I flippin' love podcasts. They are perfect background entertainment for an array of tiresome chores, boring commutes or even just while pottering around your apartment having crawled, bleary-eyed, out of bed... I usually have one playing every morning while getting ready for work, and will confess that I occasionally have a bath instead of a shower just so I can carry on listening!
The sheer volume of available recordings means you will never run out of things to listen to, with some fantastic shows that range from big-budget mainstream hits to little-known gems, covering everything from comedy to hard-hitting current affairs debate. However, this immense library of content can be a little daunting at times, particularly when you've just finished binge-listening to something and are unsure what to turn to next.
As a dark fiction writer/fanatic, I'm always on the listen-out for the best macabre stories, so if you like your audio creepy, chilling and occasionally downright terrifying, hopefully these recommendations will be right up your sinister street!
Recently spawning a second series and a prequel novel, and with a TV series in production, Limetown is gaining the mainstream recognition its first series deserves.
A disturbing tale told over just six episodes, I demolished this in a couple of days, finding the realistic portrayal of an unfolding journalistic investigation, and the specifics of the case itself, utterly compelling. The story details the disappearance of over 300 people at a neuroscience research facility in Tennessee, and featured some very dark plot twists indeed.
2: The Black Tapes
Deservedly criticised for its limp ending, I still thoroughly enjoyed this shows' three series, which document the paranormal investigations of Doctor Richard Strand in a style very reminiscent of the hugely-successful non-fiction podcast, Serial. This hyper-realistic portrayal of some truly terrifying cases had me completely on edge, and the way the separate events become slowly entangled is a sinister delight.
3: The Magnus Archives
The first British-made entry in my list, I can't recommend this horror anthology series highly enough.
Centred around the Magnus Institute, a shadowy organisation dedicated to the investigation of the esoteric, the weird and the paranormal, the podcast documents the attempts by the Institute's new archivist to organise its vast and sprawling collection of unsettling witness statements. Star and writer Jonathan Sims is a bona-fide evil genius - look no further than my personal favourite episode (specifically number 18: The Man Upstairs) for a masterclass in short horror fiction.
Now a big-budget TV series, Homecoming started as a star-studded podcast that splices together therapy sessions, telephone calls and overheard conversations to tell its story about a caseworker at an experimental medical facility.
While series two sadly descends into a farcical caper, the six episodes of the first series are genuinely gripping and moving, and feature an excellent and uncharacteristically villainous performance by David Schwimmer!
5: Welcome To Night Vale
A massively successful series that has spawned countless spin-offs, books and other tie-ins, Welcome To Night Vale remains a joy to listen to.
Presented as a radio broadcast encompassing news, announcements and advertisements from the fictional town of Night Vale, 'where all conspiracy theories are real', it is perhaps best described as a paranormal comedy variety show... but that doesn't even begin to do justice to this brilliantly bonkers (and strangely relaxing) delight.
6: Sound Of Play
Okay, I couldn't resist this bonus recommendation... it isn't dark fiction, but it is my all-time favourite podcast!
Like Desert Island Discs but for video games music, the show's weekly playlist include everything from 1980s arcade classics to contemporary orchestral arrangements from the biggest modern games. The team at Cane And Rinse have been running this for several years now, meaning there are over two hundred episodes to binge... and I was lucky enough to fulfil my dream of appearing as a guest this past Wednesday!
(You can find the episode here if you want to listen to me over-enthusiastically gushing about some of my favourite gaming music tracks, patiently tolerated by the show's excellent host Ryan Hamann)
I hope you enjoy listening to these as much as I did, and would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations - feel free to leave a comment, or contact me on Twitter @RichterWrites.
Until next time...