'Tis the season to be scared out of your wits! October is upon us, and we don't know how you choose to celebrate the greatest of seasons, but for us the autumnal bliss of falling leaves and unnerving terror is something that requires a full month of excitement. Halloween may only be one day a year, but the joys of being scared are forever.
There are plenty of ways to indulge in the delights of the occasion, from spooky movies and those epic Twilight Zone marathons to perfecting your costume and combining the deliciousness of candy and booze. Now, in our wonderful modern age, you can even get scared on the move thanks to the domination of podcasting. There truly is something for everyone, a niche to satisfy every obsession you have. Whether you like geeky analyses of horror pop culture, entrancing genre storytelling, or something a little more true to life, there’s plenty out there to keep your attention during those long walks home (and enough to keep you looking over your shoulder at every turn).
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite spooky podcasts for the discerning woman about Halloween-town. Some are more traditional horror fare, others are fiction with a female slant, and others are all about the crimes and fears that keep us awake at night. Just how we like it!
You Must Remember This: Dead Blondes
Karina Longworth’s acclaimed exploration of the secrets and history of 20th-century Hollywood isn’t exactly traditional spooky podcast fare, but the show at its finest digs into the darker side of the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, particularly the way it screws with women. Her season on the intersections between Hollywood and the Manson family provided suitable chills and fascinating historical context for one of the 1960s’ darkest moments, but it’s in this year’s study of the starlets whose lives ended too soon where Longworth truly shines in her skills.
Entitled Dead Blondes, the season looked into the beginnings, careers, and tragic ends of women throughout the history of Hollywood, all bound by their sad demises, their status as exploited figures, and their hair color. The usual suspects are there, like Marilyn Monroe and Veronica Lake, but it’s in the lesser known figures where Longworth exposes the horrors of the industry’s misogyny and our own hunger for the aftermath. True crime has experienced a major boom in popularity in the podcast format thanks to the success of Serial, but Dead Blondes is more film studies by way of celebrity gossip with a hefty dose of feminist theory. Yes, it’s horrific to hear about the murder of Dorothy Stratten, but Longworth is careful not to turn her work into a spectacle. It’s scary, undoubtedly, but also steeped in empathy, and a timeless reminder that the worst horrors we face are the ones in real life.
black tapes podcast
Podcasting has been great for storytelling, harkening back to the golden era of radio drama. Nothing fills you with dread quite so effectively as a torrid tale being spoken directly into your ears. The Black Tapes is like a soap opera sci-fi horror as told by NPR. The X-Files is an obvious inspiration, but this serialised story of an eager reporter who works with a cynical debunker of the paranormal to investigate his unsolved cases has shades of everything, from Moonlighting to The Exorcist.
The show lulls you in with the adorable host Alex Reagan, a wannabe Fox Mulder with public radio savvy, who manages to convince the enigmatic Dr Richard Strand (imagine James Randi but more stoic and with a supremely sexy voice), an "evangelical skeptic", to let her document the cases he has yet to solve. Soon, it becomes clear that these strange cases, which he keeps in a series of black video cassettes, go deeper than either had imagined. It’s a veritable grab bag of the spooky: Creepypasta for your ears. Imagine demonic possessions, sliced up faces, exorcisms, mystical geometry, evil music, and much more. When I first discovered the show, I listened to the first ten episodes in one day and didn’t sleep the following night. What seems so conversational and journalistic at first quietly peels away the layers to reveal the unease beneath, and it’ll make every creak in your house impossible to ignore. The Black Tapes is so damn effective that it makes silence scary. The show is currently in its third season, so you can catch up with the previous two now.
Think of this one as the ultimate boxset for the season: An immensely addictive six episode season that mixes The X-Files, Serial and Twin Peaks. Upon its debut in July 2015, Limetown became the number one podcast on iTunes, and for good reason. This is audio drama at its finest, tightly constructed, sharply produced and utterly engrossing.
