can also provide a way to get that nostalgic feel of swapping ghost stories and be chilled by the words and noises going through our ears.
These are just some of my favorite creepy series.
Creepy Clue: Deadly Manners
National treasure Kristen Bell voices the lead character in this good old fashioned murder mystery. The series takes place during a winter storm in 1954, where Bell and her husband (Denis O'Hare) play host to a fancy dinner party of close family and friends. But when the snowstorm turns from bad to worse, the party is trapped inside the affluent couple's home. And then guests start getting killed off one by one. It sounds like a mix of Clue and Murder on the Orient Express. But I think my favorite aspect is the audio quality. It's scary great. I've actually jumped and wheeled around because I thought the crashing and rustling noises coming from my headphones were actually next to me. And just look at the rest of the cast: Anna Chlumsky, RuPaul, LeVar Burton and Alisha Boe. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and deadlymanners.com.
History's grim side: Lore
If you like to mix your horror with history, Lore is the podcast for you. The series explores how ancient and urban legends and mythical creatures have their roots in actual events. You may think you know the origins of vampirism or how the legend of werewolves came about, but host Aaron Mahnke might tell you a tale you've never heard before. The podcast has become so popular that Amazon recently premiered a television series based on popular episodes. Lore delves into history's darker side and brings some truth to some of the people, places and creatures that haunt us. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and lorepodcast.com.
The power of Christ compels you: Inside the Exorcist
Much like Wondery's Inside Psycho podcast, Inside the Exorcist explores the real-life inspirations behind an iconic horror film. Narrator Mark Ramsey presents a chilling dive into the film's past, mixing the experiences of The Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty, director William Friedkin and star Linda Blair with biographical insight from real events. He even delves into William Brinkley, a reporter who covered the 1940s exorcism of "Roland Doe" a.k.a. Robbie Mannheim for the Washington Post. That exorcism became the inspiration for Blatty's novel and, in turn, the 1973 film. The Exorcist is regarded as one of the scariest films ever made, but learning about its origins and inspirations makes it that much more terrifying. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and wondery.com.
Monsters are real: Sword & Scale
This almost 4-year-old series keeps topping itself on its exploration of the most gruesome and disturbing tales of true crime. Floridian Mike Boudet hosts the series where, no matter how horrific or bizarre the crime, nothing is off the table. Boudet's tagline for the series is "the show that proves that the worst monsters are real" is eerily fitting. The dark series recently celebrated 100 episodes with a two-part tale that involves a troubled son, a worried mother and garbage bags of body parts. I audibly gasped during the first part's twist ending. While Sword & Scale tops lists of the best true crime podcasts out there, I do have to warn you that it can be deeply upsetting even for the hardiest true crime junkie. Enjoy! Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and swordandscale.com.
Hostile takeover: Darkest Night
The horror series from streaming site Shudder feels like a television show for your ears. It follows Katie (Brynn Langford) an assistant at a research facility conducting "Project Cyclops," a secret venture that allows her and Dr. Kinsler (Denis O'Hare) to watch a dead person's final moments. The series is probably best known in the podcasting community for its use of binaural audio, which is the use and placement of two microphones to create a 3D experience. So like Deadly Manners, it'll sound like someone is actually whispering in your ear or that you're in the room when Katie and Dr. Kinsler extract the optic nerve of their next subject with a sickly squelch. Listen on iTunes, shudder.com and darkestnightpod.com.
Inside their minds: Cults
Cults are associated with crime, manipulation and deep mystery. The new series from the Parcast network attempts to explore theses notorious groups, how they form and what goes on inside the minds of their leaders and members. Naturally, the two hosts first delve into Charles Manson and his Family, arguably the most infamous cult in the country. The show then moves on to the Heaven's Gate UFO cult and the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. The peek inside these secretive societies is both fascinating and deliciously creepy. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and parcast.com.
The Parcast network boasts a lineup of stellar series -- Cults, Serial Killers, Unsolved Murders -- and they just debuted another that's sure to reel in the spooky obsessives. Haunted Plaes feels like someone is reading to you a scary story straight out of a book. Host Greg Polcyn doesn't just reiterate the facts of a place or case like other true crime podcasts, he sets the scenes. And the first scenes in this new series come from the infamous Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. You know, the one where 16 unnatural deaths have occurred since 1931 and where a young woman's body was mysteriously found in in the water supply tank in 2013. And where serial killer Richard Ramirez a.k.a. The Night Stalker stayed for a spell. The hotel's history also inspired the fifth season of American Horror Story. After the Cecil Hotel, Polcyn promises to take listeners inside the home of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and parcast.com.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.