Why Women Are So Obsessed With These 3 Podcasts

Photographed by Molly Cranna.
If the only podcast you've ever listened to is the first season of Serial, you're really missing out. Horror podcasts, both fiction and nonfiction, are in the midst of a golden age. It's intimidating enough to research and produce a historical podcast — retelling scary stories that actually happened — but it takes real chops to write a satisfying fictional horror story in serial form. The good news? Three of the best out there today happen to have female protagonists.

Believability is paramount for a good scary podcast; War of the Worlds became such a legendary radio show (ahem, proto-podcast) because so many people believed it was real. These podcasts specialize in creating a vibrant world of lore with enough twists and turns to keep us listening every week. Two of them also owe a debt to Serial, whose female narrator was clearly a huge inspiration.
Next time you want a good scare, turn off all the lights, put on your headphones, and curl up under the covers to these podcasts.

The Black Tapes
Set in Seattle, this podcast takes the basic elements of Serial (female presenter solving a big mystery, one little mystery at a time) and mashes them up with the TV show Supernatural (creatures, demons, and frenemies, oh my!), creating enough serious tension to earn it a Best of 2015 badge from iTunes. The show, now in its second season, has played what may be a demon noise that will kill everyone who heard it, featured a story line in which children are targeted by some very creepy monsters, and described the number of flies in a room when you paint a wall with blood. Things get really dark. The relationship between show presenter Alex Reagan and her foil Dr. Richard Strand keep things interesting here, as well as the creepy, gory tales they investigate together.

Limetown

Limetown also owes a tip of the cap to Serial for its basic premise, but the show quickly veers toward more X-Files-inspired territory. Presenter Lia Haddock investigates the mystery of why an entire town of people in Tennessee went missing 10 years ago. Her extreme quest for answers certainly crosses the boundaries of journalistic integrity as well as personal safety, but after she discovers a personal attachment to the town, there is simply no stopping her. Adding to the terror are announcements sprinkled into the show's first season from the editorial directors of the faux American Public Radio, letting us know what they advised Haddock not to do...but that she did anyway. "The truth is out there" is absolutely her motto.

Alice Isn't Dead
This podcast comes from the makers of Welcome to Night Vale, a dadaist exercise that delivers funny-turned-horrific updates from the strange town of Night Vale. Alice is more like a Chuck Palahniuk book in podcast form. Our heroine is a nameless woman in search of her wife in a postapocalyptic alternate universe. Everything about this podcast is completely different from every other horror show out there: the trippy edits that intersperse sound cues to imply the passing of time, the first-person narration directly to a reader, the vivid descriptions of violence and gore. The show leaves less to the imagination than most, by including details like the sounds of screaming to imply that something terrible has happened. This is good old-fashioned storytelling, in which every punch, every slice of the knife, and every pound of flesh is accounted for.

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