With a set-up similar to a Fresh Air style radio news-show, Limetown follows Lia Haddock, a journalist investigating the unsolved mystery of the eponymous Limetown, a research facility where over 300 of its residents disappeared without a trace. As she gets further embroiled in the oddities of the case, Lia's own life becomes entangled in the oddities of a mystery that's baffled people for decades. For everyone who got addicted to Serial, this is the prestige drama equivalent of that, almost too convincing at times. Before you even know it, you're hooked and completely invested in the work of intrepid reporter Lia, one of podcast fiction's most beguiling leading women. The entire series is available so you can binge-listen during a long drive in the dark.
Faculty of Horror
There is still a struggle to get horror taken seriously as a genre - check out the rush by some critics to claim that It and mother! weren't horror movies, as if the label was too gauche for them - so it's a delight to hear the Faculty of Horror and their deep dives into the best the genre has to offer.
Hosted by horror journalists and occasional academics Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West, the Faculty meet to offer critical, academic and sociological readings of some of your favourite horrors, and all with a helpful dose of fangirl glee. These two women love horror and it shows in every episode. Their knowledge is also close to encyclopaedic, with episodes dedicated to everything from the visceral nightmare of Takashi Miike's Audition to '80s vampire classic Fright Night. Episodes often pair up movies for a fascinating compare and contrast in specific contexts, like the rape revenge narrative as seen in both I Spit On Your Grave and Elle. The show is comprehensive but easily accessible in terms of its approach. As long as you love horror, there’s a place for you.
Women in Caskets
Now part of the Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network - the finest purveyors of horror in the online world - the Women in Caskets are Jen Brown and Dawn Humphrey, and they can’t wait to talk to you about horror movies. As well as discussions on the latest and upcoming horror delights, the Women in Caskets offer episodes on wider reaching themes that effect women in horror, from the ways hysteria is depicted to the plight of the Final Girls. Expect the most nerdy of knowledge balanced out with a warm and chatty style that feels like having your friends around for a night of popcorn and scary movies.
Girls in the Back Row
Brought to you by the team at Fangoria's podcast network, The Girls in the Back Row - Kate and Tab - describe themselves as "the kind of girls your mother warned you about!" Not to worry, they're very welcoming and they certainly know their stuff, as they dive head first into horror cinema and fill in the gaps in each other's knowledge. Once a month, they also compare and contrast two or more thematically similar films. Alongside their great podcast, perfect for getting more horror recs for Halloween movie night, the Girls also helm a blog series entitled House of Psychotic Women, a week by week analysis of how women and mental illness are depicted in the genre. These write-ups are detailed, fascinating and often deeply personal.
The Steam Room
The erotic thriller genre is not one that's garnered much in terms of critical clout. You're more likely to find them at midnight movie screenings for some so-bad-it's-good fun times than discussed with any real degree of seriousness. The Steam Room, brought to you by the wonderful women behind the Horror Honeys and Belladonna Magazine, aims to rectify that, with fun, fascinating and ever so weird chats on those sexy scary movies, classic or otherwise. It's not traditional horror, but the podcast delves into the quirks of the genre and how it reinforces or subverts gender stereotypes: Think Basic Instinct or Bound. After death, there’s nothing scarier in a film than sex!
Alice Isn’t Dead
Welcome to Night Vale captured the hearts and minds of podcast fans everywhere, but this series presented by the Night Vale network shouldn't be slept on. Alice Isn't Dead, written by Night Vale co-creator Joseph Fink, is darker than its predecessor and often feels more like a novel, but it's no less gripping as a result. The story follows a truck driver on the hunt for her wife who she previously thought to be dead. The Lynchian influences are obvious, and it has much of that same surreal humour too, something that's made Night Vale a must-listen. It’s a story of the open road and how something so dream-like as a life on the move can yield very real horrors, as well as some more fantastical ones. Alice Isn't Dead is best appreciated when you give it your utmost attention. Sit down, turn everything else off (except maybe the lights), curl up and listen.