Maybe you, like me, are bummed out that Halloween isn't going to be the same with COVID-19.
But, just because you're staying home and avoiding the zombie plague movie that is real life, doesn't mean you have to miss out on everyone's favourite horror holiday.
Welcome to Part 2 of my 4-Part blog series on how to have an awesome, spook-filled Halloween at home.
(If you missed Part 1, check out my horror novel recommendations for a socially distanced book club.)
Podcasts in the Dark
It's probably a bad idea to gather around the campfire to tell ghost stories this Halloween. In fact, gathering at all is something that ranges from ill-advised to completely illegal, depending on where you live.
Luckily, we are living in the golden age of horror podcasts. Seriously, I'm losing count of the number of impeccably produced horror fiction podcasts out there these days.
So pick an episode of something spooky, hop on a call with your friends, and enjoy a podcast-listening party in lieu of the old-school campfire circle.
Because you may not want to sign up for listening to a full season of podcasts, I'm going to recommend a few one-off episodes, but serial audio fiction stories like Mabel, TANIS, The Black Tapes, and Limetown are all worthy of the longer listening experience.
Best Standalone Episodes
"Lost John's Cave" from The Magnus Archives
Running time: 25 minutes
While The Magnus Archives deserves a host of accolades for its incredible long-running story you can piece together from the lore that emerges from their monster-of-the-week stories, this episode stands out as the one that made a believer out of me.
"Lost John's Cave" is the short, horrifying tale of two sisters who head off to explore a cave system together, and find that their expedition does not go as planned. This story literally takes place in the dark, so make sure your group goes "lights out" for listening.
You can hear more of writer/narrator Jonathan Sims' voice work in the forthcoming Story Engine anthology, or in my recent blog of 12 postcard-sized scary stories to get you hyped for Halloween.
"The Whistlers" from The No Sleep Podcast
Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes
The NoSleep Podcast is a horror fiction anthology podcast that grew out of the /r/nosleep subreddit, featuring a host of talented voice actors reading creepy first-person stories that purport to be true.
The audio production quality is very high, and the stories are varied, but "The Whistlers" in particular stands out to me as one of the most chilling and immersive audio fiction experiences I've had.
The episode is longer than most horror movies, but if you can talk some friends into sitting down and listening with you, it's a riveting tale of a hiking group in search of a local legend, whose path takes far into the unkown.
"Legend" from Knifepoint Horror
Running time: 36 minutes
Soren Narnia's Knifepoint Horror fiction podcast is a low-production, high-creep-factor series that makes for great ow-key listening.
I chose "legend" as my favourite because of the slow-building eeriness of the tale, but other good choices include "sisters," "school," "plague," "sounds," "field," and "castle."
"A Story About You" from Welcome to Night Vale
Running time: 25 minutes
The long-running and critically acclaimed surreal podcast Welcome to Night Vale rarely descends into full-on horror, but this episode stands out as a surreal and powerful bit of storytelling that challenges the reader to keep up.
Also, if you like narrator Cecil Baldwin, you can catch him narrating some of my 60-second postcard stories here on The Story Engine YouTube channel or my recent round-up of postcard-sized horror stories.
"The Witch Queen" from The Old Gods of Appalachia
Running time: 23 minutes
I only just started listening to The Old Gods of Appalachia, so I reserve the right to change my favourite episode, but the amuse-bouche half-episode "The Witch Queen" caught my attention and held it as I continued to listen through the first season.
The quality of prose in this podcast is incredible, as is the voice acting. This is one to pay attention to, folks.
And More to Come
You also might enjoy listening to some of the spooky narrations on our 12 spooky postcard-sized stories round-up.
Up next: D&D horror night!