Is it a bad idea to listen to horror podcasts when you’re a solo female living full-time van life?
Potentially. But did that ever stop me from doing it? Absolutely not.
I’ve been a fan of everything from horror fiction to true crime for as long as I can remember. It brings me a weird level of comfort and I’m not sure why…but that’s a different story.
After years of binging scary stories through podcasts or audio books, I’ve curated a list of what I consider the best horror podcasts to keep you on the edge of your seat. Let’s dive in…
The award-winning podcast, Morbid, is hosted by two young women who are cousins (Ash and Alaina) based in Massachusetts. They’re freakin hilarious and flawlessly vibe off of each other. I’d be lying if I said their New England style of communication had nothing to do with why I love them (alas, I’m from New England).
They deep dive on true crime horror stories that sometimes involve high-profile serial killers, real ghost stories, urban legends, “listener tales” (listeners send in their own spooky stories), and really anything in-between. Usually the women like to “lighten” up the mood by covering haunted houses or paranormal activity stories the week after covering a “heavier” topic on, say, a serial killer or really brutal murder.
I’ve listened to nearly all the episodes (this podcast accompanied me through 6 months of my van build and solo road travels). One thing I noticed is that earlier episodes stay more on-topic and (often) have more profanity (lol). The women are not shy using their swear words. But as the podcast has evolved, I noticed they have cleaned up their language a bit and tend to have more personal, off-topic conversations throughout their episodes.
Overall, listening to this Wondery podcast reminds me of dissecting a scary movie with my own sister–combining some epic true horror stories with belly-full laughs and good times. The Morbid podcast has grown a very impressive following the spans the whole globe!
As the tagline states, this podcast covers “strange, dark and mysterious” stories. You never really know if the stories are true, fiction, or a sensationalized version of real events–and I like that. Many of them are definitely based on real-life incidents, but the level of detail that’s shared seems genuinely unbelievable at times.
MrBallen’s storytelling method is very unique; he often tells stories from the perspective of the perpetrator–but not always. This storytelling style creates a “whodunnit” narrative where you’re left guessing who the actual “bad” guy is until the last few minutes of the show, sometimes resulting in you rooting for the bad guy without even knowing it.
I really like his matter-of-fact style of storytelling. He doesn’t veer off-topic going on long tangents about his personal beliefs or opinions on something. In fact if he does stray from the story, it’s to quickly educate you about some topic that you otherwise may know nothing about. For example, one of my favorite episodes is about deep-sea diving gone epically wrong. He prefaces the story by sharing his expertise on deep-sea diving (thanks to his Navy SEAL background) which helped me understand the story better.
The MrBallen Podcast started as a Youtube channel by Jonathan B. Allen, an American internet personality and former United States Navy SEAL. He has a dry, humorous way of approaching a lot of his stories that sometimes helps ease the tension of the otherwise really heavy topics. Some episodes are only twenty minutes long and feature a handful of short stories on the same topic (these are my favorite ones). Other episodes are a lot darker and heavier, typically over an hour long and you really get into the nitty gritty personal details.
Park Predators is hosted by Delia D’Ambra, who is an investigative journalist, podcast host and producer. It’s one of my favorite true crime podcasts for its intense research-driven storytelling style and never veering off-topic. Park Predators was, without a doubt, the WORST podcast to binge while traveling solo around the country…
As the title suggests, Park Predators covers true crime horror stories that all take place in national parks across the United States. Each story focuses on one murder case that may have happened as far back as the 1970s, to present-day. Some of the stories remain unsolved, but most have resolution.
I’m not sure I would consider this a horror podcast since it strictly sticks to the facts. Delia approaches each show as more of an episode of the TV show Cold Cases, versus a TV show like American Horror Story. Her investigative journalist background certainly shines through in her storytelling style.
Minds of Madness
Even though the Minds of Madness podcast is based in Canada (and therefore features a lot of original Canadian horror stories), it’s a nice mix-up from the occasional repeat stories you hear on US-based true crime podcasts. After all, there are only so many serial killers to cover in one country…The host, Tyler, has a background in media production, so you get a top-notch podcast experience.
Tyler uses a unique style that differentiates his from most horror podcasts by including real-life audio recordings of 911 calls. Or sometimes, even calls recorded by an undercover agent or person wearing a wire. That level of rawness definitely makes the cases feel more personal, and in turn I feel more invested. He sometimes interviews subject-matter experts related to a case, or even family members of the victims themselves. The level of detail is impressive.
