Podcast News

11 hair-raising listens from CBC Podcasts

Anyone can switch on a scary movie, but can you face the frights piped right into your ears? For best results, listen on an evening walk in the lonely hours of the night.

From haunted histories to kid-friendly tales, there's a scare for everyone

Just in time for Halloween, a specially-curated list of scary stories delivered straight into your ears. (Fabiola Melendez Carletti/CBC)

Anyone can switch on a scary movie, but can you face the frightening depths of your own mind? 

That's the promise of a truly thrilling podcast; we bring the story to your ears but your overactive imagination does the rest. For best results, listen on an evening walk in the lonely hours of the night.

Just in time for Halloween, here are 11 freaky stories from the CBC Podcasts collection. 

Podcast: The Secret Life of Canada
Episode: You don't wanna sleep here

In lieu of candy, our history podcast is handing out obscure Canadian horror stories. Co-hosts Falen Johnson and Leah-Simone Bowen travel from a monastery-turned-asylum​ to one of Canada's oldest universities to several theatres across the country. (Spoiler alert: it's possible that all theatres are haunted.) 

Listen if: You want to creep out your friends with fact-checked stories — and find out if the ghost of John A. MacDonald haunts a Kingston liquor store. 

Falen Johnson and Leah-Simone Bowen have discovered many frightful tales in library stacks. (Evan Aagard/CBC)

Podcast: Tai Asks Why
Episode: How is the universe going to end?

Looking for some truly unique Halloween costume ideas? We've got five stellar options for you: the big crunch, the heat death, the big rip, vacuum decay or bouncing cosmology. All of these are real scientific scenarios for how the universe could end, as listed by theoretical astrophysicist Katie Mack. 

And if you're actually going to a party this year, odds are no one else will be dressed like a giant space bubble that consumes everything in its path. 

Listen if: You like your doomsday scenarios on an interplanetary scale. Why worry about the end of just one world? 

Podcast: Brainwashed (full series) 

Imagine if you suddenly started hearing voices in your bed at night. That happened to the unwitting victims of human experiments in a renowned Montreal hospital, some of whom actually had speakers planted in their pillow cases. And that's just one of many terrifying anecdotes. 

Host Michelle Shephard takes us into the unbelievable true story of the CIA's attempts at mind control — techniques which span decades and continue in places like Guantanamo Bay to this day. 

Listen if: You're fascinated by conspiracy theories but want a journalistic, verified account of government power gone awry.

Podcast: Tony Ho
Episode: CBC Drive

Don't let the upbeat opener fool you: this is not your average radio chat. 

In this short comedy sketch, we meet guest host Miguel Rivas (filling in for Rich Terfry) and experimental musician Adam Niebergall. The topic is Adam's new concept album — "If I Stop Playing, These Birds Will Peck Out My Eyes" — and discover the dark inspiration for his single-track screed. (A little reminder: be nice to old crones.) 

Listen if: You're a fan of afternoon radio, sure, but what you really love is unexpected clashes with the supernatural.

Mizuko, an immersive lakeside horror by Hiro Kanagawa, is one of seven chapters in the Quarantine Chronicles. (Aza Jin)

Podcast: PlayME
Series: The Quarantine Chronicles

The Quarantine Chronicles are like bedtime stories for bizarre times. PlayME's special series of short audio plays were all written by playwrights in isolation, performed by actors working from home (we mailed them mics) and inspired by our disorienting and deranged times. 

Naturally, the results are all kinds of twisted: from a coup led by home-schooled children to a love affair between a man and his sourdough starter.

Listen if: You're looking for short, stand-alone stories — along the lines of the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt Keeper — to distract you while doing chores or drowning out ghosts. 

Honourable mention: Like the Nightmare Before Christmas, Butcher by Nicolas Billion blurs the lines between the holly jolly and the heebie jeebies. 

Podcast: Front Burner
Episode: Some UFOs can't be explained

"Look at that thing ... it's rotating." This past June, the U.S. intelligence community released a highly-anticipated unclassified report to Congress on "unidentified aerial phenomena" sightings, including some leaked recordings of military crew freaking out.

Now, no one on this straight news podcast is trying to scare us — which is why it's so scary. Even they have to admit there are things we simply cannot explain.

Listen if: you want to believe.👽

Podcast: Personal Best
Episode: One Time Snooze

Personal Best is the kind of podcast that would turn your life into a literal haunted house, for your own dang good. 

Co-hosts Andrew Norton and Rob Norman are on a quest to help Robin, a chronic snoozer who routinely needs two hours to get out of bed. Their intervention plan was inspired by Rob's days working for Fear Fest at Canada's Wonderland. "People really pay attention to you when you're running at them with a chainsaw."

Listen if: You're haunted by your own bad decision-making but also allergic to earnest self-help. (And if you survive this episode, try facing your own doppelganger or being followed around by a ghost.) 

Podcast: WireTap
Episode: Murder on the WireTap Express

These times have been defined by the unknown. Perhaps it's time we just embrace it. As Jonathan Goldstein notes in this classic variety special: "In a way, Halloween is a celebration of the unknown. We wear costumes that mask our identities so that we can express our true, secret selves with impunity. Whether that secret self is a villain, a sex pot, or just a drunken fool, it is given one night to shine…"

Listen if: You're afraid of dolls, cockroaches or the haunted city of Hamilton, Ont.

Podcast: Uncover
Series: Satanic Panic (Season 6) 

Uncover: Satanic Panic explores how fears of satanic cults swept North America decades ago, and why many are still feeling the effects to this day. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

In the early '90s, the small prairie town of Martensville, Sask. was swept up in a moral panic that shocked North America— rumours of satanic cults ritualistically abusing children. Arrests were made, charges were laid, but no evidence was ever found. Thirty years later, the people involved are still haunted by what happened. Lisa Bryn Rundle tells the story. 

Listen if: You're worried about the power of mass hysteria, and can stomach a truly cautionary tale. 

Podcast: The Story Store
Episode: The Nightmare-Giving Witch (ft. Sugar Lyn Beard)

The cute thing about The Story Store is that they let real kids place real story orders. And most kids ask for adorable stories about snowflakes and rainbows and such. But then there are kids like 9-year-old Isla, who doesn't have time for any of that. 

"I want to hear a story about a nightmare-giving witch. Not a witch that gives ordinary nightmares. A witch that gives horrible nightmares that will make you scream awake!" 

Naturally, Isla's order inspired a Halloween special. 

Listen if: You're looking for some family-friendly frights.

Podcast: Campus
Episode: You are haunted

Our final pick is a classic haunt from our very first original podcast. In 2016, the Campus crew took a roadtrip to Michigan's Ferris State University, where a particular building is plagued by rumours of a haunting. 

"Michael" has been known to show up in many ways. Sometimes as a cold spot that smells of aftershave. Sometimes as a hot breath on the back of your neck. But always as a presence that has converted many a skeptic. This episode follows the fed-up school as they enlist the services of a ghost hunter.

Listen if: You're currently trying to negotiate a peaceful co-existence with a spirit and/or grumpy roommate. (Bonus: Hear what happened when the show's producers braved a creepy basement.) 

Is Michael ever going to stop spooking staff and students at Michigan's Ferris State University? (Aiken Lao )

Written and curated by Fabiola Melendez Carletti

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