From horror fiction anthologies and reader-submitted true tales to classic radio plays of thriller masters, these are the best scary podcasts you can listen to for free.
There is no better example of the tradition of oral storytelling than campfire stories. An eerie night is only made better when you hear of unexplainable events and terrifying sightings. That tradition is kept alive today in the form of podcasts, with an array of true horror stories and spooky fiction tales. The horror fan has never had it better.
1. Knifepoint Horror (Web): The Best Horror Fiction Podcast Today
From discovery apps to critical reviews, there are different ways to find podcasts worth listening to. But whichever path you take, you'll find one name at the top of horror podcast lists. Knifepoint Horror is loved by fans, other horror podcast creators, and critics alike.
Host and writer Soren Narnia uses classical storytelling techniques by narrating each episode through the protagonist's perspective. It keeps you engaged and emotionally immersed. Some guests join for other major roles, but it's mainly Narnia's voice acting that carries the story forward.
Because Narnia is pretty much a one-person band, the episodes are infrequent. So far, 2021 has only five new releases. But at an hour's length on average, and with the quality you get in the end, they're worth the wait.
2. The Simply Scary Podcast Network (Web): Three of the Best Horror Anthology Podcasts
The Simply Scary Podcast Network is a collection of three podcast shows with one agenda: to scare the living daylights out of you. All the tales on the network are works of fiction but separated into three distinct styles.
Chilling Tales for Dark Nights is an offshoot of the similarly named YouTube channel. You'll typically find an hour-long story hosted by Steve Taylor, with detailed production values.
Horror Hill features perhaps the best voice in horror storytelling, host Jason Hill. It spans everything from classic Lovecraft short stories to original pieces of fiction over multiple parts. And don't miss the custom cover for each episode, illustrated by Jason himself.
Scary Stories Told in the Dark is the last in the network's horror anthology podcast series, hosted by Otis Jiry. Again, it's a lot of wonderful stories which have been well-reviewed by podcast fans. Still, several regular listeners have complained about the lack of editing and Jiry's mispronunciations, so keep that in mind when you're going in. That said, it's the most prolific of the three shows.
All three podcasts offer several episodes for free streaming through their website or your favorite podcast player. But some episodes or seasons are behind paywalls, which you can choose to spend on only if you like the free ones.
3. The Magnus Archives (Web): The Closest Podcast to a Horror TV Series
Have you heard of The Magnus Archives? Based in London, it's a research organization dedicated to chronicling and discovering every weird and esoteric event in the world. The new head archivist, Jonathan Sims, took it upon himself to digitize all the old case files by turning them into audio and following up on them with his team.
So each week, Sims dives into a new case dealing with supernatural events that don't seem to have an answer. With a motto of facing one's fear, there is seemingly nothing he'll stop at. But as he explores more cases, connections start appearing. And as he looks deeper, something seems to be looking back.
Of course, Sims and the institution aren't real, but the podcast will draw you in like no other. Each episode is a standalone "monster of the week" show, while you slowly find a season-long and series-long story arc that gets wilder and wilder. Host Sims has a great story-telling style that starts slow and draws you in before unleashing all the chills and thrills.
4. Relic Radio The Horror! (Web): Classic Horror Stories From Old-Time Radio
Some of the best horror audio story-telling happened in years long past, back when radio was the premier entertainment medium. Relic Radio brings these classics back to let you listen to old-time radio shows online, and one of its featured categories is The Horror.
Each week, you will experience a new episode from the 1940s or 50s, now in the public domain. This includes some of the most popular radio shows like Quiet Please, The Hall of Fantasy, Escape, and Lights Out. Where it's possible, Relic Radio cleans up the audio digitization to make it clear.
Because these stories were performed in the heydays of radio, you get some fantastic production quality. After all, some of the best entertainers, artists, and storytellers were working in radio, and budgets were massive by modern standards.
You can pair it with The Art of Manliness's list of the best horror radio episodes to find a good place to get started.
5. Jim Harold's Campfire and Let's Not Meet (Web): True Horror Stories From Real People
The best bits of horror are when you don't know what to believe. The old tradition of campfire stories always got people telling a frightening tale, and it was up to the listener to wonder if it's true or not true. The common thread was that it came from someone who had experienced it themselves. Two podcasts are keeping this tradition of "true horror stories" alive.
In Campfire, host Jim Harold invites callers to tell their story themselves in a chat with him. It's a mix of paranormal encounters, unexplainable phenomena, see-it-to-believe-it events, and plain spine-tingling tales from the person who went through it. Harold is a great host in providing the right oohs and aahs and even follow-up questions when warranted.
Let's Not Meet is a podcast that collects hair-raising stories from r/LetsNotMeet, one of the best subreddits for true stories. Host Andrew Tate reads these stories himself (after getting permission from the original poster), typically narrating six stories for an hour-long episode.
6. The No Sleep Podcast (Web): Brilliantly Produced Audio Horror Stories
We've talked about the No Sleep Podcast a couple of times already. But at the risk of repeating ourselves, it's one of the scariest corners of the internet for horror fans, and this list would feel incomplete without mentioning it again.
There's a paid section for premium subscribers, but you can stick to the free section and listen to over 16 seasons of bringing goosebumps to listeners' arms. The first three episodes make it to the free part, usually about an hour in runtime. Start with the beginner's guide mentioned on the website.
Headphones or Speakers? Lights On or Off?
These podcasts should have you loaded with enough scary stories to last for a long time. But should you listen to them on headphones or speakers? And should the light be on or not?
It's a discussion that comes up often in online discussions. The consensus seems to be that if you get scared, go with speakers and keep a light on. And if getting scared is more enjoyable, put on your headphones, switch off the lights, and feel those goosebumps.