The Minds of Madness podcast finely walks the line between heavy suspense and straight-to-the-facts investigative journalism. In fact, this podcast helped reopen a cold case in Indiana. You can tell that Tyler and his wife (who now helps run the podcast) put a lot of conscientious effort into making sure each story is told accurately and respectfully to those who were involved or affected.
The Rotten Mango podcast is hosted by Stephanie Soo and her “mysterious partner in crime”. This podcast absolutely covers the most horrifying, disturbing, oftentimes violent, real-life crimes. What I really like is the way they cover lesser-known crimes from across the globe–without sparing any details, no matter how rotten.
And I’m not exaggerating when I say Stephanie and her podcast partner leave no detail to mystery–and probably enjoy the shock factor–in each of their episodes. They clearly dig far and wide for truly jarring stories that will have you gripping your steering wheel to the bitter end. Just be warned, the subject matter often involves abuse to extreme degrees.
Each episode typically averages 45-60 minutes (obviously allowing for enough time to cover every gruesome detail). Each host will occasionally interject with their own opinions or comments as they work through the story, but I like that they never spend too much time veering off-topic.
One time I was blasting one of their episodes from my camper van while it was parked in the driveway. Neighbors walked by on their evening stroll and gave me mad stink eye when they caught some of the podcast–and I realized immediately just how dark it was and how quickly I should turn down the volume! Awkward…
Lore focuses on creepy tales and urban legends that all stem from centuries-old New England folklore. It’s hosted by one of the bigger names in the horror podcast scene, Aaron Mahnke. Aaron explains in this Guardian article, “What I tell people is that Lore isn’t a ‘scary story podcast’, it’s a history podcast, with the material delivered in the oral storytelling tradition…[the stories] are all factual in the sense that people reported these things and believed they were true.”
It’s a unique blend of horror fiction and nonfiction, where the passing down of these stories for centuries is very real, but are the stories themselves real? One can never really know…
Lore is a great in-between for diehard horror fans and those who just want some spooky ’round the campfire stories. Aaron’s goal is more to get you thinking about what these age-old folklore tales say about us as humans, and human nature–versus scaring you out of your seat.
I am always calmed by Aaron Mahnke’s soothing voice–it’s like he’s creating the folklore tales as he tells them. I feel like a little kid curled up in bed with a cozy blanket, as he reads a spooky nighttime story. Each episode features at least one folklore tale; how it was created, what it’s based off of, how it has evolved over time, and the likelihood of its legitimacy. Fascinating stuff!
The NoSleep podcast is a Canadian-based horror anthology that features weekly scary stories. The host, David Cunningham, carefully crafts these animated, theatrical (with fun sound effects), and dark episodes that send a shiver down your spine.
This is old-school horror. Think things that go bump in the night, jump scares, and scary fictional stories that will make you leave the night light on. I used to binge this podcast at work because the production quality is so top-notch and smooth, the scary tales seamlessly blended into my work day.
NoSleep is different from every other on this list because it is a fiction-based podcast. Even some on this that are mostly fiction try to blur the line between true and made-up–but not NoSleep. NoSleep proudly displays its clearly made-up tales of great horror and scary stories, making it one of the best horror podcasts on this list.
Let's Not Meet Again
Hosted by Andy Tate, the Let’s Not Meet Again podcast shares eerie, creepy and downright disturbing real-life stories about people who met someone…or something…that they hope to never meet again. Listeners send in stories that range in length from 5 minutes to over an hour. I love the super short 5-minute stories when I just want a ‘lil storytelling before bed…
Each story may cover something as heavy as a death, or as mild as an uncomfortable interaction. As Andy Tate puts it, it’s a podcast, “of first person accounts in an anthology of terror and suspense.” I really enjoy this podcast because it’s just so real and relatable–we’ve all had experiences that at the bare minimum, made us uncomfortable. And sometimes we can’t even explain why…but the “why” doesn’t always matter.
Best Horror Podcasts Summed Up
The reason that all of these podcasts have become my favorite horror podcasts is because of:
their top-notch production quality
(for the true crime ones) their dedication to telling factually-accurate stories in great detail
their ability to keep me on the edge of my seat by choosing gripping, suspenseful stories
the loads of episodes that make them easily binge-able on long road trips!
Which one speaks to you? Are you more of a true crime fan or a good ‘ol spooky campfire story kinda podcast fan? Any of these will get you into the Halloween spirit this season!