Horror is so often a very visual medium that it’s easy to overlook the impact of audio, and audio dramas prove you don’t need visuals to be terrified.
We’ve all been there (or at least heard of somebody who’s been there): Sitting around a campfire at a middle-school field trip when the counselor demands a hushed atmosphere – they need to set the scene. He or she clears their throat, and the tale of the hook-handed janitor who died in a fire twenty years on that very campground begins. Some yawned, some giggled at the foolishness of it, some were legitimately scared, and others were fascinated by the story. You can probably guess who grew up to be what based on their reaction to the story.
Let me guess, you found those stories enthralling, didn’t you?
Well, if that’s the case, let me introduce you to a whole world that you might very well be missing. That world would happen to be the world of podcasting. Now, you’re probably thinking, “I listen to all the true crime podcasts!” But wait, there’s more. Sort of locked away in the back allies of the podcast city lies an army of soldiers ready for the uprising of the audio drama.
You’ve probably heard the term before, dating back decades to the time of radio plays, like Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds, but today in 2019, there’s a whole slew of them available online – mostly for free.
These podcasts are something incredibly special. They take the production of a play or movie, the writing of the likes of Barker, King, or even Poe, and the acting of a modern day Shakespearean stage actor, and turn them into this masterful piece of tense and gripping storytelling.
Shows like Limetown have an eerie detective feel to them, with elements of realism and uneasiness to it. Other shows are a little more relaxing, like Kristen Zaza’s On a Dark, Cold Night, which has more of a traditional ghost story aspect to it. Her voice is just that wonderful mix of creepy and elegant, and the writing is very reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe.
There’s something for everybody out there, if you just search for it. Looking for tags on Twitter like AudioDramaSunday, or PodernFamily is a good start. But there is one bigger question to ask, isn’t there? Why listen to these as opposed to watching a movie or reading a book? Hell, you could listen to a Stephen King audio book. Sure.
But like most horror, the heart and soul lies within the independent creator; the person with nothing more than a laptop and a microphone and an endless imagination. That’s where some of the best and undiscovered talent lies, and these podcasts are nothing short of that. If you support independent horror films, you should check out these stories.
And best of all, they work! Turn out the lights, or sit in the dim glow of a table lamp and hunker down for a few episodes and tell me the hair on the nape of your neck doesn’t stand on end. Or tell me that you don’t get the sensation of no longer being alone; after all, they’re in your ears, so close to you that you can fell their breath on you if you allow yourself to get lost for the briefest of moments.
You’ll understand the impact of audio if you’ve ever watched a horror movie on silent. There’s something missing. That subtle humming in the background as the girl walks alone down a dark street, the shrieking of a violin at that pinnacle moment when the killer jumps from the shadows; without those auditory queues it’s just a guy in a mask jumping around – it doesn’t have the same effect.
Do yourself a favor. Get the full effect of the audio experience ,and check out a horror audio drama. You’ll get hooked.